Social media is a powerful vehicle for publishing short-form content that people can digest quickly and easily. We are all lazy to an extent with short attention spans.
Which is why I love blogging as a way of publishing long-form content.
It gives writers a chance to fully express the completeness of their thoughts. And, if you are long-winded like me, I enjoy being able to thoroughly add context to my thoughts with examples to nurture further understanding.
Blogging also helps me to keep writing in those spaces when I am not actively writing a book. (I wrote more about that here) This is important because it means I can continue to sharpen my writing skills (through actually writing) and engage with others even when I haven’t published anything new.
But there’s an exciting twist!
Blogging has, so far, helped me to publish two books, with another on the way. That’s because, unlike static websites, blogs are updated regularly, allowing people to leave immediate feedback and share. Authors can see how their content performs in real-time, producing invaluable information they can apply later.
One of the most powerful ways blogging helps me is my ability to repurpose the content I publish here into larger works. Thus, even when I don’t think I am laying the foundation for new works, I am!
Today is a special edition of Introduce Yourself. Please help me to welcome Ashton Smith to The PBS Blog!
Ashton is an amazing young woman from Fort Worth, Texas, with a powerful story. She’s a world-medal award-winning swimmer, author, and corporate speaker. She is legally blind in one eye and has difficulty seeing out of the other, but she has not let this stop her from pursuing her athletic endeavors. Smith does not only swim but has been involved in bocce, track and field, basketball, and flag football. She has won gold medals and traveled the world.
However, Ashton’s journey has not been without trial.
According to the rules of the Special Olympics, they ban their athletes from making income. This left Ashton struggling to find a way to support herself even as she was competing. While headed to the World Games in Dubai, Smith struggled financially and fell into homelessness.
“I think it becomes unfair and harsh when members are prevented from earning a livelihood off of their own efforts. I think it’s unfair that a team member should have to be reduced to begging for money on the side of the road, which I had to do while being an athlete in the organization. I was required to raise money for the organization, yet when I started a GoFundMe, I was told to take it down. I was asked to stop asking the public for money.”
Without a home, Smith bounced around from place to place and depended on friends for help. When her grandmother died, she lost her only form of support.
“It was very hard, very difficult, and very tough because you didn’t know where your next meal would come from or certain things you wouldn’t know.”
Today, Ashton is committed to sharing her story to raise awareness about the unfair treatment she received as a disabled person.
“I find it odd that television networks aired my story about being homeless and nearly destitute, yet I couldn’t benefit from the content. They used it to make money, yet I was never given a dime. I’ve never gotten paid by ESPN or the organization but they used my story to make millions.”
Ashton’s grandmother and sister helped her financially. However, both have passed on, making getting around as a visually impaired person even more challenging.
Smith’s fight continues as she seeks to spread the word about her newfound purpose of being a voice for the voiceless. She achieves this through public speaking and her motivational memoir, which delves deep into her story and journey.
“I have decided to speak up and be an advocate for the disadvantaged.”
Please help me extend a warm welcome to Monique Johnson.
Welcome to the PBS Blog!
What is your name and where are you from?
I am Monique R Johnson, Los Angeles, CA born and raised, but moved to Fort Worth, Texas in 2019.
Nice. Cali to Texas is a big transition. What inspired the move?
I considered Texas several years prior. A couple of people I grew up with made the move over 15 years ago. It was when I started dating a guy I worked with who, later took a job in Texas, that I reconsidered.
What would your perfect writing / reading room look like?
My perfect writing and reading room would look like a university library.
Nicee! I’m loving it already.
I’d have a writing desk with the perfect desk lamp for late-night writing. I’d have a bookcase with books from various genres: motivation, Christian spiritual, financial, self-help, poetry, and a few children’s books for my grands. I would have a leather recliner and a tall, full bird of paradise plant in the corner near the window.
What is the most annoying habit that you have?
Correcting grammar. It gets on everyone’s nerves.
So YOU the grammar police!
If you could do anything else, what job do you think you’d be really good at?
Lawyer. I love to make my point.
