This post focuses on the importance of using an editor and enlisting beta readers if you are an independent author.
Let’s start by comparing/contrasting independent and traditional publishing. In traditional publishing, an author receives an advance (if he or she is lucky). This advance is usually a fairly small amount. The author may then receive royalties for books sold after a certain number. The royalties can vary from pennies per book to dollars if you are a bestselling author. In exchange for allowing the traditional publisher to publish your work, you receive editing, formatting, publicity, and marketing services. The quality and effectiveness of these services can vary depending on how much the publishing company believes it can make from your book. In the end, very few published authors make a living wage from traditionally published books.
Independent authors know that their world is a different one. All of the services mentioned…
Every day, we use our mailbox, checking it for packages and letters and bills. You look at it every single day but did you know a black man invented it? Thanks to Phillip L. Downing (some sources and memes say Paul but so far I have only been able to verify that his name was Phillip), you don‘t have to travel to the post office every day. You can just walk a few steps from your home. But Downing didn’t call it a mailbox. He called it a Street Letter Box.
Downing was born in Providence, Rhode Island on March 22, 1857. His father, George T. Downing was an abolitionist and business owner. His grandfather, Thomas Downing, was born to emancipated parents in Virginia and also had a successful business in the financial district of Manhattan in 1825. Thomas Downing also helped to found the United Anti-Slavery Societies of New York City.
Coming from a family of business owners, it‘s no surprise that Phillip would become an inventor. During the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century, Downing successfully filed five patents with the United States Patent Office. Among his most significant inventions were a street letterbox (U.S. Patent numbers 462,092 and 462,093) and a mechanical device for operating a street railway switches (U.S. Patent number 430,118), which he invented before the predecessor of today‘s mailbox. On June 17, 1890, the U.S. Patent Office approved Downing’s application for “new and useful Improvements in Street-Railway Switches.” His invention allowed the switches to be opened or closed by using a brass arm next to the brake handle on the platform of the car. Then, on October 27, 1891, his two patents for a street letter box also gained approval.
Downing’s design resembled old school mailboxes (see image). A tall metal box with a secure, hinged door to drop letters. Until this point, people wanting to send mail had to travel to the nearest post office. This is how the enslaved “heard it through the grapevine,“ communication started on slave plantations where information passed from person-to-person, by word of mouth. The Black person who was sent to the post office to get the mail would linger long enough to get a drift of the conversation from the group of white people who congregated there. The mail carrier on his way back to the master‘s house would retell the news he heard so that the other slaves knew what was going on in the world. While many records accredit this to the news that came through the telegraph, it actually began before then. The “grape-vine telegraph” (Washington, p. 9) was unofficially invented first as mouth-to-mouth rumors, gossip, and worldly conversations and news of the war from Southern blacks on the plantation.
Knowing this, it is not surprising that a Black man would make these “conversations” easier by inventing a mailbox. To this day the term, “I heard it through the grapevine,” is still a common saying for someone who has heard gossip. The phrase has even been recorded as a song by Gladys Knight & the Pips in 1967 and by Marvin Gaye in 1968.
Before, those wishing to send mail usually had to travel to the post office but Downing’s invention changed that. Instead, the street letter box would allow for drop off near one’s home and easy pickup by a letter carrier. His idea for the hinged opening prevented rain or snow from entering the box and damaging the mail.
Misty Brown, “Ever Wonder,” Afro-American February 6, 1988; Eyvaine Walker, Keeping a Family Legacy Alive: Unforgotten African Americans (Atlanta, GA: Twins Pub, 2011), 316 – 317. “Philip Downing, Boston, Retires After 31 Years Service in Custom House,” The New York Age, April 9, 1927.
Just a quick note to invite you to join me at Georgia State University for the second Atlanta African American Book Festival this summer. Last year was amazing and I connected with a lot of new authors. I’ve come to truly enjoy live events. It gives me a chance to discuss this blog with authors face to face, take photos I can look back on for years and network with professionals face to face. So, if you are in the area around this time, I’d love to meet you. The event takes place on Saturday, July 20th, from 10:00-5a at GSU and is free and open to the public. For instant updates on things like this, be sure you are following me on Instagram.
