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SMG to Push Hip Hop Titles in Music Stores
Calvin Reid -- 1/24/00

Marc Gerald, a former TV writer and creator of the African- American crime reprint series Old School Books, has teamed up with film star Wesley Snipes to launch an unusual book publishing venture inspired by hip hop culture and focused on selling its titles through music and apparel outlets.

The new firm will be called the Syndicated Media Group and will publish five different lines of books including a series called [S]Affiliated, a "Hip Hop fiction" line that will release 10 novels in trade paperback beginning in April. The books are original works written by young and well-known hip hop writers and journalists. Gerald describes the books as "action fiction." Through a cross-promotional arrangement with the hip hop recording label Def Jam, each book will include a unique CD soundtrack with selections from Def Jam's list of popular recording artists.

First printings will be 50,000 copies and Def Jam artists like Jay-Z, DMX and Method Man will promote books online and in videos. SMG will also publish hip hop-oriented titles for self help ([S]Balance), finance ([S]Currency) and other categories including [S]Elements, which will feature books of improvised photography, drawing and biographical notes by hip hop artists. SMG books will sell for $12.98 to $14.98.

Finding the Fans

The venture will employ an unconventional method for getting its titles to potential readers: it will distribute exclusively through music outlets and trendy hip hop apparel accounts. SMG will use Red, the Sony-owned music distributor, to supply music stores, and the company also has an agreement with hip hop clothing producer PNB NaTioN to use its sales reps to distribute books though national apparel outlets. "We should start with 1,200 to 1,500 outlets and we'll evaluate from there," said Gerald. Bookstores can get the books through Ingram.

Gerald and Snipes are the principal owners of SMG, and Gerald said the venture has attracted an additional $1 million in outside investment. He declined to reveal the cost of launching the venture, but claimed $500,000 has been devoted to "marketing and promoting the brand." Snipes's production company, Amen Ra Films, gets first look at all [S]Affiliated titles for possible film adaptations. In addition, the titles can be purchased through SMG's forthcoming Web site and through an agreement with music retailer Checkout.com.

Gerald told PW, "We want to sell books to people who don't usually buy books," explaining that he is after an African-American male and multiracial youth market focused on rap music, street culture and hip hop fashion that is, he said, more likely to visit a music store than a bookstore. "We're going after black male readers because no one else has," said Gerald.

Among the forthcoming titles are Street Sweeper by Ronin Ro, author of Have Gun Will Travel: The Spectacular Rise and Violent Fall of Death Row Records (Doubleday, 1998); International Assignment Hong Kong by Antoine Black; and Anything G s by J l Rose.

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