I am deep in revisions for my first fantasy novel, The Women with Blue Eyes: Rise of the Fallen. I am on the clock because I want my editor to start work on it next month. As I go over my work, I realize how horrified I would have been not going back over this. As usual, I want to share what I am learning with you. In this new Indie Author Basics series, I am sharing some signs I have noticed that indicate that you are probably not ready to Self-Publish that book.
You Skip the Revision Process
Step one in the process of Self-Publishing is to write the book. It is unnecessary to self-edit during this stage because it would be challenging to finish the book if you are editing as you are writing. Step one is like a brain dump where you are getting everything down on paper. It is the most exciting part of the journey as you let your ideas and creativity flow. Step one is creating the rough draft of your story, the version of your manuscript that is complete but not polished.
I know a writer is not ready to Self-Publish when they skip the revision process.
Revisions are rewrites of the manuscript before sending it to a professional editor.
It is AFTER the book is finished because you don’t want to edit as you write (you’ll never finish) but BEFORE the professional edit.
The rewrite is more challenging than the rough draft because you are not only putting your ideas on paper, but now you are organizing those ideas, cutting out what doesn’t work, and working with what does work. The revision stage (rewrites) strengthens your work into something worthy of publication.
If you skip this stage, you are publishing your rough draft. If you send the rough draft to an editor, you will still ultimately publish your manuscript’s rough draft version. While the editor can clean it up some, it is not the editor’s job to write the book for you. If you are looking for someone to write the book for you, you need a Ghostwriter. If you want to write your own book, it is essential not to skip the revision process when you are Self-Publishing.
The rough draft is not the final draft and will not be the best representation of your writing.
How to Know if You Have Skipped Revisions:
You just finished writing the book. You have made it to the end, and you are done. You take this book , create a PDF, and upload it to Amazon. You have not gone back to rewrite or make corrections, and you have not had it properly edited. If I have described you, you have skipped the revision process.
Technology has been your godsend. You have finished recording your book using speech-to-text technology that has translated your words to the page. You finish the book, but you don’t rewrite what you spoke into the document for comprehension. Everything is kind of all over the place. If I have described you, you have skipped the revision process.
You just finished writing the book. You have made it to the end, and you are done. Then, you take this version (the rough draft) and send it to an editor. If I have described you, you have also skipped the revision process. And unfortunately, for your editor they have the job of rewriting your book. If they are a quality editor, they will send the MS back to you and request a rewrite.
If you have not gone back over your rough draft to make changes, this is a sign you are not ready to Self-Publish.
We were knee-deep in a new pandemic when I noticed this film in August 2020. Immediately upon seeing the trailer, I was hooked. I could not wait to see the movie. Well, it is 2021, and the film is finally here, and you better believe I saw it. Here are my thoughts.
If you are familiar with biopics, you know they are based on a true story, so you already know how this ends. Still, I must tell you this review contains spoilers if you have not seen the movie.
Judas and the Black Messiah
First, let’s talk about this title.
Judas was one of the original twelve emissaries chosen by the Messiah, but he was a traitor. So, when the Scribes and Pharisees were looking for a way to kill Yahoshua, the Biblical Messiah, they found what they were looking for in Judas. He spoke with the chief priests and captains, who agreed to pay him for his services. (Luke 22:3-6) He is called “the son of destruction” in John chapter seventeen verse twelve because he set out to destroy the savior. After selling out Yahoshua, Judas ended his own life by committing suicide. (Matt. 27:5)
William O’Neal was only seventeen-years-old when the FBI recruited him to infiltrate The Black Panthers after stealing a car and speeding across state lines. Like the biblical Judas was chosen by Yahoshua, O’Neal was selected and promoted to head of security by Chairman Fred. Just as Judas met with high priests and captains of his day, O’Neal met with FBI agents like Roy Mitchell.
Judas was paid thirty pieces of silver, and O’Neal was paid $300 after the raid of December 4, 1969. Judas sold out Yahoshua with a kiss, and O’Neal sold out Fred with a floor plan.
Both committed suicide.
The title of the film is fitting.
Like most movies based on a true story, I expected Judas and the Black Messiah to take some creative liberties. It is not possible, for instance, for us to know exactly what the conversations was like, especially between William and Roy.
However, I found the film to be mostly accurate with only minor exceptions.
Hampton and O’Neal’s Perceived Age
While in the movie, the actors look 30-ish, it’s important for viewers to know they were young in real life. Fred’s activism started when he was just a teen organizing a way for black kids to go swimming in Maywood, a suburb of Chicago. The white kids swam at the pool at a private Veteran Industrial Park, but black kids weren’t allowed. Even though he couldn’t swim, Fred and his friends carpooled black kids from Maywood to a Chicago Park District in Lyons several miles away.
Fred’s outspokenness caught the attention of Don Williams, head of the West Suburban Chapter of the NAACP. In 1964, at just sixteen years old, Fred was head of the NAACP Youth Branch.
