School is back and so is Introduce Yourself! We’ll be kicking things off with the introduction of more authors on Monday, September 2, 2019. Interviews are free and publish every Monday. If you are an author or know of authors in need of more exposure and promotion, be sure to send them over! Below is a brief description of what this series is about. To learn more (including how to sign up) visit the Introduce Yourself Author Interview page here.
Introduce Yourself is a promotional opportunity for new authors I started back in 2016, hosted on The PBS Blog. It is an interview conducted by Yecheilyah (that’s me) with questions specifically tailored to helping us to get to know you better. Inspired by a song introduced in a children’s bible study class I helped coordinate, the song is meant to “break the ice.” With this feature, I hope to introduce new authors to my audience for an opportunity to learn more about them and their work. They say teamwork makes the dream work and I hope to do my part to introduce to the world little known authors and to assist in making these authors dreams come true.
Keep Yourself Full, my first Non-Fiction spiritual handbook for healing the hurting, lifting the fallen, and restoring the broken is available now on Amazon in ebook. It will be available as a paperback between tonight and tomorrow. Check back to this post. I will edit it to let you know it’s available in paperback. Thanks in advance for your time, attention, and support. (It is still 99cents until the end of today. Hurry before the ebook price rises!)
If you know me for my fiction work, I have some exciting new material coming. However, I do hope you will enjoy this book. It is my first Non-Fiction piece, and I am delighted to share it with you. As always, I hope that you will finish the read feeling full and empowered.
Keep Yourself Full is a spiritual handbook that focuses on our return to self-love. It is a reminder that self-care nourishes the quality of our lives and makes us fit to be of service to others. Through my testimony, I give examples of how we self-abuse and how that differs from self-love, why it is essential not to take things so personally, why we must establish and enforce healthy boundaries, and how assumptions kill relationships. We learn that by investing in our well-being spiritually, physically, mentally, and professionally, we can be of service fully to others. We cannot ignore that we treat others how we feel about ourselves. When we realize that what we do to others, we are equally doing to ourselves, we can use this awareness to heal. By treating ourselves better, we treat others better. Keep Yourself Full is about keeping ourselves filled with love and all that is good, so we are overflowing with enough to share with everyone else.
Since B&N was sold (no panic neccessary….related article links below) and since Instagram went down (again), the time is right to repost this message. It’s long but I recommend reading all the way through. It was originally published December 5, 2018 after Facebook went down. Since then both Facebook and Instagram have had continual glitches, Google Plus is no more and Createspace is now Kindle Direct Publishing.
After experiencing multiple problems with Facebook the other day, amazon admitting to accidentally sharing people’s personal information, and reading Derek Murphy’s email about hacks, author websites and updating passwords, I think it’s time to publish a post that has been sitting in my drafts (and in my heart) for some time. It has also been a while since I’ve dedicated significant time to this blog and as we come upon the end of the year; I think it’s a good way to get us thinking about potential changes in 2019.
Be careful putting all your eggs in one basket.
When the stock market crashed in 1929, it shocked people. They couldn’t believe they couldn’t get their money out of the banks. It was like in the movies when there’s a natural disaster or alien invasion. Right before it all comes crashing down, life is perfect. A family is sitting at the table eating breakfast. Soccer moms are dropping their children off to school and dads are hoping for that corporate promotion. And then it happens, right there. You are at the breakfast table eating a bowl of cereal and your kitchen floor splits in half with your toddler on the other side of that half.
This is how quickly things change.
Life before the crash was great. People were doing well. People bought stocks with easy credit. During the 1920s there was a rapid growth in bank credit and easily acquired loans. People encouraged by the market’s stability were unafraid of debt. People were comfortable. So comfortable that they weren’t prepared when it all came crashing down. Not everyone was as affected though. The great depression didn’t affect poor people as much as those who had wealth because poor people were used to having nothing. Many of them were also already growing their own food, and already self-sufficient. They had to be innovative and entrepreneurial to survive.
