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,
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.

No One is You And That is Your Power

Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks at Hall Branch Library, Chicago, IL, 1949. Credit: George Cleveland Hall Branch Archives, photo 146, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection.

I still go to libraries.

I got my first library card at the Hall Branch Library on 48th in Michigan on Chicago’s south side. I was thirteen years old and still needed my mother’s signature. I wasn’t into Black History back then. I chose this library because I wanted to check out books, and it was down the street from my grandmother’s house.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Dr. George Cleveland Hall

Yesterday, I discovered Hall Branch was named for the renowned African American surgeon, social activist, and civic leader Dr. George Cleveland Hall (1864-1930). It was the first Chicago Public Library location with a Black branch manager, Vivian G. Harsh, who served as its first manager. We will get deeper into Hall’s background on this Friday’s Black History Fun Fact, the last one of the year.

In 1949, Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks visited the Hall Branch to celebrate the publication of The Poetry of the Negro Anthology.

On July 7, 2000, the Friends of Libraries USA (now United for Libraries) and Illinois Center for the Books designated Hall Branch as a literary landmark. This was in recognition of its promotion of African American literary culture by serving as a meeting place for such writers as Arna Bontemps, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lorraine Hansberry, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, and Richard Wright. (Learn more about the Chicago Renaissance of the Black Belt Here).

I thought I had picked this library at random and for no particular reason. I had no idea it was so rich with Black History or that it was this hub for Black writers.

This helped me to see how unique each of our journeys are. No one has walked in your shoes or experienced what you’ve experienced. No one is you, and that is your power.

Everything is a stepping stone to get us to the place Yah has destined for us, every path like a thread weaving and connecting everything together.

It would be years before I learned who Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks were, and many more years before I would publish a collection of poetry of my own.

Little did I know I was building on the same foundation as those who came before me.

Talk about the power of purpose!

Also, I still got that library card!

Have you read My Soul is a Witness? I am striving for 20 book reviews at minimum before the year is out. If you read this book, I would appreciate so much if you reviewed it! Go to the page here. Scroll down to Write Customer Review, click that, rate and review. Boom. Done.


The Process of Release – Planning Book Releases in Advance


Consider this a commercial break into Laying Bricks. I’m still working on the next episode so you’ll have to wait another week. To make up for it, I decided to speak on another aspect of Self-Pub you may find useful.

What I love about book publishing, self-publishing specifically is the many new experiences I go through with each book I publish. When I look at some of my older works (which I still have available) I think “Goodness, how amateur of me!” To the point, I almost want to remove everything from the shelves and start over, but I don’t because of the way they aid in my experience and testimony, contributing to the proof of my growth as a writer. There’s so much I did not know way back when to include how to properly launch my books.

I won’t speak extensively on this topic, or at least not now. What I will say at this time is that one thing I’m learning is the importance of making some noise (OK so maybe just a few taps) as early as possible in the book release process. One of the ways to spread the word about a book is to create buzz about it before it’s released. It reminds me of something my sister always says, “Be thankful before you get your blessing. Say thank you that it’s on the way.”

Once I know for sure that I’ll publish a book, I try to begin the process of release as soon as possible. The process of release, what’s that? Well, it’s something I just made up (you can do that when you Self-Publish you know. Makeup stuff, try new things, your book, your rules).

The Process of Release (again, an EC thing) is not the same as the book publishing process. It’s part of that process sure, but it’s also a separate entity altogether. My book publishing process is when I am preparing my book for publishing. It includes first writing the book, of course, formatting, editing, revising, book cover, and everything in-between. My process of release, however, is when I am engaged in letting people know that I am going to in fact release another book. It’s the minor or major marketing and promotion I do to lead up to the book’s release. It could be as subtle as posting updates on social media, or as major as an entire campaign. The Process of Release can start as early as one year before the book is written to six months before it’s to be released.

