African American Images on Book Cover Premades!

If you’ve been following this blog for the past five years you know one of my biggest complaints has been the lack of African American/Black themed premade book covers. And guess what? I found a few!

Beetiful Book Covers

“Launched in 2013 by Stefanie Fontecha, Beetiful Book Covers offers African American premade book covers.”

Cover Your Dreams

This one is not exclusive to AFAM but I’ve seen several covers featuring black men/women. The prices are low so this may be useful for Indie Authors on a budget.

Marion Designs

This one looks a bit more upscale with professional photos.

Designs by Rachelle

It appears this site also occasionally features diverse photos in its premade covers.

Learn more about how to get the best out of premade covers and what to look for HERE


Do you know of any more we can add? Drop a comment on the table if you do and let us know!

The One Thing Self-Publishers Overlook When Publishing Print Books

I am getting book one in The Stella Trilogy ready for its March 24th release. Preparing this book led me to notice the one thing about my books I had neglected and the one thing Self-Publishers overlook when publishing print books.

Not all Self-Published books look mediocre because of poor cover design and editing. Lots of Self-Published books have excellent covers and are packaged well on the outside.

But there is one thing that separates most Self-Published paperback books from Traditionally Published paperback books in terms of quality.

I am talking about typesetting.

“Typesetting is the process of setting text onto a page. In this stage, which occurs towards the end of book production, the typesetter arranges the book’s interior to create the best reading experience.” 

– Reedsy 

The key is to have a Self-Published book indistinguishable in quality from high quality Traditionally Published and Independently Published books. The way the author or book designer arranges the text on the page has a lot to do with this.

Here are some suggestions for improving typesetting (if you are not paying someone to do it):

  • Don’t space your words out so much. You don’t need to double-space to that extent. You will know you have too much space if the text looks light. But also, don’t squish them together too tightly either. You will know this if the text looks too dark. (Try maybe 1.5 spacing).
  • There’s no need to double-space after periods. This practice came from the typewriter when characters were the same width, but with modern computers, there’s no need to do this.
  • The first paragraph of a chapter should not be indented. Subsequent chapters in a fiction book can be indented. Nonfiction books use a block style instead of an indent, where there is no indentation on the next line.
  • Don’t forget to add page numbers.
  • In fiction writing, the dialogue starts on a new line every time a new person is speaking, should be enclosed with quotation marks, and with each new line indented.

Wrong:

“Oh my gosh, Nora, really?” Lisa rolled her eyes. “I’m just saying,” debated Nora, “that word gets you lynched where I come from.”

Correct:

“Oh my gosh, Nora, really?” Lisa rolled her eyes.

“I’m just saying,” debated Nora, “that word gets you lynched where I come from.”

  • If you are not sure about font, serif font is a good choice.
  • Set your paragraph alignment to justified. Justified means the left and right edges are straight. This looks neater and is easier to read.
  • Make sure your trim size is appropriate for the size book you want to publish. The size of a typical novel is 6×9, but you may want your book to be shorter in size. Change the trim size in word by going to Layout > Size.
  • Adjust your chapter headings (you do have chapter headings, right??), so they are not too far down the page.
  • A new chapter starts on a new page.
  • When uploading your document to KDP, consider uploading a PDF copy of the MS, not a Word Doc.
  • Make sure your paperback book is not just edited but also formatted. You can use formatting software or pay someone to arrange the text for you. I prefer to pay a professional to do all this for me after the book has been edited. 
Available Now. Click Here.

 

It may seem small, but if you are Self-Publishing a paperback book, good typesetting makes for easy reading. This is one of those behind the scenes things that readers only notice if it’s done wrong. No one would have paid attention to the man, eating, and drinking air in Tyler Perry’s A Fall from Grace if there was food on his plate and water in his glass.

The same applies here. Readers care about the story. They are not going to pay attention to the typesetting unless it is so out of sorts it becomes distracting. 

If I open your paperback book and there’s enough space for me to write a whole diary entry between paragraphs, or it looks like a DIY your little brother put together, I am going to notice it.

It is not always a bad book cover or poor editing that brings down the quality of some Indie books. It is the typesetting or the way they print the text on the page that gives the book away.

Want more Indie Author Tips? Visit the Indie Author Basics with EC page here!