“There is a bitter and yet wry statement which was made by blacks about the depression. They said in the south that the depression had been going on for ten years before black people even know about (laughs)… knew it existed.” – Maya Angelou
Social Media has made it possible to make millions with online-only businesses. No longer do you need a college degree or fancy training to start a business online. Social media and e-courses changed that. Writers can now publish their own books without a traditional publisher. Independent Publishing has been around for a long time, but Print on Demand took it to another level. Print on Demand services are platforms where authors can upload manuscripts easily and quickly online and order print copies of their books. Platforms such as Lulu, Kindle Direct Publishing and Bookbaby are examples. Not only is it easier than ever to publish books, but it‘s easier to make millions from social media alone. Professional Instagrammer or YouTuber are legit business titles now. College kids are dropping out to become YouTube stars and Insta-celebrities. Because of advanced technology you don’t need to understand code to build a website yourself or need a fancy camera to shoot a movie anymore. With a basic understanding of video editing you can do this with your iPhone.
Life is good.
But remember how quickly things change.
Social Media is changing. People are more outspoken about privacy and data use. Facebook is being more strict about limitations so it’s difficult to do any promotion without buying ads (and although we do it anyway, we’re not supposed to use our personal pages as business pages). Algorithms don’t show everyone‘s post and Facebook is losing readers because of problems like the one I faced the other day (where I couldn’t log in). Facebook is constantly down and Google+ and Createspace have already closed down. Although Social Media looks good now, I wouldn’t be surprised if it, like the stock market, drastically changed so that users have to either pay for accounts or it unexpectedly closed down completely. Poof. Gone. Tragedies often happen suddenly.
“By the mid-1800s, most countries wanted to standardize transactions in the booming world trade market. They adopted the gold standard. It guaranteed that the government would redeem any amount of paper money for its value in gold. That meant transactions no longer had to be done with heavy gold bullion or coins. It also increased the trust needed for successful global trade. Paper currency now had guaranteed value tied to something real.” (Amadeo, K. 2018, 17 April. History of the Gold Standard.)
The history of paper money is worth the research and is too extensive to go in depth here but in short, the dollar began its decline on being backed by gold when the Gold Standard was suspended and even more after the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Paper money was only receipts that represented a certain amount of gold. When the Gold Standard was suspended more receipts were printed, printing receipts caused hyperinflation and money hasn’t been the same sense.
What does this mean / have to do with authors?
“This isn’t 1955 where we can use a typewriter and write a book every year and a half and make money to live off of while we do book tours. Might as well get in the horse and buggy business.” – Kristen Lamb
Putting your eggs in one basket is a phrase which means that one should not concentrate all efforts and resources in one area as one could lose everything. For Authors, putting your eggs in one basket could mean many things.
❌Holding onto Outdated Information about Book Publishing
I know you see celebrities going on book tours and all that but don’t let that make you look down on Self-Publishing because it has changed the game. Traditional Publishing is not the giant it used to be. Sure traditionally published authors still get tons of publicity but the digital era is here and while huge bookstore chains like Barnes and Noble are struggling, Indie Bookstores and Indie Publishers are thriving. The key to Self-Publishing is in the ebooks big publishing companies thought would never work. “In a dismal twist of fate, NY helped self-publishing transition from ‘shunned last-ditch of the hack wanna-be writer’ into a viable and respectable publishing alternative.” (Kristen Lamb) Don’t let your perception of success cloud your judgment. The Big Six (or is it 5 now?) is not all it’s cracked up to be. And since we’re talking about not putting our eggs in one basket, nothing is as it’s cracked up to be. Amazon can be in the same boat as Barnes and Noble.
❌Using Social Media to build your business without a website
Investing in a business website is one of the most basic ways of running a successful business. Instead of just create a Facebook page or Instagram account, consider also creating a website. It’s not expensive and can even be a one page website but it’s good to have. You can also use your blog as your website as we discussed before (because it doesn’t make much sense to spend money on a full website if you have one or no books out). Using social media without a website is putting your eggs in one basket because social media is not stable. Likes does not mean sales unless you have somewhere to direct people to purchase your books. Social media is not the final destination or at least it shouldn’t be. Social media is a doorway that must lead to a place. Your website is that place.
❌Only marketing and promoting your books online
“Social media is an important part of your business but it shouldn’t be the ONLY part of your business.”
