I am reposting this because I needed the reminder, and I thought since I needed the reminder, I am sure others may need to hear it. If you are new to this blog, you are also new to this post. Enjoy!
I started thinking about the many layers of myself and how I notice that people pick the parts of me they like.
Some people love the silly me. They like when I post funny memes and do silly things.
Some people like intellectual me. They love when I talk about black history and little-known facts.
Some people love the lover in me. They like to see my husband and me together, loving one another and having a good time.
Some people want the spiritual me. They like to hear me quote scriptures and talk about the bible. They like prophetic me.
Some people like fiction me. They enjoy my novels and short stories.
Others like the poet me.
I’ve learned from life that you’ll meet so many people throughout a lifetime, and they will pick the parts of you they like best.
But you know, as I know, every part of you helps to build you into the person you are.
What I realized today was the importance of accepting your whole self, even if others reject parts of you.
“I have learned not to let rejection move me.” – Cicely Tyson
People may pick the parts of me they like, but it is my responsibility to pick my whole self. I am all of the things people love (and don’t love) rolled up into one. I am not a scattered puzzle. I am a body, and each of my body parts helps me be the full and whole person I am.
While it may be optional for others to pick and choose, it is not optional for me to choose. It is my responsibility to accept myself fully, the good, bad, and the ugly.
When we start to favor one part of ourselves over another because we see it is what people like most, we lose the other parts of ourselves. And since we need every part to make up a full body, in a sense, we lose ourselves.
People who do not vibe with the whole, the full person you are, are not your people.
Remember that there are layers of you, and though people will choose the layer they like best, it is your job to choose your whole self.
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.
When I was a teenager, my cousins joked that I had discovered the cure for AIDS. It was their way of saying I was smart because I read a lot.
I even overheard my mother telling my aunt I was special. I got offended because I thought she meant special as in slow.
That’s because when I was a kid, I thought I was stupid.
In grammar school, I was a terrible student. I got straight Fs in the early years. And when we had to take the IOWA Test, I started to get held back. I can remember going to summer school as early as third grade, and I failed sixth grade twice. I failed seventh grade too, but someone had mercy on me enough to add my name to the eighth-grade roster, and that is how I entered the eighth grade.
I honestly cannot tell you what happened. I never learned the details. As far as I was concerned, it was a miracle.
Once in the eighth grade, they routinely removed me from class to go with the Special Ed teacher. My specific area of difficulty was math.
Whenever that teacher came to the door, all five of us would get up and walk out, and everyone knew what for. It was embarrassing, and I felt ashamed.
If I was so terrible at school, how did I graduate with honors with an armful of Creative Writing awards? And how did I end up in ILCA?
ILCA is short for International Language Career Academy. It was a program at my high school where students had to take four years of language instead of two, and all their courses were advanced except for the electives.
By my junior year of High School, I was not only enrolled in all honors classes, but I was also taking courses at Robert Morris College in downtown Chicago.
I would go to school during the day and then hop on the Green Line and go to college at night.
At the time, I was a member of the UMOJA Spoken Word Poetry club, trying out for track, and the only member of the yearbook team.
My schedule was crazy.
I was also on the drama team, where we wrote and performed plays at school assemblies.
At one of these plays, I recited my poem, “Black Beauty.” It was the first time I had ever shared my poetry with the public.
But let me back up just a bit.
I never explained how I went from Special Ed for math to taking advanced math classes…and passing.
My eighth-grade teacher discovered I knew how to write, so they built my assignments around writing.
I excelled so much that I passed math, graduated with honors, and was placed in an advanced High School Program.
There’s an old saying, usually attributed to Einstein, that goes something like:
I was this fish. I used to think I was stupid.
Something in my brain just did not click. I didn’t even learn to ride a bike until I was nine years old.
At the time, The Robert Taylor Projects were considered the poorest urban community in the United States, second only to Cabrini Green. We did not ride bikes. We made tents out of dirty bedsheets, seesaws out of bed railings, and rollercoasters out of shopping carts.
Ain’t nobody have money for bikes.
And even though I’m a full adult now, I still get anxious about math and count slower than most.
People think I’m book smart, but the truth is it wasn’t until I focused on what I was good at (my purpose) that I started to do well.
It was never about being smart, but I was also not stupid. I just needed to find what worked for me, even if that meant I had to work harder than others.
Passion is connected to purpose. Those things you love to do (with or without payment), has a lot to do with what you are called to do.
Some of you are struggling with something, and it’s not because you are stupid or slow or incapable.
It could just be because you are a fish, trying to climb trees because that’s what everyone else is doing.