William O’Neal was also young, only seventeen, as stated, when he was recruited for the FBI. According to O’Neal’s 1990 testimony in the documentary Eyes on the Prize, he (Williams) was looking for an opportunity to work off his case, which made it easier for Roy Mitchell to recruit him.
I want us to think about this for a moment.
A young man stealing cars and joyriding is not a hard thing to imagine. Young people do stupid stuff as we also did stupid stuff when we were young. This is not to excuse O’Neal’s actions. But, the men’s youthfulness, in my opinion, adds depth when you realize the FBI took extraordinary measures to destroy a movement led by teenagers. The FBI started their investigation into Fred Hampton in 1967, a year before they recruited O’Neal. Fred was nineteen years old.
These were kids and America feared them.
O’Neal’s Repentant Heart
They may have been kids in the beginning but O’Neal grew up working for the FBI and it shows.
In the movie, the fictional O’Neal seemed more repentant than the real O’Neal. Based on his interview in part two of Eyes on the Prize (and in part one as well), I couldn’t help but feel an uneasiness watching him. His eyes shifted a lot, and he had a hard time looking directly at the camera. I could tell recounting the story was bothering him. He seemed kind of cold.
Nick Pope describes what I mean:
“Watching his infamous ‘tell-all’ interview with the 1990 docuseries Eyes on the Prize II, you’d be hard pressed to find a semblance of guilt or shame about his role in the Chicagoan group’s violent downfall. Equally, he refused to accept any blame for the murder of Black Panther chairman Fred Hampton at the hands of the Chicago Police Department in 1969.
“Do I feel like I betrayed someone? Absolutely not. I had no allegiance to the Panthers,” O’Neal told the interviewer, in a section that ultimately didn’t air. He simply thought of himself as a man who “had the courage to get out there and put it on the line”; a man who had been made a “better person” through his work with the FBI. By the end of the conversation, he seemed sanguine about his legacy. “I think I’ll let history speak for me.”
I don’t know how much we can trust that came out of O’Neal’s mouth that day, so it makes sense that filmmakers took it with a grain of salt.
“In an interview, the writers told Decider that the biggest assumptions they made involved Hoover’s knowledge of the raid that took Hampton’s life (which was recently confirmed) and O’Neal’s relationship with Mitchell. For the latter, they had to fill in some gaps, as O’Neal’s information – available via the docu-series Eyes On The Prize featured at the end of Black Messiah – is understandably unreliable.” (Gabriel Ponniah)
“Nine months after conducting the explosive interview, in the early morning of 15 January, 1990, the 40-year-old committed suicide by running out onto the westbound lanes of Chicago’s Eisenhower Expressway.”
Although O’Neal does not appear repentant, that’s not for any of us to decide. “In an article from the Chicago Reader titled “The Last Hours of William O’Neal,” O’Neal’s uncle Ben Heard details his nephew’s fear, saying, “He said they had someone tied up and they were pouring hot water over his head. They were trying to get him to do something.” perhaps referencing informant George Sams. Heard went on to suggest O’Neal was plagued by guilt for the rest of his life after Hampton’s murder: “I think he was sorry he did what he did. He thought the FBI was only going to raid the house.” O’Neal’s suicide attempts would back this up – and in the end, one of those attempts succeeded.”
Stanfield did a great job in his role as the Judas that was O’Neal, although it was so stressful for Stanfield that he mentioned needing to go to therapy afterward.
50/50: Did O’Neal Personally Lace Hampton’s Drink?
I had to look into O’Neal personally poisoning Hampton and delivering the drink. I am still skeptical about if he did it personally, but I did discover multiple sources that confirm this part of the story is true.
It’s still 50/50 for me though.
First, why am I skeptical?
When discussing whether he was personally responsible, in one instance he doesn’t outright reject the accusation but in another he also seems to reject it, saying:
“I don’t buy it. There’s just no way. Fred was the type of person that you didn’t have to drug anyway. Fred was always tired. He could get in a car, and we couldn’t ride two blocks without him dozing off. I mean, he, he just, he was a high-energy person that ran on very little fuel, and wherever he’d sit down, he was well-rested. I have never, I have never believed that, I mean…”
In everything O’Neal spoke about, he never seemed comfortable admitting to poisoning Hampton. This isn’t to say Fred wasn’t drugged because they found it in his system, but perhaps O’Neal was conflicted within himself.
“Per a 2021 report (via Esquire), O’Neal once admitted “while high” that he did indeed drug Hampton. Specifically, the former FBI informant used “a substantial dose” of secobarbital (a barbiturate) in a glass of Kool-Aid, at least according to a “criminal associate” who testified in court.”
O’Neal says Hampton never consumed marijuana or any drugs and that most party members didn’t even drink alcohol so the Kool-Aid thing makes sense. Additionally, In The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther, Hass talks about the report from Cook County chemist Eleanor Berman who ran two separate tests that presented evidence of barbiturates in Hampton’s blood, though he was not known to take drugs.
The FBI did not find such evidence in their own tests, but then, of course they didn’t.
