MEET Carol Rogers: Carol and her business partner, Brenda, two literary and community dynamos, founded C&B Books Distribution in 1995. These two New Yorkers opened their first bookstore after they got a taste of bookselling success while visiting and selling African American books at flea markets. Since those early days, C&B Books Distribution has started the Queens Spring Book and Health Fair, author promotion, community discussion panels and more. C&B Books Distribution is online at http://www.cbbooksdistribution.com
WMI: Carol, give us a little background on you. Where did you grow up and what did you aspire to be when you were a little girl?
CB: I grew up in Brooklyn New York. When, I was younger, I wanted to be a nurse or a teacher so I could help people. What actually ended up happening was that I went to college for three years for nursing and . . . then my life goals turned, facing another direction . . . such is life.
WMI: What inspired you to create C&B Books Distribution?
CB: In 1995 Brenda Piper, my partner at the time, and I became booksellers after selling a few books at the St. Nicholas Flea Market located in Queens, New York. One Saturday we decided to bring a few books from our personal collection to the flea market, not believing that shoppers would actually buy the books! However at the end of the sale day, customers were putting orders in for books and every book was sold and a book career was started.
WMI: Access to capital is critical to the success of any business. Tell us about funding resources you used to finance the launch of C&B Books Distribution?
CB: Well to be honest, I have never ever received any funding. I used my own resources to start the business. In time, we had two book stores and were able to pay rent on both stores for2 1/2 years. Everything becomes a learning lesson. That said, I have learned a lot. I’m ready to continue to fight a good fight.
WMI: Have you ever considered turning C&B Books Distribution into a brick and mortar store, in addition to continuing to operate your online small business? Why or why not?
CB: I have done that already and wish, I had done the online small business first, but everything happens for a reason we are where we are supposed to be . .. at the right time and place.
WMI: Book signings, poetry readings, discussion panels and more are available at the annual Queens Book and Health Fair. Who are some of the authors and artists you have lined up for this year’s fair. Please also give us the date, location and times for this year’s fair.
CB: We have two events a year. One even is held in April as April is “Book Month in Queens”. Our April event this year is held from 12pm – 5pm on April 28, 2012. Special invited guest speakers include Tiffany Chiles, CEO of Don Diva Magazine; Lance Furtado of King of Kings Foundation; Wahida Clark, Essence Best Selling Author; Leroy Comrie- New York City Council Member. Our 7th Annual Queens Book and Health Fair will be held from 12 pm – 5pm on September 29, 2012 at the Jamaica Farmers Market 90-40 160th. St. Jamaica, New York.
CB: Well in 2005, I had my first event in the farmers market’s harvest room. I didn’t think authors were going to come out. However, more than 90 authors finally responded and came out. In 2006, I decided to try and have an outdoor event at Rufus King Park in Jamaica Queens. On the day of the event, with no warning, there was lots of construction going on. Thankfully, the event turned out well.
WMI: Carol, why did you decide to combine the book fair with a health fair, and what are some of the health focused services offered at the fair?
CB: I feel that health and literacy are very important within our communities! At the book and health fair, there are health experts on the premises to give you the knowledge you can use to get, be and stay healthy.
WMI: The Internet and social media networks have opened doors, allowing authors to create, publish and distribute their own works to readers. Going forward, especially when you think about enhancements being made to mobile devices, what additional changes do you see impacting the book industry over the next two to three years?
CB: I just see more people reading and learning than some may have ever thought would due to the fact that books, etc. are more accessible.
WMI: What can each of us do to encourage literacy, reading and learning amongst youth and adults?
CB: All, I can say is, don’t stop. Don’t give up. Continue to promote books and reading anyway you can.
WMI: What small business marketing strategies have you found to be effective at keeping C&B Books Distribution in front of authors, book publishers and readers, thereby increasing customer sales?
CB: I incorporate a variety of small business marketing strategies into my customer sales growth efforts. For example, I continue to establish relationships with the public. I also send e-mails out contacts, etc.
WMI: You’ve been managing C&B Books Distribution for coming up on two decades. Has the process of managing the business gotten easier over the years or do you find yourself facing new, exciting challenges each year?
CB: To be honest things are more difficult now because my funds are very limited. I am working on a shoe string budget. I don’t want to quit or stop, so God has allowed me to continue day by day.
WMI: What’s next for C&B Books Distribution? Where do you see yourself and the business three to five years from now?
CB: I would like to open my book store back at the Farmers Market! I would like to sponsor book fairs in different boroughs here in New York City and in various states. I also plan to continue to manage
C&B Books Distribution, which is online at http://www.cbbooksdistribution.com. From the start, our mission was to sell books at a discount price to the African American community. Since then, our mission has broadened to include supporting self-published authors. In addition to selling books we are committed to helping authors establish a relationship with the public. We created an authors gallery to assist authors with the promotion and distribution of their books. Self-published authors who join C&B Membership and advertise in the authors gallery, receive our support with book signings, expos, press releases, and promos. Aspiring and self-published authors tend to have limited capital and resources. That said, more than just promoting and supporting authors, C&B Books Distribution is a resourceful research center as well. We refer authors to our network of contacts and events, including book clubs, publishers, editors, reviewers, radio stations, public access television, book fairs and expos. Our primary goal includes organizing book signings, delivering press kits and promotional materials to bookstores and agents. Authors can contact C&B Books Distribution today to join by calling 718-591-4525 or emailing CBBookDist@aol.com
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