Negroes are born
they are boys despite age
Negroes are sign language
using symbols to communicate
born without land
what King referred to as
they are sojourners
wandering from person to person
in search of themselves
Negroes are born
their umbilical cords
their screams muffled with injustice
their bodies sold
and bellies stuffed with lies
Negroes bleed death
and cannot recognize their own corpse.
But we are not Negroes.
We are soil and Earth
lips that sing
mouths and song and praise.
We are bodies and flesh
veins and blood and salt
We are salt
of the Earth.
We are crowns and rubies and pearls
eyes and nose
vision and smell.
We are scripture and fire
and dripping honey
We are blood, teeth, and bone
We are people
brave. proud. strong.
But we are not your
After much thought, I pushed the release for Keep Yourself Full (my first Inspirational Non-Fiction book) back to August (now reflected in the sidebar….new release date is 8/6). There’s a lot going on in July. The Book Festival, the Book Signing before that, our mini family road trip (next week! yayy) and I’m back in school so there’s no way I’ll have time to focus on releasing another book in the same month. This led me to a reminder I think we all need to hear every now and again.
Raise your hand if you get down on yourself when you do not accomplish what you set out to do. Maybe you had to push a date back, abandon a project or maybe you failed at executing something. I’ll be the first to raise mine. I get so frustrated, but I’ve learned something along the way: not to tie not achieving a goal to my self-worth. I am still worthy even if I do not achieve what I set out to when I set out to. My purpose is the same and my time will come. (Rom. 8:28)
“By tying your self-love and self-acceptance to a goal, your happiness corresponds to its achievement. When you reach your goal, your self-esteem rises temporarily; when you don’t, you think less of yourself as you have chosen to conditionally love yourself based on the success or failure of your obtaining this goal. Now the expectation of what “should be,” controls you.”
– The Mastery of Self by Don Miguel Ruiz Jr, son of Don Miguel, author of The Four Agreements.
The Mastery of Self is a great inspirational read. I just finished it and it has helped me tremendously in this decision. I recommend it. (The Fifth Agreement is also a decent read, though not as good as The Four Agreements in my opinion.) Goals help to keep us accountable but not achieving them does not make us useless or unimportant. Rest when you need to. Push that date back if you need to. Don’t rush. What is yours is still yours. It will wait for you. Even if you need to ghost Social Media for a while. Take care of yourself. We will be here when you get back.
I want my truth
I want customs and traditions
without being conditioned
I want unconditioned
I want my stuff.
I want my Kings and Queens
my silver and my gold
I want my laws and commandments and my stories
I want do-overs
for how we’ve been done over
I want my children re-educated
Give me raised fists
and two-parent households.
I want functioning Black family units,
Afros, Black power, curly hair
and I want my cocoa butter skin.
I want credit for all my skills.
I want my midwives
I want my tribes
I want my inventions before you re-invented them.
I want Lewis Howard Latimer
not Thomas Edison.
I want my covenants renewed
I want my 40 acres and a mule.
I want my land rich as I left it
I want my spirituality accepted
I want my names changed back
I want my Proverbs and freedom songs
and I want my Moses Black.
I want what you stole from me
I want King Solomon Black and comely.
I want it all back.
Since B&N was sold (no panic neccessary….related article links below) and since Instagram went down (again), the time is right to repost this message. It’s long but I recommend reading all the way through. It was originally published December 5, 2018 after Facebook went down. Since then both Facebook and Instagram have had continual glitches, Google Plus is no more and Createspace is now Kindle Direct Publishing.
After experiencing multiple problems with Facebook the other day, amazon admitting to accidentally sharing people’s personal information, and reading Derek Murphy’s email about hacks, author websites and updating passwords, I think it’s time to publish a post that has been sitting in my drafts (and in my heart) for some time. It has also been a while since I’ve dedicated significant time to this blog and as we come upon the end of the year; I think it’s a good way to get us thinking about potential changes in 2019.
Be careful putting all your eggs in one basket.
When the stock market crashed in 1929, it shocked people. They couldn’t believe they couldn’t get their money out of the banks. It was like in the movies when there’s a natural disaster or alien invasion. Right before it all comes crashing down, life is perfect. A family is sitting at the table eating breakfast. Soccer moms are dropping their children off to school and dads are hoping for that corporate promotion. And then it happens, right there. You are at the breakfast table eating a bowl of cereal and your kitchen floor splits in half with your toddler on the other side of that half.
