As I prepare to return my manuscript to my editor for a final comb-through, I am also ready to assemble a street team of beta readers and advanced reviewers.
Having not written a history book before (that’s not fiction), I had no idea it would be this much work. However, I am eager to share everything I have learned with you.
If you are familiar with the Black History Fun Fact Friday series, this book is that series in book form, only much more polished and with more information.
Beyond that series, what inspired the book?
We are particularly familiar with the names of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston. These outstanding leaders had a lasting impression on Black Americans’ history.
But two questions stick out:
How much do we really know about them?
Did you know MLK was born Michael, not Martin??
What are some names and histories of other leading Black people and events we are unfamiliar with?
Did you know a Black man, Lewis Howard Latimer helped Thomas Edison with the light bulb and Alexander Graham Bell with the telephone? These inventions could not exist in their present capacity without Lewis!
You can expect to read this kind of information in 200 pages of mind-blowing Black Historical Facts your history teacher left out.
I am looking for:
Black / African American readers passionate about Black history
Readers of any ethnicity who love Black history
History buffs in general
Readers willing to leave an Amazon review after reading the book
Readers willing to post about the book on the social media platform of their choice. (I do not dictate how you do this. You can publish it to your feed or story. I am grateful either way.)
Note: While I appreciate editorial feedback, you do not have to be an editor to beta read. Before publication, this book is receiving professional editing and proofreading.
You get a free ecopy of the book before it comes out.
You get free shipping on the paperback when it comes out. (You will get a private access code to input for your free shipping when the time comes.)
You get a special mention on my social media (@yecheilyah) in the form of a professional graphic I’ll use to promote early reviews.
What to Do Now
Copies will start to go out when the final version of the manuscript is ready. If you signed up, keep an eye on your email to stay posted.
You must inform me of your interest via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to receive further information on how to help, including the ARC terms and an advanced book copy.
I believe reading to be so powerful that it has the capacity to make one wise regardless of whose institution of higher learning the person has or has not attended. In the world of books, it makes no difference whether they completed grade school, high school, or learned to read later in life. That is the capability of the human mind. It is reprogrammable for excellence. The person who spends more time reading than engaging in frivolous activities can become a person of intellect of the highest degree despite their circumstances. Of this, I am sure.
My experience with reading is that it has an unparalleled ability to jolt the mind into action, turning readers into superheroes capable of phonemic awareness, visual and auditory processes, comprehension, and fluency. Nothing would make me happier for this generation than for them to sit down with a book and taste the deliciousness of its knowledge on their tongues. Magic exists in the world of expanded vocabularies, the ability to think critically, analyze, and solve problems. With just one flavorful novel, they, too, can be hooked on the limitless potential of being a well-read person.
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.
Getting negative reviews on your book is a real heart-breaker. How dare they talk about your baby like that? I mean, you are obviously the best writer ever. Getting negative feedback on your book feels like a personal attack.
And not just for Indie Authors, but for all authors.
Sister Souljah got so many negative reviews for her latest release, Life After Death, that she was compelled to address it on Instagram, saying, “Stop crying about the death experience of WINTER SANTIAGA, AND START THINKING. STOP DEBATING and start reading.”
The first part of studying a review is remembering that it is someone’s opinion based on their experience. Even professional reviews are expert opinions. We are not changing our voice or altering our style based on the views of fifty people.
We are only looking to see if this person’s opinion has any value we can learn from.
“It was a little difficult discerning who exactly was talking or even who was who at the beginning. The scenes seem to always end at a cliffhanger. The premise is interesting, bit the follow through needs work.”
This is a two-star review of my latest novel, The Women with Blue Eyes: Rise of the Fallen. The dialogue in my stories is strong, but my tense usage and POV need work. Because I know these are my weaknesses, this review has merit.
Do I think it is so bad it deserved two stars? Of course not, but that doesn’t make the point invalid.