– Cici aka The Six Figure Chick
By only focusing on promoting and marketing and selling books online you are leaving money on the table and I don’t mean to sound like it’s all about money. It’s obviously not but for writers who want to make a living out of publishing books, money is pretty important. Although people talk about the death of print, radio and traditional media is still a big deal. There are still many people who aren’t tech savvy, still many people who prefer to visit libraries and bookstores, still many who prefer print books, and still many who want to see you in person or hear you speak. If you are already outspoken, this is an extra good thing for you. You’ll have no problem networking at events and meeting new readers. If you’re an introvert (like me), events help you come out of your shell and meet new readers who can follow you online. My social media pages don’t have many followers but my numbers go up after every event. While I don’t think requiring your presence to make your money is wise (because I mean, the technology is here), scheduling at least one public appearance (such as a book signing) every now and again is a good way to meet your readers face to face.
❌Only publishing books. (Neglecting other ways of making long-term sustainable income as an author)
I recently attended the inaugural We Buy Black Convention in Atlanta where hundreds of black-owned businesses convened to support one another. There, I met Real Estate Super Agent Lisa Puerto, one of the featured speakers during one of the business talks (Jay Morrison was another speaker and Dr. Boyce Watkins was another speaker but I missed them). Long story short, my husband and I loved her passion so much that although we aren’t into real estate, we were ready to buy her book when she finished and got to chat with her after the segment.
Here’s the thing that surprised me though: her table was basic. Black table cloth, books and business cards. It looked similar to my table at the signing at Nubian books earlier this year! (see pic) There weren’t any fancy fixings but her line stretched down the hall and her business cards were getting picked up like candy. She had wowed us with her passion alone and her voice was big enough to outdo any banner. I say all of this to say I’ve learned that public speaking is how we as authors get the message out about our books. Instead of promoting the book, we could promote the message of the book and help people to understand why it’s worth their time to read our stories. It’s why celebrity authors go on book tours where they get to speak to the audience and despite how we feel about her, Omarosa sold the mess out her book just by talking about it!
The book is important, but it is not the only way of making money as an author. Once you’ve established yourself as an author and have made waves with your books (please do this first), you can expand into other things such as teaching, coaching, and public speaking, as additional income sources. Only writing books is another form of putting your eggs in one basket because you’re limited to just one income stream. If you write full time (no day job, spousal support, no side hustle, e.g.) this is especially important. In striving to make a living from writing alone (once you’ve been established for a while), it’s a good idea to expand your brand beyond just writing books.
❌Not having an email list
Email lists aren’t for everyone (and certainly not before you have built some kind of audience to send them to), but could be useful if there is no more social media (blogs included). This will make the email list of great value alongside your website. It becomes another way for you to connect to your audience on a personal level. While I don’t have many subscribers, I can say with the integrity I have more subscribes than unsubscribes and I am learning more and more how to better manage my team. Every business has an email marketing to accompany their business. I don’t know why writing has to be any different. Do you want to know why people don’t take Indie writers seriously? Because we assume the basic rules of running a business doesn’t apply to us. Yes, you can opt not to do certain things as there are no rules, technically. However, there are basics and you can‘t opt out until you fully understand the basics. A website, email list, social media, and a payment method are among the foundational basis of an online business. Your website is your home, your email list is your connection, your social media pages (includes blog) is your traffic and interaction, and your payment method/shopping cart is how you get paid. These are the basics.
❌Publishing on Amazon exclusively while neglecting other retailers
I think relying too heavily on Amazon is a mistake. I think a smart person would definitely have their books on Amazon but that they will also explore other retailers. It‘s about balance. Say what you want about them but having books on Amazon is just good business sense (you have to look at it the way readers do…they will search for your book on Amazon first before anything), but that doesn’t mean we have to only have books on amazon. One of the most valuable ways to sell your books is through your own author website! The reason Amazon is winning is that mostly we are promoting it. Our books may be present on other sites but if we aren’t promoting those links alongside Amazon, we cannot expect to see sales through those channels. How many times do you promote links to your book on Kobo? Barnes and Noble? Smashwords? Your own author website? If you’re honest with yourself your answer would be like mine, very little. If something were to happen to Amazon, do you know of any alternative ways of publishing? Have you educated yourself or are you only sticking with the zon? Publishing only on Amazon is putting your eggs in one basket because if amazon suddenly crashed it will take your eggs with it.