This is how quickly things change.
Life before the crash was great. People were doing well. People bought stocks with easy credit. During the 1920s there was a rapid growth in bank credit and easily acquired loans. People encouraged by the market’s stability were unafraid of debt. People were comfortable. So comfortable that they weren’t prepared when it all came crashing down. Not everyone was as affected though. The great depression didn’t affect poor people as much as those who had wealth because poor people were used to having nothing. Many of them were also already growing their own food, and already self-sufficient. They had to be innovative and entrepreneurial to survive.
“There is a bitter and yet wry statement which was made by blacks about the depression. They said in the south that the depression had been going on for ten years before black people even know about (laughs)… knew it existed.” – Maya Angelou
Social Media has made it possible to make millions with online-only businesses. No longer do you need a college degree or fancy training to start a business online. Social media and e-courses changed that. Writers can now publish their own books without a traditional publisher. Independent Publishing has been around for a long time, but Print on Demand took it to another level. Print on Demand services are platforms where authors can upload manuscripts easily and quickly online and order print copies of their books. Platforms such as Lulu, Kindle Direct Publishing and Bookbaby are examples. Not only is it easier than ever to publish books, but it‘s easier to make millions from social media alone. Professional Instagrammer or YouTuber are legit business titles now. College kids are dropping out to become YouTube stars and Insta-celebrities. Because of advanced technology you don’t need to understand code to build a website yourself or need a fancy camera to shoot a movie anymore. With a basic understanding of video editing you can do this with your iPhone.
Life is good.
But remember how quickly things change.
Social Media is changing. People are more outspoken about privacy and data use. Facebook is being more strict about limitations so it’s difficult to do any promotion without buying ads (and although we do it anyway, we’re not supposed to use our personal pages as business pages). Algorithms don’t show everyone‘s post and Facebook is losing readers because of problems like the one I faced the other day (where I couldn’t log in). Facebook is constantly down and Google+ and Createspace have already closed down. Although Social Media looks good now, I wouldn’t be surprised if it, like the stock market, drastically changed so that users have to either pay for accounts or it unexpectedly closed down completely. Poof. Gone. Tragedies often happen suddenly.
“By the mid-1800s, most countries wanted to standardize transactions in the booming world trade market. They adopted the gold standard. It guaranteed that the government would redeem any amount of paper money for its value in gold. That meant transactions no longer had to be done with heavy gold bullion or coins. It also increased the trust needed for successful global trade. Paper currency now had guaranteed value tied to something real.” (Amadeo, K. 2018, 17 April. History of the Gold Standard.)
The history of paper money is worth the research and is too extensive to go in depth here but in short, the dollar began its decline on being backed by gold when the Gold Standard was suspended and even more after the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Paper money was only receipts that represented a certain amount of gold. When the Gold Standard was suspended more receipts were printed, printing receipts caused hyperinflation and money hasn’t been the same sense.
What does this mean / have to do with authors?
“This isn’t 1955 where we can use a typewriter and write a book every year and a half and make money to live off of while we do book tours. Might as well get in the horse and buggy business.” – Kristen Lamb
Putting your eggs in one basket is a phrase which means that one should not concentrate all efforts and resources in one area as one could lose everything. For Authors, putting your eggs in one basket could mean many things.
❌Holding onto Outdated Information about Book Publishing
I know you see celebrities going on book tours and all that but don’t let that make you look down on Self-Publishing because it has changed the game. Traditional Publishing is not the giant it used to be. Sure traditionally published authors still get tons of publicity but the digital era is here and while huge bookstore chains like Barnes and Noble are struggling, Indie Bookstores and Indie Publishers are thriving. The key to Self-Publishing is in the ebooks big publishing companies thought would never work. “In a dismal twist of fate, NY helped self-publishing transition from ‘shunned last-ditch of the hack wanna-be writer’ into a viable and respectable publishing alternative.” (Kristen Lamb) Don’t let your perception of success cloud your judgment. The Big Six (or is it 5 now?) is not all it’s cracked up to be. And since we’re talking about not putting our eggs in one basket, nothing is as it’s cracked up to be. Amazon can be in the same boat as Barnes and Noble.