Did William O’Neal personally poison Hampton or did they pin this on him?
What I Know is Real
Outside of these exceptions, I found a lot about the movie to be accurate. Thanks in large part to Fred Hampton Jr., and Akua Njeri, formerly Deborah Johnson, who Dominique Fishback plays in the film.
Hampton’s arrest on the charge of stealing the ice cream happened, the shootout with the officers and the building set on fire and the community helping to restore the building is all true.
The bit about Fred’s mom babysitting Emmett Till is also true.
Mamie Till and Emmett were neighbors to the Hamptons. Mamie Till had come to Chicago from Mississippi a few years earlier, and Emmett’s father found a job at the Corn Products Company in Argo (a suburb on the southwest side of Chicago) just as Fred’s father had. Fred’s mother, Iberia, became friends with a woman named Fannie Wesley, Emmett Till’s regular babysitter. Because Iberia stayed home with her children (until Fred was eight), she sometimes babysat Emmett too, who she described as “a handful” (haha). Fred was only six years old when Emmett was brutally murdered in 1955.
In the movie, the FBI wrote a letter to one gang pretending it was from the Panthers to cause disunity in the community.
This is accurate.
The Panthers persuaded members of the Black Stone Rangers and Chicago’s Puerto Rican gangs to call a truce and be of service to the community. From my perspective, Hampton saw their grit and no non-sense demeanor not as a weakness but as something that could be a strength and add value to the movement.
“We all were living in shoddy housing. We all were not receiving education. We all were getting our asses kicked by the police,” says Felipe Luciano. “Why shouldn’t we get together?”
But following FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s orders, O’Neal and others* undid much of Hampton’s work to foster peace in the community.
FBI agents wrote a letter to Jeff Fort, the Black P Stones leader, saying the Panthers were putting a hit on him. This kind of disinformation happened all the time. Today there is disinformation through Social Media and email. Back then, it was through handwritten letters and phone wiretaps.
The FBI tried to make The Black Panther Party out to be a hate group. Hampton destroyed this idea every time he preached “All Power to All People,” including white power to white people, yellow power to yellow people, red power to red people, and black power to black people. Hampton worked with white-dominated groups like Students for a Democratic Society and the Weather Underground. He called the multiracial groups he collaborated with his “Rainbow Coalition.”
“People learn by example. Huey P. Newton said people learn by observation and participation,’ so we understand by observing that we need to do more acting than writing. We didn’t talk about a breakfast for children program; we got one.”
The Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast Program did so well that the FBI claimed the program indoctrinated and disrupted children. They then vowed to do away with this “nefarious activity” of feeding children.
These are just some examples of the “imaginative and hard-hitting counterintelligence measures aimed at crippling The Black Panther Party.”
This is the extent the government went to discredit, disarm, and do away with the panthers to prevent what they referred to as “the rise of a Black Messiah.”
You know you gotta be doing outstanding work to be considered “the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States.”
*O’Neal was not the only agent. Mitchell had as many as nine informants within the Black Panthers leading up to Fred’s murder. O’Neal went into a Federal Witness Protection Program in 1973, four years after Hampton’s death.
Can we talk about Daniel Kaluuya’s Fred Hampton accent? He nailed it!
Now, look past the fact that Kaluuya looks nothing like Hampton (Tee Hee)
But his accent and acting is on point.
Fred Hampton was an intelligent young man who studied pre-law at Triton College and already had experience working with the NAACP. He spoke quickly and with authority. If you are not careful, you will miss some of what Fred says because he spoke fast. The Hampton quotes recited by Daniel in the movie were spot on, and I enjoyed the creative direction in its delivery.
“We are an organization that understands politics, and we understand that politics is nothing but war without bloodshed, and war is nothing but politics with bloodshed.” – Fred Hampton
The real Fred said this to reporters while standing outside of a Panther office in Chicago during an interview with ABC News. In the movie, they showed him teaching this to members in a classroom setting. I liked this direction because it showcased the teaching role of the Panthers’ activism. In a 1989 interview O’Neal says:
WILLIAM O’NEAL: “We would go through political orientation. We would read certain paragraphs and then Fred Hampton and Rush would explain to us, the new membership, basically what it meant, and what was happening, and they drew parallels to what was going on in the past revolutions in the various countries, like, for instance China or Russia, and they was drawing parallels to what was going on in the current political scene within the United States. So they were drawing associations between the revolutions in, in, in the Communist countries, as I understood it, as to what was happening in the United States. And, and so I understood them to be a little bit more sophisticated than a gang. I expected that there would be weapons, and we would be out there doing turf battles with the, the local gangs, but they, they weren’t about that at all. They were into the political scene: the war in Vietnam, Richard Nixon, and specifically freeing Huey. That was their thing.”
Speaking of politics, my favorite part by Dominique Fishback as Deborah was when she walked up to Fred and told him he was a poet. It reminded me of a speech Amanda Gorman did when she said that Poetry is Political. Their romance scenes were cute.
Even the negative quotes in the movie were pretty much word for word.
