How to Eat an Elephant: Breaking My Writing Goals into Small Parts

Photo by RF._.studi

There is only one way to eat an elephant, according to Desmond Tutu, and that is one mouthful at a time. He meant that everything in life that appears difficult, overpowering, or even impossible may be completed gradually by taking on just a little at a time.

I was stressed when I first got the edits for my black history book back. “This is going to take forever,” I thought.

But that’s because I was looking at the entire book with no system or organization to get it done. It was just one big pile of words that needed to be sorted out. So, what did I do?

I left it alone a couple days.

The time helped me to see how I would attack it. I decided to work on two chapters at a time. And by work on, I mean do everything that needed to be done: revise, add citations, summarize. Using a dope Black history planner I ordered from Black Prints on Instagram, I blocked off the entire month of January and February with the chapters I would do for each day, leaving one day (every Sat) as a rest day where I would not work on the book at all.

It’s so cute!

This changed my outlook immensely!

I find myself looking forward to work instead of dreading it (even the boring stuff like formatting citations). If a chapter is short enough, I could do three in one day. With this system, I am already on chapters six and seven.

Doing less feels like I am getting more done!

Moral: Few people who want to write a book get around to doing it because they are thinking about writing a whole book. But how about just writing a chapter? And if that’s too much, a paragraph?

If you can commit to writing a certain amount a day instead of all at once, you will look up to a finished book in no time.

However, it’s equally important to honor your commitments, or this strategy does not work. That’s the thing about writing, no one can do it for you. If you say you will write a chapter a day, try really hard to write a chapter a day.

I am really not all that organized. I just honor the commitments I make to myself.

I would also recommend staying within schedule. While I do three chapters if the two I have for the day are short, I never go on to four.

Which means I have time to draft this blog post!

I hope this helps someone.

Have a great week!

Genuine Connections Will Take You Places Money Won’t

Since we live in a capitalist society, money is the first thing we think about when wanting to go places or do something, and if we don’t have the money, we become hopeless.

And I get it. You need money for everything. Not even a charity can run without funding. What kind of society makes it so you can’t even help people without money?

However, there are two other things we have that can make things easier:

  • Our mind
  • Our connections

Many people ask me about my self-publishing journey, and I can tell you it has been challenging. Nothing about self-publishing is easy, even now. However, what has made it easier is my connections with other people.

December, 30, 2017

When we first moved to Georgia, my husband and I visited the Nubian bookstore in Morrow. Every two weeks or so, we would buy books until we developed a relationship with the owner Marcus. As two nerds, we had no other agenda but to buy as many books as our wallets could afford and our arms could carry.

Two months later, I asked Marcus how I could get my own books into his store. (It had not occurred to me before then.)

To my surprise, we worked out a consignment deal on the spot and put my books on the shelf.

Then, he told me about the Medu Bookstore in Atlanta and referred me to Nia. I submitted I am Soul, which had to go through a review process. 

This is why…editing.

June 13, 2018

A couple weeks later, I got the call that I had passed the review board, and just like that, I was in two bookstores.

While hosting a book signing, I met a guy who told me there was a Barnes and Noble that accepts self-published books. He said I should check it out. I did, and a few moves later, I was in B&N.

Of all the advice I’ve ever given, this is probably the most important:

Building genuine connections and relationships with people can take you places money won’t.

It will allow you to skip steps you would otherwise have taken.

June 16, 2021

Once I am Soul passed the review board, The Women with Blue Eyes didn’t have to go through them to get on the shelves because they trusted me to deliver high-quality work.

In this season, instead of mindlessly scrolling social media, consider ways of leveraging your connections for more growth.

Something to think about.

Check out more Indie Author Basics Here

Short Locs and New Beginnings

I was twenty-two years old when I loc’d my hair. It is the only other time it has been this short (or a little shorter than this).

As a spiritual-minded person, I do not think of hair as just hair. I see it also as energy. (I believe the keratin protein in hair contains crystalline structures that act as energy amplifiers and antennas.) Thus, as the years have gone by, a lot of energy has been built into my locs. Some of it good, some of it not so good.

While there is the power of all I’ve accomplished, there is also the energy of losing loved ones. The energy of miscarriages. The energy of depression and sadness. As the years passed, my hair became more burdensome. They are thick and healthy but heavy. I saw this as much more than the weight of hair, but the weight of all I was still carrying after thirteen years of growth.

While I don’t think I will ever cut my locs off completely (I love my hair!), the symbolism of my cut is a cutting off of toxic emotions stored in my hair over the years and a separation from the past. It is a physical, mental, and spiritual cleansing through the release of the old and embracing the new. As I let go of those old branches, I await the beauty of the new ones to come in.

