Building Your Reader Community

People don’t tell new Indie Authors that publishing a book does not mean people will buy it. That is why the moment you decide you are writing your book must be the moment you also start building your community.

Building a reader community is important because it is the first step toward getting your book noticed by the people who want to read it.

Put plainly: when you focus on connecting with people, you attract a tribe of people ready and excited to buy your book when it drops.

This is critical for Indie Authors, in particular, who do not always have access to the same kind of exposure as authors who publish with publishing houses or small presses with bigger budgets.

No, people will not buy your book just because you posted the link. 

No, people will not buy your book just because you’re their favorite cousin. 

And no, people will not buy your book because you tell them to. 

Please also consider that even if your favorite cousin does buy your book, it doesn’t guarantee that they will:

  • Actually read the book
  • Review the book
  • Join your email list
  • Subscribe to your blog
  • Engage with your social media
  • Be repeat customers

Your real tribe, primarily strangers interested in what your book is about turned avid readers you have built a relationship with, will move differently than the family members you are begging to buy from you. 

Here are some things you can do to help find your tribe :

  • Share your writing process. 
  • Give updates on where you are in that process (draft, revisions, editing)
  • Talk about your inspirations and motivations
  • Talk about your challenges
  • Post excerpts from the book to social media
  • Start a blog
  • Start building your email list
  • Educate people about the book you are writing
  • Share the book cover when it’s ready
  • Talk about life outside of books and writing. What are your other interests?
  • Talk about your favorite books and authors

I agree. Building community is not about working tirelessly trying to convince people to read your book who would rather spend that $5 at Starbucks. That’s exhausting and is the frustration of many Indie Authors. That’s that pulling teeth part of the game everyone hates. Suppose building your community feels like you are pulling teeth. In that case, it is probably because you are begging people to support you who are not interested. Do them and yourself a favor and let them go in peace.

What it is about, as Jenn stated, is letting the people already interested in your book know it exists.

I am not trying to get people who are not poetry readers to read my poetry book to put this into perspective. That is not to say I won’t convert some people (tee hee). Still, I am looking for people who are already into poetry, black poetry by black women to be precise.

By sharing our likes, dislikes, challenges, and experiences and connecting with people of like mind, we find people with similar interests as our own. Then, we make the added effort to show up in the places where these people may hang out so we can connect with them on or offline. Maybe your tribe is on Facebook a lot. Maybe they are on YouTube, Instagram, Clubhouse, Twitter, and so on.

It’s 2022, and Indie Publishing has come a long way. Gone are the days of posting links to social media hoping someone will bite. This is known as “Hope Marketing,” or the hope for a sale. This doesn’t help us build community, sell books, or establish meaningful relationships. 

Focusing on people who are already into what you are writing will have a tribe of people waiting to buy your next book and save you a lot of time and heartache.

Remember, it is much easier to market to an already interested audience than an audience who you have to convince.

And most important of all, have fun!

Connecting with people is not supposed to be tedious. Building a reader community doesn’t have to feel like work. That takes the fun out of it. Just be yourself and share your journey. The people who are meant to be part of that journey will notice.


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Signs You Are Not Ready to Self-Publish Part 4: You Are Afraid Someone Will Steal Your Idea

One of the first signs that someone is new to publishing is their obsession with copyright.

Everyone at some point thinks about ways to protect what they have built, but obsessing over the possibility of someone stealing your work is one sure way of waving your hands in a crowded room and shouting, “Hey, everyone! Newbie here!”

“People who are paranoid about the theft of an unpublished manuscript or who obsess about somebody “stealing their ideas” red-flag themselves as amateurs.”

Anne R. Allen
Pixabay

Despite how brilliant I am sure you are, your book idea is not unique in the sense that no one has heard of it in some form before, and you cannot copyright an idea. According to Section 102(b) of US Copyright Law:

“In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated or embodied in such work.”