“He’s barely alive. He’ll barely make it.”
“He’s good and dead now.”
We heard this in the movie but according to the testimony of Akua Njeri (Deborah Johnson), the police also said this when they killed Fred in real life.
The reason he was barely alive was because of the amount of fentanyl they laced in his drink. Hampton’s autopsy revealed he had enough in his system to knock out a horse.
Sadly, even if Hampton had not been shot, it is a good chance he would still have died of the poisoning.
Preventing the Rise of Black Saviors
Yahoshua, the Biblical messiah’s purpose was to save his people from their sins, but there were many messiah’s throughout history that saved the children of Israel like Moses.
The Panthers and other organizations like them’ engaged in activities and programs that could save, redeem, and restore the black community in the same way these messiah’s rescued the children of Israel from their oppressors back then. This strikes much fear into the heart of America.
There has always been a separation between righteous revolution and pseudo-revolution. Do not be thrown off by that word revolution. It only means change, and those who set out to positively change the conditions of black people have always been attacked by those who wish for things to remain as they are.
Controversy Over Who Shot First
The movie gave additional details about what happened in the aftermath through text at the end but did not detail the controversy of the trial.
It would have been a bonus to show how the Black Panther Party took people in the community through the apartment to show what they had done to Fred, Mark Clark, and the others after the raid.
Cook County State Attorney Edward Hanrahan went on TV to say that the Panthers attacked the officers first. The Panthers conducted their own investigation by hosting visuals of the apartment to members of the community. They could do this because although the raid/murders happened on Dec 4th, the apartment wasn’t sealed until Dec 17th, so the Panthers used that time to get evidence that proved it was, in fact, the officers who shot first. Evidence included pictures of bullet holes that were not bullet holes but nail heads.
“Our goal was to really make a movie that captured 1968. But so little has changed between 1968 and 2021, that we don’t really have to draw parallels to the present.” – Shaka King
“Judas and the Black Messiah” (Film, 2021) Prime Video
The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI Murdered a Black Panther by Jeffrey Haas (Chapters 1-3)
More Movie Reviews Coming! You can find them under the Movie Night Friday page of this blog. From this point, forward movie reviews will be titled like book reviews using the words: “Yecheilyah’s Movie Reviews,” or “Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews.”
About a week ago, a reader notified me that a review I published to this blog was from a book written by a woman who took part in the insurrection of January 6th. I did not know, as I had published the review months ago. I enjoyed the book, but I have since removed the review and deleted the read’s promotional tweets.
What happened at the Capitol was wild, but America’s hypocrisy amazes me.
Where was this energy when Tulsa and Rosewood’s black people had their homes raided, their communities bombed and their family killed? I have yet to hear the Ku Klux Klan declared a terrorist organization.
When black homes, businesses, and communities were bombed, the people who attacked them were not considered terrorists.
It wasn’t terrorism when strange fruit hung from trees.
Attacks on Black Americans are not considered “an attack on our democracy.”
When they dragged fourteen-year-old Emmett Till from his family’s home, shot him with a 45 caliber pistol, beat him to a pulp, and drowned him in a lake with a 75-pound cotton gin and barbed wire around his neck, his murderers were not deemed, terrorists.
They were acquitted.
When unarmed black men, women, and children are killed, the murderers are not considered terrorists.
Showing pictures of Malcolm X and Fred Hampton’s deceased body all over the newspapers was not “shocking,” nor was it “an attack on our democracy.”
On June 17, 2015, Dylan Roof walked into a church, killed nine black people, and injured one more person. Later, he confessed that he committed the shooting in hopes of igniting a race war.
But when he was caught after the search, police did not “fear for their lives.” He was not shot dead.
On May 2, 1967, 30 Black Panthers walked into the California State Capitol building with rifles and shotguns (it was legal to carry back then openly) that catapult them into the national spotlight and made national headlines. From this point on, The Black Panthers were terrorists.
Their headquarter offices were bombed and raided.
Their members were shot and killed.
The laws were changed, making it illegal to open carry.
Where is the outrage, America, when black people are attacked like your beloved Capitol? Where is this energy?
Americans are admonished never to forget 9/11.
Jewish Americans are admonished never to forget the holocaust.
But it is often stressed that Black American’s forget slavery and centuries of oppression.
We are not the same.
Malcolm X said, “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
Today, social media and mainstream media are the newspaper, and if we are not careful, it would have us believe the same system that works for the oppressor is the same system that works for the oppressed.
No way was the Panthers politely told to leave the Capitol in California.
No way did the police stand by and calmly escort members of BLM off the streets during protests.
What happened on January 6th was wild, but it should not be surprising.
We are seeing only the beginnings of the “chickens coming home to roost” (to quote Malcolm) for America.
It is what it is.
“It was horrendous,” a CNN commentator called the January 6th events.
But so was watching a police officer put his knee on the neck of a black woman in 1963. And so was watching a police officer put his knee on George Floyd’s neck in 2020.
Let me make this a bit more plain: You watched a man die on TV.
