Word to the Wise

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As we approach the month of August, when teachers return to work and students go back to school, I couldn’t help but to get excited that in just a few short weeks (mid August) I will be publishing another book. I’m really excited about this one and this excitement led me to a thought which in turn led me to something I think all Self-Publishers should take into consideration. I know that finances are a big deal to Self-Publishers and we are always looking for the most cost effective, yet professional, way to produce so here goes:

Never use POD (Print on Demand) services like LuLu and Createspace for anything other than Printing your books. Do not use POD editing services, POD promotional services, or POD book cover design services. Why? Because you can save a lot of money not doing so.

The most effective and creative action we can take as Self-Publishers is to use Print on Demand Companies as Printer Companies for our books, and then sell them from our own Author websites. Let people buy your books from YOU and you take a percentage of that income to pay the Printing Company (Createspace) to print the book AND if you don’t have the funds to buy your books in bulk from the POD, you can still send it to the buyer directly from the POD service. Remember to apply wisdom to everything that you do, so remember that you still have to pay the POD to print the book and to ship it so set your prices high enough to actually reap a profit but low enough to be reasonable. When people have to go to YOUR website this helps build you as an Author brand.

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However, there are some exceptions  to be understood when considering these methods:

  • You’ll never make Amazon’s Best Sellers List using this method because your buyers are not buying from Amazon they’re buying from you. If making Amazon’s Best Sellers list is important to your writing goal (which is understandable) I suggest you ignore this post, carry on and not use this method. (It would be wise to use Amazon to sell your e-books and your Author site to sell your print books, kill two birds with one stone).

*Here’s another secret*

Amazon, Createspace, Kindle Select etc., is extremely popular right now. When people hear your book is on Amazon they go and inquire, they get excited and you feel like you’ve accomplished something great, AND YOU HAVE. But, it’s not really that big of a deal. If you really want to build yourself as a Self-Publisher, invest in your own Self-Publishing Company and make YOUR name the one people get excited about. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just your name alone will do. (I will draft another post for another day on building a Self-Publishing Company and creating a name brand in the most cost effective way possible).

  • If you don’t buy in bulk and are shipping directly from your POD, you won’t have the chance to include promotional products with the book since it ships directly from the POD, which doesn’t help you with promotion.

BUT …

(OK so I’m really letting all the cats out the bag, gonna have to get a dog)

…you can send readers a separate gift with the money you saved AHEAD of the books arrival with these special offers (bookmarks, flyers, business cards, gifts etc.). Make sure to expedite the mail so that it gets there BEFORE the book for a professional outcome. Include a little note that thanks them for the purchase and that you hope they’ll enjoy the free gift. Don’t forget to include your contact information (business card) and to also inform them that their book is on the way! Readers will appreciate this, trust me. Why? Because, who doesn’t like to get mail filled with free goodies? Plus, if your readers are anything like yours truly, they’re extremely anxious for the book’s arrival and a little something ahead of time will help calm their nerves while they wait .

I hope this information has been helpful. Now, get off the internet and back to writing :).

Self-Publishing: The Workflow

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You are not just a writer. You are not just an author. You do not have the privilege of having an agent or big publishing company to stand behind you. You cannot write a book, sit back and then watch things happen because you are not just a writer anymore. You are a publisher. You are a Self-Publisher. You publish your own books. This means you must stop being a writer. You are much more than that. Now that you publish your own books, you must now think like a publisher. You must organize and plan and live as a publisher. You must become a publisher.

“Self-publishing has gained a great deal of popularity over the past few years. Amazon has made it easy to publish our own work through Create Space and Kindle Select. Unfortunately, the fact it is easy to self-publish has resulted in a proliferation of poorly edited novels as well as novels that need a great deal of help with content and structure. Until these issues are addressed, self-publishing will continue to have an unnecessary stigma attached to it. Many authors just entering the arena of self-publishing have no idea where to start – how to find an editor, a cover artist, and formatters.”

– Editor Glenda Poulter of Rainbow Tales Literary Services

I like this quote because the tone is not bashing toward Self-Publishers, at least not to me, it’s just real talk. It’s hard language, but it’s true:  While I don’t think Traditional Publishers or advocates of Traditional Publishing should stigmatize Self-Publishers because of it, I do understand that because it’s pretty much free or extremely cost effective to Self-Publish, it has in many ways brought down the quality of work in some authors who feel that’s all they have to do. Self-Publishing alone does not automatically degrade the quality of work but  rather, the quality of work put in by the author can in fact degrade the business of a Self-Publisher.