Use Your Discernment
Once the shock of the negative reviews has worn off, we can use the power of our discernment to see that not all critical feedback is hostile. Our wisdom will show us what part of the review is worth looking into and what part to let be.
While I will work on the point of view, I am not worried about ending scenes with a cliffhanger. I like it because it’s a good way to keep people reading.
In the words of bestselling author James Patterson, “At the end, something has to propel you into the next chapter.” This is the reason we are addicted to that TV show. We come back week after week because we are held in suspense. Cliffhanger endings are the hallmark of page-turner fiction or, in this case, binge-worthy shows.
“I enjoyed the premise of the story, but sometimes was a little thrown with whose point of view I was reading.”
See that? I cannot ignore this. It comes up repeatedly, which means it is a legitimate issue I need to fix. Now I know what to work on for my next book. I hope to hear fewer complaints about this in the future.
If we change the way we look at it, critical reviews are cause for celebration.
In this fake everything era, where people buy followers, engagement, and body parts, what we might consider a negative review is a good thing. Unless the negative reviews come from a hater who is trolling you, having a good mixture of good and “bad” reviews gives the book authenticity.’
This is so important to understand in the Indie Author community. There are some poorly written and produced books with nothing but five-star reviews.
How Detailed is the Review?
I have learned the more detailed the review is, the more likely there is something there. While “Excellent book” makes us feel good, explaining what made it an excellent book is more helpful.
In the same vein, commenting that a book was “terrible” does nothing for the author. What made it terrible? What are the ways the author can improve? What did not work for you?
“I wish I could get a refund. This will not get read this is a terrible book and she could have kept this.”
– Amazon Customer Review of Life After Death by Sister Souljah
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but this is not a helpful review and the “she could have kept this” is unnecessary. This is the kind of review you do not have to spend your time trying to dissect. It offers no insight. I am sure Sister Souljah laughed it off.
“I think this author has much more to give. I felt as though she was dancing on the outskirts of the story, just giving the reader a little tease. With the author’s style of writing, I really think this book could be a nice, long novel, really delving into Nora’s life and her families past, followed with nice, long novels in the series.”
This reviewer has a good point worth considering. I definitely need to continue Nora’s story. I accept the reader’s thoughts here because they make sense.
“Ms. Ysrayl shares about her challenges and how she has overcome some and others are a continuous life-long journey. The elimination of repetition of paragraphs and sentences, would earn the book 5 stars.”
Repetition in my writing is something I need to work on, so this reader’s thoughts have merit. Sure, it stings, but it is also true.
“Many of the poems have a good message. Liked the ones with imagination like Sabbath. But to really touch a heart, the thinking and framing should be less self-centered, in my humble opinion.”
My Brain: What?
This is an example of a review I didn’t bother to give much thought.
First, the self-centered part is confusing. Next, the reviewer is a white man who probably couldn’t discern the book is mainly about the collective Black experience more than anything. (He only gave it 3 stars) This one is another example of how you don’t have to worry about the negative reviews that don’t make sense.
But it also brings to my attention something I almost forgot to mention:
A book marketed to the wrong audience increases the likelihood of bad reviews.
If I buy a Historical Fiction novel that turns out to be a Romance, I will more than likely rate it low.
Going back to Life After Death, the book is marketed as urban fiction, but it would be more appropriate for the Paranormal / Sci-Fi or even religious fiction genre.
Unfortunately, the audience that loved The Coldest Winter Ever is not the same audience for Life After Death.
This means as a Self-Publisher, identifying your target audience and marketing your books to that audience is critical. I am Soul will rate higher with Black women and Black people than anyone else because I wrote it for them. It doesn’t mean other people can’t read it or won’t read it. It means I increase the likelihood of positive reviews if the people I wrote the book for are reading it.
All Reviews Matter
You do the author a great disservice when you decide not to review a book because you didn’t like it. You not only rob them of the chance to increase their reviews, but you also rob them of the chance to improve on their writing. And if you are an author and only want positive reviews, you are robbing yourself.