Us Copyright Law
Yes, it’s true!|Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels

Since January 1, 1978, American Copyright laws have stated that anything you produce is automatically under copyright. That’s right, at creation. Whether you typed it up in Word on your computer or published it in a book, it is automatically under copyright and lasts for life plus 70 years:

“Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”

US Copyright, https://www.copyright.gov/

“In general, for works created on or after January 1, 1978, the term of copyright is the life of the author plus seventy years after the author’s death. If the work is a joint work with multiple authors, the term lasts for seventy years after the last surviving author’s death.”

https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf

Now, I can see how this would not be enough to convince someone that their work is safe. Authors can register their work with the US copyright office here as an added layer of security. They have also added a new option to register short online literary works, such as blog entries, social media posts, and short online articles.

But remember, this is optional. You do not need to do this for your work to be considered under copyright, though it can be helpful in the event of a lawsuit:

“In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a US work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”

US Copyright Office

“Copyright exists automatically in an original work of authorship once it is fixed in a tangible medium, but a copyright owner can take steps to enhance the protections of copyright, the most important of which is registering the work. Although registering a work is not mandatory, for U.S. works, registration (or refusal) is necessary to enforce the exclusive rights of copyright through litigation.”

https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf

You also don’t need to send a copy of your manuscript to yourself. Also known as “Poor Man’s Copyright,” this would not stand up in court if a lawsuit is in play and does not replace registration.

“The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.”

Us Copyright

Warning: Registering your unpublished work with the Copyright Office can set you up to be scammed because scammers sometimes scroll the copyright database for unpublished work to snag. Click here to learn more. I recommend reading the whole thing but scroll to the bottom for this particular part. Publish the book first, and then register the copyright. 

You Don’t Need an LLC to Self-Publish a Book

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels | I don’t get the obsession with LLCs these days , but you don’t need one to Self-Publish a book.

Suppose you find you are making a significant amount of money from your self-published books, and it becomes necessary to separate your business and personal accounts. In that case, creating an LLC is ideal. However, it is unnecessary to pay money to form an LLC to self-publish a book when you are just starting. Consider the fees associated with applying for and keeping an LLC.

Remember that the LLC serves the purpose of operating as a separate legal entity and that you, personally, won’t be responsible for any debts the LLC incurs. But that’s not usually necessary with self-publishing because it is low risk. By low-risk, I mean you do not start out making tons of money, or at least not the kind of money that would warrant you to separate your accounts.

I operate under an LLC because I do other things outside of publishing, such as coaching, book reviews, interviews, and other services I provide. However, I have only had an LLC for about a year now. Until then, I operated under my legal government name just fine.

Buy Your ISBN for Your Own Imprint

Be Your Own Boss | Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

As I cannot reiterate enough, there are tons of scams out there, so it’s important to remember that you do not need to pay someone thousands of dollars to “maintain your copyright.” As we have already established, copyright belongs to you when you create the work, and you can register it through the copyright website for thirty bucks.

However, if you wish to maintain your publishing rights and have your own imprint, buy your own ISBN. This will ensure you publish books under your name or company name. This means the book will point to you as the publisher, not Amazon. In this way, you use Amazon as a printer or the platform you use to print physical copies of your book and house your book online, but the rights to the book belong to you.

Can you Self-Publish a book without buying an ISBN? Yes, you can. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Lulu, and many others will allow you to choose to use one of their free ISBNs. ISBNs in the US are not cheap (they are free in Canada), so this is ideal for many beginning publishers. However, I highly recommend buying your own.