❌Using Social Media to build your business without a website
Investing in a business website is one of the most basic ways of running a successful business. Instead of just create a Facebook page or Instagram account, consider also creating a website. It’s not expensive and can even be a one page website but it’s good to have. You can also use your blog as your website as we discussed before (because it doesn’t make much sense to spend money on a full website if you have one or no books out). Using social media without a website is putting your eggs in one basket because social media is not stable. Likes does not mean sales unless you have somewhere to direct people to purchase your books. Social media is not the final destination or at least it shouldn’t be. Social media is a doorway that must lead to a place. Your website is that place.
❌Only marketing and promoting your books online
“Social media is an important part of your business but it shouldn’t be the ONLY part of your business.”
– Cici aka The Six Figure Chick
By only focusing on promoting and marketing and selling books online you are leaving money on the table and I don’t mean to sound like it’s all about money. It’s obviously not but for writers who want to make a living out of publishing books, money is pretty important. Although people talk about the death of print, radio and traditional media is still a big deal. There are still many people who aren’t tech savvy, still many people who prefer to visit libraries and bookstores, still many who prefer print books, and still many who want to see you in person or hear you speak. If you are already outspoken, this is an extra good thing for you. You’ll have no problem networking at events and meeting new readers. If you’re an introvert (like me), events help you come out of your shell and meet new readers who can follow you online. My social media pages don’t have many followers but my numbers go up after every event. While I don’t think requiring your presence to make your money is wise (because I mean, the technology is here), scheduling at least one public appearance (such as a book signing) every now and again is a good way to meet your readers face to face.
❌Only publishing books. (Neglecting other ways of making long-term sustainable income as an author)
I recently attended the inaugural We Buy Black Convention in Atlanta where hundreds of black-owned businesses convened to support one another. There, I met Real Estate Super Agent Lisa Puerto, one of the featured speakers during one of the business talks (Jay Morrison was another speaker and Dr. Boyce Watkins was another speaker but I missed them). Long story short, my husband and I loved her passion so much that although we aren’t into real estate, we were ready to buy her book when she finished and got to chat with her after the segment.
Here’s the thing that surprised me though: her table was basic. Black table cloth, books and business cards. It looked similar to my table at the signing at Nubian books earlier this year! (see pic) There weren’t any fancy fixings but her line stretched down the hall and her business cards were getting picked up like candy. She had wowed us with her passion alone and her voice was big enough to outdo any banner. I say all of this to say I’ve learned that public speaking is how we as authors get the message out about our books. Instead of promoting the book, we could promote the message of the book and help people to understand why it’s worth their time to read our stories. It’s why celebrity authors go on book tours where they get to speak to the audience and despite how we feel about her, Omarosa sold the mess out her book just by talking about it!
The book is important, but it is not the only way of making money as an author. Once you’ve established yourself as an author and have made waves with your books (please do this first), you can expand into other things such as teaching, coaching, and public speaking, as additional income sources. Only writing books is another form of putting your eggs in one basket because you’re limited to just one income stream. If you write full time (no day job, spousal support, no side hustle, e.g.) this is especially important. In striving to make a living from writing alone (once you’ve been established for a while), it’s a good idea to expand your brand beyond just writing books.
❌Not having an email list
Email lists aren’t for everyone (and certainly not before you have built some kind of audience to send them to), but could be useful if there is no more social media (blogs included). This will make the email list of great value alongside your website. It becomes another way for you to connect to your audience on a personal level. While I don’t have many subscribers, I can say with the integrity I have more subscribes than unsubscribes and I am learning more and more how to better manage my team. Every business has an email marketing to accompany their business. I don’t know why writing has to be any different. Do you want to know why people don’t take Indie writers seriously? Because we assume the basic rules of running a business doesn’t apply to us. Yes, you can opt not to do certain things as there are no rules, technically. However, there are basics and you can‘t opt out until you fully understand the basics. A website, email list, social media, and a payment method are among the foundational basis of an online business. Your website is your home, your email list is your connection, your social media pages (includes blog) is your traffic and interaction, and your payment method/shopping cart is how you get paid. These are the basics.
