Ok you are going to stretch my memory now — that was 14 years ago. I’m pretty much the same person, hopefully a little wiser having accomplished a few things and learned some tough lessons. In 1997 I was a husband and father of two young daughters and a technology associate at a Wall Street investment bank called Bankers Trust. I also had a sideline business, building websites for other small businesses. It was also a period of self-examination, and trying to figure out what drives me and what makes me happy.
Today my daughters are in college, I’ve been married over 20 years, AALBC.com has been my livelihood since the beginning of 2008, and I discovered I enjoy working for myself more than I could have ever imagined.
Why create AALBC.com?
AALBC.com was discovered as the result of an experiment. I started it in an attempt to learn more about making money on the internet, so that I could better advise my clients. I actually offered to revamp another bookseller’s website, for free, as part of this exercise. The book seller declined my offer and I decided to create a new website. That website ultimately became AALBC.com.
What makes your mission for black writers unique?
This is really a tougher question than it may seem on the surface. Over the years I’ve been tracking a number of websites similar to AALBC.com (http://aalbc.it/bestbooksites). While these sites have similarities, each brings a unique perspective and strength. On a quantitative level, AALBC.com is the largest and most frequently visited site of its type on the World Wide Web. We are also one of the oldest sites (as best I can tell, we are the 2nd oldest, continuously running site of our kind).
Our primary mission includes;
- Promoting the diverse spectrum of literature by writers of African descent
- Satisfying readers’ book buying needs
- Serving as a resource and vehicle of expression for aspiring and established writers
- Introducing and making the literature, in point #1 more accessible to a broad spectrum of readers
- Providing a forum for the exchange of constructive opinions on this literature and Black culture
- Fostering an appreciation for reading.
- Providing a platform for advertisers to reach our target audience
I think all of the above makes AALBC.com a very unique, entity well suited to support Black writers.
AALBC.com sponsors and promotes many events geared towards literature, how do you decided on what event to support?
I support events which have demonstrated some consistency over the long term and shares some aspect of AALBC.com’s mission. Often I’ll support a brand new event, based upon my relationship with the organizer and their passion.
Over time, if the support becomes reciprocal, these events become my favorites and I take a vested interest in their ongoing success. Of course it is impossible to mention them all here, but some of the events I support include; The National Black Writers Conference, The National Black Book Festival, The Mosaic Literary Conference, The National Book Club Conference, The Harlem Book Fair, African Voices’ Cultural Circle Conference, and The Go On Girl! Annual Awards Weekend.
As the creator of AALBC.com you focus on more than books, what other elements do you showcase on the site?
Increasingly I’ve begun to focus on film. Often there is a lot of overlap between books and movies; books are converted in to movies, actors write books, and documentaries often have companion books. A good film often introduces readers to books they will enjoy. As a result, film has become an increasingly important aspect of AALBC.com.
The New York Times referred to AALBC.com as “the most successful online service that specializes in books for African Americans.”, hearing this, how did this make you feel?
Wow Tamika, I’d forgotten about that quote. So I “Googled” it to find the original source article on the NY Times website. The full quote is;
“There are some online services that specialize in books for blacks, in addition to the one operated by Black Expressions. The most successful is the African American Literature Book Club (www.aalbc.com), which was started in 1997 and now gets between 1 million and 1.3 million visits a month, said its founder, Troy Johnson.”
The quote was from an article was published on January 11, 2001, in The New York Times and was written by Martin Arnold (http://aalbc.it/bookclubs2001). I provided a link to encourage your readers to read the entire article. I find it fascinating to read this article 10 years later. So much has changed, on so many levels, in the last 10 years!
What can we expect from AALBC.com in the near future?
You can expect that I will continue to do what I’ve been doing for the last 14 years: doing whatever I can to promote the diversity in the literature written by people of African descent to the widest audience possible and make a living out of it.
Tamika I’d like to thank you and the African Americans on the Move Book Club for this opportunity to share my story.
June 26, 2011
Troy Johnson is the founder and webmaster of the AALBC.com, LLC (The African American Literature Book Club). AALBC.com was launched in 1998 and is now the largest and most frequently visited web site dedicated to books by and about black people.
Johnson serves as a board member of the Literary Freedom Project. He also has over 20 years of corporate experience in consulting, financial services, and the telecommunications industry.
Johnson holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Syracuse University, an MS from Polytechnic University, an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business and has completed Stanford University’s Publishing on the Web course. He lives with his family in Harlem, New York