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In certain situations it can benefit us to look closely at how to better use the components of everything we have to achieve a desired effect.  While certain things in our lives require a foundational stance (like morals and values no one should allow another to alter) other things, like Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing, can both be understood in a way that is helpful to both. It’s a good idea for Traditional Publishers to understand all that goes into establishing oneself as a Self-Publisher, that it is not easy, and that it does add value to the market by having all of these books now available that would have probably never made it had not some undiscovered genius never taken the chance. It’s also a good idea for Self-Publishers to take some ideas from the Traditional Publishing method to help to increase the professionalism of their work as Publishers. Traditional Publishing exist and  Indie Authors should use this as a resource.

For example: You may not have to worry about pleasing a publisher since you are the publisher, but you do want to create a good experience for your readers. After all, this is how you are going to make money. (Side Note: Speaking of making money, there are people out there making money off of your work. There are those writing Self-Publishing Help Books who have probably never Self-Published a book in their life. There are people conducting seminars, creating products, and overall profiting hand over fist because more and more of you are Self-Publishing. They’re making money off of your workflow. Why shouldn’t you? Just a thought, but I digress).

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A few years ago, I took a brief class on Career Empowerment and received one of the most valuable pieces of advice I could have ever used over the course of my career. It actually saved me from dying of boredom in that class:

“There really is no such thing as not working for someone. Everybody works for someone. A beauty salon owner depends on customers to come in to pay the rent on the building {mortgage or taxes}. She must pay for the electricity, the repairs etc. Everything about her business depends on customers coming in to get their hair done.”

I found this piece of information profound because I had never thought about it in this way.  When someone studies for an exam, they are not studying for themselves in the sense that they pick up a book and instantly understand what is being said. They first need to be taught by an instructor, they then take notes, and then they study those notes without having to be told, thus, they study on their own. The same applies to writing.  Sure, I can be my own boss and set my own hours, but there really is no such thing as an Entrepreneur in the sense that we make money all on our own.We do not make money on our own. What we do on our own that makes us Entrepreneurs is that we put in work. A Wal-Mart employee ultimately works for the owner, but as the owner, we work for ourselves. We put forth the work necessary to convince the public that our product is important enough to invest in. As a result, we get to set the terms and conditions necessary for the company to grow. That’s what we do. We put in work. We build.

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As I mentioned in a previous article: 4 Common Sense ways it will benefit you to Self-Publish”, Indie Authors actually put in more work than those who choose to publish traditionally. The reason is pretty much attributed to common sense: They must do everything themselves. For this reason, there are many Indie Authors who may not start off as educated about the book making process. They can be great writers, but they may not understand that the publishing industry is a little different than other businesses: there is a lot to learn. Without the power of a publisher behind us, indie authors are forced to become much more than just writers. We have to become business men and women. We need to have great communications and marketing skills and we have to be relentless in our quest to get our books seen. Indie authors have to do it all. There is no outside help. Sure we can hire an editor, but that comes at our own expense. We have to develop, or at least hire someone to develop, a quality cover; another expense that a traditional publisher would normally cover. Indie authors have to treat every day like a business day. They need both pre-publishing and post publishing plans, goals, and quality material that never wavers. All of this requires a lot of work and investment financially in order to be successful.

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While success can be defined differently to each person, every Indie Author, or Self-Publisher has the opportunity to produce quality material, but they also have an opportunity to become much more than writers if they are willing to learn something from both the Self-Publishing AND the traditional publishing process. Self-Publishers are publishers after all, and if we continue to put forth both the time and monetary investment necessary to be successful, we can quickly tear down the negative connotations associated with this industry.

And it all starts with that workflow. So let’s keep it moving. It’ll eventually pay off. Hard work always does.


Yecheilyah Ysrayl is the YA, Historical Fiction author of The Stella Trilogy. She is currently working on her next book series “The Nora White Story” about a young black woman writer who dreams of taking part in The Harlem Renaissance movement and her parents struggle to accept their traumatic past in the Jim Crow south. “Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One)” is due for release spring, 2017. For updates on this project, sneak peek of chapters and the pending book cover release for this project, be sure to follow this blog and to subscribe to Yecheilyah’s email list HERE.

Being of Service

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I’m no expert, but I do know that writing is a unique career. It’s the same as other businesses, and yet it is not the same. It requires the same level of dedication, professionalism, and hard work. However, it is also a lot different than lets say, selling your neighbor a bar of soap.

