7 Questions With Author And Entrepreneur Marva Allen
Marva Allen was president and co-owner of USI, a multi-million dollar technology firm in Southfield, MI, that was thrice nominated for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneurship Award. She is the recipient of numerous business awards, including The IBM & Kodak Excellence Award, MMBDC Diamond Award, Crain’s Business 40 Under 40 Award for significantly achieving in business before her 40th birthday.
Allen, a nominee of the Top 100 Most Influential Women in Michigan, joined Hue-Man Bookstore, as a majority partner and CEO in 2004. Under her stewardship, Hue-Man gained worldwide brand recognition as the largest and best-known independent African American bookstore and as cultural gathering place in Harlem, before closing its doors in 2012.
She is the author of two acclaimed books under the pen name of C. C. Avram: Protegee (1993) and Camouflage (2000) the sequel. Her latest novel, If I Should Die Tonight is in the works as we speak.
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Esther Rabbit: What’s your own definition of an author/indie author?
There is no such thing as an indie author. An author is an author. An author writes. Period. There are ‘indie’ amazing writers out there who need to be discovered and then there are others who should learn the craft of writing before embarking on their journey as a writer.
Many Indie authors with a natural gift still should learn the pedagogy of writing. If you know the rules, it’s easy to break them but if you don’t, it can lead to challenging works.
Esther Rabbit: What were some major setbacks of this profession?
There are so many barriers to entry to becoming a professional writer. The art of writing is so very subjective and one has to be ‘discovered,’ these days if they are not celebrities. From finding an agent to getting a publisher…the process is Herculean. Steeling one’s back for all the rejections to come can be demotivating.
To get to the daunting finish line requires grit and a belief in oneself and one’s ability as a writer. Self or Indie publishing has leveled the playing field somewhat, but it has also introduced very bad works into the market place which further erodes an already challenged and opaque industry.
Esther Rabbit: What are some of the myths around self-publishing / traditional publishing?
If an author truly believes in their talent, they should let nothing stand between them and their work. Unarguably, it is much harder for a self-published author. Distribution, marketing and credibility remain at the top of the list. Those who are in it to win, just have to push through with confidence.
Personally, I love, Indie publishing. It lowers the barrier for great authors, yet offers the quality control needed to put out good work. The winner of the Man Booker prize was originally independently published. It’s a good proving ground.
Though you lose the need for an agent your books still have to be accepted by the editorial and marketing team at the publishing house. It’s exactly the same process as traditional publishing with all the benefits of wide distribution, marketing, etc., which puts an author leaps and bounds ahead over self-publishing.
Also, Indie publisher’s royalty rates are much greater, though their advances are much smaller. New disruptive hybrids are coming to market rapidly as well so authors can have the best of all worlds as technology transforms the landscape.
Esther Rabbit: What’s your definition of the first draft?
The one where you are writing down the bones. Just write. Don’t edit, don’t engage your internal critic, just write. There will be plenty of time for all the other stuff later. For example, I wrote my upcoming book, The Pianist and Min Jade in three months and it has taken 3 years to get to almost the final draft!
Esther Rabbit: What should readers expect from your next novel?
The same unconventional stories from my previous three, cultural respect and fast paced stories which always include love, as in my book, love is all. Very strong women characters living on purpose.
Esther Rabbit: We all know this industry is full of surprises. Can you share an unexpected experience?
Oh Yes. If I Should Die Tonight was bought by a major house in 2016. My buying editor, after 25 years, left the company and the new editor assigned to me could not possibly edit my book… not enough experience and diverse understanding of cultural difference.
We ended up parting ways because working with an editor is like a marriage…they have to know you. I’d rather have kept the integrity of the story I wanted to write.
Esther Rabbit: What’s the best advice/feedback on writing you’ve ever received?
Find Marva Allen here:
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And if you’re a fan of Paranormal Romance, check out Lost in Amber:
“A new Interplanetary Alliance ambassador on an earthbound mission.
A handful of genetically altered humans to be rescued.
Meeting her changed everything.“