We had a private cover war going on in my email list, where I asked my audience to choose between my original cover for Keep Yourself Full and a new concept I was thinking about. Almost everyone chose the new concept and together we decided to switch it up. For those of you who don’t know, I did a similar thing with I am Soul. The original cover is still up on Goodreads, while the new concept (the one loved by everyone!) is the black woman rocking the fro you can see on the amazon page, except, I didn’t have to ask which was better. I knew, without doubt, the new version of I am Soul was much, much better and readers agreed. (I love this about Indie Publishing! Total creative control.)
For Keep Yourself Full, I loved the simplicity of the original cover and the water. Water is deep enough to cleanse you yet gentle enough to quench your thirst, and still powerful enough to destroy you. Water is powerful. The new cover certainly popped more but I was concerned the flower didn’t communicate as powerfully as the water. We are talking about keeping yourself full after all, and when you think of this you instantly think, water. In the end, we chose the new concept. Here’s a snippet on why (after much thought and prayer) I decided on the new cover.
At this writing, we are entering the spring months. A time where everything is renewed, refreshed and being reborn. Colors are big, bold and vibrant. Grass is cut low to the ground and the bright greenery is beautiful. The bright, bold colors stir something exciting in your soul. There is a reason people wear black and gray during funerals or when they’re depressed. It is because colors portray mood and give off a feeling. Blue is a beautiful and powerful color. It’s symbolism is used to portray inspiration, communication, freedom, imagination, self-expression, and clarity. All the things Keep Yourself Full was written to establish; the freedom to accept ourselves as we are, to love ourselves unconditionally and to be renewed and replenished; to have a sense of clarity in regard to who we are, what our purpose is as individuals first, and the ability to communicate this in our interactions with others through our actions and words. When a flower blooms is also significant. The bloom of the flower is figurative meaning the peak or ideal moment of something. March has been a rainy month here in Georgia and April is also said to be a rainy month. Rain-loving flowers might remind us of purification, spiritual cleansing and refreshing the soul.
Publication Date: Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Publisher: Literary Korner Publishing
Author: Yecheilyah Ysrayl
Target Audience: This book is perfect for young men and women 18-45 struggling with low self-esteem/worth, depression; Bible believers looking to be encouraged and motivated from a spiritual perspective, readers of Self-Help/Inspirational Non-fiction, lovers of inspiring quotes, poetry and books focused on self-love and self-care.
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 own personal testimony, I give examples of how we self-abuse and how that differs from self-love, why it is important 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. It cannot be ignored 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 that we are overflowing with enough to share with everyone else.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Email unsubscribes. Yup. I’ll be that one. I don’t care what anyone says, if done right and if it’s your cup of tea, author email lists work. At the end of the day, everyone’s journey is different so none of us are in the position to say for absolute certainty what works and what doesn’t work for someone else.
That said, IF you are a fan of the email list (I don’t refer to them as newsletters….I prefer email list), check it.
Not everything about being an author is peachy. Email unsubscribes feel like silent rejections and sometimes confusing because you don’t always know why the person left. Unsubscribes can leave authors feeling abandoned, especially if the person was a long-time member of the list. All kinds of thoughts go through your head.
“What did I do wrong?”
“Am I providing value?”
“Does my writing suck?”
“Do I suck?”
Did I email too much? Too little? What happened?”
The good news is that whether someone leaves your email list or your blog, it is not a bad thing. In 2019, we are not taking losses, we are taking lessons and there are tons of lessons we can learn from email unsubscribes. I hope this list encourages you and motivates you to push past that feeling of confusion and rejection.
Don’t subscribe people to your list without their permission.