Lol. Any siblings Monique?
Three biological brothers, one step-brother, and three step-sisters.
If you had unlimited funds to build a house that you would live in for the rest of your life, what would the finished house be like?
Mansion, with an east and west wing, two kitchens, game room, media room, living room, enclosed patio, herb and vegetable garden on one side of the back yard, a dog run in the other, and an in-ground swimming pool in the center. The house would have a balcony with an amazing view. The bathroom would have a walk-in shower, with a waterfall feature and a sitting area.
Let’s get into writing a bit. What genre do you write in and why?
Mixed Genre of non-fiction with a dramatic approach and a sprinkle of poetry to end each chapter. I love writing this way because it makes it more engaging and easier to explain how people can get unstuck.
Why is writing important to you?
I write for my family and generations to come so that they will know how I made it through the toughest times in my life. I want readers of my work, be it my poetry, my magazine articles, or my novel, to know that an everyday person like themselves can get through whatever they are dealing with if they decide to believe that they can.
When did you publish your first book?
My first Anthology was published December 2021. My first memoir was published June 30, 2022. It was exciting and challenging for me. I learned that publishing is not the hard part, it’s the promotion and marketing that’s hard for me.
I get it. So what takes up too much of your time?
Figuring out systems for my business and now my book journey.
In your book, you talked a lot about how your faith got you through a lot of the pain. Do you consider yourself a religious person?
I am not religious in that I do not believe in all of the rules and traditions that mark religions. I do follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. I believe Christ was a spiritual teacher and healer, but the world was not ready to receive such a reality. Religion nailed him to the cross.
If you had one superpower that could change the world, what would it be?
To make everyone love each other with a Godly love.
What does a Godly love look like?
A Godly love looks like a man and woman who puts God first, demonstrates unconditional love, sacrifices for one another, and goes to God in prayer over situations the couple cannot handle in their own strength.
What are your thoughts on race?
We should embrace our differences, and not be opinionated on who is the better of the races. The conflict is in the ignorance of one or the other and the fear.
What do you think of police brutality in the black community?
I am mixed on it. I am a mother of black sons and they express to me that they know how to do the psychological game with the police so, thank God, they’ve not been a victim of it. They have been stopped, even arrested, but never mishandled. How can we do better? I think all of our people who have been victimized, profiled, or targeted by law enforcement should learn to use psychology, or better yet wisdom instead of responding with emotions. That is not helping during intense situations.
How would one use the study of the mind to avoid police brutality? Can you give some examples of how getting overly emotional could worsen already intense situations?
For example, if an officer is approaching a black man on a routine traffic stop, or suspicious activity, the black man should not react in a defensive, or in any way that can be taken as uncooperative, or threatening. Instead, he should be compliant, ask what the stop is for, ask if he is being put under arrest, and get the officers names. A calm, unemotional state of mind will put the officer a little more at ease, thus de-escalating the situation.
You KNOW I got more questions, chile. But, let’s move on.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Life is not always pretty. We all experience hardship every now and again.
What is your best advice for reducing stress?
Get enough word in you to have something to meditate on when you are getting overwhelmed. Walk, bike ride, or spend time doing dedicated workouts. Eat healthy.
In your own words, what is humility?
Maintaining a grateful attitude, not thinking you deserve all the accolades, but are willing to share the spotlight. Gracious in your acceptance of gifts, complements, and is not easily offended.
What is love?
God. It is receiving others right where they are without judgement. Accepting the good and the bad. Tolerance. Caring about your fellow human. Forgiving.
Thank you, Monique, for spending this time with us.We enjoyed you!
Monique Johnson is a native Californian who relocated to Texas in pursuit of new opportunities just before the world-wide pandemic and social unrest. She is the former founder and president of a nonprofit after school program she created to help keep teens off of the streets. She brought awareness to the Prison Industrial Complex and how it’s growth was planned based on statistics pulled from the minority population. These stats have been improperly used to build more prisons, thus keeping this population incarcerated. She mentored youth to keep them from making bad choices that could land them in the unforgiving criminal justice system.