❌Publishing on Amazon exclusively while neglecting other retailers
I think relying too heavily on Amazon is a mistake. I think a smart person would definitely have their books on Amazon but that they will also explore other retailers. It‘s about balance. Say what you want about them but having books on Amazon is just good business sense (you have to look at it the way readers do…they will search for your book on Amazon first before anything), but that doesn’t mean we have to only have books on amazon. One of the most valuable ways to sell your books is through your own author website! The reason Amazon is winning is that mostly we are promoting it. Our books may be present on other sites but if we aren’t promoting those links alongside Amazon, we cannot expect to see sales through those channels. How many times do you promote links to your book on Kobo? Barnes and Noble? Smashwords? Your own author website? If you’re honest with yourself your answer would be like mine, very little. If something were to happen to Amazon, do you know of any alternative ways of publishing? Have you educated yourself or are you only sticking with the zon? Publishing only on Amazon is putting your eggs in one basket because if amazon suddenly crashed it will take your eggs with it.
❌Private Business Social Media Pages
Setting your Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook author pages to private. I simply don’t understand this. Not only is nothing private online, but you are losing out on potential readers. Unless your goal is not to sell books or reach readers, it is a good idea that your author pages are public. They don’t necessarily have to be business pages but it’s not a good idea if they are private. Here’s why:
A reader comes across your page from whatever source. Someone has referred them to you or they liked your bio. They go to your Instagram page to see more of your work and get a feel for who you are but your page is set to private. They go to your Twitter page, it’s set to private. They go to like your Facebook page and hit the private wall. Few people will send you a request. Most people will leave and not come back. Why? Because if you’re using social media for any kind of business (and if you wrote a book, you are in business) potential readers/clients shouldn’t have to follow you to see what you offer.
Private business pages force people to follow you just to see what you are about. If you are that afraid of scammers and trolls then you should probably not be on social media. I’m just being real with you here. If your social media pages are business pages, if you are trying to connect with readers and clients, why is your page private? That is just not good business sense unless your goal is only to reach the choir.
❌Wasting time arguing about whether Self-Publishing or Traditional Publishing is better.
These debates are a waste of time (this is coming from the person who thinks nothing is a waste of time) and forces authors into putting their eggs in one basket. Publishing Independently works for me but I won’t sit here and say I will never traditionally publish a book if it came time for it. There’s a time and place for everything and I am at a place where Independent Publishing works well for me. (Indie Publishing is also thriving right now). I cannot say this won’t change because I cannot predict the future. There’s nothing wrong if you suddenly went the traditional route or if you decided to self-publish because the value doesn’t change. You are still worthy no matter how you publish. By making this out to be some competition we lose sight of what really matters and create self-imposed limitations. This bullet point differs from the others and may seem out of place but that’s why I must mention it. It’s a low-key way of putting your eggs in one basket. Self-Publishing is one basket and Traditional Publishing is another basket. You are not limited to just using one. It’s okay to keep your options open.
This post will be too long to cover every single area of how we leave money on the table by putting all our eggs into one basket but here are some additional areas:
❌Not developing a business plan for your writing business / not legalizing your writing business
❌Not listing your books on Goodreads or creating an Amazon Author Central Page
❌Discounting your books / products online so much that it undermines your business
❌Not discounting your books / products at events and conferences. (People aren’t going to pay $20 for a Self-Published book from an unknown author. Unless you’re already a celebrity or very good at persuasion, most people won’t take the chance. Discount your books when you sell them in person!)
Consider not relying on one way of doing things. People say that you don’t own social media but that is true for everything online. You don’t own that blog no more than you own that email list, no more than you own those social media pages.
I have to say, when Facebook tripped, as it often does, I was so happy that I at least have a website and email list to direct people to. If I had to rely on my Facebook page only, it would have caused me to panic as Facebook not working would mean losing all my contacts. Social media is an excellent tool as I can sit here and write to people all over the world from my computer. But traditional media still holds weight and that face-to-face “old stuff” still works as an option to connect you to your readers. People thought farming was old too until it was the poor black farmers whose homegrown food fed them during the depression. The same thing for social media. Those who neglect digital are doing themselves a great disservice as well. Balance is the key to all of this.
