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Tony Rose: From Beats To Books

There are many ways to enter the publishing world. For Tony Rose, Publisher and CEO of Amber Books the road was long with many twists and turns. The journey begins in a Boston housing project and includes a long stint in the music business. “All of these experiences,” Tony says, “are why his Phoenix-based company enjoys such success today.”

Amber Books is a publisher of self-help titles for African-Americans. The company’s list includes Get That Cutie in Commercials, Television, Films and Videos - Breaking Your Talented Child into the Entertainment Industry by Kandias Conda The African-American Woman’s Guide to Successful Make-up and Skin Care by Alfred Fornay. The latter is Amber’s number one best- selling book because, according to Tony, it’s more than a book about make-up, “it’s about building confidence.”

Considering what it takes to make a profit selling books, one might wonder where Tony’s abundance of confidence originates. The Ruggles Street Housing Projects is where Tony says he got his early training in “negotiating deals.” The first deal he made was at a grocery store called Al’s when he was 8 years old. He arranged to hand over his family’s welfare check in exchange for an unlimited amount of groceries from the store.

Also as a boy Tony sold newspapers, which is perhaps the foundation for his entrepreneurial spirit, and also where he learned the meaning of a dollar. “I used to get robbed sometimes by bigger boys,” Tony remembers. And I had to make up for the lost money. Every nickel, every dime counted.”

It was hard for Tony and his family. Not only was the environment violent, Tony’s own father was as he described “a hustler”.

“My sister and I learned how to survive and fight,” he said in a recent interview from his home in Phoenix. “But we also had values. We learned that if you did drugs you died. If you sold drugs you devalued yourself.”

In addition to developing values based on what was going on and what he didn’t want to happen, one of the things that Tony credits with saving his life was his appetite for literature. “There was violence, the streets, hustling, gangs, my father,” he said. But through reading I knew that there was another life.”

After high school Tony went about the task of deciding what he was going to do with the rest of his life. He considered working in a retirement home, but after the initial orientation he was riding on a bus headed home when he saw a sign that read “Uncle Same Wants You.” And for the first time Tony said he felt wanted. So he enlisted and went off to boot camp, which was easy he said compared to the life he had been living.

Tony Rose: From Beats To Books

Los Angeles called to Tony after he was discharged from the military. He went back home to Boston for a while but the old gang was still into the things he had left to get away from, so he packed up and headed west. In LA, Tony blossomed, embarking on a career in entertainment that would span two decades. He jokes about his arrival in the city of Angels. “I was so poor,” he said. “I was driving through South Central and when I saw the houses with lawns and palm trees, I thought we were in Beverly Hills!”

As he acclimated himself to his new surroundings, Tony enrolled in UCLA and paid for the books and other amenities by working in the kitchen. On the side he booked parties for fraternities. Finally, his big break came when a friend helped him land a job as a production assistant for a Barbara Streisand film at the Burbank Studios in Hollywood. From there he took off like a rocket. He worked on several more films and then started working for RCA Records. At RCA he was assigned to work with the hit R & B group, the Main Ingredient.

While at RCA, the entrepreneurial bug bit again and he founded his first company, Nova Productions. Even today Tony encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to get experience in a company before venturing out on their own. He learned how to sign and manage ACTS AT RCA and then transferred those same skills to the company. Nova Productions folded less than two years in but not before Tony firmly established himself in the music industry.

Music was nothing new to Tony. Back in Boston he bought his first guitar by shining shoes. However, his real talent was in writing music. In the early 80’s he founded Solid Platinum Records and Productions and signed Prince Charles and the City Beat Band. While in New York City, Solid Platinum made history as the first African-American owned production company to ink a production deal with Virgin Records. As the decade rolled on Tony also recorded groups like New Kids on the Block in his Boston-based Hit City Recording Studio.

The entertainment industry was fast and fun, but also trying at times. “You had to be built for it,” he said. For many years Tony lived the high life working hard, riding in limousines and going to parties, but after awhile the environment started to change. Violence started seeping into not only the song lyrics, but into the business itself so Tony decided to get out. Since he had been licensing his music and not selling it when he did decide to find a buyer, he made a windfall and moved to Phoenix to experience life in the slow lane.

He had made enough money to simply chill, but one day while in his backyard, he heard what he called the voice of God telling him to “give back” some of what he had earned. At this point, he had no idea what he was going to do with the rest of his life, but from that moment on, he knew that it had to be something substantial.

Then it came to him, he would publish books. His wife, Yvonne Rose, a former model had produced a pamphlet for young girls who were interested in modeling. This would be their first project. The husband and wife team expanded the information into a book and in 1998 Amber Books was born.

Later they published the work of others including How to Own and Operate Your Home Daycare Business Successfully Without Going Nuts - The Daycare Survival handbook and Guide for Aspiring Home Daycare Providers and Working Parents by Terri Simmons, Ph.D. and Wake Up and Smell the Dollars! Whose Inner City is This Anyway! by Dorothy Pitman Hughes.

Ten books later, the company is still expanding. Recently, Amber Books negotiated two 2-book imprint deals with John Wiley & Sons, Inc. a major book publisher, Tony says he is approaching the publishing business in the same way he maneuvered through the music world. “I wouldn’t put out a song with a bad note in it or bad singing. I feel the same way about books,” he said. “We present articulate, credible knowledge.”

Tony’s not blowing his own horn. His books have no difficulty earning endorsements or getting reviewed in major magazines, but what is more important to him are the letters he gets from readers who have been helped by the books. Tony says he always has the reader in mind when he signs on a new project and he is determined to keep the price points so that the books are affordable to everyone.

Tony has no regrets about the turn of events that landed him in publishing and he says he is grateful to God revealing to him another talent. He learned what not to do growing up, but he said he was blessed to learn that there was a positive way to move through life. “I want people to know that you don’t have to lie, pillage or cheat to succeed.”

Remembering the hardships he faced as an adolescent growing into adulthood he signed a book called The African-American Teenager’s Guide to Personal Growth, Health, Safety, Sex and Survival in the 21st Century by Debrah Harris-Johnson, which was released Spring 2001.

“At the end of the day, it’s the work that you do that gets you in,” he said. “It’s all about the work. Even when we were celebrities, we still had to do the work. If you see someone famous, you know they worked their butts off to get there,” he said.

Written by Leah Mullen
(Reprinted by permission from Writers and Poets.com)

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