Johnson motivates single mothers, women in general, as well as young men to push through the hard parts of life. She is an experienced trainer, speaker, project manager, and has a gift of leadership as displayed in her professional career and community. Her books and her upcoming workshops are geared toward her goal to help women and men in their business, personal and spiritual development.
With back-to-back events, it’s been a busy few weeks. Here are some networking lessons I learned so far:
Wear Your Brand
One of the first things I noticed at the AOD (Accountability on Demand) Live business conference was that many people wore their logo, slogan, or tagline on their shirts and clothing. At Poet Fest, one poet even had her name written down her pants leg.
It was a great marketing technique that I had missed. Here I am with a Calvin Klein shorts set on, and everyone else is wearing their own name brands. I went home vowing to get some t-shirts done.
But then, I realized this is not about t-shirts or wearing your name on your clothes.
I probably won’t do that.
Whether you wear your logo figuratively or literally, this is about intentionally showing up for yourself.
My shorts set was still cute, though.
Email / Text Marketing Is Prime Real Estate
More than selling books and gaining more social media followers, I have increased my email list substantially over a month.
But why is this important?
Keeping in touch via email and/or text marketing helps you to stay connected to readers you might have otherwise never seen again.
During your book signings, speaking events, and other things, keep either a notebook and pen on your table or a tablet.
Write Email List Sign-Up somewhere and put name and email so they know where to write it.
If using a tablet, have the spreadsheet already open where people can type their information.
People will walk by and just write their name and email, sometimes even before talking to you or buying a book. How is this a good thing?
It gives you the chance to build a relationship with them later. And then, they might just consider supporting your work.
This is also why I encourage Indie Authors to sell books from their author website, to stay connected with readers: because you have no idea who bought your book from Amazon unless they tell you or leave a review you can see.
Social Media is Still King
In 2022, people do not ask for your business card. They ask for your IG handle.
The first draft of this said, “Business Cards Are Still Useful,” and that’s still a lesson I learned as it made it easier for me to give out my contact information and served as a great conversation starter.
And, while I wouldn’t say business cards are dead, they are used differently in the age of social media.
If you are old school, you can take all your social handles and put them on a card. And although people will probably stash these bad boys away in their office drawer like I did when I got home, not before they follow your Instagram, Facebook group, and Twitter.
Social media is not only King but essential considering the current pestilence situation we got going on with Covid and Monkey Pox.
I don’t take pictures wearing my mask because I think it’s weird, but I always have it and my mini hand sanitizer. Please believe it.
The bottom line is, people are online all day, every day more than usual.
This means not being online and using social media is tragic for anyone looking to grow a business in 2022.
How to Actually Network
First, I am introverted. Walking up to strangers and talking to them isn’t my thing. However, I learned that is only a small part of real networking. The other part is to discern how (or if) we can best serve each other.
How can what you do and what I do become a bridge? How can we build on what we build?
That’s what networking is, making connections and building relationships.
Practical example: You are a writer, and there’s someone in your social circle who edits. It would be a good idea to connect with that person.
But it doesn’t have to be someone who does something similar to what you do, either.
Let’s say you have been trying to lose weight, work out and eat better. There is a nutritionist specializing in fitness in your midst. It would be best if you connected with that person and tried to see how to combine your personal goal of being fit with your business goals.
How can ya’ll turn this collaboration into something more?
Communication is the cornerstone of all good relationships, so keep in touch with people.
Engage with their social media, follow their blogs, check out their services, ask them questions, subscribe to their email list, and so on.
Lately, I have received several book review requests, so I’ve opened my registry. However, my schedule is already full, so the space on my list is very limited. If you are interested in increasing the number of reviews for your book, read on.
To apply for a review, click on the link below. This takes you to my Review Policy with step-by-step instructions on how to apply.
Please be sure to follow the instructions in the policy if you wish to get a response from me. I do not accept unsolicited requests for reviews. Emailing me your heartfelt story, a list of your accomplishments, and book awards will not get me to review your book. You must follow the instructions in the policy.
About Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews:
This blog has been one of Reedsy’s list of vetted active book blogs that provides thoughtful, quality book reviews and has been on this list since 2017. This is because my reviews are honest and thorough without giving away spoilers.
I have six years of experience reviewing books personally and professionally. My authors comprise both Independent and Traditionally published from all over the world.
However, I am just one person, so space runs out quickly.
If you have a book you’d like reviewed for added exposure, reach out ASAP to get a top spot.
New Policy: Because of the limited space, I now require authors to submit the first three chapters of their manuscripts for consideration for a review. Please be sure they are your first three chapters.
Getting negative reviews on your book is a real heart-breaker. How dare they talk about your baby like that? I mean, you are obviously the best writer ever. Getting negative feedback on your book feels like a personal attack.
And not just for Indie Authors, but for all authors.
Sister Souljah got so many negative reviews for her latest release, Life After Death, that she was compelled to address it on Instagram, saying, “Stop crying about the death experience of WINTER SANTIAGA, AND START THINKING. STOP DEBATING and start reading.”
The first part of studying a review is remembering that it is someone’s opinion based on their experience. Even professional reviews are expert opinions. We are not changing our voice or altering our style based on the views of fifty people.
We are only looking to see if this person’s opinion has any value we can learn from.
“It was a little difficult discerning who exactly was talking or even who was who at the beginning. The scenes seem to always end at a cliffhanger. The premise is interesting, bit the follow through needs work.”
This is a two-star review of my latest novel, The Women with Blue Eyes: Rise of the Fallen. The dialogue in my stories is strong, but my tense usage and POV need work. Because I know these are my weaknesses, this review has merit.
Do I think it is so bad it deserved two stars? Of course not, but that doesn’t make the point invalid.
Use Your Discernment
Once the shock of the negative reviews has worn off, we can use the power of our discernment to see that not all critical feedback is hostile. Our wisdom will show us what part of the review is worth looking into and what part to let be.
While I will work on the point of view, I am not worried about ending scenes with a cliffhanger. I like it because it’s a good way to keep people reading.
In the words of bestselling author James Patterson, “At the end, something has to propel you into the next chapter.” This is the reason we are addicted to that TV show. We come back week after week because we are held in suspense. Cliffhanger endings are the hallmark of page-turner fiction or, in this case, binge-worthy shows.
“I enjoyed the premise of the story, but sometimes was a little thrown with whose point of view I was reading.”
See that? I cannot ignore this. It comes up repeatedly, which means it is a legitimate issue I need to fix. Now I know what to work on for my next book. I hope to hear fewer complaints about this in the future.
If we change the way we look at it, critical reviews are cause for celebration.
In this fake everything era, where people buy followers, engagement, and body parts, what we might consider a negative review is a good thing. Unless the negative reviews come from a hater who is trolling you, having a good mixture of good and “bad” reviews gives the book authenticity.’
This is so important to understand in the Indie Author community. There are some poorly written and produced books with nothing but five-star reviews.
How Detailed is the Review?
I have learned the more detailed the review is, the more likely there is something there. While “Excellent book” makes us feel good, explaining what made it an excellent book is more helpful.
In the same vein, commenting that a book was “terrible” does nothing for the author. What made it terrible? What are the ways the author can improve? What did not work for you?
“I wish I could get a refund. This will not get read this is a terrible book and she could have kept this.”
– Amazon Customer Review of Life After Death by Sister Souljah
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but this is not a helpful review and the “she could have kept this” is unnecessary. This is the kind of review you do not have to spend your time trying to dissect. It offers no insight. I am sure Sister Souljah laughed it off.
“I think this author has much more to give. I felt as though she was dancing on the outskirts of the story, just giving the reader a little tease. With the author’s style of writing, I really think this book could be a nice, long novel, really delving into Nora’s life and her families past, followed with nice, long novels in the series.”
This reviewer has a good point worth considering. I definitely need to continue Nora’s story. I accept the reader’s thoughts here because they make sense.