The purpose of reviews for any product or service is not to only talk about how good it is. Positive and negative reviews are helpful, though I use negative loosely here. The reviews that are off the wall and utterly ridiculous are reviews I consider negative. But, the critical thoughts that offer insight on how the author can do better are necessary for growth.
So, what to do the next time someone rates your book low?
First, be grateful. Many great writers have received negative feedback on their books. You are in good company.
Next, study the review itself. Is there something you need to work on? Or is the review not worth stressing over?
Instagram is my favorite place to interact with readers outside of this blog, Twitter follows this, and then Facebook is last. If you are an author on Instagram or have ever thought of using it as a platform, here are some of my favorite hacks for increasing engagement.
Less is More: Pick a Few Kinds of Posts and Stick with It
I heard David Shands of the SleepisforSuckers brand and the Social Proof Podcast mention something like this and realized I was already doing it. This awareness encouraged me to stay consistent with this strategy, which has been working wonderfully. If you’ve been paying attention, I only post four kinds of content.
Books I Read / Recommend
Author / Entrepreneur Stuff
Family / Travel Stuff
I have incorporated reels, but that’s more along the lines of the medium to which I present the content.
Whether it is in the form of a reel, IGTV video, or image, the core of my content is the same.
It seems like I do a lot, but when you break it down, I really don’t. Everything I post falls into one of these four categories. A poetry contest post falls into the author business category. A t-shirt promo is an entrepreneur post, too, because I am promoting someone’s brand. A post of my twin sister or hubby or doggie is a family post, and so on.
While I still struggle sometimes with what to post, knowing I only have to focus on one of these four (depending on the last time I posted about it) makes it much easier to stay consistent.
I learned you don’t have to have a lot going on to be productive.
I don’t even post a lot. Some recommend posting at least 3x a day on Instagram to stay on top of the algorithm. Welp, I am behind on that. But I will say that has not affected my engagement, and I think it’s because the kinds of posts I publish are consistent. Remember, consistency is not about speed or quantity. To be consistent means something that does not vary.
Use Saves and Shares to Learn What’s Working / Not Working
Instagram, like every other app, is constantly changing. In 2021, the platform’s algorithms favor saves and shares over comments and likes. Below is an image someone posted that sums this up perfectly.
Likes still play a role. It is just not the most important in terms of pushing the algorithm.
You can’t see how many saves someone’s post has or know who has saved your post or shared it, but the act alone helps understand the kind of content your audience engages with the most, which lets you know what types of content to post.
UPDATE: Below is a screenshot of how the save, share, like, and comment buttons look on IG. Saving is not reposting. It’s just clicking that ribbon looking icon on the far right and the post is saved instantly. On the left you have the like button, comment and share.
To view the insights for a post (assuming your page is a business page), click on the insights tab under your post.
It will pull up your insights…
…including the number of accounts you reached, the percentage of people who weren’t following you before, the number of people who followed you, and your impressions.
This will help you see what kinds of posts people engage with the most, which is your audience’s way of saying what types of posts are getting their attention.
I measure the success of a post based on the number of saves, then shares, comments, and then likes. Notice likes are last, and that is because the algorithm wants to cut down on bots. Some people also buy followers for some strange reason. A bot can like a post, but true engagement is measured by more thoughtful action. Comments of five or more words are better than emojis, and shares and saves are better than likes. The Women with Blue Eyes post did far better than I thought it would, which lead to preorder sales from new people.
Create Folders for Saves
When I come across a post, I like I save it for later—especially a Black History post I may want to repost in the future.
When you save a post, it will show you something like this.
Click Save to Collection
The list of your folders will come up. If you do not have folders, click on the plus sign and create one.
To view your saves in folders, go to Saves, and there they are. This makes it easier to go back to those dope posts to share, like, or comment on them.