The truth is that it’s never too early, but it can be too late. I cringe when I see debut authors release books that I never heard of. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a proud moment and I am proud of them. I do not cringe because of the book’s publication. I cringe because letting people know you have a book out on the day of release is not a good idea. And while I am no expert in the least, I do know that authors who release books their audience has been in on in some capacity has a greater chance of spreading the word in a wider capacity than those who pop up from nowhere with “My book is out!” Your book? What book? I didn’t know you were writing a book.

While I’m still learning concerning those major book release campaigns and will be soliciting the advice of many of you pros, I do know that there are some things we authors can do on the smaller scale in advance of our book’s release that may help a great deal:

The Process – People feel differently about this but if it’s your thing, go for it. One way to get the word out is to inform people of your process. Are you in the first draft stage? Have you finished your first draft? Have you met today’s word count? Are you revising? Beta readers? Editors? Let your blogger friends or social media buds know you’re cooking up something in the kitchen.

Sharing – If you’re feeling brave, share some excerpts on your blog (you do have a blog…right?). Again, people feel differently about this since not everyone wants to share their work. Some people feel it’s to an authors detriment and some feel it is to an author’s advantage. The truth is that no one really knows. The experience is different for each person and a solid list of rules for self-publishing does not exist. That said, it’s really up to you.

If you are feeling up to it, be sure your excerpts are the best of the best but don’t give away spoilers. You may go far as to be sure it’s a little bit edited for grammatical errors prior to uploading it. It may not be final, but it’s all about giving readers the best experience even at the early stages. You can use Grammarly or another program to help edit your posts.

Milestones– This is something I do a lot because it helps keep me on track. Set a series of short-term goals and share your milestones with your social media buds. Maybe you plan to have a book cover finished by the end of the year. Decide on a date for this and do a grand book cover release on your blog. When I say big, I mean be super-duper crazily excited about it. Plaster it across your social media. Use the book cover release as your official come out. People are highly visual. Use that to your advantage. This year, my book cover release will probably coincide with the official release date for my 2017 novel “Renaissance: The Nora White Story”. It will probably include social media headers and images of the book cover with the pending release date and perhaps a quote or two from advanced readers.

Flyers – Offline, print flyers of your book cover and pending release date and drop those babies off to libraries. They usually let you sit flyers around on the front desk or in the display glass (I’ve done it before). Or you can just deliver them to the people in the library directly! lol. Just don’t be rude about it.

Blog Hops, Guest Postings, Author Interviews – Believe it or not, even if you’re not talking about your book, being a guest on someone’s blog or doing an author interview can help generate buzz. Not that you should stalk people, but usually interviews end with something like, “So, what are you working on now?” I put blog hops in here because I’ve seen many authors doing it and it seems to work. Though I haven’t tried it yet. I am considering it but I’m not sure. Have you blog hopped? Tell us how it works!

Strategy – As Self-Publishers we can really do what we want with our release but I would still recommend doing so strategically. Release your book around high book reading cycles. A book reading cycle is a time where people purchase books the most or do the most reading. We’ve all heard it before: selling books are not like other businesses, nevertheless, there are ways selling books is similar to other businesses. One way is a cycle. Usually, businesses bulk up and do sales and all sorts of things around popular sales cycles. Could be a holiday or whatever the product is popular for. For your book release, consider releasing it around high reading cycles:

  • Holidays
  • Weekends
  • Summer

…and if your theme is AFAM historical in nature, February for Black History Month.


Epic Book Release – Make your book release day a special one. Since 2014 (when I started this blog and got serious about book publishing) I’ve been releasing my books online and in person on the same day. If my book goes live on Amazon on release day, I’ll spend that same day pushing paperback sells at a hotel lobby or library with book signings. This gives me a chance to speak, sign hard copies, increase total launch day sales, and takes pics of my newborn to post online. I mean my new book of course.

Things to remember when you’re up close and personal:

– Purchase books in advance of event (like 3mos in advance. Live events are more expensive since you’re renting space, possibly traveling, and purchasing items so purchase books in bulk ahead of time).

