Don’t Let Your Self-Published Book Rust Away on Amazon

I won’t keep you today, but I want to share this short message.

Most Self-Published authors publish a book, do a happy dance, and then let it rust away on Amazon, never to be seen or heard from again.

That’s because most Indie Authors are still waiting to be Amazon Best Sellers, rack up on thousands of reviews, and wait for Amazon to send them royalties.

And there is nothing wrong with any of this.

Except, sometimes those royalties don’t be royal if you know what I mean.

And getting new reviews can be like pulling teeth.

Both are important, but I want you to know you don’t have to pull your hair out waiting. There are people who have few reviews on Amazon and still do very well and it’s because they stepped outside the box. They did something different.

And so can you.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the years is that the book is only the beginning. It is a foundation, an open door, a ticket…

But into what??

Whatever you want.

Your Self-Published book is the beginning of a fresh course, community, even a movement for political and social change.

Writing a book sets you apart as an expert in your field. You are now equipped to speak on the topic of your book (yes, fiction writers, you too), teach the themes of your book, or advocate for the message of your book.

You can sell signed paperback copies of this book from your own website, sell them in bulk at schools, libraries, and bookstores.

You can build an entire course and online school from your book, or vend at large events, conferences, and workshops.

Strategic Self-Published authors see the book, not as the end, but the beginning of a journey into more.

And why is this important?

Because a Self-Published book lost in the sea of Amazon does not produce more fruit.

Think about it.


I hope this helps someone. Stay safe folks!

Need more Indie Author Tips?

Check out the IAB archive here.

Need more in-depth guidance? Book a consult with me.

Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews – Immersed in West Africa by Terry Lister

Title: Immersed in West Africa
Author: Terry Lister
Print Length: 159 Pages
Publisher: Book Power Publishing
Publication Date:  August 29, 2019


Immersed in West Africa is the exciting journey of one man’s travels across Senegal, Mauritania, Gambia, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau. Anyone who knows me or has followed this blog for any significant time knows how much I love traveling. The pandemic put a stop to our travels, so it was refreshing to at least be able to read about some lesser-explored parts of West Africa from the author’s perspective.

We learn about Goree, the infamous island in Senegal with roots in the history of the slave trade. The island had twenty-eight slave houses and transported nearly two million people. We learn that the Maison des Esclaves (The House of Slaves) and its Door of No Return are museums and memorial to the Atlantic slave trade on the Gorée Island that they renovated in 1990.

I enjoyed the author’s authenticity when recounting his experiences as he moved from one place to the next. I found his accounts to be thorough, honest, and thought-provoking. Lister doesn’t gloss over parts that did not serve him well, such as the indigenous village on Lake Retba in Senegal’s Pink Lake (the people kept asking him for money) and the trouble he faced journeying into Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania. The harassment Terry endured from the police is an all-too-familiar narrative between black men and law enforcement. Forcing him to the station, asking him about his money, making him wait, and all of that was completely unnecessary.

I learned from this that it is an excellent idea to guard against those who see you as a new face and try to take advantage of you. I commend the author’s courage because I would not want to travel from country to country alone, precisely because of situations like this.

Also, about the Pink Lake, the author explains it is pink because of its high salinity, second only to the Dead Sea.

We discover few people visit Mauritania because of its strict policy against alcohol and how Mauritanians love mint tea. I loved reading about making it as performed by a woman in Chinguetti. We learn desert homes use propane gas units that they carry from room to room. In Mauritania, we also discover that they use the sun to power their street lights and have installed solar panels to light up the streets.

If you are already intrigued, you will love this book as I have only scratched the surface of the author’s adventures. There is a lot to learn from someone’s personal experience that adds a seasoning that far outweighs looking it up on Google.

I love learning about how things are different in other countries, like the communal way of eating meals, sitting around a table or on the floor in a circle, and eating with your right hand, no utensils. I also did not know polygamy was legal in Senegal.

I cannot wait until it is safe again, and we can do some international travel. I might consider some places this author visited.  I would love to taste the cold water he got to drink from The Terjit Oasis, where the water fell from the rocks!

Strong Introduction: 5/5

Authenticity / Believable: 5/5

Organization: 4/5

Thought Provoking: 5/5

Solid Conclusion: 5/5

Immersed in West Africa is Available on Amazon and Free with KU!


My book review registry is OPEN. Be sure to visit the Blog Book Review Policy page here to learn how to apply.

My Memoir Writing Journey

What exactly am I working on now? A lot of things but mostly my memoir. Now that Keep Yourself Full is on its way out, I want to get this done and I will have to deter a lot of projects to do it. At least until I finish the first draft and then I can work on other stuff and just work on the memoir from there. (I will still revise The Stella Trilogy first and release my next collection of poetry).