Find you some water.
I am Soul is 99cents through February. If you have read this book, be sure to leave an honest review on Amazon!
An Instagram video inspired today’s post, where a group of young black people engaged in a debate about whether light skin blacks are treated better than dark skin blacks. This debate spun out of control and eventually led to a full-blown argument that made it difficult for the viewer to comprehend what each party said. In the young people’s voice was a lot of hurt and pain. The caption on the video read: “Does Light-Skin Privilege Exist in America?”
Not to bestow to Willie Lynch any gift of prophecy, but when he said to “pitch the light-skin slave against the dark-skin slave and the dark-skin slave against the light skin-slave,” it was as if he c-sectioned the calendar and saw color bias in black people’s future.
Even if one does not wholly believe The Willie Lynch Letter is entirely accurate, one cannot ignore the Black community’s divisions based on skin color in a way that is strangely accurate to William’s letter. To add to this, Willie Lynch did not say these divisions will help for a few days, weeks, and months. In 1712, William Lynch said that if implemented “properly,” slave owners could expect these divisions to keep the blacks mentally enslaved and divided for generations.
It is 2021, but skin-tone is still an important physical characteristic among some black people that sometimes cause divisions in the black community. Historically, people immediately noticed a black person’s skin-tone and recognized it as a critical component in joining churches, fraternities and sororities, and other social interactions. Throughout history, variations in skin tone have reflected social status and hierarchies. The most notable social experiment was the paper bag test, used widely among African Americans to determine inclusion in certain activities and groups.
The Brown Paper Bag Test
The Brown Paper Bag Test, known widely as “The Paper bag Test,” was a form of racial discrimination practiced within the African-American community in the 20th century by comparing an individual’s skin tone to a brown color paper bag.
If a person’s skin tone matched or was lighter than the brown bag, they would be more likely to be accepted than a person whose skin tone was darker than the paper bag.
Many famous black clubs and social organizations used this test to determine membership, including churches and employers.
The Lighter the Skin, the Better the Chances
In Spike Lee’s movie, School Daze, two groups of black sorority women are at odds over which group’s hair and skin color are best. In the film, the Gamma Rays had to be “paper bag light.”
The Alpha Kappa Alpha Brown Paper Bag Test
A letter from 1928, written by sophomore Edward H. Taylor, at Howard University discusses the Alpha Kappa Alpha brown paper bag test and colorism. Watch the Yard details the statements made in the student newspaper “The Hilltop.” Watch the Yard said the article:
“accused fraternities of “splitting the various classes into groups of different shades — yellow, brown, and black.” According to Taylor, “The light-skinned students are sought after by the fraternities and sororities, particularly the latter, as members and the dark ones passed by. The darker brown students then form their own cliques while the blacks are left in the cold.”
Jack and Jill Brown Paper Bag Test
Jack and Jill of America was established in 1938 with a mission of “nurturing future African American leaders by strengthening children through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving, and civic duty.”
But an article from the Pittsburg Courier says Jack and Jill has seen its share of negative press from the Black community over the last 81 years. Similar to African-American sororities and fraternities, in the early years, Jack and Jill had a reputation of only being for elite “light-skinned Blacks”. The article says:
“some Blacks saw it as open only to those who had ‘good hair’ and were able to pass ‘the paper-bag test.’”
Resumes Used to Emphasize “Light Colored”
Nadra Kareen Little from ThoughtCo. discussed colorism in her article about skin tone discrimination. The article said:
“Colorism didn’t disappear after the institution of slavery ended in the U.S. In black America, those with light skin received employment opportunities off-limits to darker-skinned blacks. This is why upper-class families in black society were largely light-skinned.”
Her article mentions a writer Brent Staples who discovered this while searching newspaper archives near the Pennsylvania town where he grew up. She said:
“In the 1940s, he noticed, Black job seekers often identified themselves as light-skinned. Cooks, chauffeurs, and waitresses sometimes listed ‘light colored’ as the primary qualification—ahead of experience, references, and the other important data. They did it to improve their chances and to reassure white employers who…found dark skin unpleasant or believed that their customers would.”
Article from the NY Times that gave an example of a job ad from the 1950s that specifically requested applicants with light-colored skin.
“The owner of Chock full o’ Nuts, a white man named William Black, advertised in the tabloids for ‘light colored counter help.’
Advertising jobs for people with lighter skin or “Eurocentric” features is no longer legal or acceptable when doing business, but research shows that these preferences still play a role in our society. The same NY Times article reported that:
“Researchers tell us that it affects how people vote; who appears in Hollywood movies and television news shows; who gets hired and promoted in corporate America; and even who gets executed for murder.”