But this was not considered an act of terrorism. Why? Because the same system that works for America is not the same system that works for black people.
Joe Biden said, “The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect the true America. This is not who we are.”
Respectfully, I disagree.
This is America and always has been America.
Movie Night Friday is back with my review of these two movies coming to you in February.
Barack Obama released another book on the seventeenth of November, 2020. It was already a Best Seller with over two-thousand book reviews on Amazon just a few days after release. Obama’s name alone skyrocketed this book to the Best Seller’s List before we had time to decide what we wanted for breakfast that morning.
Today, we are talking about the power of your name and the role it plays in your author branding and marketing yourself as a first-time Indie Author.
What’s in a Name?
A person’s name is a connection to their identity and individuality. It is the history of who a person is. When you think of names that have become prolific, you are not just thinking about a person’s name. You are thinking about all the things that person has done, their experiences and contributions to the world.
Sometimes, we hear a name, and it is not a good image we see. Names like Jefferey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy make us tremble, but even these names show a name’s power. We tremble because their names are connected with the horrific things they’ve done, and hearing those names brings to our memory those heinous acts, in the same way, hearing Maya Angelou’s name gives us hope.
When branding yourself as an author, it is good to have the same author name consistent across platforms. Your name doesn’t just tell someone who you are, but it helps build brand recognition.
This means using the same name across your author’s website, the same name in your social media handles and emails, and the same name on your book covers.
“You can show genre with cover design, blurb, logo, and many other cues, but publishing under lots of names in the digital age is a recipe for disaster.” – Anne R. Allen
The more people see your work connected with your name, the more they remember who you are.
It is why we call them “Name Brands.”
Michael Jordan is a brand name, an icon whose career has made his identity equivalent to excellence. When people buy Jordans, they know they are buying a top-quality shoe. And even if it is not a top-quality shoe, it is what the people believe. Why? How did someone whose name once meant nothing now mean everything?
Well, that’s another blog post. For now, let’s just stay on topic and keep it simple.
Michael Jordan proved himself as an exceptional basketball player, and his work ethic is connected with his name. The more his work became recognized, so did his name.
Your work and your name are connected, whether you are a servant of good or bad. If you are doing good work (in this case, we are discussing writing) and not using your name or changing your business name every six months, you make it hard for people to connect who you are with what you do.
“It’s much easier to build brand recognition if you keep all your publishing activity under the same name and the same expression of that name.” – Jane Friedman
Nikki Giovanni, Ralph Ellison, Lorraine Hansberry, Langston Hughes, Walter Mosley, Toni Morrison, and Richard Wright.
Chances are you’ve heard these names before, and if you are like me, you will notice these names on book covers at any bookstore. You might even stop to scan or flip through the pages of a book simply because you recognize these author’s names.
The name of this blog started as the name of a book series I was writing.
In my Pretty Woman voice, “Big mistake. Big. Huge.”
While I have found a new purpose in this blog, it was a mistake to name this blog after a book. The problem with using the title of your book as your blog name, author website, or social media pages is you will probably write more books.
Are you going to create more websites and accounts for all the books you are writing?
Of course not.
Your name is one of the most powerful, FREE resources you have for marketing yourself as an author.
When you first meet someone you introduce yourself, and you start with your name because your name is your identity. It is more important than your job title and degrees. And when people remember our name, it makes us feel important, recognized, and valued.
It’s the name you’re known by, even if it’s not the name on your birth certificate.
It is absolutely okay to use a name that you’ve been known by even if it’s not your birth name. The key is not to keep changing it though. Pick a name and stick with it.
Consider Maya Angelou, Ntozake Shange, Sonia Sanchez, Kwame Ture, Whoopi Goldberg, and others. None of these people were born with those names just as I was not born Yecheilyah Ysrayl. Although I was not born Yecheilyah, I do not consider it a pen name. It is more than that, it is the name for which I am now known.
Use Your Name
“Once you know what author name you’ll be using, be relentlessly consistent in the expression of that name throughout your websites and social media accounts.”
– Jane Friedman
No matter what name you choose to brand, use that name everywhere. It will help people to identify you, and when they remember you, they remember your work.
No one cares about the title of your book or your book, for that matter.
What people care about is you, the author so it is your NAME and your author photo that will stand out the most in your social media profiles and on your website.
Think about it: It’s not about “A Promised Land.” It is about the fact that Obama wrote it. He could have titled the book The First Black President and people would have bought it. People are buying him. People are buying Obama.
I am not a fan of the term, but when people say that “people buy people,” what they mean is in the beginning, readers are interested in the person more than the book. Then as they begin to trust the person, they trust anything connected to the person, including the book.
Who are you?
What do you enjoy doing outside of writing?
What motivates/inspires you to write?
What has your journey been like?
What’s your story?
Instead of using a lot of different names or the title of your book, focus on branding one name across platforms.
www. AuthorName . com
Twitter: @Author Name
Instagram: @Author Name
Clubhouse: @Author Name
The stronger your brand name, the easier the marketing. We all hope to get to the point where people hear our name associated with something and run out to support it without blinking.