“Ms. Ysrayl shares about her challenges and how she has overcome some and others are a continuous life-long journey. The elimination of repetition of paragraphs and sentences, would earn the book 5 stars.”
Repetition in my writing is something I need to work on, so this reader’s thoughts have merit. Sure, it stings, but it is also true.
“Many of the poems have a good message. Liked the ones with imagination like Sabbath. But to really touch a heart, the thinking and framing should be less self-centered, in my humble opinion.”
My Brain: What?
This is an example of a review I didn’t bother to give much thought.
First, the self-centered part is confusing. Next, the reviewer is a white man who probably couldn’t discern the book is mainly about the collective Black experience more than anything. (He only gave it 3 stars) This one is another example of how you don’t have to worry about the negative reviews that don’t make sense.
But it also brings to my attention something I almost forgot to mention:
A book marketed to the wrong audience increases the likelihood of bad reviews.
If I buy a Historical Fiction novel that turns out to be a Romance, I will more than likely rate it low.
Going back to Life After Death, the book is marketed as urban fiction, but it would be more appropriate for the Paranormal / Sci-Fi or even religious fiction genre.
Unfortunately, the audience that loved The Coldest Winter Ever is not the same audience for Life After Death.
This means as a Self-Publisher, identifying your target audience and marketing your books to that audience is critical. I am Soul will rate higher with Black women and Black people than anyone else because I wrote it for them. It doesn’t mean other people can’t read it or won’t read it. It means I increase the likelihood of positive reviews if the people I wrote the book for are reading it.
All Reviews Matter
You do the author a great disservice when you decide not to review a book because you didn’t like it. You not only rob them of the chance to increase their reviews, but you also rob them of the chance to improve on their writing. And if you are an author and only want positive reviews, you are robbing yourself.
The purpose of reviews for any product or service is not to only talk about how good it is. Positive and negative reviews are helpful, though I use negative loosely here. The reviews that are off the wall and utterly ridiculous are reviews I consider negative. But, the critical thoughts that offer insight on how the author can do better are necessary for growth.
So, what to do the next time someone rates your book low?
First, be grateful. Many great writers have received negative feedback on their books. You are in good company.
Next, study the review itself. Is there something you need to work on? Or is the review not worth stressing over?
I don’t know which new Indie Author needs to hear this, but it shows in your writing if you don’t read.
It is said that writers write, which is true, but writers also read. It is through reading that we learn the basics of how to write. This means that reading and writing are a partnership, and one cannot exist without the other.
This is not to say that someone who was never into reading can’t write a book. They absolutely can, but only if they are willing to start reading. There is no way around this. Aspiring writers need to consume books like aspiring doctors need to go to medical school.
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
There is no such thing as loving to write but hating to read.
This is one of the biggest issues I see in the Self-Publishing community. It is not the act of Self-Publishing that gives it a bad reputation. It is the audacity of people who never enjoyed reading and writing in the first place who suddenly want to write a book.
“It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true. If I had a nickel for every person who ever told me he/she wanted to become a writer but didn’t have time to read, I could buy myself a pretty good steak dinner. Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
The first red flag that someone doesn’t read is when I am sent a manuscript so badly formatted that it does not resemble a novel or book or anything. It is just letters on a page with weird spacing and no chapter headings.
This is because the writer isn’t familiar with the story structure, which comes from reading books. They are hoping I can take their scrambled notes and turn them into something legible. They want me to write the book for them. (If you want someone to write the book for you, you’ll have to hire a ghostwriter.) The same issue arises when new authors are choosing genres. I can’t tell if this is supposed to be a cookbook or a romance novel.
How the book is published is not the problem, weak writing is.
If you want to publish a book but you’ve never been into reading, that’s an easy fix: Just start reading. The more you read, the more you will write, and the better you will be at it.
Reading books in the genres you want to write in to familiarize yourself with them is also a good idea. Want to write a poetry book? Read poetry. Memoir? Read memoirs, and understand they are not the same as autobiography. Wanna write historical fiction? Read historical fiction, and so on.
Ready to publish your book but not sure where to start? Click Here.