  • You have complete control over what is entered in your book’s metadata—that is, the descriptions and categories that help libraries, bookstores, and readers worldwide discover your book and decide whether they want to purchase it. In today’s digital world, your book’s metadata can hugely impact its chances of being found and purchased by your target audience. This would mean a lot to self-published authors, who do not have a traditional publisher’s marketing and distribution capabilities to fall back on.
  • As you will be the publisher of record, your ISBN will remain unchanged even if you change your publishing service company or publish with multiple companies.
  • Any individual or organization with specific orders or inquiries regarding your book will approach the publisher of record; you would rather this be you instead of your publishing service company.
  • If you plan on writing several books, it makes sense to take on the mantle of a publisher and have your own constant publishing imprint on your books.

https://www.editage.com/info/book-editing-services/articles/10-faqs-on-isbn-every-self-publishing-author-must-know.html

“Your ISBN is the identification number that is tied to you and your book. If you use an identification number tied to a business that could go under (because remember, a free ISBN belongs to them), you risk your book not being available for purchase. This is an even bigger concern if you are using a Vanity Publisher. They could easily disappear, and you will have to start over on the publishing front.”

https://www.shawnpbrobinson.com/reasons-to-get-your-own-isbn/

If you are going to be constantly paranoid and obsessed with copyright and worrying that people will steal your book or idea of a book, you are not ready to Self-Publish. You might feel better going the traditional route. However, if you are ready to publish Independently, you have to relax on the copyright stuff. It is going to be okay. Go ahead and register it with the copyright office and publish the book. You will be fine. 


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If We Were Having Coffee Right Now

Photo by Chevanon Photography from Pexels

Hey, ya’ll, hey!

It’s been a lil minute since we had a lil chat. This year I decided I would not rush back to this blog after the New Year.

If you are one of those extra woke people who need to remind me it is not technically a “New Year” until spring, don’t. I know, and we not talking about that right now.

Anyway, come on in!

Please remove your shoes. House policy.

Go ahead and grab some coffee. The Kerug is self-serving, so help yourself. There is also tea on the counter if that’s your thing. Sugar is in the pantry, and cream is in the fridge. I hope International Delight’s Sweet Cream is okay?

Pineapple, mango, Bananas, Strawberry, Carrots, and Ginger. I thought this was gonna be nasty, but it was good!
  • If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you I am on a month-long fast from alcohol. I have started drinking more fruit and vegetable-infused smoothies instead. It hasn’t been long enough for me to really notice any changes, but I’ll keep you updated on that. I am not much of a drinker (I tend to stick with wine), but I wanted to start the year with a fresh flush of my system. No alcohol and fast foods and processed stuff and all that junk. If you take care of your body now, it will take care of you later!

2021 Me: “Look at us tryna be all healthy and stuff!”

2022 Me: “Girlll. I know right?!

  • Speaking of body, if we were having coffee right now, I would tell you about this dope essay contest that the Navigating the Life blog is hosting on body positivity. “Body positivity refers to the assertion that all people deserve to have a positive body image, regardless of how society and popular culture view ideal shape, size, and appearance.” Click here to learn more.
  • If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you my main priority is finishing the black history book. If you are new to this blog, click here to check out my Black History Fun Fact series. It was something I started to honor Black History Month that turned into a weekly feature when I realized Black history is too powerful to limit to 28 days. Long story short, I am turning the series into a book. My goal is to finish the rough draft by the end of February, if not the start. I am about 32K words in now on the road to 50K.

By the looks of it, this will be a thick book, so 50K is not necessarily the end word count, but it is what I am striving for now. I am noticing how easily distracting it can be to finish a book and keep up with social media simultaneously. Suffice to say, I have severely limited my time on this blog and my socials. I pop in to see what ya’ll are up to, but I gotta be focused this month if I am going to reach my goal. You’ll see me around, though.

Photo by Jack Sparrow from Pexels
  • If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you I am preparing to present at my first conference this March. I am teaching a class on the importance of faith in business. My specific topic is “Overcoming Fear in Business.” We will discuss and identify the symptoms of fear and learn practical methods of overcoming the barriers in business caused by fear.

Suppose you’ve ever had anxiety about showing up to promote your brand or company (especially if you are Introverted). In that case, you want to be in the building. It’s going down on March 11th in Gulfport, MS. Be sure you follow my social media for more updates as the date approaches.