Use your name. That is all.
Looking for more Indie Author Tips? Check out the catalog of articles here. From this point forward, Indie Author Basics posts will publish on Wednesdays.
I am Soul is 99cents for a limited time. And remember, if you read it, review it!
Thank you to Asha G. Kumar, host of The Writer Talks, for having me on!
Check out Part One of this two-part interview with yours truly. In this first part, we talk about the inspiration behind my first forthcoming Urban Fantasy/SciFi/Speculative Fiction novel, The Women with Blue Eyes, my belief in aliens lol, and my latest poetry collection, My Soul is a Witness. In part two, we dig deeper into my journey as a writer, my advice to other writers, Black History, and you know I had to recite some poetry!
To my surprise, so many people enjoyed the first chapter, so I came back the next week and wrote another chapter and then another and then another until I had written eighteen chapters of a book I never intended to write.
The more I shared, the more readers loved it. This got me excited!
In 2020, while we were all bored in the house and in the house bored, I worked on finishing the book. It is now a full-length novel I will release later this year.
If you have been following this blog over the years, you are already familiar with The Women with Blue Eyes (now titled The Women with Blue Eyes: Rise of the Fallen) and I am so excited to finish it for you.
Moral of the Story
It’s okay to step outside the box and write something different, especially if it’s something you know readers would enjoy. Master P is not just a rapper, he is also a full-blown businessman with several products. He has everything from cereal to oodles and noodles, to potato chips to fish fry.
As I was drafting this post, I tried to think of how to explain that it’s okay to write in a genre you are not typically known for without sacrificing your author brand.
My first thought was to remind you that you are the brand, not the book. It is less about the genre and more about how you stay true to your message.
Recently I was advised to “stay in my lane” of military and espionage writing so that I could be considered for that niche. This is especially so because my background supports this lane.
Yet when I mentioned staying in my lane to an entertainment industry exec, she had an interesting POV about branding oneself as a writer.
She didn’t agree with staying in one’s lane in terms of specific genres. Instead, her advice to me was to remain the same lens and perspective across genres.
“Remain the same lens and perspective across genres.”
I love this because it frees the writer from the genre box. In my own words, I would say to write in whatever genre you want, but keep your message consistent. While Master P does many different things he wasn’t known for before, his “No Limit” message stayed the same.
Since I usually write Black Historical Fiction, my story will incorporate black history, all the way down to how I represent the characters. In Greek Mythology, Paschar is the angel of vision and is a white male. In my version, Paschar is still a fallen angel, but she operates in the skin of a black woman.
I’ve also infused black history into the narrative with my character’s background and dialogue. If you’ve been following the series on this blog, Miss Vicky is a new character you haven’t met yet. She is a member of the renovation committee at the new Altgeld Projects and former cook for the Chicago Chapter of the Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast Program. Here is an excerpt from her giving black history to a couple of corner boys working for Big Sam’s organization:
Closer to the buildings, girls jumped double-dutch on the sidewalk, and young boys stood up on their bikes, riding them back and forth. The boys wore no shirt, and yellow headscarves hung out of their back pants pockets. Their pants were always sagging, revealing their boxers underneath. They knew they will be scolded by Miss Vicky if caught. She was always telling them to pull their pants up and giving the history of Buck Breaking. It was the practice of slave owners raping black men as a form of punishment on the plantations and then forcing them to sag their pants in the fields, so everyone knew the cost of disobedience.
“Nuh, uh,” the boys would protest, “I heard that started in the jails Miss Vicky.”
“You heard wrong,” the middle-aged woman would protest, “that’s not to say it didn’t circulate in the jails, but that ain’t where it started. Buck Breaking was popular in the Caribbean ya see, and it involved white supremacists and slave owners raping a male slave in front of the public to embarrass him and make him feel less of a man. Buck Breaking became popular when slave rebellions went up. Enslaved men were first stripped naked and flogged.”
“What’s flogged Miss Vicky?”
“Boy, don’t they teach you nothing in school?”
The boy would laugh, holding onto the handles of his bicycle.
“He don’t go, Miss Vicky,” another boy would chide, laughing at his friend.
“You remember how ya mama beat you for stealing car parts last year? That’s flogging. Whippings. Beatings.”
“She flogged ya ass,” the boys’ friend would tease.
Vicky would hide her laughter and continue her lesson. “Like I said, they would flog—whoop the man in front of a crowd after they raped him to serve as a warning to other slaves. Sometimes enslaved men with families were forced to have sex with each other in front of their family, or they were raped in front of their sons…”
“Dang,” the boy would say, doing wheelies on his bike.
“Hmm hmm, sure did. Lot of ’em who had gone through the process of buck breaking killed themselves afterward or ran away and never returned. Better learn ya history.”
“Aiight,” the boys would say, smiling and riding off. Miss Vicky would go on to finish her laundry, and the boys would ride off and play. Secretly, they enjoyed listening to her black history stories and would ask her questions just to get her talking. Though, they still did not pull up their pants.