“Passing is a deception that enables a person to adopt certain roles or identities from which prevailing social standards would bar him in the absence of his misleading conduct. The classic racial passer in the United States has been the “white Negro:” the individual whose physical appearance allows him to present himself as “white” but whose “black” lineage makes him a Negro according to dominant racial rules.”
– Randall Kennedy, Racial Passing
Racial passing was a common practice among lighter-skinned African Americans and is the focal point of book two of The Stella Trilogy, where Stella changes her name to Sidney McNair, marries a white man, and has biracial children whom she raises as white. This narrative is taken directly from historical accounts of light-skin blacks (mixed or not) passing and living their lives as Europeans.
As a child of a white mother and a light-skinned black man, Gregory Howard Williams was a person who assumed that he was white because his parents pretended to be white. Not until he was ten years old, when his parents divorced, did Williams and his brother learn that they were black.
Many lighter-skinned blacks pretended or classified themselves as white in the US, which gave them access to the rights and opportunities that other blacks could not enjoy. In the image we see here, Dr. Albert Johnston passed to practice medicine. After living as leading citizens in Keene, N.H., the Johnstons revealed their true racial identity and became national news.
For Stanford historian Allyson Hobbs, a similar situation occurred where she discovered a cousin she had never met. This cousin lived in California as a white woman from her mother’s instruction, who sent her away from Chicago many years ago. The mother thought her daughter would have the best chance of success living as a white woman.
“She was black, but she looked white,” Hobbs said. “And her mother decided it was in her best interest to move far away from Chicago, to Los Angeles, and to assume the life of a white woman.”
This came around and bit the mother when her husband died and her daughter, now fully immersed in her life, said that she would not attend the funeral, saying, “I can’t. I’m a white woman now.”
The most famous instance is probably art imitating life in the 1934 film “Imitation of Life,” starring Fredi Washington playing a black woman who passes as white. They made this movie at a time where passing was a widespread practice for fair-skinned blacks. They remade this film in 1959.
Colorism is prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group, where lighter-skin is treated more favorably than darker skin. The brown paper bag test was used to determine who was acceptable and not based on colorism or color bias. When darker-skinned blacks bleach their skins or attempt to look lighter for the special treatment given to lighter skin (such as to join an organization), it is like passing.
While this is fading as dark skin is becoming more and more appreciated, that video of those young people arguing is proof there is still some work to do.
In the latest Mixed-Ish episode, Johan (pronounced Yohan) allowed his peers to think he was Mexican, thus passing for Mexican. Alicia’s sister Denise’s remark that Rainbow’s parents had indirectly caused this by living in a community where race, specifically blackness, was not discussed or considered has some truth to it. People think that by saying, “I don’t see race,” this is a compliment, but it is not. The one who does not see race also does not see racism.
“You all taught that poor boy of being ashamed of being black. You took him to that commune where…nobody talked about race, and that taught him not to be proud of his blackness.”
Why is there truth to this? Because one cannot be proud of what one does not know exists. If Johan does not know what it means to be black and all his people’s rich experiences, how can he see the shame in not telling his peers who he really is? Johan allowed his peers to think he was Mexican because he does not fully understand who he is as a black boy.
[Side Note: Can someone explain to me why they chose The Color Purple as the movie to help a black boy understand blackness? I can think of tons of movies from the 80s that are better suited to teach blackness to black children. The Color Purple ain’t one of them. They could have put on Cornbread, Earl, and Me.]
It turned out the kid who called Johan the racist Mexican slur was also black. This is another example of color bias within the African American community. Now, whether the child understood Johan to be black reflects the school system and the lack of representation of black people and black history. Contrary to the popular myth, not all light-skinned black people are mixed. Blacks produce a variety of skin-tones within the race, but that is a topic for a different day.
All Black is Beautiful
Today, “Blackness” (black skin) is promoted in pop culture. I hate to say it this way, but “dark-skin is in.”
With actresses like Daniel Kaluuya and Lupita Amondi Nyong’o, people once looked down on for being “ugly” for their dark skin tone (“too dark”) are now looked upon as being sexy, beautiful, and exotic. Dark skin is now socially acceptable, highly praised, and elevated, among many now seeing the beauty of brown skin.
While this is not a bad thing, the hope is that it has not become some fad in which dark-skin is fetishized. We would not want a reversal of the paper bag test in which light-skinned blacks are looked down on in the way dark-skinned blacks have always been. Blackness is not a trend that goes in and out of style and should not be treated as such.
The message here should be that all black is beautiful, no matter the shade.
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!