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.
Many people ask me how I manage doing so many things. First, you should know I don’t have a 9-5 and no small children to look out for, so this gives me more flexibility with my day. Here are some things I do daily to increase productivity.
I Walk Daily
One of the first things I do in the morning after prayer and coffee is walk a mile. Georgia is a hilly place and there’s this big hill around my house that will have you dying chile, but is a great way to get the blood pumping. If I don’t walk around the house, me and hubs go to the park and do two rounds around the area.
If I feel like doing more, I come back and hit the treadmill or the AB machine. You might wonder what this has to do with anything.
Physical activity helps to reduce anxiety, depression, and negative moods by improving self-esteem and cognitive function.The way I feel after a good workout and all the creativity flowing through me is thrilling. I feel energetic and happier than sluggish and irritated. It doesn’t have to be over the top. Thirty minutes a few times a week consistently can work wonders. You’ll find you have more mental clarity and creativity after working out.
I Don’t Watch Much TV
As much as I love my black movies and go around quoting them, the truth is I don’t actually watch a lot of TV during the day. Most of my TV watching is in the evenings and on the weekends. During the day, I’m working. If I finish early, I read or listen to a podcast or I’ll have an inspirational YouTube video playing in the background. I can listen to Maya Angelou interviews all day.
I Set Deadlines
This is important for me because I forget a lot. I set dates for important stuff I need to get done. I mark these dates on a calendar and it has to be a literal, physical calendar and not my phone because again, I’ll forget. Setting deadlines also helps me to be more accountable for what I said I would do.
I sleep more now than I did before and it has made a tremendous difference. I don’t necessarily go to bed super early, but I take naps if I am feeling tired during the day. Yesterday, I got a lot of good rest because I went to bed earlier than usual. Slept for a few hours, woke up to eat and went back to bed. It was great. When we sleep, our brain reorganizes and recharges itself, and removes toxic waste byproducts which have accumulated throughout the day. This shows that sleeping can clear the brain and help maintain its normal functioning. If you are not getting enough sleep, it’s like a computer whose battery is low, it will eventually shut down. This means this “No days off, no sleep” grind culture is actually not very healthy.
Schedule Blog Posts
Far as keeping this blog updated is concerned, a lot of the posts ya’ll read I’ve scheduled to go live days in advance. First, I write a draft. When I come back to finish it I set a time I want it to publish. I also have the WordPress app on my phone so I can share the post on Twitter and respond to comments on the go.
Other things that help me is that I drink a lot of water and I don’t smoke or drink hard liquor. (I do drink wine.)
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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!