This is the hardest writing job I’ve ever undertaken. I have deleted everything I ever sent my email list as a sneak peek two years ago (can’t believe I let you in on that *insert eye-ball roll*) and have started over. I am fifty pages and nine chapters into the first draft so it’s not so bad considering starting over. What I don’t want this memoir to be is an autobiography. I’ve always wanted to write an autobiography, but that’s before I learned the difference between the two.

I learned memoirs differ from autobiographies. Memoirs are popular because they center on one theme and read like novels, making them much more interesting than the chronological format of the autobiography.

Theme

One thing I am working on is not making this psychoanalytic if that’s the right word. While I’ve endured much trauma in my life, I don’t want this to be a dark history of my crazy. I don’t want this to be a therapy session. This is difficult because I’m not a sugarcoat type person and neither is my mother. I gotta keep it all the way real. I gotta be honest. How do I do this without going too far?

My title is “I Wasn’t Built to Break,” so my theme is to take all the things that have been obstacles and challenges in my life, that could have broken me physically, mentally, and emotionally, but didn’t. This means that I will not go into every single detail of my life but I will focus on certain significant events, starting with growing up in the Robert Taylor Projects.

Anyone who grew up in any of Chicago’s projects is a survivor in my eyes, a warrior. It meant they not only escaped the drugs, violence, poverty, neglect, and gangs, but they also escaped literal death. Perched above the high-risers of Robert Taylor and Cabrini Green, snipers (aka Gang Members) with high-powered rifles would sit on a top floor (in a vacant apartment) and shoot their rivals. These bullets though, often hit innocent bystanders, mostly children.

I remember my Uncle coming to school to get us early because the buildings were shooting, and we had to run to our building. When I say it was a Warzone, I mean that literally. And none of us project kids ever got counseling or therapy for the things we saw. Not even the classmates of the seven-year-old Dantrell Davis from Cabrini who was shot by a sniper on his way to school in 1992 in front of his mother, teachers, police officers, and classmates.

Historical

Writing a memoir is no easy task so my approach is to research and write this as if I am writing a historical novel. Since I enjoy writing Historical Fiction, I want to incorporate history into my testimony. Instead of focusing on my experiences only, I want to take us back into the politics of some of what was going on in the world I did not have knowledge of as a kid. There’s my world where I can only see what’s in front of me and around me and then there’s the world at large. How did the decisions of others affect me, one of 21,000 children growing up in what became known as one of the poorest urban communities in the United States, a concentration of poverty they called it?

I want to go into how the projects under the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) replaced the Chicago Slums, the discriminatory policies like redlining that kept blacks from purchasing homes in their own neighborhoods, the kitchenettes and one-room basements blacks lived in during the 30s, 40s and 50s, the beacon of hope the projects promised as a replacement, the mixed-community that was there (because whites and blacks both lived in the PJs!), the racial riots that never made the news, and the racist policies that caused many white families to move out of the projects and into the suburbs.

And what about the Plan for Transformation that demolished Public Housing and replaced them with a mixed-income community of condos and townhomes? What did this cultural mix mean for former public housing residents? And who was Robert Taylor? The black man on the board of CHA who opposed building the projects on the same land as the slums? The black man who wanted to spread the buildings out, so they fully integrated blacks throughout Chicago and who, after CHA refused, quit. I hope that if I do this, it will be a much enjoyable read.

I want to incorporate both history and personal testimony with the testimony supporting history. I remember for instance that whole “Homie the Clown” Scare of the early 90s. I remember that because I had nightmares of the clown coming into our apartment and chasing me around the couch. In 1991, rumors surfaced that a man who we called “Homie the Clown” was riding around in a van kidnapping and killing kids.

“Homey the Clown,” was the name of a character played by Damon Wayans on the early 90s sketch-comedy show In Living Color. The character was an angry black ex-con who carried a sock for knocking bad kids upside the head. His catchphrase was “Homey don’t play that.” Our “Homie the Clown” was allegedly dressed as a clown and went around kidnapping kids. Rumors said that he rode in a van and liked to stand next to mailboxes eating bananas.

This sounds silly now, but it was serious back then, just like the recent clown scares. We got let out of school early and children were afraid to walk by mailboxes. It also didn’t help that Stephen King’s IT had also just come out.

Community

It wasn’t all bad though so I want to talk about the close-knit community that existed there too that never made the news. Generations of families grew up together in what is rarely seen today. My mother’s friend, who lived next door, helped her to babysit. People watched one another children, shopped together, stepped up when someone was in need and shared food. We could go next door or downstairs to ask if someone had sugar or flour. We bartered services and passed along information about job openings or what was new at the Aid office and the candy lady was an entrepreneur. She used her food stamps to open a candy store back when you can get one piece of candy for every penny you had, better known as Penny Candy. People threw house parties and sleepovers.

