We spent a healthy chunk of our weekend ruminating on 50 Cent, as we often do, and his new publishing imprint — but that can only occupy us for so long. 50 is interesting, but let's talk about the man behind the man: what about his agent, Marc Gerald?
Gerald use to run an imprint for Norton called Old School, where he basically rereleased the out-of-issue books by hard-boiled black fiction writers. In 1999/2000, Marc Gerald tried to launch the same concept of 150-page gangsta-lit novellas in partnership with Def Jam, Norton Books and Wesley Snipes, called The Syndicate. The books were to be pitched as movies, would contain soundtrack CDs, and, if successful, would presumably be used as vehicles for Snipes and/or his production company, Amen Ra.
Sound familiar? It should, as it's the same as the current deal with 50 Cent's imprint.
And then, after much press, things just kind of disappeared. So what happened? We hear, just via the gossip grapevine, that Gerald's writer contracts cut out of any promise of future deals. The idea was that the books were company "franchises," one-offs to be written by anybody they wished. So, in theory, you signed a pretty low advance and if, God forbid, the book did well, you were in no position to negotiate for more dough later. You'd already signed off all the property rights to Gerald and Norton.
A source also informs us that those writers who eventually signed and/or started spec manuscripts often found unusually intense "notes" from Gerald and company — the idea being that the more the writers took on ideas from notes, the less the writer could claim ownership of his or her writing. Shady, but not surprising.
Equally shady and slightly more surprising, the books were pitched to most black writers as targeted to the 18-24 year old age group. Once the two or three that were completed started coming out, it became pretty clear that the demo was much younger than originally anticipated, which did not sit well with the writers, given the violence in the books. Worse, several writers found their original approved manuscripts miraculously "blackened" with "ghetto language" that they did not write. The project quickly fell apart.
If the above hearsay (and it is just hearsay) is true, it would seem than Gerald has apparently resurrected his idea for the sake of 50 Cent. So is 50 aware of the plan's first attempt? And, if so, hopefully he won't add any more "blackening" than necessary.
Related: Hip-Hop Launches New Breed of Black Pulp Fiction [Salon]