Photo by Andrew Neel from Pexels
  • If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you I have not published much poetry to this blog because I am working on another book. When I published My Soul is a Witness, I ran into issues with publishing poems featured on this blog. I had to verify they belonged to me before Amazon could approve it. I am not sharing many of them with this blog this time to overcome that hurdle. I already have the name of the collection and will reveal it with the cover. For now, you should know it will follow in the same vibe as I am Soul and My Soul is a Witness.
Photo by Jack Sparrow from Pexels

If we were having coffee right now, I would also tell you I am thinking of turning Indie Author Basics with EC into a Podcast. Part of the reason is I have felt a strong sense that I should speak more. Now, most people don’t believe me when I say I am shy, but I really am. If you notice, I don’t go live a lot. I am not a fan of being out front. For you 90s fans, I’m not tryna be “all in the videos.” Only the real one’s will get this reference. Tee hee.

Suffice it to say, I feel a need to push myself more, step out from behind the keyboard and speak. Allowing you to hear me discuss the Indie Author Basic topics and maybe even interview authors would help. Whatcha think? Should we give it a go?

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you the Book Review Registry is still closed. I cannot possibly read any more books and finish mine at the same time. I hope to reopen as early as March. Be sure to check out this page for details on how to apply. Keep in mind you are not booked, and your space is not reserved until payment is received.

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you your cup is empty. Your coffee/tea is gone, and so is my time. Now, you don’t have to go home but…

…I’ll be seeing you.

Lol

They Don’t Know My Name

I walk into a library
tighten the mask around my ears
choose a table in the furthest corner
of the room.
No one comes over.
“Good,” I think to myself.
“It’s good to social distance.”
I say that as if I wouldn’t have distanced myself anyway.
The girl with the braids smiles,
waves.
I nod. Afraid to speak.
She might think I’m friendly and come over.
She carries her book over to the table
on the other side of the room
away from me.
“Good,” I say to myself again.
I don’t feel like discussing the book she has in her hands.
I wonder if she knows how to pronounce the name.
I wonder if she knows the author
is sitting over here in the corner
trying not to be seen.

Signs You Are Not Ready to Self-Publish Part 3: You Don’t Read.

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.”

Stephen King

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.”

Stephen King

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.

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It’s Okay to Talk About Something Other Than Your Books

At its core, businesses are built on the foundation of relationships. This is especially true in the Self-Publishing world, where authors do not always have access to the exposure traditionally published authors receive.

When it comes to social media, it’s about being social and making connections with others, so it’s okay to talk about things outside of your books. It helps people get to know you on a deeper level and feel comfortable shopping with you.

Some basics to start with is sharing a little about you and maybe throwing in your thoughts on current events.

What are some things you like to do when you are not writing? What’s your favorite color? What are you passionate about in life? What do you think about the Covid-19 pandemic and the vax/non vax wars? What about what’s going on in Haiti? When is your birthday? What exciting things did you get into this weekend?

And so on…

I’m going to make this short because the message is pretty straightforward. No one wants to be inundated with “Buy My Book” messages all day, not on social media and not in their inboxes. I know it sounds kinda funny, but people only care about how what you are saying is relatable to their lives. You really do have to care about people, which sometimes means stepping outside your comfort zone and opening up a little about other things that may have nothing to do with your books. The great thing about this is you can still come back around and tie it into your brand.

Dear Indie Authors, Stop Stalking Your Amazon Book Ranking

Independent Authors have become obsessed with rankings, reviews, and becoming an Amazon Best Seller over the years. While there is proof book reviews carry weight (social proof, credibility, increased visibility), there are many myths surrounding rankings.

According to Amazon, “the better the sales rank, the more sales it’s getting on Amazon.”

But, is this true?

Yes, selling books will naturally raise your book ranking, but your Amazon ranking can also be high for other reasons.

When I released I am Soul back in 2017, I set it up for preorders and, on release, it made it to #7 on Amazon’s Best Seller’s List.

How I thought I was doing it

To the untrained eye, this can look like I sold tons of books. And by the “untrained” eye, I mean everyday people who are not Self-Publishers or are not familiar with how the system works like family and friends.