ATTN. If you’ve never read my books, these FOUR are 99cents each in ebook for the entire month of February.
I write poetry and Black Historical Fiction.
About Renaissance: The Nora White Story Book I
When seventeen-year-old Nora White successfully graduates High School in 1922 Mississippi and is College bound, everyone is overjoyed and excited. Everyone except Nora. She dreams of Harlem, Cotton Clubs, Fancy Dresses, and Langston Hughes. For years, she’s sat under Mr. Oak, the big oak tree on the plush green grass of her families five acres, and daydreamed of The Black Mecca. The ambitious, young Nora is fascinated by the prospect of being a famous writer in The Harlem Renaissance and decides she doesn’t want to go to College. Despite her parent’s staunch protest, Nora finds herself in Jacobsville, New York, a small town forty-five minutes outside of Harlem. Shocked by their daughter’s disappearance, Gideon and Molly White are plagued with visions of the deadly south, like the brutal lynching of Gideon’s sister years ago. As the couple embarks on a frightening and gut wrenching search for Nora, they are each stalked by their own traumatic past. Meanwhile, Nora learns that the North is not all it’s cracked up to be. Can Gideon and Molly overcome their disturbing past in time to find their daughter before it’s too late?
About Revolution: The Nora White Story Book II
When Nora White is drugged by her friend she is forced to deal with the harsh reality of life in the North. She meets Keisha and the women catch a ride to The Den, a gambling and numbers hole-in-the-wall in Jacobsville New York. Unlike the upper echelon of Harlem, Nora’s new friends are hustlers but down to Earth and feels more like family. They take her to Liberty Hall where she is introduced to Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A.). Meanwhile, Nora has no idea her father has been arrested and back home Molly is hanging on by a thread. When the community discovers the truth of the alleged crime they devise a way to get Gideon out of jail but their actions could mean life or death for everyone involved. Will Nora come to her senses and return home in time to help the family or will her naiveté lead her astray once again?
About I am Soul (poetry)
I am Soul is a short collection of poetry and prose from Yecheilyah’s PBS Blog covering Black History, Faith, Love and all things Soul. Short, sweet, historical, and spiritual.
About The Road to Freedom (novella)
Deeply concerned about the state of Black America, a fight with his brother compels a young Joseph to leave his mother’s house and join his friends for a trip to Atlanta for SNCC’s (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) second conference. Excited to live life on their own, Jo and his friends have left school and the lives they were living for a chance to become part of the movement. With no money and essentially no plan the seven friends, three black and four white, set out for the road when they are stopped by a racist cop who makes them exit the car. The teens are unaware that a mob of Klansmen also await them at the New Orleans bus terminal. Find out in the 3rd installment of the Stella Trilogy how Joseph and his friends discover the truth about themselves in the Jim Crow south on The Road to Freedom.
Hurry though, this EXCLUSIVE offer won’t last long!
I wrote this poem in honor of my dad last year, inspired by a real experience. I was listening to Pandora and Yolanda Adams “Open My Heart” came on. I usually turn the station because the song reminds me of my dad who died of cancer in 2000. This time though, I allowed myself to feel. I allowed myself to grieve. I put this video together when I first published the poem to this blog but I am just now getting it uploaded as I am getting my YouTube grind back! Listen to the poem below, read the poem hereand be sure to subscribe for more poems!
Welcome back to Introduce Yourself! Check out the new badge! Yasss! Let’s get started with our first interview of the year. I would like to extend a warm welcome to Ann Harrison-Barnes.
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Ann Harrison-Barnes and I am from Rochelle, GA.
Okay. You in my neck of the woods. Georgia stand up. What do you hate most about writing advice? What do you love?
The one thing I hate most about writing advice, is the fact that there is too much of it. What one writer says can contradict what someone else says on the same subject. For example, two or three people have different advice about adverbs. What I love about writing advice is the fact that I choose which advice to follow me, and I take it and let it inspire me. For example, K. M. Weiland stated in a previous episode of her podcast entitled Helping Writers Become Authors that the reason your villain does the bad things he’s known for in your story, has to do with another character he loves with all his heart (pardon the paraphrase).
