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A new genre of fiction novels called hip-hop literature has exploded onto best-seller lists and become an unexpected cash cow for writers and publishing houses alike. As an author and owner of Triple Crown Publications L.L.C., Vickie Stringer has established herself as a maverick in this field by creating an enterprise selling books about life on the streets.
After serving a seven-year prison sentence for drug trafficking and money laundering, Stringer started a new life with no formal job training or a college degree. While behind bars, she penned a manuscript, Let That Be the Reason, based upon her experiences in the drug trade. “I no longer wanted to live the same way I did in the past, so I wrote this story as a way to discourage others from also turning to the streets,” says Stringer.
Twenty-six publishing houses rejected Stringer’s manuscript before she decided to publish it herself. She sent out 25 letters to family and friends requesting a donation of $100 each. This capital enabled her to print 1,500 copies of the book in 2001. She sold her debut novel for $10 at beauty salons, car washes, and out of the trunk of her car.
It was not long before Stringer was an underground success and aspiring authors approached her to publish their manuscripts. The 30-something entrepreneur now had the opportunity to tap into a market that, until recently, had been overlooked by major publishing houses.
Despite the growing appeal of hip-hop literature, Stringer’s books have created a bit of controversy. Many complain about the explicit portrayal of sex, profanity, and violence, while others argue that the books glorify the “thug” life. Stringer disagrees: “How can you glorify a real-life experience?” She says her books are cautionary tales. “Each and every one of us has something to share and these are my stories.”
It was a challenge for the young author to get bookstores to carry her work. She realized that patronage from stores could increase availability of her novels nationwide, so she built strong business relationships with managers and buyers at major booksellers such as Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Waldenbooks. To increase demand for her titles, she randomly called bookstores and requested her books. She also contacted friends in different cities and asked them to create a buzz for her new line of fiction.
Founded in November 2001, Triple Crown Publications is a leading publisher of hip-hop literature for urbanites between the ages of 16 and 35. Based in Columbus, Ohio, TCP has published 26 authors and has 34 titles in print including Gangsta by K’wan, A Hustler’s Wife by Nikki Turner, and Sheisty by T. N. Baker. The publishing house/literary agency staffs nine and has sold more than 1 million books throughout the United States and abroad. In 2004, revenues reached $959,000. An additional 19 books published at the end of 2005 will likely push last year’s revenues up to $1.3 million.
In 2004, Stringer signed a six-figure deal for two books with Atria Books, a division of Simon &