The boys were not regular teens. They were corner boys for Big Sam’s crew. The yellow bandanas that hung from their back pocket was proof that they belonged to the organization. Miss Vicky liked talking to them because they were innocent during these conversations. When she spoke to them, she saw their youthfulness peaking out from behind their eyes. It was hard trying to get a fourteen-year-old boy who paid all his mama’s bills with drug money and had already decided he was a man to listen to you, but when Miss Vicky told her stories, they listened. At these times, she could see them like she used to when they were just four and five years old before Scar recruited them.
How does a Black Historical Fiction writer write Fantasy? By infusing black history into the narrative. You will learn how it all ties in when you read the book.
Read. Read. Read.
Another tip I would add is to read books in that genre. No matter how deep your message, nothing will free you from not following the basic elements associated with that genre, so read, read, read. Otherwise, nothing is wrong with stepping outside the genre box.
Share Your Work
Next, don’t be afraid to share your work. I don’t know if I would have been as confident in this story as I am if not for my freedom readers and their feedback! Thank you all for helping me pick a subtitle. The winner (as you can see) is Rise of the Fallen!
Try It Out on the Blog
And finally, blogging is another great way to write your book! It gives you the chance to get instant feedback that could help you to stay motivated along the way.
“I don’t think Byron stands a chance from falling.”
“Wow wow wow. I am enjoying this story. I’m all invested. I can’t wait for the next installment. This story has some interesting characters. Keep up the excellent penmanship!!!!”
“I’m truly enjoying this :-). I’m glad I can click on episode 3 😛 Thank you EC. Much love from Spain.”
“Loved this and wanted to read more. Is there more?”
“You are an excellent writer.”
“Hi Yecheilyah! I’m new to this series. I will need to go back and catch up! Chapter ten is captivating.”
When Tina’s nephew Ronnie died, it traumatized her. It wasn’t just that he died. It was the way he died. After taking custody of Ronnie’s sisters and brother, Tina experienced supernatural phenomenons that eventually led to therapy and hallucinogenic suppressants. This didn’t help.
She meets Azbuga, an Archangel sent to tie the missing pieces together, still connecting her to Ronnie’s death.
Paschar is the angel of vision. She once saw the beauty of visions from the Almighty and projected these into human consciousness. Now, she is limited, capable only of seeing physical beauty, extracting energy from mortal man, and projecting illusions.
Paschar has fallen, and in a jealous rage, she attacks black men for their power. How dare he choose them over her?
Can Tina, Jason, and Az defeat Paschar and her legion once and for all? More black men are dying, and you can’t fight spiritual warfare with physical weapons.
Entrepreneurship has been the talk of 2020. With the COVID-19 virus sweeping the world, many new businesses have been born. It is a delight to see people take something as detrimental as a deadly global pandemic and use it as the catalyst for stepping outside their comfort zones. Every day someone is beaming about their new business endeavor, and I am here for it.
Self-Publishing a book is a business, too, so if you published a book this year, congratulations! This is a fantastic accomplishment that deserves recognition and celebration.
But Self-Publishing a book is not a business for every author.
There are two kinds of authors. We must identify them before going into it:
Authors who publish books for themselves
Authors who publish books for an audience
If you publish a book for yourself, you are not necessarily interested in creating a writing business from the book or making money. You might have published this book as a primary teaching tool to awaken the lost sheep, or you may have published this book as a lifetime goal you always wanted to achieve. You might want to print a few copies for family and friends, but you aren’t interested in creating a business out of it.
You are doing this for yourself, and there is nothing wrong with that, but also, in this case, you don’t have to continue to read this post.
You probably should though. Ya know, in case you change your mind.
If you are Self-Publishing a book that’s important to you AND appeals to a particular audience, you want to keep reading this post.
You write a book for yourself and then try to sell it to everyone.
“Most self-published books are vanity projects, which means, the author paid for the privilege of having them published, and spent money getting professionals to help them edit, design and produce it, but they earn less than they cost.” -Derek Murphy
The mistake is you wrote this book and did not think about who you want to read it so you try to appeal to everyone.
“It’s easy to fall into the habit of writing what you love or writing to impress your peers or your editor. That might make for good writing… but it won’t necessarily attract readers. To do that, you have to write for, well, readers.” – Writer’s Digest
Who are these readers? Hint: They are not everyone you know.
Dear Indie Authors, Please Identify Your Target Audience in 2021.
Identifying your target audience means identifying your customer demographics and then figuring out which tools will best attract them.
Rather than targeting everyone, you are focusing on the ideal customer for your business. “That means, stop begging, asking for help and support. Stop desperate, useless marketing tactics like spamming Facebook or blasting Twitter.” (Murphy)
You are not only identifying the ideal reader, you are thinking about real, actual people who would like to read your book.
