Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Infamous Books Now an Imprint of Akashic Books

Benay client, Akashic Books, is taking it to the street with their new imprint, Infamous Books. Akashic has paired with Infamous Records to release a line of urban fiction novellas. The first book, H.N.I.C., by rapper Prodigy (who also owns Infamous Records) and Steven Savile will be released on July 16th. Prodigy (Albert Johnson) is a member of the rap duo, Mobb Deep and the H.N.I.C. release will coincide with Mobb Deep’s international tour.

H.N.I.C., a novella by Albert Johnson with Steven Savile will be released on July 16th.

According to Publisher’s Weekly, Akashic Books will work as the distributor and “co-handle the editorial and marketing duties with Infamous.” Marvis Johnson, Prodigy’s talent manager, “will oversee the daily operations of the imprint.” Johnson plans to use innovative marketing strategies to reach audiences wider than just the African American demographic. “’The statistics are that 90% of urban music is not purchased by African Americans. But urban books, when they are released, are only promoted to African Americans,’” he said.

This will be Prodigy’s second book. His memoir, My Infamous Life (Touchstone), was published in 2011. Interestingly enough, H.N.I.C. began as a film script in 1999. “’After My Infamous Life came out, I decided to take the H.N.I.C. script and [work with] somebody who was a book writer,’” said Prodigy. He chose to work with Steven Savile who is an award-winning British novelist and has published works in the fantasy, horror, and thriller genres.

Albert Johnson is better known as Prodigy, a member of the rap duo, Mobb Deep.
“’Steve brings the European style and mixes it with mine,’ Prodigy says. ‘I love street slang, and I listen to the street slang of other countries. So Steve added twists and turns and changed the language.’ Savile added, ‘each of us basically added our own unique skill set to the book. It's certainly a book neither of us could have written alone.’”

The books will be in novella form (80-100 pages) with a small trim size of 5” by 7”. They will be published in all formats simultaneously (hardcover, paperback, audio, and e-books). As Akashic Books publisher, Johnny Temple says, “’We’ve had a lot of success with small trim sizes …With the Hip Hop street esthetic, there’s something about being able to slip it in your back pocket.”

Infamous Books will release an average of four novellas a year and will include novellas from other urban fiction authors such as K’wan (Hood Rat, Welfare Wifeys), JaQuavis Coleman (co-author of The Cartel, Murderville), and Miasha (Secret Society, Diary of a Mistress).

Prodigy is not the first rapper to enter the publishing world. 50 Cent, T.I., Jay-Z , and Eminem have all written books. According to the New  York Times, there is a stark distinction between urban fiction and street-lit, which many of these rappers’ books fall into. The street-lit genre features stories that are more violent and devious. Urban fiction tends to focus more on morality and issues of loyalty.

Akashic Books has previously published urban fiction but tends to stick with literary fiction and political non-fiction. “’It’s a perfect imprint for the way the book industry is suffering,’ Temple said recently. ‘It will bring in new audiences. I see this as crime fiction, and there are not many black crime fiction writers beyond Walter Mosley and the late Chester Himes. Akashic is a literary publishing house, and we’re in a perfect position to crossover books like this and to say, ‘Don’t let the hip-hop aesthetics scare you off.’”

- Marcie Gainer

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