I’ve personally never done this and I don’t understand it but please don’t let this be you. There are laws against doing things like this. Never, ever add anyone to anything without that person’s permission. I don’t care if it’s a Facebook group or email list, get permission first. When you let people subscribe on their own, they can unsubscribe whenever they want and do it all without you being sued. But if you subscribed someone without their say so, you can be sure they will unsubscribe. While there’s nothing wrong with compiling a list of supporters and emailing the old school way (directly), we live in a different time. You need a track record that shows proof this person agreed to get emails from you. You need permission. It is illegal to add people to your list and email them without permission. Do not grab emails from blogs and websites. Choose an email opt-in form and let people subscribe on their own or create an opt-in form of your own using google docs but just get permission. Don’t get sued. I recommend using one of these opt in forms:
Don’t take it personally.
If the subscriber was legal, and the person decided to leave, the most important lesson you can learn from this is not to take it personally. We don’t know why that person is no longer interested, and it doesn’t always have to have anything to do with us. People have their reasons for subscribing to a list/blog and not everyone is clear what that reason is. If someone mistakenly thought your list would offer something that it doesn’t, they may unsubscribe because it’s not what they thought it would be.
Never respond to an unsubscribe.
Resist the inclination to ask people why they left. Unless they have reached out to you, do not send them follow-up emails. If they unsubscribed from your main list, they probably don’t want to keep receiving emails from you. Again, don’t take the unsubscribe personally. One apple don’t stop no show (and that’s grammatically incorrect on purpose), just keep grinding.
Quality over Quantity: You don’t have to have a gazillion email list subscribers to be relevant.
With email lists, remember it’s more so about the quality of your team. It’s better to have 30 or 40 committed people who are eager to support your work and read your books than 2,000 who won’t lift a finger to give you so much as a piece of advice. You ask a question and hear crickets. I have only about 172 subscribers to my email list. (I say email list because I don’t like to refer to them as newsletters *yawn*), and I am more than okay with this. Of course, I’d like to grow (who wouldn’t?) but I am in no rush. It’s challenging enough managing the subscribers I already have. I’ll wait patiently. Always remember quality over quantity. It’s probably easier to manage 30 or 50 subscribers than it is to manage 200 and 300 starting out.
Resist the urge to vent your rage on your favorite social media platform
Again, don’t take it personally. Email unsubscribes are like bad reviews that only you see. Just as it is not recommended to discuss the bad review, it is also not recommended to discuss the unsubscribe. We are all human but venting about these things on social media (this includes the blog) makes you look like an amateur. Accept this person has decided they are no longer interested in your content (for whatever reason) and move on. People come in and out of our lives for a reason and we just have to accept when the season is over. Don‘t make it bigger than it is.
Remove and Renew
Don’t be afraid to lose people. It may even be necessary to unsubscribe people yourself that you see are no longer interested. Sometimes people subscribe to email lists for the wrong reason. Maybe they believe they would receive something, and the emails turned out not to be what they wanted. But there will also be people who won’t unsubscribe. They’ll just ignore you and delete your emails or they may just ignore it without acting. In any event, it’s a good idea to do a good ole cleansing occasionally. Delete some people. Don’t be so thirsty for high numbers to your own detriment. If they aren’t active, it doesn’t matter, and you are deceiving yourself. Every 2-3 months I clean my list. I go through and delete people who have not been active. Have not been opening emails, clicking links, responding to questions or participating in any way. Their presence is irrelevant. I love them, but my emails are clearly not their cup of tea and they shouldn’t be forced to drink it. They must go.
It takes time
Writing is a business and like all businesses, it takes trial, error, consistency and time to build. We may have been born with gifts but no one was born knowing exactly how to execute them. No one woke up with the skills to hire a team or produce excellent products. Similarly, you don’t know how to manage an email list except through practice and hard work and even still people will unsubscribe.