❌Private Business Social Media Pages
Setting your Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook author pages to private. I simply don’t understand this. Not only is nothing private online, but you are losing out on potential readers. Unless your goal is not to sell books or reach readers, it is a good idea that your author pages are public. They don’t necessarily have to be business pages but it’s not a good idea if they are private. Here’s why:
A reader comes across your page from whatever source. Someone has referred them to you or they liked your bio. They go to your Instagram page to see more of your work and get a feel for who you are but your page is set to private. They go to your Twitter page, it’s set to private. They go to like your Facebook page and hit the private wall. Few people will send you a request. Most people will leave and not come back. Why? Because if you’re using social media for any kind of business (and if you wrote a book, you are in business) potential readers/clients shouldn’t have to follow you to see what you offer.
Private business pages force people to follow you just to see what you are about. If you are that afraid of scammers and trolls then you should probably not be on social media. I’m just being real with you here. If your social media pages are business pages, if you are trying to connect with readers and clients, why is your page private? That is just not good business sense unless your goal is only to reach the choir.
❌Wasting time arguing about whether Self-Publishing or Traditional Publishing is better.
These debates are a waste of time (this is coming from the person who thinks nothing is a waste of time) and forces authors into putting their eggs in one basket. Publishing Independently works for me but I won’t sit here and say I will never traditionally publish a book if it came time for it. There’s a time and place for everything and I am at a place where Independent Publishing works well for me. (Indie Publishing is also thriving right now). I cannot say this won’t change because I cannot predict the future. There’s nothing wrong if you suddenly went the traditional route or if you decided to self-publish because the value doesn’t change. You are still worthy no matter how you publish. By making this out to be some competition we lose sight of what really matters and create self-imposed limitations. This bullet point differs from the others and may seem out of place but that’s why I must mention it. It’s a low-key way of putting your eggs in one basket. Self-Publishing is one basket and Traditional Publishing is another basket. You are not limited to just using one. It’s okay to keep your options open.
This post will be too long to cover every single area of how we leave money on the table by putting all our eggs into one basket but here are some additional areas:
❌Not developing a business plan for your writing business / not legalizing your writing business
❌Not listing your books on Goodreads or creating an Amazon Author Central Page
❌Discounting your books / products online so much that it undermines your business
❌Not discounting your books / products at events and conferences. (People aren’t going to pay $20 for a Self-Published book from an unknown author. Unless you’re already a celebrity or very good at persuasion, most people won’t take the chance. Discount your books when you sell them in person!)
Consider not relying on one way of doing things. People say that you don’t own social media but that is true for everything online. You don’t own that blog no more than you own that email list, no more than you own those social media pages.
I have to say, when Facebook tripped, as it often does, I was so happy that I at least have a website and email list to direct people to. If I had to rely on my Facebook page only, it would have caused me to panic as Facebook not working would mean losing all my contacts. Social media is an excellent tool as I can sit here and write to people all over the world from my computer. But traditional media still holds weight and that face-to-face “old stuff” still works as an option to connect you to your readers. People thought farming was old too until it was the poor black farmers whose homegrown food fed them during the depression. The same thing for social media. Those who neglect digital are doing themselves a great disservice as well. Balance is the key to all of this.
The eleven sons of Jacob survived and flourished because their brother Joseph, who had become second in command to Pharaoh through his gift of properly interpreting the Pharaoh‘s dream, had created storehouses throughout Egypt where the people could come and buy food. When his brothers left Canaan for Egypt, they could find refuge. Could we learn from this? Could we be the Joseph’s of our day? Or will we wait until the famine wipes out all we have?
My name is Michael Williams, or as I’m called in this wonderful world of the interwebs, Cerealsensei. I was born in Austin, Texas but I spent a large portion of my life in Baltimore, Maryland where I was raised.
What does Cerealsensei mean?
The name Cerealsensei represents two parts of my personality. I have a slight obsession with cereal, I would consider myself a cereal connoisseur of sorts. If it was possible to eat cereal for every meal and not have your sugar levels spike through the roof I would do it but unfortunately life isn’t fair.
Haha. Okay Cereal Connoisseur, what’s your favorite?
The greatest cereal of all time is Waffle Crisp, without question. Sadly I believe it was discontinued last year so if you didn’t have it after all these years then you missed out on greatness. So by technicality I guess Cinnamon Toast Crunch is now sitting on the throne.