The eleven sons of Jacob survived and flourished because their brother Joseph, who had become second in command to Pharaoh through his gift of properly interpreting the Pharaoh‘s dream, had created storehouses throughout Egypt where the people could come and buy food. When his brothers left Canaan for Egypt, they could find refuge. Could we learn from this? Could we be the Joseph’s of our day? Or will we wait until the famine wipes out all we have?
It’s hard running a small business. Independent Artists (authors, publishers, musicians, filmmakers, etc.) aren’t backed by huge companies and corporations and many of us don’t have millions of dollars in the bank. In fact, most small business owners still have 9-5s because, like you, we have bills to pay and families to provide for. But the truth is most people only see the result, the finished book, the mastered track, the Indie film. You don’t see the prayers that go up, the tears that come out, and hope that what you are doing is not in vain. You don’t see the depressed spirits of artists who lack support and feel like giving up. Sometimes it can be so overwhelming that it doesn’t seem as if you are making progress at all.
That’s why noticing small growth is important to me. I don‘t post about my work for applause, fake pats on the back or to look important. I post and get excited about it because baby steps still move us forward. Even when it’s something small and even when it may seem silly to others I am free and I have the freedom of celebrating where I am on the way to where I am going. It’s time we stop waiting until we’ve become Bestsellers to see the value in our work.
In these moments let’s remind ourselves that progress does not have a price tag, it’s not a social media meme, and it’s not a popularity contest. If you went from $0 to $10, you have progressed. If you went from no book sales at a signing to five books sold, you have progressed. If you’ve gone from wanting to publish a book to holding that book in your hands, you have progressed. Even if you’ve only moved from the bottom of the bookshelf squeezed between books where hardly anyone will ever see it, to the top of the poetry section (yours truly) you have progressed! Stop waiting to be some kind of celebrity before you realize the value in your work. Growth is growth no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.
If you love poetry, black history, or self-care literature and you are in the Marietta/Atlanta area, I’d appreciate you investing in me by stopping by this B&N (address below) and purchasing a copy of my poetry book, I am Soul or grab and review the ebook on Amazon here. (Listen to my poetry on YouTube here).
Thank you for your time, attention, and support of a small business owner. Remember that support begets support.
My name is Michael Williams, or as I’m called in this wonderful world of the interwebs, Cerealsensei. I was born in Austin, Texas but I spent a large portion of my life in Baltimore, Maryland where I was raised.
What does Cerealsensei mean?
The name Cerealsensei represents two parts of my personality. I have a slight obsession with cereal, I would consider myself a cereal connoisseur of sorts. If it was possible to eat cereal for every meal and not have your sugar levels spike through the roof I would do it but unfortunately life isn’t fair.
Haha. Okay Cereal Connoisseur, what’s your favorite?
The greatest cereal of all time is Waffle Crisp, without question. Sadly I believe it was discontinued last year so if you didn’t have it after all these years then you missed out on greatness. So by technicality I guess Cinnamon Toast Crunch is now sitting on the throne.
Lol. Cinnamon Toast Crunch is the bomb if I must say so myself. Let’s get back to the meaning of your name…
The Sensei part comes from me being the oldest in my group of friends. I watched a lot of martial arts films growing up. Normally the Sensei was an older an teacher who was always the voice of reason and tried to keep everyone in line. In a way that’s kind of how I am in my group of friends, the resident old head who’s just trying to keep order. So i just kind of combined the two and Cerealsensei was born. Also, since my real name is so common I had to add in a nickname so you could find me easily in a google search.
Got it. What do you love about yourself?
A few years ago I might not have even been able to answer this question. But I’ve come to love the weird quirks and off beat humor of my personality. I know I’m different, and I don’t say that to be pretentious or “artsy” but it’s true. I’ve become fully aware that I march awkwardly to the beat of my own drum and I get lost among the crowd. But it’s what makes me who I am and I wouldn’t change it even if I could.
That’s beautiful. What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The Most Exciting thing?
The most exciting thing? The most difficult thing……I absolutely with all of my being despise editing. I dread it every time I have to do it, but it’s the most important part of the writing process in my opinion so it’s unavoidable. But it stresses my soul every single time. The most exciting thing would have to be that moment when you realize those crazy ideas you had in your head can actually become something tangible. That moment when you’ve got the words down on the paper in the exact way you wanted to and you can honestly be proud that you were able to flush that concept out into something readable. Ironically this happens a lot when you’re……editing, go figure.