Reading takes a lot of time. It is on a level that is a lot more personal. Readers actually get very sensitive when it comes to buying a book that sucked than buying a bar of soap that also sucks. People are also easily bored these days, so as authors we have to constantly keep our ears to the ground, discovering what’s trending and what’s throwback. It is for this reason that readers tend to find an author they love and stick to him or her. If you’re that author, great, but the story does not always end this way. As I thought about this, I started to really think, not about selling books, but being of service. As I babysat these thoughts, I ran across some great advice from one of my subscription blogs:

“Don’t SELL to your readers, SERVE them. With the changing dynamic between readers and writers, authors need to listen, gather knowledge about readers, foster communications, collaborate, and build long-term relationships.”

We have to be realistic. Authors are constantly told not to sell. But full time authors, those who don’t hold secondary positions elsewhere or receive money from additional sources, have bills to pay, food to put on the table, and needs that require monetary investment. So we can’t just tell writers that they should not sell their books no more than we can tell bloggers not to get excited over new readers. Despite how we gloss it up, the reality is that an author’s end goal is to sell you this book. But here is where being of service comes in:

For me personally, anything that I bring into my space should teach me something. This just means it should advance me in some way. Will it make me laugh? Cry? Think? Discover? Will it inform me? Teach me? Show me? What does this book, more than any other book, do for me? This is the same way that I look at Blogging. I am more than likely to bond with blogs that have something to offer.

Now, back to soap:

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When you’re selling soap, I want to know that it’s because the benefits of this particular soap outweigh Irish Springs; not just because you’re trying to make a quick buck. If you can convince me that your product is of some significance to my life and you can back this up, then I will be more than happy to become a dedicated supporter. I have enough sense to know that you have bills to pay, but I also see that your purpose is bigger than dead presidents on paper.  Why does this matter to authors?

Because people want to matter.

I believe this is true in everything that we do, and not just writing. But specifically, the first clue to readers that they matter, is the amount of hard work we put into the end product. Our professionalism, or lack thereof, speaks volumes far before these books hit the shelves. So I just want to encourage my writers out there to do the best you can, because it doesn’t get any better than your best. And I believe this is the difference between selling a product and being of service to the people. Readers (and bloggers) want to know that they are getting something out of the process. So I wouldn’t say don’t sell to your readers, instead I would just say to be of service to them.

$2,500 Small Business Grant to Help Entrepreneurs from Underrepresented Communities to Grow their Small Businesses

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Special thank you goes out to Rich McIver, Founder of Merchant Negotiations, for reaching out to The PBS Blog in regard to this tremendous opportunity for small business owners!

MerchantNegotiators.com announces a $2,500 Small Business Grant, to provide entrepreneurs from historically underrepresented groups with the seed capital they need to start or grow their small business. The contest is open to any current small business owner or entrepreneur who meets one of the following eligibility requirements:

• U.S. military veterans or active military
• Minority Owned Businesses
• Women Owned Businesses
• Persons with a diagnosed disability as defined by the ADA

If you fit the following criteria, you have the opportunity to apply for a grant and finally make your aspirations of becoming a business owner a reality. But get ready! This small window will not be open for long. Applications, available at MerchantNegotiators.com’s website, are open June 1 through August 1.

Below is an excerpt from the Press Release as obtained from the website:

Why Supporting Minority Entrepreneurs Is So Important

IMG_4381Entrepreneurs and their small businesses are the engines of the American economy. Half of all private-sector workers and 70% of all new jobs are generated by small businesses, and small businesses are responsible for more than 50% of US GDP or over $6 trillion dollars annually.

Today, minority owned businesses make up almost 15 percent of the 28 million small businesses and employ 5.9 million workers in the United States and are one of the fastest growing subsets of small businesses. Despite this growth, however, Hispanic and African-American owned companies still comprise just 15% of American small businesses, a massive under-representation considering they make up 37% of the US total population.

This under-representation is due in part to the fact that the banking, grant, angel funding and private equity communities consistently underfund and inadequately support minority’s entrepreneurial ventures.

“There’s clear statistical evidence that minority entrepreneurs have been disproportionately denied capital when they apply for it,” said Rich McIver. Because more than 80% of small businesses use some sort of financing to launch their business, the fact that minorities have a harder time accessing start-up capital means fewer minority-owned businesses are started.