My folders are:
Separate Business Messages from Personal Messages in the DMs
I don’t know if you know, but many good business deals happen in the DMs. I’ve sold lots of books from the DM alone. Here’s how I keep up with it: I separate my business messages from personal/family messages.
Direct Messages from family and friends go under the general tab, and business messages go under the primary tab.
I also have my messages set up to limit who messages me, so I am not bombarded by spam and freaks. Here’s how to do it:
Go to Settings > Messages > Message Requests On
This means that their message comes in as a message request you can either approve or decline for anyone not following you.
You can see a preview of the message, so you can decline it if it looks weird and then block that person.
We have all heard about the other things I do before, such as always using the best picture possible, including a caption that describes the image and using relevant hashtags. For the photos, make sure they are not pixelated and that the text on the image is not hard to read. Instagram focuses on photos, so your pictures must be eye-catching.
And those are some of my hacks! Feel free to use them and tell me how it’s going. Do you have any social media strategies you use to interact with your readers and strengthen your author brand? I’d love to hear about it!
To my surprise, so many people enjoyed the first chapter, so I came back the next week and wrote another chapter and then another and then another until I had written eighteen chapters of a book I never intended to write.
The more I shared, the more readers loved it. This got me excited!
In 2020, while we were all bored in the house and in the house bored, I worked on finishing the book. It is now a full-length novel I will release later this year.
If you have been following this blog over the years, you are already familiar with The Women with Blue Eyes (now titled The Women with Blue Eyes: Rise of the Fallen) and I am so excited to finish it for you.
Moral of the Story
It’s okay to step outside the box and write something different, especially if it’s something you know readers would enjoy. Master P is not just a rapper, he is also a full-blown businessman with several products. He has everything from cereal to oodles and noodles, to potato chips to fish fry.
As I was drafting this post, I tried to think of how to explain that it’s okay to write in a genre you are not typically known for without sacrificing your author brand.
My first thought was to remind you that you are the brand, not the book. It is less about the genre and more about how you stay true to your message.
Recently I was advised to “stay in my lane” of military and espionage writing so that I could be considered for that niche. This is especially so because my background supports this lane.
Yet when I mentioned staying in my lane to an entertainment industry exec, she had an interesting POV about branding oneself as a writer.
She didn’t agree with staying in one’s lane in terms of specific genres. Instead, her advice to me was to remain the same lens and perspective across genres.
“Remain the same lens and perspective across genres.”
I love this because it frees the writer from the genre box. In my own words, I would say to write in whatever genre you want, but keep your message consistent. While Master P does many different things he wasn’t known for before, his “No Limit” message stayed the same.
Since I usually write Black Historical Fiction, my story will incorporate black history, all the way down to how I represent the characters. In Greek Mythology, Paschar is the angel of vision and is a white male. In my version, Paschar is still a fallen angel, but she operates in the skin of a black woman.
I’ve also infused black history into the narrative with my character’s background and dialogue. If you’ve been following the series on this blog, Miss Vicky is a new character you haven’t met yet. She is a member of the renovation committee at the new Altgeld Projects and former cook for the Chicago Chapter of the Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast Program. Here is an excerpt from her giving black history to a couple of corner boys working for Big Sam’s organization:
Closer to the buildings, girls jumped double-dutch on the sidewalk, and young boys stood up on their bikes, riding them back and forth. The boys wore no shirt, and yellow headscarves hung out of their back pants pockets. Their pants were always sagging, revealing their boxers underneath. They knew they will be scolded by Miss Vicky if caught. She was always telling them to pull their pants up and giving the history of Buck Breaking. It was the practice of slave owners raping black men as a form of punishment on the plantations and then forcing them to sag their pants in the fields, so everyone knew the cost of disobedience.
“Nuh, uh,” the boys would protest, “I heard that started in the jails Miss Vicky.”