“A lot of writing advice encourages you to define this ideal reader… but forgets to mention they need to be actual readers. If your ideal reader isn’t real, no one will read what you write. Instead of deciding what to write and defining a reader for it, start by defining your reader and writing for them.” – Dana Sitar
When you know your target audience it makes it easier to find your tribe. Your focus is on the people who are there instead of those who aren’t because you know you can’t please everyone.
But that’s what selling to everyone is like: trying to please everyone.
“Most self-publishing authors see their books as an investment, when it’s actually a gamble. It’s a gamble because they don’t know how to reach their readers (or who their readers even are). They don’t know whether anybody will really enjoy their books. They hope to make some money from their books but because they didn’t write it for the money, they are OK with continuously spending more and more time, effort and money into their books even when they get zero results.” (Murphy)
Instead of saying your book is for women, think about who these women are in more specific terms.
“My book targets women history buffs, aged 25-45, who love black history but are tired of the same white male-dominated narratives.”
Ask yourself: “Who am I writing this book for? What real people do I know would read a book like this? Maybe there is a black woman I know who is always talking about Ta-Nehisi Coates and happens to be reading Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad. She might enjoy my Stella Trilogy.
Not so Good Example:
“My book targets women 20-70, suffering, that want to feel better.”
This one is too broad. Every woman you know is suffering from something and want to feel better, and it will be hard to market a book to this wide of an age group. You got millennials and senior citizens in the same club.
Why Does It Matter?
Once you know your target audience and what they want, you can give it to them by being of authentic service to your tribe, which means offering exceptional value consistently. Consistency builds trust, and people buy from brands they trust.
Understanding our target audience doesn’t mean our family and friends won’t support us. It means we are not targeting them in our marketing. To target is to direct an action or message to someone or something. Pookie and Ray-Ray may know you, but are you trying to direct your message to them?
How many family members have bought your book?
But this doesn’t only apply to Self-Publishers but entrepreneurs in general, especially in the age of social media. Most people have not even done the basic work of securing a website. You appear out of nowhere with something to sell. You then tell people to cash app you the money and expect them to trust you enough to do it. You can have all the faith in the world, but it still doesn’t exempt you from following a basic business practice.
It’s easy to become frustrated and exhausted about the lack of support for a company without much to show for your efforts when you are trying to appeal to the broadest possible audience. If you start a business and then spam all your Facebook and Instagram friends hoping they will support you, your message may seem inauthentic and doesn’t really resonate with anyone in particular. – Tucker Max, How to Write For and Target the Right Audience for Your Book
Another benefit to knowing your target audience is knowing you don’t have to be everywhere to be seen. If your audience does not hang out on Facebook, you do not have to be on Facebook. If they are not on Instagram, you do not have to be on Instagram. It is easier to be consistent when your attention is focused instead of divided. Go where your people are and build.
Indie Authors, and new entrepreneurs in general, would be a lot happier if we focused on serving our targeted audience instead of everyone we knew. Everyone does not care about you or your business, and it’s a waste of time, energy, and resources trying to appeal to everyone. No one is obligated to support you. People do not care about your product, book, or service. They only care about what it can do for them. Please understand this.
“If you aren’t writing for an audience and carefully considering the commercial viability of your project, if you aren’t expecting and planning to make more money than you spend, and learning exactly what it takes to achieve that, then you’re publishing for yourself, and it’s a big risk and gamble.”
Are You Building a Book Business or a Hustle?
Self-Publishing a book is expensive without a return on investment. As Murphy explains, it just becomes a gamble. I like to call it a hustle. When I think of that word hustle, I think of someone doing anything and everything to make it instead of aligning oneself with a strategic plan and purpose. If you are continually spending money to produce something that doesn’t give anything in return, it can quickly get frustrating.
Excellent cover design, editing, ISBN, and all that is basic; we should all know the importance of this in 2021. The self-publishing service providers, coaches, vanity presses, and assisted self-publishers rarely talk about how authors can make money from that book they just paid five thousand dollars to produce. Launching a #1 Amazon Best Seller is great, but that doesn’t mean the author is earning money. Being on the Amazon Best Sellers list is cool but what’s even more neat is having a faithful readership because a loyal audience will bring consistent book sales.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t pay to publish a high-quality product. It is to say that without an audience to buy it, it will feel like a waste of money.
Identifying a target audience is the key to any business’s success, and I mean success outside of personal gratification. In 2021, I hope we can all do better (myself included) in focusing on those who best fit the people we want to serve.
Don’t forget that if you have read My Soul is a Witness I am trying to reach 20 Book Reviews before this year closes and we are almost there! If you have the book (and have read it), do consider leaving an honest review on Amazon.
Why It Matters:
It’s a real challenge for Indie Authors to market books without Amazon reviews because reviews act as social proof and establish credibility and competence in the publishing marketplace. Are you an author? In need of reviews? Be sure you RSVP for my 2021 list. Click Here.
How to Review on Amazon:
Click this link. Scroll down to ‘Write a Customer Review,’ rate and leave your thoughts on the book.
Also, I am Soul is 99cents on Kindle for a limited time.