Just as pruning trees helps to remove portions that have a disease, fungi, and other types of decay, my trim represents the removal of those parts of my hair that can spread to the other “branches” and prevent them from healthier growth. It helps expose my scalp to more sunlight, air circulation makes it easier to wash and sleep, and it does not hurt my neck and back.

I feel this all on both a physical and spiritual level.

I love the overall freedom this new look gives me. I literally felt a weight lift when these heavy locs hit the floor.

This year, I intend to live more freely. I do not want to rush to do anything, conform to anyone’s ideas, or allow myself to be limited in any way. I am here for it all. This haircut is a symbol of this freedom.

I am excited about this new beginning.

PS. Exciting new update on the Black History book coming!!

Creative Ways to Resurrect Your Backlist

Hulu is about to release an exciting new series based on Octavia Butler’s book Kindred. This will open the floodgates to new interest in the book and a host of new readers. 

Kindred was first published in June of 1979, which means there are new generations of readers who have probably never heard of it or read it.

First edition cover of Kindred

This brings me to one of my favorite sayings:

“Your book is always new to the people who have never read it.”

Yecheilyah

But what does this mean?

Books are eternal in that no one has read every book in the world, which is why classics like Kindred are still being discovered.

Your book is not only new when you first publish it. It is always new to fresh eyes. 

Here Are Some Ways of Resurrecting Your Backlist:

Update the Cover

Updating the cover can be an exciting way to reintroduce your older works. Has the market changed? Can your book compete? Take the time to consider what’s selling in your genre.

Because believe it or not, books are judged by their covers!

Repurpose Into Other Formats

Is your book available in every possible format? Paperback? Hardcover? Ebook? Audiobook? Bring your older book back to life by repurposing it into a different format to reach new readers.

Bundle It, Offer Discounts / Freebies

Book bundles are great for a series but can also work as a way of offering several of your books at a discounted price.

You can also offer discounts on your first book in a series or lower the price of an older book when a new book is about to drop.

Buy a New Book, Get an Older One Free!

Another cool idea is to give a book away free in exchange for an email or offer a “buy the new book and get an older one free” deal.

Republish It / New Editions

Whether the first edition is riddled with errors or you want to add an alternate ending, publishing a new edition can bring more attention to a book you thought died on Amazon’s electronic shelf.

I have long wanted to republish my very first novel, a Sci-Fi Thriller. I hope to reintroduce her to the world in the coming future.

The moral of the story is even if you published a while ago, you can still push your backlist to new readers.

Because, and I think it is safe to say, books never die.

Check out more Indie Author Basics Here

What Indie Authors Can Learn from the Kyrie Irving Controversy

Kyrie Irving is in hot water for posting a link to the documentary Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America to his Twitter account. The movie is a film adaption of the Independently Published book by the same name. It is alleged that the movie has much antisemitism in it, (I disagree but that’s a different post), and Irving has since taken the tweet down and apologized to the Jewish community via an Instagram post.

This post is about how he found the documentary and what Indie Authors can learn about platforms.

Kyrie Irving found the documentary by researching Yahweh on Amazon, saying that’s what his name translates into. According to this interview, he typed the name in the search engine, and the movie came up.

Many Indie Authors have long-cut ties with Amazon, which is their business. What I hope we can gain is an understanding of how people search for information, namely books, and the role that it plays for us as authors.

Photo by Ricardo Esquive

Amazon is not a distributor or bookstore. Amazon is a retailer that sells many things but is known for books. They are known for books because, in addition to selling books, they operate a Self-Publishing arm called Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP. Amazon is so very well connected with books that bookstores hate them, and people who think of buying a book (and now movies) turn to Amazon almost instinctively.

Amazon is also the world’s second-largest search engine, with Google being the first.

“Amazon, with 54 percent of product searches taking place, is the world’s largest search engine for e-commerce. Technically, Amazon is the second largest search engine in the world excluding Google.”

Decoding the World’s Largest E-commerce Search Engine: Amazon’s A9 Algorithm 

When someone wants to search for a book and does not want to visit an offline bookstore like Barnes and Noble, where will they search first?

That’s right. Amazon.

Hebrews to Negroes was released on December 6, 2014.

Today (11/2022), it is a #1 Bestseller with tons of new reviews. Yes, he searched for the movie, but the book is a #1 Bestseller.

All because a rich and famous celebrity tweeted the link.

And this celebrity found it on the second largest search engine in the US.

The Point

When deciding what platforms to put your book on, consider not what you want but what readers want.

When your average reader wants to look up a movie, topic, or book, they are not going to Smashwords. They are not going to Draft2Digital. They are not even going to Goodreads like that. They are also not flooding B&N.com, though they’ll visit the brick-and-mortar bookstore (catch that).