I used to transcribe to the same practices of some “gurus” who said to only email once a month. While I understand why you wouldn’t want to email too frequently, you have to do what works for you. It’s a personal journey first. So I followed my own path and now email whenever I have news. The truth is, it’s hard to stay connected to anyone you don’t speak to for months at a time. The email list can be an important source of support if you want it to be. Or, the email list can be just another social media account you update to tell people about your new books. *Yawn.* Truth is, there will always be someone to unsubscribe. The real question is, who cares? People unsubscribe from our lives all the time but we can’t stop working just because people leave. People unsubscribing from the list can be a blessing as it teaches us what works, what doesn’t and how to better connect with our audience. People unsubscribing from our list is not even the real problem. The real problem is learning how to connect with our audience. If we do our jobs well, we don’t have anything to worry about.
One door closes, one door opens
Every time someone unsubscribes from my list, someone new subscribes. That’s the fun thing about it. When one door closes another always opens. Just because a few people unsubscribe does not mean more won’t come. I’ve been successful in keeping my numbers steady because I am always blessed with a new subscriber whenever someone else leaves. When unsubscribes do happen, now I just smile knowing someone new is on their way and hopefully, they’ll find value where the other person did not. The end of one relationship is the beginning of another.
Ask your email list questions to discover what they want.
Let your readers in a bit on who you are. Write stories, give updates not shared anywhere else, showcase your personality, e.g.
If possible, use a domain email address as your from address instead of gmail. Ex: yourname(at)yourdomainname(dot)com.
1. Don‘t take the unsubscribe personally
2. Don‘t subscribe people without their permission
3. Never vent your rage about it on your favorite social media platform
4. Quality over quantity
5. Recognize the growth that comes with removal and renewal
6. Remember that it takes time to build anything of substance
7. and that when one door closes, another always opens
For more email list building tips check out one of the most popular posts on this blog:
I have always enjoyed looking at book covers. Choosing a cover is my favorite part of the Indie Book Publishing process. In the beginning, I didn’t care too much about the cover and that was cool. But then, as I matured, I started to look at my writing differently. I stopped looking at my writing alone and started looking at the book as a complete package. In doing so, I’ve learned that the best chances of a book succeeding is not just one thing, but a collection of things. Not just a nice cover alone or a well-written story alone, but everything together. That is what I’ve learned, and that is how I will look at book publishing from now on. I will look at the process as a complete piece, a body that I must dress not just outwardly but inwardly and not just inwardly but outwardly.
I have had a little success with I am Soul so I thought I’d talk a little bit about the evolution of the cover and how I think it has played a major role in that success.
To start, I wasn’t going to even release this book when I did. I was supposed to release book two of Nora December 20, 2017, my mothers birthday. Instead, I pushed that book back (it wasn’t ready) and released I am Soul.
I am Soul is a collection of poems from this blog as well as my personal journal, collected, compiled and edited into what is now my 4th collection of poetry. I call it I am Soul because some of the poems are personal, some of them are centered around the African American experience (a people of Soul) and also because people have always said that I have an old soul. Even as a kid people have said that I was mature for my age. For these reasons, I am Soul.
The first cover was decent. I liked it a lot. A purple book with a heart-shaped bible page. It was nice enough to land me the #7 spot in the African Literature category of Amazon before release day. It started at number 17, then dropped to number 9 and then number 7.
I liked the cover a lot but I didn’t love it. I couldn’t help but notice that the cover looked better electronically, to me, than it did when the paperback arrived. It also didn’t stand out very well on Amazon.
I still think this is a cute cover but it doesn’t look all that great offline. Once the book printed it didn’t look the same. The dark blue on top the purple didn’t pop. In fact, this is still the cover on Goodreads. I don’t know how to change it. At first I didn’t care but after awhile I had to follow my heart and change the cover. (A privilege of publishing books Independently. You can change what you want, when you want.)
I decided to try something that matched the name of the book and the content in full. When you think of Soul you think of something deeply personal and connected to that individual.
Soul is something Israelites (Blacks) have always had (think Soul Train), from our hair styles to our creative way of dance, the way that we dress, the way that we sing, and the way that we speak. We set the trends and nothing was more trendy than the Afro at the peak of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. From the practice of shaving the head to pass as a free person in the antebellum south, to the Afro of the 60s and 70s that said that Blacks were proud of who they were and free to be so openly, natural hair had made a comeback.