Lol. Cinnamon Toast Crunch is the bomb if I must say so myself. Let’s get back to the meaning of your name…
The Sensei part comes from me being the oldest in my group of friends. I watched a lot of martial arts films growing up. Normally the Sensei was an older an teacher who was always the voice of reason and tried to keep everyone in line. In a way that’s kind of how I am in my group of friends, the resident old head who’s just trying to keep order. So i just kind of combined the two and Cerealsensei was born. Also, since my real name is so common I had to add in a nickname so you could find me easily in a google search.
Got it. What do you love about yourself?
A few years ago I might not have even been able to answer this question. But I’ve come to love the weird quirks and off beat humor of my personality. I know I’m different, and I don’t say that to be pretentious or “artsy” but it’s true. I’ve become fully aware that I march awkwardly to the beat of my own drum and I get lost among the crowd. But it’s what makes me who I am and I wouldn’t change it even if I could.
That’s beautiful. What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The Most Exciting thing?
The most exciting thing? The most difficult thing……I absolutely with all of my being despise editing. I dread it every time I have to do it, but it’s the most important part of the writing process in my opinion so it’s unavoidable. But it stresses my soul every single time. The most exciting thing would have to be that moment when you realize those crazy ideas you had in your head can actually become something tangible. That moment when you’ve got the words down on the paper in the exact way you wanted to and you can honestly be proud that you were able to flush that concept out into something readable. Ironically this happens a lot when you’re……editing, go figure.
What kind of music do you like?
Man, I could go on all day about this. Aside from writing music is a huge passion of mine. Now days I mostly listen to a lot of indie hip hop, Oddisee is probably my favorite rapper if I had to list one. But I appreciate all genre’s of music, they all bring something special to the table. Depending on my mood I’ll throw on some soul or R&B, then switch it up to some rock, something ambient or orchestral, I also love instrumental beat tapes which are great to listen to if you’re writing. One of the best things about the internet was it exposed me to so much music that I didn’t know existed, I spend a good amount of time doing what I call digital crate digging just trying to find new things to listen to.
When did you publish your first book? What was that like?
I published my first book on November 12, 2018. When I finally put it out it was an awesome feeling, a lot of weight fell of my shoulders on that day. To be honest, when I put it out I wasn’t so much worried about people loving it or hating it. Obviously, I hope they like it. But putting out that first book was for me to prove that I could start this process and see it through until the very end. This was an idea that started about five years ago, so it was awesome to finally be able to release it and check that goal off of my bucket list. Now it’s about repeating that process over again, and not having it take five years to do.
What genre do you write in, why?
I’m terrible with categorizing but for now I guess you could say comedic fiction, aimed generally at a younger audience. I wanted my first book to be something that anyone could pick up and relate to in some way. I don’t want to talk over anyone’s head, I’m not trying to make some crazy and profound statement with my writing. I just want you to be able to pick it up and have a good time, writing fiction allows me to do that.
You definitely achieved that. From the cover and blurb, the Oddball Chronicles looks like a fun read!
My future projects which will also include scripts I’m working on will be much darker though. I don’t want to get pegged into any box. I’m a scatter brain and that influences how I write. I”ll never stick to just one genre. The Oddball Chronicles will stand as it’s own thing, but everything afterward most likely won’t resemble it at all.
What was your childhood dream?
My first childhood dream was to become a chef. Ha, boy did I fail that dream miserably. But to my credit, I’ve gotten better around the kitchen. Having health issues made me learn how to cook so I wouldn’t eat out so much. I’m not the best cook by any stretch of the imagination but I can make some pretty decent salmon.
Love Salmon. Let’s talk about writing a bit more. What do you hate most about writing advice? What do you love?
This is a tough question. I think what I love is also what I hate. And that would be that there’s really no set playbook on how any of this works. You and I could both read the same writing advice and for you it might cause a light-bulb moment but my fuse will just blow out all together. It’s very cliché, but you really do have to find what works best for you.
I agree. What do you think of the world we live in?
It’s crazy, it’s out of control, some days I’m waiting for it to end. Whether it be Jesus coming back to take the wheel or an asteroid just wiping us all out. Everyday I see at least one news story or viral video that just makes me shake my head. But on the flip-side, the world still has it’s beautiful parts. There are still good people out here who are trying to do the right thing and push us forward. If nothing else, I love the creative boom that’s happening with content in terms of film, music and all of the other creative outlets. Underneath all of the madness there are some extremely talented people out here putting out great art and that’s what inspires me and keeps me going. I want to add my name to that conversation.