But then…

According to my sales report for December 2017, I sold five preorders between December 16-19 (the book was released on the 20th).

Yes, I said five.

Five books sold, and I was #7 on Amazon’s Best Seller’s List.

Just so you know I am not BS-ing you, here’s a screenshot:

I thought I was big time.

Even Salt Looks Like Sugar got 13 preorders but did not come anywhere near #7.

How is this possible? Shouldn’t the book that sold more copies rank better? Yes, but as many people have already said, no one knows exactly how Amazon’s algorithm works. What we do know is books sold aren’t the only thing that determines a book’s ranking.

There is nothing wrong with pushing your book to sell tons of copies on release day and to make that Best Sellers list, but your book’s success is not contingent upon how well it does in the first few days or even weeks. A book that continues to sell over time does better than a book that does well all at once and then stops selling.

In the long run, steady, organic growth will always outperform sudden bursts of activity.

“At the end of two weeks, a book that sells five copies a day will rank significantly higher than a book that sells 3,000 copies on its launch day.” (Doppler, J)

It’s like book reviews, in a way. The newer the review, the better.

  • Book A gets about twenty reviews out of the gate. Your review team showed up and showed out. But, over the next few days, weeks, and months, there is no new activity.
  • Book B gets a couple of reviews out of the gate, a few more a week later, a few more the following week, and several more over the next few months.

Because Book B has newer reviews, it tells Amazon’s algorithms people are still interested in this book.

The Moral

A book that gets reviews slowly but consistently over time does better than a book that gets tons of reviews at once, but then the reviews stop coming in.

But what does this have to do with the sales ranking?

The book that continues to get new reviews is likely also the book that is continuing to sell. It might not be a #1 Best Seller or rank in Amazon’s top 100, but the author is selling books consistently. 

And this is what authors should focus more of their attention on.

Most indie books that take off running, in the beginning, stop selling after the release date because so much energy is directed at the launch that authors forget they need to continue to sell books AFTER that.

It is not to say being an Amazon Best Seller is not a cool thing. It is to say it doesn’t carry as much weight as people have made it out to be. Being an Amazon Best Seller is great, but it doesn’t really mean anything if the author is not making sales in the grand scheme of things.

There is no need for Indie Authors to stalk their Amazon ranking because a high ranking doesn’t always mean they are selling books. In the same way, a low ranking doesn’t always mean they are not selling books.

Sales rank plays a minor role in determining the order of Amazon search results. Other factors such as relevance, keywords, sales history, product listing quality, and available inventory may influence Amazon’s algorithms. Therefore, a book with a high sales rank may appear later in search results than lower-ranked books.

How do you tell if your sales rank on Amazon is reflective of books sold or just a bump in Amazon’s algorithm because of other influences?

Consistency

  1. Besides monitoring your sales report through your KDP account, consistency is the best determinate that your book ranking on Amazon is legit. By legit, you are a best seller because you are selling books. If you are a #1, #2, #3 (and so on) best seller in your category for weeks, months, or even years at a time, the chances are that is because you are selling books regularly, getting reviews, and doing the dango thang. Congratulations, you are an actual bestseller.
  1. Suppose you are only a #1 Amazon Best Seller for five minutes. In that case, it could be a combination of things influencing the algorithm, causing the numbers to fluctuate where one minute you are number one (let’s say because tons of people looking at your book page), and the next you are #512.

46258

You should certainly be proud of yourself for making it to #1, whether you were there for five minutes or five months. However, don’t allow yourself to be deceived by Amazon’s ambiguous system. Ya’ll are out here going crazy and being scammed over something that doesn’t even matter.

This isn’t about Amazon. This is about Indie Authors and how we’ve allowed our writing self-esteem to be determined by numbers and rankings. Just because you are not an Amazon Best Seller does not mean you are not selling books. Period.

And, for clarity, I did not say you should ignore your book ranking, just that there’s no need to stalk it, as in repeatedly going back to refresh the page every five minutes.

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