Raising Awareness of Systemic Underfunding of Minority Entrepreneurs

on-the-web-training-for-minority-owned-small-businessesThe MerchantNegotiators’ Small Business Grant is a small but tangible step that the company is taking to help rectify this disparity, and raise awareness of the problem of the systemic underfunding of minority entrepreneurial ventures. Beyond providing seed capital to three entrepreneurs, the company views this as an opportunity to raise awareness about the abundance of minority owned businesses that are currently being underfunded.

According to Rich McIver, founder of MerchantNegotiators, “Given that minority entrepreneurs have a harder time accessing start-up capital, there are a lot more great business ideas in that community that are going untapped, that investors and bankers would be wise to consider more closely. We view this grant as not only a way to help a few of those ideas to materialize into small businesses through our seed funding, but also to encourage awareness, discussion, and change in the larger social causes underpinning this funding discrepancy.”

While $1,500, the winner’s grant amount, may not seem like enough for a person to launch a small business, it is in fact sufficient to cover the actual out of pocket cost outlay for most small business launches. Because more than 80% of small businesses use some sort of outside financing to launch their business, the funding hurdle for many minority entrepreneurs is whether they can come up with the 1% origination fee and related costs necessary to secure a small business loan.

Eligibility Requirements:

This grant is limited to individuals who own a small business (defined as having fewer than 50 employees) or want to start a business AND identify as members of one the following historically underrepresented groups in the small business community: Minorities, women, U.S. military veterans or active military, or persons with a diagnosed disability as defined by the ADA.

Submission Requirements:

Applications must be submitted electronically at MerchantNegotiators.com by 11:59 p.m. Central Time on August 1, 2015. Applicants must review and adhere to the full application rules and deadlines listed on https://merchantnegotiators.com/#small-business-grant. This document outlines program details and instructions for submitting an application.

Media Partners:

1. Encourage your readers to apply for the Small Business Grant
2. Add an application badge to your website
3. Write about the problem of the funding disparity for minority entrepreneurs
4. Support minority owned small businesses in your community
5. Engage with other minority entrepreneurship advocates by including the hashtag #GrantUsAChance in all communications regarding the grant

Remember: Every little bit helps!

Click Here to Learn How to Apply

Click Here to View Entire Press Release

Black Entrepreneurship

“Yes, let me get a beef and cheese please.”

I stood in observation as my husband passed the cashier the card to complete the purchase. It was nice and warm out yesterday and the Little Caesar’s boomed with life. The bright orange and yellows of the colors blended perfectly with the chipper atmosphere that always accompanies warm weather. The young woman in front of us bounced around, smiling and joking as she completed the purchase, buzzing around the restaurant to finish other things, like what the young man behind her (slightly older, I round him off to be eighteen) was pulling up on the laptop. Yes, the laptop. Maybe it too wanted to take part in whatever it was going on up front, eager to be cradled in the arms of its owner. As my nose preoccupied itself with fresh dough and pizza sauce, I let my eyes roam the rest of the store. The warm ovens and counter-top blocked my direct view, however the bodies spilling over the sidelines and walking back and forth did not allow for much obscurity. Plus, the cooking area that I could not see wasn’t very concealed, resounding like the halls of a high school, the chit chatter of non business conversation floated into the air. An older woman sat waiting for the remake of an order as if she’d rather be watching the news, and a young man with three small boys came in behind us. The itty bitty’s could not have been more adorable, though they looked like three little men. Two of which sported white t-shirts and blue jeans, Jordan’s, light complexion, and a head full of what we used to call bee-bees (when the naps let you know it’s time for another haircut). These boys looked to be no older than a year and appeared to be twins. The other boy was darker in complexion and a couple years older with softer hair outlining a Mohawk. He was, by far, more outspoken if you will and decided it was time to climb on top the counter and see what all the commotion was about. He even decided he’ll stand up and had plans of jumping until his father caught wind of his body in his arms. Whew, that was close.

A couple more customers came in, two young women. The sun was out and so were they. I smiled at my husband who preoccupied his eyes with his cell phone. I’ll tease him about all the booty standing in his way later. Let’s just say there were enough thighs to go around. They were there to see if such and such had come into work today and discussed this with their friends, emptying conversation over the tops of counters and over the people’s heads.