When people (not necessarily people who are always on the internet and are familiar with the book world but everyday people with jobs who happen to want to buy something) want to look up information, they go to Google and Amazon.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Ignoring this is just not good business sense, except that your goal is not to make money from your books or bring a whole lot of awareness to it, which is cool. Not everyone publishes a book for these reasons.

(It is also not wrong to be on the other platforms, also known in the Indie community as “going wide.” It means you are not exclusive to Amazon but have your book available at other online retailers, which is awesome. I go wide myself. At the risk of steering away from the topic, that’s a post for a different day.)

However, for those of you Self-Publishing books you want people to buy, not being on Amazon is not bad or wrong, but it is leaving a lot of money (and exposure) on the table. 

This post is a nudge to consider more strongly the platforms you wish to sell your book (if you are selling it).

It is a reminder to go to the places where your potential reader will most likely hang out. 

That is the message.

Kyrie Irving found Hebrews to Negroes and made it a bestseller by posting the Amazon link (without a caption) because the book was sitting on a platform where readers are most likely to search for books. 

Go where your readers are most likely to hang out, and search for books like yours.


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Destiny

As we get closer to September and the close of this year’s poetry contest, I will post more poems from other artists to help spark creativity.

This year’s theme is Freedom, so we will focus on poems that have to do with that in some way.

This one, “Destiny” is from yours truly. Enjoy!

Photo by Pixabay

She could not tame the lyric

there was no trapping the soul

no caging the courage

no binding the song.

There was freedom in her fingers

and a revolution in her pen

this

was her prerogative

The path hard

but the calling HIGHER

the heroism of destiny

beckoning

to be set free

  • Source: Yecheilyah © 2022. (Listen to me recite this on Tik Tok @ yecheilyah or YouTube here.

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Religion and Relatability (or the Lack Thereof)

Photo by Pixabay

My mom and aunts never forced us to go to church. Except for that one year we moved from the projects to a new apartment. My aunt seemed hell-bent on giving us the American dream. I suppose after the trauma of growing up in Robert Taylor, if she couldn’t give it to us in total, she’d try to provide us with the next best thing. To her, that meant bump beds, new clothes, our own rooms, going to church every Sunday, and choir rehearsal every Thursday like all the other “good Christian folk.”

We hated it.

8 Year Old Me

The first time I got baptized, the church came to scoop the project kids up in these school buses, took us to some building, separated the girls from the boys, and made us undress and put on long, white t-shirts with no underwear. 

Right.

So when the new church tried to baptize me, I was so terrified that my entire head didn’t go into the water. 

Fortunately for us, that was the only time in our lives we were ever required to go. As we aged, going to church became one of those decisions we could make ourselves. We got to decide what or how we would believe. Later in life, my cousin decided to be a Jehovah’s Witness.

Easter, 1995, Robert Taylor Projects at 4947 S. Federal

I think choosing our belief system and the freedom of being able to explore religion outside of Christianity was one of the healthiest things the surrounding adults could have done for us, which we totally overlooked growing up.

There was so much trauma I think we missed this critical sort of autonomy our parents afforded us. And I think they missed it too. With all the drugs and abandonment, there were still these glimmers of hope we didn’t realize were diamonds in the ruff.

To make a long story short, I’m an anomaly to most people because while I am obviously spiritual, I am not religious (and I believe there is a difference.) Because no one had ever forced religion on me, I’ve never been devout in the traditional sense. I can talk about the bible all day, but I’ve never been the “church lady,” nor do I live my life that way.

And no, you don’t have to be a Christian to be a “church lady.” Ya’ll know what I’m talking about.

I have zero interest in being the embodiment of that fake piousness too often present in mainstream religions. This pretentiousness, in my opinion, causes many to lack the ability to be relatable.

Take my most recent Instagram post, for example. (If you read this later, it’s the reel with the God Did song by DJ Khaled featuring Rick Ross, Wayne, and Jay-Z…whose part was too long and not as great as everyone says, but I digress.)

In general, I don’t listen to a lot of mainstream rap. I think most of it is trash. Give me some throwback Common or Talib Kweli. I’ll even take College Dropout Kanye.

But pairing that song with the message I had for that day (and doing it on a Sunday when most people’s minds are religiously focused), I thought it would relate to people more deeply. 

And it did. 

I should point out that being relatable does not mean compromising your own beliefs. I see it more like being able to connect with something others might find familiar for a greater, more clear understanding.

My internal motto is: “You (your actions, how you carry yourself, think) will be the only bible some people will ever read.”

I hope one day more of us could consider this point of view in all its layers.