Why is writing important to you?
It’s the best way I know how to communicate. If I didn’t have it all of these wild ideas in my head wouldn’t leave, writing helps me give them a home so they don’t bother me for too long. Writing is a release for me and gives me a sense of accomplishment every time I do it. If I wasn’t writing I’d hate to think of where I’d be or what I’d be doing. Life wouldn’t be much fun without it.
Thank you Michael for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
My name is Michael Williams and I’m an independent author and podcaster currently living in Edgewood, Maryland. When I’m not writing stories or scripts you can find me obsessing over Mixed Martial Arts, playing video games and/or attempting to finish an anime (I have commitment issues). On November 12th, 2018 I released volume one of my short story series entitled The Oddball Chronicles. I wanted to write something that captured the growing pains of every day life and put my little off beat brand of humor on it. Hopefully if someone else reads it they’ll find it halfway entertaining, or possibly even learn something.
I posted this message to my IG this morning and I thought I would post it here as well. I have added more bullet points after realizing how much this also applies to Indie Authors and our writing careers as well as real life advice.
Don’t go broke to sit at someone else’s table. Make sure that what you put your money into is worth the investment and not something you are doing to be seen. If you’ve ever observed me in person, you’ll notice I am quiet and laid back. I am not there to see what I can get. I am there to listen, to learn, and to connect so that when I go home, I can implement and apply. The other obvious meaning is, make sure your immediate needs are met before you play. Are your bills paid? Is your family fed? What can you realistically afford? I know social media has made entrepreneurship look glamorous but in real life people have day jobs and responsibilities. People are not winning everyday. Don’t be out here trying to prove a point. Take care of the most important things first.
“Don’t overpay to play,” also means to me not to overcompensate in the efforts to prove to people who you are. Sometimes I do this. I have a good heart. This is what I know about myself to be true and there’s nothing worse than people not seeing that. What I’ve realized, though, is that I can’t control how other people see me and I can’t “overpay to play” with them. People will see different versions of you depending on who they are, how they feel about themselves, and their philosophy in life. If you try too hard to prove you are a good person it will only come across as fake. Just be who you are, do what you do, and let the chips fall where they may. I also think it’s just as important to realize that we all have traits about us that are not positive. This is important. A person who understands both his strengths and weaknesses is a strong person. A person who can identify his weaknesses without pointing out the weaknesses of others is a stronger person. Realize that you are not 100% together and that people don’t have to like you.
New Indie Authors, don’t overpay someone to publish your book just because you’re desperate to see it in print. Overpaying could mean a different price depending on each individual’s budget but anything over the $5,000 point is steep. Don’t overpay to play author. While I am not a Traditional Publisher, the traditional publishing route is still a good option if you want the traditional publicity. While many Self-Publishers have gone on to have movies made from their books and have made millions from their books, there are many aspiring authors who are looking to be published traditionally but are not patient enough to go through the process. As a result, they overpay small Indie Publishers to do for them what they could have probably done for themselves. For example, don’t fall for someone promising to make you an Amazon Best Seller. To non-writers, family, and friends it may seem like a big deal and while commendable (I would never downplay anyone’s hard work), it’s not exactly the same as being a New York Times Bestseller. Amazon’s rankings are controlled by algorithms. In other words, computers. Any spike in sells (even if it’s just 5 books sold) can shoot a book ranking up. Sometimes all it takes to be an Amazon Best Seller is to sell 10 copies of your book on the same day. It’s not the same as outselling all the other books in your genre. I’m sorry but it’s the truth and this deception is not only bringing down the value of being a true Best Seller, but is starting to become a red flag to those who actually know how the system works. I applaud anyone who has become a #1 Amazon Best Seller but I caution you not to pay for it. You can become an Amazon Best Seller on your own. It’s not worth $5,000.
This advice reminds me of the importance of boundaries, limits to where I’ll go. There must be a line that reminds you of your integrity, where you are not willing to go, no matter the circumstances or the price tag because your moral compass will not allow you to. “Don’t overpay to play,” also means to me, “remember your worth.” If you don’t have this mental limit in your mind you will sell out in whatever way it means to sell out. Boundaries go far beyond personal limitations but extend to our livelihoods as well.