– Include promo items: Bookmarks, business cards, flyers, post cards, whatever you can bring to liven up your table and give away as gifts

– Laptop – You can use your laptop two ways: You can have your eBook page open for staunch eBook readers. They can approach your station, which you’ll have set up nice and professional like they’re applying for a job at Walmart, and they can purchase the eBook there, supervised by a personal assistant, while you sell the paperback to those wanting hardcopies.

Or, you can use your laptop to show your book trailers. Of course this is all dependent on the internet. If the place has no internet, throw a QR code on your flyers. They can scan it with their phone taking them to your site and you won’t miss a sale.

– Make sure you have change and something to carry it in, and an electronic payment method. I used Square, a credit/debit card reader you can attach to your smart phone to process card payments.

– A bunch of writing pens for autographs.

– Optional. Print large Posters of your book cover and hang them around or attach to a board so that people entering know you’re in the place to be. Have an arrow next to your lovely sign that you, the awesome author, is selling books around the corner.

– Be sure to have someone designated to take pics, a photographer or your sister with the HD camera. Trust me, you won’t have time to do it and you wouldn’t want to miss capturing the moment.

Even if you release strictly online, there are things you can do for your electronic release:

  • Giveaway – have a major giveaway (include a bookmark, business cards, and flyer in package) or something exciting.
  • Blog Release Party  – Do a blog release party or a game related to the theme of your book. You can host this on your blog or by throwing a Facebook Launch Party. To learn more about how to plan for a Fb Launch Party, google it. No, seriously, everything is on Google pretty much.
  • Start a thunderclap campaign. I did this and its great. Instead of paying for social media  people pay in a tweet or facebook post. You set a goal and those who sign up pledge a tweet or post. On the day of release, their accounts simultaneously post about your book release!

To succeed in anything, we often look at what we know but the key is what you do not know. Only when you can understand that you don’t know anything, can you come to truly understand. The Stella Trilogy is not my first work. My Self-Publishing career did not begin with The Stella Trilogy.

I’ve actually been publishing since 2008 but it wasn’t until 2014 when I realized I knew nothing about publishing, that I truly started to learn a little and it is why I am most known for Stella and consider it my best work. My hope is that my next series does better, garners more reviews, and reaches a wider audience. Now that I know I know nothing, I am ready to understand all.

The same can be said for blogging in general. Do you really know how to blog or do you just perceive to know?

In short, this is why I cover the very basics of Self-Publishing. This is why I talk about the ABC, goo-goo, gaga. Because until we can admit that we don’t know anything, only then can we begin to see. If you don’t understand the simple, how can you understand the great?

And so, I am for building strong foundations so that from there, I can build on what I build.

In closing, we want to start letting people know that yes, we are writing a book and plan to publish it at least six months before the book is to be released. Funds are limited, at least mine are! That said, it doesn’t have to be anything grandiose, but set goals. Will you get lots of reviews? Probably not. Will you sell lots of copies? Probably not. But, what if you do? The truth is you don’t really know until you try. Don’t wait three months or two weeks before the book is to be released to let people know about it. A general rule of thumb is that when you release your book, no one should be surprised.


Missed the first 3 episodes of Laying Bricks? This is a great time to catch up before next week!

Laying Bricks Ep 1: Guide The Bricks  (About Focusing on the Story)

Laying Bricks Ep 2: Mortar  (About the Revision)

Laying Bricks Ep 3: Cutting the Excess (More on revision with a focus on editing)

Sign- Up for my Newsletter  for a chance to read more Self-Pub Tips, Updates on my latest projects, and a free PDF of Book 1 in The Stella Trilogy: Between Slavery and Freedom.

Two Weeks Before Book Launch


I can’t believe its two weeks before launch day! Where did the time go? In just a short while, I’ll be wrapping up The Stella Trilogy with the release of the 3rd installment. I’m excited but I’ve been keeping things pretty chill. So here’s what’s going on.