As I sat back and watched this scene play out before me, feeling more and more like this was my kitchen and my children had invited their friends to dinner,  I began to wonder: “It would be nice if the same black people who worked this store could also own it”. They are so content right now, making the hourly wage that could support Jordan and cell phone habits. But, what if we taught young people to look at their 9-5s as potential businesses? Often we ask ourselves, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” But our interest never completely change as we transition into adulthood. They are just better developed but they never completely change. So instead of the ancient “What do you wanna be when you grow up?” Is it possible to start asking the question: “What do you enjoy doing?” And, “in what way can you turn that into a business idea?'” If you work part time at a restaurant, why not see what it takes to own one like it one day? If you like doing hair, why not set out to have your own shop and list of clientele? Housekeeping at a hospital? What does it take for you to become licensed and contract yourself out to hospital chains and apartment complexes?

I could go on and on about why I think Black Entrepreneurship is important, but it is best that we look at the facts together:

“Koreans own the beauty supplies and nail shops; Arabs and Mexicans own the fast food restaurants and liquor stores; Jews / Europeans own the banks, pawn shops, and other lending institutions, and east Indians own the gas stations. The so called African American owns little to no businesses in his own community.”

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African Americans are the biggest consumers and yet they own no businesses within their own communities. To be a consumer means you are not an investor, you are not an owner, you are instead a spender. Before the collapse of one of the most prominent African American communities in the nation, the dollar in the greenwood community of Northeast Tulsa Oklahoma rotated 36-100 times before it left the community. This means, the people in that community spent money at the local stores before going outside that community. For instance: Clothes bought at Elliot & Hooker’s clothing at 124 N. Greenwood could be fitted across the street at H.L. Byars tailor shop at 105 N Greenwood, and then cleaned around the corner at Hope Watson’s cleaners at 322 E. Archer. Today, the dollar leaves the black community in less than 15mins.

Dear Young People, how NOT to use Twitter

File photo of a Twitter logo in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica

Today in Indie Author News, I found some great Twitter Tips. There are tons of Social Media outlets to use for your Self-Publishing business (or any business) but that doesn’t mean all of them will prove effective for you. For some Facebook is more effective, for some Instagram and for others maybe its YouTube. Despite your chosen outlet, we are all seeking to enhance our social media skills to be of service to the online community. So for all of my twitter people out there, I have the perfect link filled with all of the twitter tips you need to get started, but first I have a tip of my own for Young Twitter Users venturing to build businesses:

Tip: Create a separate business account for your business

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Throughout our life we will learn new lessons, take part in new things, and overall become gradually different people. The older we get the more wisdom we will acquire (some of us). Experience will show us far more than words ever could and pain will become a great teacher in our lives. Needless to say, today we may not be the same person we were yesterday. Sure at 18 you probably loved to party and hang out with the home girls (or guys). But the truth is that you won’t always be that person. After turning 25 and witnessing some things you may in fact decide that the party life is just not for you anymore. Perhaps now you’ll desire to start your own business. If so, here’s the thing with social media:

If you’re going to use the same Twitter account for your new business as you used when you were rambling about your drunk friend at the club, I’m not here to judge. It’s just that you should probably take down some of the tweets that are not associated with the business itself. You are using Twitter obviously so that you can make new connections and to network with professionals and non-professionals alike. As a result, you want to project a certain professional image. Of course you have to be yourself, but you also want to be a proper representation of the new direction in your life as well.

It’s not that you want to necessarily be the physical manifestation of the business itself, (then you’ll just be boring. People will feel like they’re talking to a computer), you want to allow people the opportunity to see who you are as a person so you should definitely be yourself (as specified in one of the tips). For example, one thing that I’ve come to learn is this: People often want to feel themselves a part of something. They want to see that what you have to offer is of substance, and that it will be of benefit to their lives in some way. They want to see that you are offering more than just the product itself, or that the product itself offers more than a good price.

For this reason, it’s very important to build persona when networking online (this includes blogging). However, that persona should be a reflection, not just of who you are personally, but also your business sense and skill set. You don’t want the owner of The Best Company Ever to see pictures of you doing something wild and then you lose that connection. This same thing can actually also apply to Facebook most especially. Social Media is not a small thing anymore, it is practically everything. Employers and professionals alike do check out social media pages. I know many young people just don’t want to give the impression of being phony or fake, but that’s beside the point. It’s not about not being who you are, its about being of service to the people, and to therefore navigate both the online and offline community accordingly. You wouldn’t walk into a job interview wearing pajamas, so you probably shouldn’t portray the same nonchalant behavior online either.

Whatever you do, just keep it professional, and keep it you.

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Psst: Also, if you’re switching your personal account to a business account, please also change your Twitter name. SexyChick_5 just isn’t gonna work.

Check out more twitter tips here:
http://www.indieauthornews.com/2012/07/twitter-tips-for-authors.html