A Conversation with NYT Bestselling Author, Omar Tyree

A Conversation with New York Times Bestselling Author, Omar Tyree

BF: According to the bio on your website, you discovered your passion as a writer while you were a pharmacy major at the University of Pittsburgh. What exactly spawned this calling?

OT: Actually, my college writing assignments about my friends, family, hobbies and the city of Philadelphia was what spawned my writing. And once I was able to write about things I knew well and loved, my appreciation for the skill really took off. As a result, I received much higher English and writing grades at the college level than I ever had in grade or high school. And the rest is my-story, I was off to becoming a professional writer!


BF: You are known to be the founding father of “urban/street literature.” How would you define this genre? Furthermore, what are your thoughts about being categorized in this genre?

OT: I started publishing books in the early 1990’s by calling my work, contemporary “urban classics.” But as the authors and stories grew in the late 1990’s and the 2000’s, new writers started calling their work “urban/street lit.” But I never called mine “street lit” and I never will. As I just explained above, the germination of my work started off with the skills I learned in college.


BF: You’ve had great success with both self-publishing as well as working with major publishing houses. What were the major similarities and differences between these two routes?

OT: Well, the only similarity in self-publishing and mainstream publishers is that they are both putting out books. But everything else is miles apart. However, the main difference is that a major publisher pays for everything, where in self-publishing, YOU PAY for everything. But you also collect the lion’s share of the money when you self-publish, and that’s when or IF you’re able to market, distribute and sell any copies in the first place.


BF: Where do you usually find inspiration for your story ideas?

OT: As a trained news journalist, I learned that stories are everywhere around us. We just have to focus in on the ones that we feel passionate enough to write a whole novel about.


BF: Which authors influenced you when you first started out as a writer? Also, which up-and-coming authors do you think we should keep an eye on?

OT: Terry McMillan influenced a lot of contemporary writers on the marketing and sales side of the business, but on the actual writing side, my Big 5 remain; Richard Wright, Chester Himes, Iceberg Slim, Toni Morrison and Walter Mosley. And the up-and-comers to look out for are now Wahida Clark and Ashley & Jacquavis. Those guys are doing the most work in a crowded field of books and authors.


BF: What is your favorite part of the writing process? What is your least favorite part?

OT: The favorite part of publishing for me is finishing a good book, seeing it in print, and then selling it out on tour. The least favorite part is getting the damn deal to publish the book in the first place. It’s nerve wrecking to have deal with rejection and not knowing if the book will ever make it to the book stores. That’s why self-publishing remains an option.


BF: Your latest novel, Corrupted, is a serial eBook. What a unique concept! What made you decide to make this novel “serial?” Furthermore, do you think this is something that will catch on in the future of publishing?

OT: Well, I wasn’t finished writing Corrupted yet, and I still wanted to put it out during the summer. So since eBooks are bought instantly online anyway, I said, “Hell, let me publish it one chapter at a time like a television series, where the audience waits each week to see what happens next.” That was the idea. And it WORKED! So now I have a new one out with Insanity this summer. But instead of publishing one chapter per week, I’m doing one section of 6-7 chapters each month or so, with 4 sections total. And we’ll see if other others are crazy enough to try it (smile).


BF: Aside from being an author, you’re also a business speaker and a publishing and marketing mentor for aspiring writers. How and why did you transition to these roles?

OT: New authors and self-publishers kept asking me questions. And since I was trained, again, at the college level, I decided to put my degree and my 20 years of publishing experience and speaking skills to work.


BF: What do you believe is the relationship between networking and success as an author?

OT: Well, as they say, “It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know?” Don’t take that saying totally to heart, because you DO need to know what the hell you’re doing. However, you can know everything in this world, and if you are not given an opportunity to reach other people of influence with your work, you could be stuck with a great idea and no listeners or a way to get it out there to the masses. So relationships for humans in any and every industry are very important! It’s just like this interview is giving me another opportunity to reach people with my work, experience and value. So I thank you guys for it!


BF: Finally, can you share any details on any upcoming projects and/or events on which you’re working?

OT: Insanity is out and selling in eBook form right now, and I’m working on several traditional publisher deals as well. I also have television and film, comedy show, stage play, and lecture events in the works. I’m ALWAYS busy working on something! A hustler hustles until he or she can hustle no more!


Omar Tyree, is a New York Times best-selling author, a journalist, reporter, poet, screenwriter, songwriter, play write, event host, lecturer, blogger, publishing consultant and literacy advocate, who has won a 2001 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature in Fiction, a 2006 Phillis Wheatley Literary Award for Body of Work in Urban Fiction, and a 2010 HBCU Legends Award for his tiresome work in urban literacy.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he graduated from the prestigious Central High School in 1987, Tyree first attended the University of Pittsburgh as a Pharmacy major and an aspiring football player. After spending his first two years at Pitt, he found his new passion and a calling as a writer and a storyteller, penning his first published series, The Diary of a Freshman along with two novels; Colored, On White Campus, (now titled College Boy in his Urban Griot series) and Flyy Girl, which became a contemporary urban classic that spawned an entire genre of so-called “urban/street literature.”

Tyree transferred to the respected HBCU of Howard University to finish his education as a writer in the fall of 1989. Leaving the English Department in the School of the Liberal Arts for the School of Communications, he graduated cum laude with a degree in Print Journalism in the Fall of 1991.

While at Howard, he created, produced and published “Food For Thought” a student opinion column in The Hilltop Newspaper, along with publishing several Washington, DC-based news articles for the Black Press.

Upon graduation from Howard, Tyree established his own publishing company, MARS Productions, in early 1992, at the tender age of 23. He then self-published and marketed his first three novels, including Capital City, which chronicled Washington, DC’s violent drug culture, and went on to sell 25,000 copies of his first three titles with distribution sources from Newport News, Virginia, to Queens, New York.

By the Spring of 1995, Tyree’s activity had attracted the attention of several major publishing houses, including Simon & Schuster, where he signed his first two-book publishing deal for a six-figure advance payment at age 26.

And as they say, the rest is his-story. Tyree went on to publish 16 novels, two short story books, and one non-fiction book on The Equation of entrepreneurship and business. To date, he has sold more than 2 million copies of his books worldwide, and has created a brand name in the publishing industry that has generated more than $30 million.

Tyree has also been published in five anthology books, several major newspapers, including; The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The News Journal; several national magazines, including, Ebony, Essence, Upscale, The Black Collegian, and The Washington View, and featured on the national blog web sites; The Huffington Post and TheDailyVoice.com.

Along with his many literary awards from various national organizations, Tyree has founded and formed his own non-profit arm of the Urban Literacy Project (ULP), where he highlights “The 5 Key Components of Literacy” (Reading, Writing, Thinking, Visualization and Application). Penning a short story book, 12 Brown Boys for young urban readers in September of 2008, Tyree was cited by the City Council of Philadelphia for his tireless community work in urban literacy in the Spring of 2009, where he spoke about the need to continue the fight against illiteracy within the urban American community.

Hailed as one of the most passionate and informed speakers on artistic, community, educational, cultural, intellectual, popular and business topics, Tyree has been a featured lecturer at more than 50 major American institutions, colleges and universities, including Harvard and Yale.

Most recently, Tyree completed his first original eBook entitled Corrupted, detailing two intense months in the New York world of book publishing, available now wherever eBooks are sold!

For more information about Omar or his books visit: www.omartyree.com.

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