I feel you on there being too much advice out there and most of it is not even good advice. Ann, what was your childhood dream?
As a child I always dreamed of being a recording artist. I loved country music and I love to sing. However, when I was five or six, I had no idea that music would be the inspiration I needed to become a writer. I could tell you a story of how music has influenced my writing over the past few years, but we’d be here all day for that one. LOL
Since we’re already talking about music, what kind of music do you like?
I like mostly instrumental music such as classical, movie scores, new age piano etc. for writing. However, I have one particular country artist that I like to listen to for healing and sometimes for writing inspiration.
Does blogging help you to write?
Blogging helps me to write in several ways. It helps me to learn more about my fictional characters through character interviews. It also helps me to get my heartfelt thoughts out into the world, but I keep my blog positive and put my negative thoughts in my journal. It also enhances my professional writing style, so that if I land a freelance writing gig, I can be proud to show off specific posts as writing samples.
I love that. You said you keep your blog positive and put the negative stuff in your journal. Your a wise one. Let’s talk about your writing journey. When did you publish your first book? What was that like?
To be honest, I published my first book back in July of 2016. I was excited, because after getting help with formatting and the book cover designed for me, I was able to publish it on my own. This book has since been updated and is now available on Amazon. Each book that I publish is exciting. I’ve heard many people say that it’s almost like having a baby, without the physical pain that a mother goes through. I must say, I believe it, because you have to nurture your creative baby and get it ready for publication. Then comes the waiting time until it’s been launched or borne (as it were), for all the world to see.
Nice. Married Ann?
I’ve been married twice. The first time for seven and a half years. I divorced my first husband, because he verbally and emotionally abused me. I’m currently married but separated from my husband, for the same reason. We’ve been legally married for a year and a half.
Oh. I am so sorry to hear that. Abuse is a real problem in our world. If you had any advice for someone enduring any form of abuse having experienced it yourself, what would you tell them?
My advice for someone who is in an abusive relationship is to find a way out as soon as you can. The longer you stay in that relationship, the worse it will be for you in the long run. I can’t speak to child abuse, but no one deserves to be belittled, humiliated or beaten. Don’t let the abuser’s charms fool you, he or she is only using them to pull you back into his or her web. I found healing from other sources, but if you feel that you need the services of a therapist, don’t hesitate to get the help you need, because everybody’s healing process is different.
Thanks so much. I am sure someone who needs to hear that is listening. Any babies Ann?
I do have a beautiful daughter, who I love dearly, although she can be sassy at times. She loves to brag about being taller than me.
LOL. I love it. What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The most exciting thing?
The most difficult thing about being a writer can sometimes be the revision process. However, I am loving this process in my current novel. The most exciting thing is the fact that I can allow myself to let the creative juices flow and find whatever source of inspiration that fuels my creative fire. Although I am totally blind, I refuse to let my disability stop me from doing what I’ve been called to do, which is share the message of God’s love through something as simple, yet as deep, as a story.
I can tell by your answers you’re a great writer! What genre do you write in and why?
I don’t put my novels into one specific genre. I write in the Christian fiction genre, along with mystery and thriller, and I sometimes add a little romance. I know that online distributors and bookstores have to know where to place eBooks or paperbacks on the physical or virtual shelves, but I like to add a little of this and a little of that, to make the story interesting and compelling.
Thanks so much Ann for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Ann Harrison is the author of four books: A Journey of Faith, A Stepping Stones Mystery, Stories Outside the Box, Maggie’s Gravy Train Adventure, an Electric Eclectic Book, and Inner Vision, an Electric Eclectic Book. She has also been published in several anthologies. Aside from her work as a Christian fiction author, Ann is a professional writer, and she also crochets bookmarks and book covers to promote her books. To learn more about Ann and her work, visit her website at http://www.annwritesinspiration.com