In the 1950s-60s it was common for Black women in Africa to wear their hair in small bushes. In America, Black women stopped straightening their hair. Women like Nina Simone and Abbey Lincoln are examples. And then Miriam Makeba (“Mama Africa”) emerged with a fro in the January 1960s issue of Look Magazine and Cicely Tyson wore her hair in a fro on episodes of the CBS drama East Side, West Side. And as college students and political activists like Jesse Jackson and Angela Davis started wearing fros, the fro had eased on into the mainstream.
Before and After
It wasn’t just about hair no more than Samson’s locs was about being trendy. Those locs were a representation of power and strength and so the Afro was a representation of the social-economic and political era of the time. A time when Black men and women were gaining strength and reclaiming parts of their lost heritage, one hairstyle at a time. A similar revolution is taking place today. Black men and woman are embracing more of their natural selves and waking up to the true knowledge of who they truly are.
For all of these reasons, I felt an image of a Black woman wearing a fro spoke volumes concerning the kind of messages I was seeking to give with the poetry inside of the book. Not just the soul of one woman but the soul of a people. The soul of an era.
I still think both covers are nice in their own right but the one that sticks out the most and which embodies a much more clear message; the one that will not just appeal to those who are biblically conscious but reach a larger audience; the one that makes people stop in their tracks, is the new cover.
When I uploaded this to social media, readers responded immediately. This had not happened with the first cover.
The new cover got me new reviews…
I submitted this book to two different bookstores. One using the old cover and one using the new cover. The one with the new cover got a call back and the book is beginning to sell at the store. I am still waiting on a response from the store using the old cover.
I’ve learned that book covers really are important because I’ve experienced how important they are. Don’t get me wrong, content is just as important. At the end of the day if there’s nothing special to read there’s nothing special about the book. I am Soul still had to be edited and get through the bookstore’s professional reviewers to be stocked.
But, when I walked into the store yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice that because of the cover, Soul stuck out more than some of the other books that I could tell, as an Indie Author, were also self-published. In fact, to my surprise, Soul was sitting right next to Nikki Giovanni’s A Good Cry. Whether someone just sat it there or not, I cannot be sure. But, I was sure enough proud. I wasn’t going to taint the moment with thoughts of how it got there. It was there nonetheless.
Before the week ends, I would like to inform you that my book review registry is open. I am looking for some good reading to do this summer. I have also slacked on book reviews for this blog. It’s time to get back into the swing of things. If you submitted a book that I have not yet reviewed, you may resubmit your book for consideration as a reminder to me. Also if you’ve emailed me at any time about reviewing your book, please use the form instead. I do not accept unsolicited requests for reviews. You MUST go through the form to be considered.
I have published dozens of paperbacks with CreateSpace over the years, and have recently published some books (under pen names) with KDP’s new print-on-demand option.
While in many respects the two services are comparable (and both are Amazon companies), there are quite a few little differences.
DIGITAL PREVIEWS AND PRINTED PROOFS
There are several differences relating to printed proofs:
With KDP print, you don’t have to go through the manual file review process before you can order a printed proof. If you know what you’re doing, this saves 12 to 24 hours, but if you have a big mistake in your PDF files, CreateSpace’s manual file review would help to flag the issue before you waste time and money on a printed proof. However, both offer digital proofing tools to help catch mistakes before you order a printed proof.
I use a combination of Photoshop and covervault templates to create my book mock-ups but there’s a simpler version available for those of you without Photoshop or technical knowledge of the software.
Derek Murphy just debuted his free book mock-up maker. It’s super easy to use and you don’t need Photoshop to use it. Simply upload your cover and spine (if needed) and download a JPEG or transparent PNG file. Here’s mine for Renaissance and Revolution. As you can see it looks pretty neat.