If you follow my social media (my personal accounts) then you know why I was excited yesterday. I am Soul got approved for stocking at Barnes and Noble at its Marietta, Georgia location, making this the fourth store to carry one or more of my books. This may not mean much to you but, briefly, here’s why these things excite me:
Poetry is not like other books, it’s hard to sell and yet I am Soul has been selling since its release in 2017. I don’t mean selling a lot. I mean consistent sales over time. (Much like consistent book reviews. They may not all come in on the day of release but if they trickle in every now and again for months or even years, that’s still good!)
I am Soul has remained relevant for two years even though I’ve published other books, something I have not been as successful with before. (No matter how long it’s been since publishing your book, it is always relevant. It can never be unwritten or go out of style. Make sure it doesn’t. Keep promoting it. Keep it fresh.)
I am not backed by a publisher. I am my own Publisher.
I don’t have a lot of money. Everything I make goes right back into the work. (In the beginning, you will have to invest in yourself. Although I’ve been publishing awhile, this is still the beginning for me).
I don’t have a lot of social media followers (if that’s important).
I gave a short testimony on my socials on being prepared but I will go in more detail here since we have the space (no worries, I’ll keep this short).
When I walked into Barnes and Noble yesterday and spoke with the manager, a few things she said stuck out.
“Oh, you have books.”
She seemed surprised.
When I shop my books around I carry the container you see here. It’s just something I got from Walmart many years ago. It only looks new because I cleaned it off. Don’t wanna embarrass my mama by going outside with something that looks like who did it and why did they do it. In this plastic container box are books, bookmarks, business cards, a PayPal Here card reader (because you never know if you meet someone on the street who might wanna buy a book. No cash? No problem! I can scan you right here lol), my author seal stickers, and a writing pen.
Eventually, after some convo, the woman asked to see one of my books so she could look me up.
“Most Self-Publishers come in here and they’re not in the system,” she said.
We’ll go into detail about what this means and how to get in the system later (I am putting something together to help Indies with that). For now, just picture walking into a B&N and picking up a book. You carry it over to the counter. Well, when the ISBN is scanned, what happens? If the book is in the B&N computer the information about pricing and everything comes up. This makes things easier on the store. How so? Because they can easily scan the book when someone picks it up, just as they would with any other book. (You can Self-Publish books with no ISBN but then you can’t sell it at stores.)
After going over the details and her agreeing to stock my book, I signed the copies we would leave there.
Me: “I’m gonna go ahead and sign these.”
“Yes, please do. We sell a lot of poetry. It’s making a comeback.”
“You have stickers?”
(she meant something that lets the reader know the book is signed….Queue my author seal!)
Me: “I do.”
“Got a pen?”
Me: “I do.”
Everything she asked me for, I had on my person. I am not saying I am always this prepared. I am not perfect or special. And it’s not like she wouldn’t have given me a pen if I didn’t have one. But by already having one I presented myself as an organized professional serious about her work because…
…and I am not just talking about physical preparation. I am also talking about mental preparation, spiritual preparation (faith), and time.
Time is part of the preparation. Time to research. Time to learn and understand. Time to ask questions. Time to write, publish, revise, improve, write and publish again. Time to make mistakes and learn from them. Time to put things in position so that when the time comes, you are ready.
At the recent signing, I had to recite a poem on the spot. I prepared for this. I knew one day it would come so when it happened I was ready. I was nervous, but I had a couple of poems in my head I knew by memory just in case. I was only prepared this time because I’ve dealt with not being prepared. Years ago, at a conference, I was asked to recite a poem. It was one of my audience favorite poems. I stood up there, said a few lines and forgot the rest! It was an old poem. A poem I should have never forgotten the words to. I was so embarrassed. I wanted to run out of the room. Instead, I quietly returned to my seat, ashamed. Prepare!
I’ve been publishing my books since 2008 but it took six years before I really got my books seen by people outside of my immediate circle. Six years to realize how much I didn’t know. Many of you are already way passed where I was when I started. You are much further along than you think. I’m just catching up.