I was excited to see that my editor sent me the copy of the final edit last week. There was a lot that needed to be changed and some things I just completely took out. I am so grateful for the revision process and the extra set of eyes. I think my ARC readers are going to really enjoy the revised edition.

Ebook Formatting

I have decided this time around to pay for professional eBook formatting! I don’t want my ebooks to keep looking like: who did it and why did they do it? So, while I have the basic understanding of how to format, I think its best to let someone more experienced handle it until I can perfect the skill. I am really excited about this change and should be getting the newly formatted manuscript back this week.

Print Book Proof

I am always very excited about my print book proofs! This is the final FINAL check where I get to read the book in its print book format for one final run through. I am expecting the mailman to deliver me the copy sometime this afternoon. Of course, I’ll do a FB blast when it arrives (that one part where I stand in front of a poster and hold the book up like I just made The New York Times Best Sellers List).

Photo Collage

I am thankful for all of the people who have submitted pictures so far for my Stella Photo Collage! Or at least the first one (I’m sure more pictures will be taken in ATL). I’m going to wait until a week before launch to put it together though. I want to wait until almost the last minute for the collage because I don’t want to miss including anyone’s picture.

Atlanta Event

Primarily, I’ve been focused on the Atlanta Stella Book Signing Event taking place in ATL the end of this month. It will be a combination of my Book release for Book #3 and a book signing for all of the books in the series. I am using these two weeks to finalize my Power Point Presentation and pick up the decor for the event. Which, interestingly enough, seems to be a lot bigger than anticipated. It wasn’t exactly an event per se at first but I actually have a staff now (special thank you to the six women who have come forward to assist me on the ground!) I am also going to be in a play the day following the signing which is keeping me busy. As we get closer to the date, we are rehearsing more. I am now in practice four nights a week. Speaking of which, I need to buy more coffee.

Future Works

The funny thing is that while I have this book coming out, I’ve been focused mostly on the next project. I’m reading so many books I can barely keep up and the research itself has been mind-blowing. I would tell you more about the project itself but its somewhat on the low right now. I will say it is another short story and I think Stella’s going to get a run for her money on this one! In the meantime, I am considering a Stella Book Tour to help keep me busy as I write this next story. What do you think? Would you like for me to visit your town?

Self-Publishing Questions?


Do you have Self-Publishing or Poetry Questions for The PBS Blog?

Send me your emails at and I will answer them live on my blog. Be sure to send me your contact information so we know where to find you. In the meantime, let’s take a look at our first question:

“As a Self-Publisher, do you think it’s worth it to try to get your books into the bookstores?”

In my opinion, No.

Put it this way: A Self-Publisher is a manufacturer. Bookstores are retailers. In the end I suppose it’s about one’s individual definition of success, but in truth, brick and mortars like Wal-Mart may get you the attention you need and the popularity, but you make more money distributing your books yourself even if its by way of POD publishing. You may not exactly be “making it rain”, but you have the potential to receive a royalty check for the number of books you sold. And naturally, the more books you produce, the more money you have the potential to make. You’ll get royalties from every book every month depending on which ones sold and how many of them sold the month prior. My advice is to simply skip the bookstore thing because everything is online. Just write and do some online self-promotion. There is however an offline community. But they can be driven to your electronic shelves in a number of ways (radio interviews, local newspapers, book signings, speaking events, etc.). Another way to consider, is to try to get your books into the libraries and into the  Schools  instead of the book stores. I say Library not necessarily for the money. I say the library because although everything is online, the offline community is still very much active in the libraries. Not only are computers available, but they have access to hundreds of books freely with a Library card and they can request your book if they know that it exists. That’s the focus I’m on now per offline promotion, among other things, visiting the libraries and following the protocol necessary to get into the system. As well as communicating with your local schools and getting into their systems. Again, you may not make a lot of money but the word of mouth on your new hot masterpiece will sell itself. You’ll get your book into the hands of the people and that is where you want it to be.