Syndicate Media book series combines hip-hop pulp, ads

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"That was probably the best way to describe it. Bliss, or better yet, ecstasy. He felt amazing . . . It was like that every time he killed."

So starts a chapter of Ronin Ro's short novel "Streetsweeper," the debut offering of the Syndicate Media Group's [S]Affiliated series. Syndicate Media, which is partially owned by actor Wesley Snipes, positions [S]Affiliated as pulp-fiction paperbacks aimed at the hip-hop generation. But there's a novel twist. These titles will run up to eight pages of advertising.

"We have a market advertisers are looking to impact, and an uncluttered environment," said Marc Gerald, founder and publisher of Syndicate Media. That environment is CD-sized short novels -- generally running around 150 pages -- thick with playas, gangstas, and enough guns to stock some small armies.


First up: "Streetsweeper," which tells the tale of modern-day hitman who experiences a moral re-awakening when he accidentally kills an innocent girl.

Advertisers on board for "Streetsweeper" are rappers the Murderers; Web sites and Electric Urban; and shoemaker Saucony. A color page costs about $5,000. With such rates "we're not trying to buy cars," said Mykel Mitchell, Syndicate's VP-marketing and promotion. Instead, the ad dollars are a means to "supplement our promotional budget."

In "Streetsweeper" the ads appear as four glossy color pages spaced throughout the book. The books aren't cheap, retailing for $16.98.

A marketing tie-in packages each book with a CD compilation of music supplied by rap label Def Jam, for which the label gets cut-rate advertising. That music tie-in makes the package more attractive for one advertiser.

"Knowing what we know about this generation, they're very tied into music, and we're trying to tie into that," said Emily Caroline, marketing manager for Saucony. The company has bought ads in the [S]Affiliated books slated to come out through 2001 as a means to promote its Originals line of Saucony sneakers based on designs from the '70s.


The titles are available primarily in music stores like Tower Records and Virgin Megastores; urban-themed clothing stores; and some independent black-owned bookstores, such as Brooklyn's NKiru Center for Education & Culture, which is co-owned by rapper Mos Def. "That's where the kids we're trying to hit hang out," said Saucony's Ms. Caroline.

The initial press run of "Streetsweeper" was 50,000, according to Mr. Mitchell, but orders for the book, which will hit stores in early October, are now around 60,000. "We'll ride `Streetsweeper' through Christmas," Mr. Mitchell said. The next [S]Affiliated book, "The International" by Antoine Black, will come out in January. It's the first of the six titles the company plans to release in 2001.

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