Prepare for where you want to be. Get in position because if you are not ready when it comes it will make no difference. If the universe wants to pour into your cup but you are not even holding a cup, it will make no difference how long you’ve been standing there. You weren’t ready when what you said you wanted, arrived.
It’s time for another post on lessons from a book signing. I try to learn something new from every event I do. I also enjoy seeing if what we learn online applies when in direct, real life, person-to-person contact. Here’s what I learned from Friday‘s Book Signing.
Practice Makes Perfect
While I am not perfect by any means, consistency and practice really do help us to get better. Cliche as it is now, the saying is true. The more book signings and events I do, the better I get at pitching my books. I am a naturally shy person but author events help me to be more open. It is the chance for me to learn how to communicate what my book is about without being scripted (which is easy to do when you’re behind a computer), but that you only have seconds to do in person. For example, I had the chance to sit and think about what I wanted to say here, how to say it and the words that would best sum up this experience. In person, the time is much, much faster. There is no time to sit and think about what to say. There is nothing but your knowledge of your product and why you think it‘s worth the time and money investment. They even asked me to recite a poem on the spot! I am thankful to Yah I was ready.
It’s also not just about selling books but genuine interaction with the people. There were many people who bought books but did not take pictures because they didn’t want to and I did not force them. Some people didn’t buy books at all, but they sat and talked with me and laughed and we shared some interesting conversation. I met a new poet who told me about some open mic spots to hit up and a young man who referred me to a Barnes and Noble in the area that accepts Self-Published Authors. The best way to get started making change is to begin where you are.
Competing Against Cell Phone Attention Spans
In person, you get to see the distractions we compete with up close and personal. People‘s attention spans are short already but add to it the mobile device and it’s easy to get discouraged. Many of the people who walked past my table were glued to their mobile device or already talking on it. This makes me much more conscious of this when doing business online. Knowing that the interest in the smartphone is a big deal is one thing but seeing it empowers me with so many new ideas and thoughts on how I, as an author can keep this in mind when interacting with readers.
Don’t Try to Sell to Everyone (Don’t Sell At All, Connect)
The same thing about finding your target audience online applies to offline as well. While the time is faster and you do have to pull people away from their phones, discernment is important as well. I am starting to pick up on who to reach out to (literally) and who to let walk by. This may sound funny but it’s not just about getting a sale. Some people purposely crossed the street to avoid my table (lol), some people purposely focused on the ground and avoided eye contact, and some people were not on the phone. They just pretended to be to avoid me. These are examples that “I don‘t want to be bothered.” Just like not everyone will want to buy your book online, not everyone wants to buy your book in person. Some things I picked up on from people who wanted to buy my book or was interested in learning more:
They hesitated and stared at the book cover while walking by
They stopped by
They spoke to me
They asked questions
They stopped when hearing what the book was about
There are ways of knowing if you should reach out to people and if you should not. I hope to use the experience from Friday to help me at the Atlanta book signing in July.
Some Writing Advice Does Not Apply Offline
Every time I meet with people face to face it‘s a different experience than being online. What may surprise you is that I find writing advice (not all, but some) we use online does not apply to offline. There’s no screen, no script, no hashtag, nothing but good ole fashioned communication between two people who may share a genuine interest. In real life people do want your business card to learn more about you, they do ask about your website, and they want to know if they can follow you online. This means that while some advise against business cards, author websites and social media, this is not true when you are face to face with the people. In my experience, no one asks to follow your blog or if they can sign up to your email list (unless there’s already a sign-up form present and you ask them). While I think both are important and are necessary for Indie Authors to have (and both have helped me tremendously), in my experience when talking to the people in person who don‘t already know me, the basics they want to know is:
Do you have a card?
Do you have a website?
Can I follow you online?
Can I pay with my card?
Applying this means:
Having business cards with me
Having a website for people to go to
Being present on social media
Having a card reader on hand
If you did not get to stop by or you are not in the area, remember that I am Soul, my latest collection of poetry is 99cents in ebook through the month of April in honor of National Poetry Month. Also, if you are in the Atlanta area this summer, I’ll be at the Atlanta African American Book Festival in July. I’ll be premiering my first Non-Fiction release, Keep Yourself Full (of course I’ll still have my other books present as well) and other author swag. Don’t miss the chance to connect. See you soon ✒📚📸