Robert Taylor was not just a concentration of poverty. It was also a thriving community. When things were good, they were really good, and everyone was family. But you didn’t see this on the news. We were not all crack babies. We were not animals.

The Most Irritating Thing about the Self-Care Movement

the fact that everything is a movement now

like the importance of self-love didn’t exist

before Instagram memes

like healing is a status update

like self-care ain’t a journey but a tweet

like healing ain’t a process but words we hang

on our Facebook walls

and pretend we ain’t cover trauma in hashtags

I see healing differently

mistakes are opportunities

failure is strength

and self-love and healing is a process

paths that we aren’t always sure to take

we become masters of ourselves

only to begin again

like a battle we don’t know if we’ve won yet

a journey, healing is

and we master the parts of ourselves

until there are no more apologies

in our throats

until everything we do doesn’t sound like

sorry

until we value ourselves like we do

likes on a post

until burden ain’t heavy no more

cause we learned how to carry it

until we no longer carry it

until we’ve struggled so long

we don’t know what quitting is


Your Books in Independent Bookstores

When 2018 started, I told myself that I would step outside of my comfort zone by trying to get my books accepted into bookstores, a challenge for an Indie Author with no large following and no large publisher backing her. But I did it and now I am making it a goal to get my books into libraries and in schools. And if it’s Yah’s will, I hope to do some public speaking. Before this year ends, I’ll be sending my email list my personal goal-setting chart and they will get to see exactly how I set my goals and the action steps I implement to achieve them. Today, I am taking the time to reveal some basic things you can do to prepare your books to be accepted at bookstores and how to go about the process and it’s yours free. All you have to do is subscribe to my email list HERE to access the PDF. You will get a welcome email and the document will be in that email. Please be sure to check your spam / junk folders if you do not see the welcome email in your inbox.

Some of the things covered in the document.

  • Know Your Why

Unless you are already famous, people aren’t gonna be checking for your books at bookstores in the same way they do online. In order for people to walk in and not look over your book, they must have some prior knowledge about who you are (more on this below). Be sure you know why you are doing this. Getting in bookstores and libraries is not some fast track to fame or money maker. That’s not what it’s about. Getting into bookstores is only a big deal to Indie writers because many of us aren’t backed by a big publisher so getting onto the shelves of brick and mortar stores gives us a greater opportunity for the possibility of hosting book signings at those stores, meet new people (who we probably would not have met online), and expanding our brand far and wide.

  • Get Your Name Out There

As you’ll see in the document, it’s not very difficult to get into small, local, Independent bookstores on consignment which means that’s not really the challenge. The challenge is selling those books which is difficult to do if people don’t know who you are. I am still trying to get my name out there and I have identified some areas where I could do better. However, you don’t have to be a celebrity or famous to start. You can start with social media and drive traffic through your blog and social media accounts. The most effective thing, though, is to get out and attend local events. Is there a book festival in your hometown? Go. Is there any event that matches what your books are about? Go to those events. Here, you’ll meet people who may be able to help you, work with you, recommend you, and help you to get your message out.

  • Target Stores that Match Your Audience

I approach black-owned bookstores because my books are about black history. There are exceptions where I’ll take a chance on a non-black-owned store (such as Tall Tales Book Shop…I love their store set-up), but for the most part my target is populations where the majority of the readers are Israelites (Blacks) and women. Why? Because my books are about the lives of Blacks in America and the lives of women. It has nothing to do with “race” and everything to do with positioning myself to be at the places where my ideal reader is.

  • Technology is Still King

Don’t overthink it with the bookstores though and forget why the Indie Revolution started in the first place. It’s good to attend events and get out and network with people face to face but don’t forget technology is still king. You don’t want to create a situation where your presence is needed to make you money as perfectly put by Cici aka “The 6 Figure Chick” on IG. That is, you don’t want to only bring in income when you do an event. Keep that online presence going. I am of the opinion that Indies with books in the store should do so as a supplement to the online business, not as the business itself.

A website, email list, social media, and a payment method are among the foundational basis of an online business (and if you’re an author with books on amazon be sure to have an Amazon Author Central Page set-up. You can learn how to do that here). 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 (including amazon) is how you get paid. If you meet people in person, it won’t mean anything without a way for them to keep in contact with you. Update your blog and social media pages regularly and continue to be consistent. Remember that your success is not the same as everyone else’s and being authentic doesn’t have to mean doing what everyone else is doing. Be you. Be disciplined. Be consistent.

Read more by downloading the entire PDF Document when you subscribe to my email list HERE.


Pictures from Friday’s signing at Tall Tales Book Shop are now available on my website HERE. Thank you to everyone who came out. If you’re in the ATL area, my next signing is December 22nd from 2-5p EST at the Medubookstore at the Greenbriar Mall.