“You heard wrong,” the middle-aged woman would protest, “that’s not to say it didn’t circulate in the jails, but that ain’t where it started. Buck Breaking was popular in the Caribbean ya see, and it involved white supremacists and slave owners raping a male slave in front of the public to embarrass him and make him feel less of a man. Buck Breaking became popular when slave rebellions went up. Enslaved men were first stripped naked and flogged.”
“What’s flogged Miss Vicky?”
“Boy, don’t they teach you nothing in school?”
The boy would laugh, holding onto the handles of his bicycle.
“He don’t go, Miss Vicky,” another boy would chide, laughing at his friend.
“You remember how ya mama beat you for stealing car parts last year? That’s flogging. Whippings. Beatings.”
“She flogged ya ass,” the boys’ friend would tease.
Vicky would hide her laughter and continue her lesson. “Like I said, they would flog—whoop the man in front of a crowd after they raped him to serve as a warning to other slaves. Sometimes enslaved men with families were forced to have sex with each other in front of their family, or they were raped in front of their sons…”
“Dang,” the boy would say, doing wheelies on his bike.
“Hmm hmm, sure did. Lot of ’em who had gone through the process of buck breaking killed themselves afterward or ran away and never returned. Better learn ya history.”
“Aiight,” the boys would say, smiling and riding off. Miss Vicky would go on to finish her laundry, and the boys would ride off and play. Secretly, they enjoyed listening to her black history stories and would ask her questions just to get her talking. Though, they still did not pull up their pants.
The boys were not regular teens. They were corner boys for Big Sam’s crew. The yellow bandanas that hung from their back pocket was proof that they belonged to the organization. Miss Vicky liked talking to them because they were innocent during these conversations. When she spoke to them, she saw their youthfulness peaking out from behind their eyes. It was hard trying to get a fourteen-year-old boy who paid all his mama’s bills with drug money and had already decided he was a man to listen to you, but when Miss Vicky told her stories, they listened. At these times, she could see them like she used to when they were just four and five years old before Scar recruited them.
How does a Black Historical Fiction writer write Fantasy? By infusing black history into the narrative. You will learn how it all ties in when you read the book.
Read. Read. Read.
Another tip I would add is to read books in that genre. No matter how deep your message, nothing will free you from not following the basic elements associated with that genre, so read, read, read. Otherwise, nothing is wrong with stepping outside the genre box.
Share Your Work
Next, don’t be afraid to share your work. I don’t know if I would have been as confident in this story as I am if not for my freedom readers and their feedback! Thank you all for helping me pick a subtitle. The winner (as you can see) is Rise of the Fallen!
Try It Out on the Blog
And finally, blogging is another great way to write your book! It gives you the chance to get instant feedback that could help you to stay motivated along the way.
“I don’t think Byron stands a chance from falling.”
“Wow wow wow. I am enjoying this story. I’m all invested. I can’t wait for the next installment. This story has some interesting characters. Keep up the excellent penmanship!!!!”
“I’m truly enjoying this :-). I’m glad I can click on episode 3 😛 Thank you EC. Much love from Spain.”
“Loved this and wanted to read more. Is there more?”
“You are an excellent writer.”
“Hi Yecheilyah! I’m new to this series. I will need to go back and catch up! Chapter ten is captivating.”
When Tina’s nephew Ronnie died, it traumatized her. It wasn’t just that he died. It was the way he died. After taking custody of Ronnie’s sisters and brother, Tina experienced supernatural phenomenons that eventually led to therapy and hallucinogenic suppressants. This didn’t help.
She meets Azbuga, an Archangel sent to tie the missing pieces together, still connecting her to Ronnie’s death.
Paschar is the angel of vision. She once saw the beauty of visions from the Almighty and projected these into human consciousness. Now, she is limited, capable only of seeing physical beauty, extracting energy from mortal man, and projecting illusions.
Paschar has fallen, and in a jealous rage, she attacks black men for their power. How dare he choose them over her?
Can Tina, Jason, and Az defeat Paschar and her legion once and for all? More black men are dying, and you can’t fight spiritual warfare with physical weapons.