What kind of music do you like?
Man, I could go on all day about this. Aside from writing music is a huge passion of mine. Now days I mostly listen to a lot of indie hip hop, Oddisee is probably my favorite rapper if I had to list one. But I appreciate all genre’s of music, they all bring something special to the table. Depending on my mood I’ll throw on some soul or R&B, then switch it up to some rock, something ambient or orchestral, I also love instrumental beat tapes which are great to listen to if you’re writing. One of the best things about the internet was it exposed me to so much music that I didn’t know existed, I spend a good amount of time doing what I call digital crate digging just trying to find new things to listen to.
When did you publish your first book? What was that like?
I published my first book on November 12, 2018. When I finally put it out it was an awesome feeling, a lot of weight fell of my shoulders on that day. To be honest, when I put it out I wasn’t so much worried about people loving it or hating it. Obviously, I hope they like it. But putting out that first book was for me to prove that I could start this process and see it through until the very end. This was an idea that started about five years ago, so it was awesome to finally be able to release it and check that goal off of my bucket list. Now it’s about repeating that process over again, and not having it take five years to do.
What genre do you write in, why?
I’m terrible with categorizing but for now I guess you could say comedic fiction, aimed generally at a younger audience. I wanted my first book to be something that anyone could pick up and relate to in some way. I don’t want to talk over anyone’s head, I’m not trying to make some crazy and profound statement with my writing. I just want you to be able to pick it up and have a good time, writing fiction allows me to do that.
You definitely achieved that. From the cover and blurb, the Oddball Chronicles looks like a fun read!
My future projects which will also include scripts I’m working on will be much darker though. I don’t want to get pegged into any box. I’m a scatter brain and that influences how I write. I”ll never stick to just one genre. The Oddball Chronicles will stand as it’s own thing, but everything afterward most likely won’t resemble it at all.
What was your childhood dream?
My first childhood dream was to become a chef. Ha, boy did I fail that dream miserably. But to my credit, I’ve gotten better around the kitchen. Having health issues made me learn how to cook so I wouldn’t eat out so much. I’m not the best cook by any stretch of the imagination but I can make some pretty decent salmon.
Love Salmon. Let’s talk about writing a bit more. What do you hate most about writing advice? What do you love?
This is a tough question. I think what I love is also what I hate. And that would be that there’s really no set playbook on how any of this works. You and I could both read the same writing advice and for you it might cause a light-bulb moment but my fuse will just blow out all together. It’s very cliché, but you really do have to find what works best for you.
I agree. What do you think of the world we live in?
It’s crazy, it’s out of control, some days I’m waiting for it to end. Whether it be Jesus coming back to take the wheel or an asteroid just wiping us all out. Everyday I see at least one news story or viral video that just makes me shake my head. But on the flip-side, the world still has it’s beautiful parts. There are still good people out here who are trying to do the right thing and push us forward. If nothing else, I love the creative boom that’s happening with content in terms of film, music and all of the other creative outlets. Underneath all of the madness there are some extremely talented people out here putting out great art and that’s what inspires me and keeps me going. I want to add my name to that conversation.
Why is writing important to you?
It’s the best way I know how to communicate. If I didn’t have it all of these wild ideas in my head wouldn’t leave, writing helps me give them a home so they don’t bother me for too long. Writing is a release for me and gives me a sense of accomplishment every time I do it. If I wasn’t writing I’d hate to think of where I’d be or what I’d be doing. Life wouldn’t be much fun without it.
Thank you Michael for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
My name is Michael Williams and I’m an independent author and podcaster currently living in Edgewood, Maryland. When I’m not writing stories or scripts you can find me obsessing over Mixed Martial Arts, playing video games and/or attempting to finish an anime (I have commitment issues). On November 12th, 2018 I released volume one of my short story series entitled The Oddball Chronicles. I wanted to write something that captured the growing pains of every day life and put my little off beat brand of humor on it. Hopefully if someone else reads it they’ll find it halfway entertaining, or possibly even learn something.