The Diary

My first practice in writing was the diary. Sometimes it wasn’t an actual diary but a journal I turned into one. It was a special thing for me because prior I had been writing in notebooks but notebooks didn’t provide the kind of privacy that diaries did. With the privacy of the diary, I could be more open which meant that I could be more real in my writing. I could express how I was feeling authentically because I knew that no one else would read my words. I could be angry, happy, sad, and excited. Unknown to me at the time, this was helping me to learn to express myself, to experiment with language and to organize my emotions.

My first diary was something I found somewhere. It had a lock on it that didn’t work and was pink and some other colors I don’t remember. But even though the lock didn’t work the cool thing about the diary is that as soon as it was understood this was a diary, people knew not to read it. To do so was an invasion so strong that you would fight someone over it. If someone read your diary it was like they had read your soul. It was deep because of how deeply you confided in it. I still remember what I felt when the events of 9/11 happened. I remember because I wrote it down.

First, our teacher turned the radio up. Something about New York and terrorists. Then, the school let us go home. When I got home, I stared at the television in the living room and watched as the twin towers crumbled to the ground. It was the first time I had seen something like that happen without it being a movie. I took to my diary to voice my opinion.

“Today is Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I am fourteen-years old. We are at war. God bless America.”

I was so corny and what I wrote was lame but because of writing it down I remember the exact day of the events and my age when it happened. I was fourteen so I didn’t understand all the politics surrounding the event at the time and of course I believed whatever the news told me. I also didn’t realize how writing this down was helping me  with my memory.

I got my next diary/journal when I was fifteen-years-old. It was pink and fluffy with a blue sparkly butterfly on the front. I got it in Cincinnati Ohio during my 8th-grade trip. I got more personal in this one. I was fifteen and the boys had gotten cuter. I wrote more about life in general in this diary. I wrote about when my favorite cousin had gotten jumped so badly that when he came over to our house his face was terribly plump. I wrote about my excitement and sadness over graduating from eighth grade. I was graduating with honors but my twin had to go to summer school. It made me sad we couldn’t graduate together. I wrote about how this boy at school had a crush on me and how I liked him but I didn’t want to “go with him” because he went to my school. I didn’t “go with” people who went to my school. I had standards.

In my next journal, I would dedicate it completely to poetry. It was a gift given to me by my cousin. I was sixteen (I got a new diary or journal almost every year) and my cousin and I thought we were poets. We would have poetry contests (and till this day he wants me to let everyone know that he taught me how to write…lies) to see who could write the better poem. I don’t remember who judged us. I think we judged ourselves. (insert eye-roll)

But I had also begun to express myself in a different way by now. This journal was green, not pink so that the color and the content of the book reflected my maturity compared to the other journals. I didn’t write about my life, I wrote poems about life instead. I started to look around me and write about the things I saw reflected in the world and not just what was reflected in me. I would look up the definitions of words and write whole poems based on those words. Most of the time it made no sense but it did help me to expand my vocabulary. I also wrote poems about sex because I was sixteen and that’s pretty much all we thought about.

At every stage of my life I always had some kind of diary or journal with me to help to organize my thoughts and feelings and I didn’t know then how it would help me with my writing later on in life. (It also helps me to be patient by writing thoughts down on paper before publishing it to the internet. Letting them sit in ink for awhile and waiting to see if  the words are even worthy of being shared with the world. Most times they aren’t.)

Before the internet, before social media, before Facebook posts and blogs, there was the diary. The one place where we knew that we could be ourselves without judgment. I still keep a journal with me today and even though it’s filled with business ideas and inspirational quotes, it still helps me to write down my feelings and to organize my thoughts. It still serves as a powerful tool in helping me to be a better writer.

New Author Tip – Nothing is a Waste of Time

Me and Vivica Fox at her Book Signing yesterday. Be sure to stop by The Medu Bookstore at the Greenbriar Mall in Atlanta and grab your copy of ‘Everyday I’m Hustling’ by Ms. Fox and ‘I am Soul‘ by me!

Dear Indie Author / Self-Publisher, that thing you are doing, that step you’re taking, that move you made….

…is not a waste of time and don’t let anyone tell you that it is. Time is never wasted. Everything is a learning experience IF you choose to see it that way. People like to tell you not to do something because it hadn’t worked out for them or because they can’t see any good in it. If you sow negativity about every mistake then you will reap negativity and nothing will ever work. But, if you sow positivity by turning those mistakes into lessons then you will reap positivity by acquiring a new skill. You will be blessed with an understanding you didn’t have before and the courage to take risks that are no longer bound by the limitations of others.  As an Indie Author you will be bombarded with advice so you have to be very conscious of what works for YOU and what doesn’t. Sometimes the only way to know this for certain is to do the work. Knowledge is only power when it is applied. At some point you must make the difficult decision to stop researching and have faith in the work. Just do the work.