Revising The Stella Trilogy: A Behind the Scenes Look

Tomorrow will mark five years since I released the first book in The Stella Trilogy. Wowzers! I am celebrating by introducing the new cover to book one and two. If you haven’t heard, I removed the books from amazon for some much needed polish and am re-publishing them. To learn why check out the blog post “Quality Over Quantity: Why I Pulled My Trilogy from Amazon.”

While I changed the cover to I am Soul after its release and got a new cover to The Aftermath, my first novel (2012), I’ve never wholly revised my backlist before. The Stella Trilogy is getting an entirely new makeover, which includes editing, covers, formatting, and ISBNs. Why go through all the work for an old book?

Books do not expire. Every book is new to people who have never read it which is why it benefits Indie Authors to go back and update “older” works every now and again. Here are some things I saw needed work on Stella:

Editing – It wasn’t enough to slap a new cover on the books. I knew these books had to be revamped altogether. Like most newbie Indie Authors, I had a friend to edit the first version of these books because I didn’t have the money to pay someone. This time around, I am getting the books professionally edited.

Song Lyrics – The first book had song lyrics in it—rookie mistake. You need permission to include the words to a song in your books. I promptly removed those lyrics. I can’t afford to get sued.

DIY Covers – I like the cover to book one, but it was a DIY premade from Derek Murphy’s website, offered freely to authors. I added the image of the black woman, but the rest was unoriginal. I cringed every time I saw it on his site. Book two was more original as I purchased the winter lady image, but it was still poorly applied to the cover. I did everything in Microsoft Word, and since I didn’t know that super-thin books don’t need a spine (if there aren’t enough pages to warrant one) when the books printed the spine folded over to the front. Yuck. For this reason, new covers were something I knew I needed to get done.

Free ISBN – I am done with the free ISBN game. Listen, if you don’t include the cost of the ISBN in your book budget, you are still a beginner. Have I always purchased my own ISBN? No. ISBNs are expensive, but having your own is worth it. They (ISBNs) are also cheaper if you buy them in bulk. 10 ISBNs can cover ten different books. Applying your own ISBN number to the book ensures that your imprint name will be applied to the book. In other words, you are the publisher, not KDP, and not Lulu. This time around, all books in The Stella Trilogy will have its own ISBN so I can register the books to me.

BONUS: Alternate Ending – I am excited about adding an alternate ending to excite Stella fans who have already read the books. The conclusion to book one is not the ending of the original book one. Why the change? It is to tighten the link between all the stories for a smooth transition from one book to the next.

Lessons I learned so far:

Work with what you have until you can do better.

You don’t have to know everything to start. I didn’t. Work with what you have until you can do better. (If a free ISBN is all you have to work with right now, use it until you are able to move up. I did.) I do not regret putting Stella or my first books out there, even though they weren’t properly edited, and the covers were DIY. These books gave me my start, and the courage and the freedom to step out on my own. These books gave me my beginning, and I am forever thankful to Yah for them.

Then, when you can do better, please do it. 

The other part of this, though, is doing better once I knew better. If I produce mediocrity, I will only get mediocre results. Once you’ve stepped out there, it is okay to go back and change what you see needs work. We may not be perfect, but this doesn’t mean we cannot strive to maintain a level of excellence in all we do, even if the best we can do still falls short. We don’t have to stay at the same levels in the latter part of the journey as the first. We can tweak and correct and improve with time. We have that freedom, to sharpen, and to elevate.


About The Stella Trilogy

Readers reading Stella. Circa, 2015.

Stella is a work of Historical Fiction and is distinctive in its focus on one woman’s road to self-discovery, against the backdrop of the African American fight for justice, racial equality, and freedom. We discover how three individuals living in separate periods strive to overcome the same struggle, carefully knit together by one blood. The three-part series features elements of enslavement, Jim Crow, Passing, and the Civil Rights Movement.

Don’t Wait Two Weeks Before Release to Prepare Your Audience for Your Book

You don’t have to wait until January 1st to get started on your 2020 goals. If you want to release/write a book in 2020, you should be planning...now. Actually, you are already behind. Even if you are Self-Publishing, it helps to start early. Notable mainstream authors releasing books in 2020 already have their preorder up. “Planning out your book marketing in advance and adequately preparing for your book’s release is crucial to a successful book launch.” (Sansevieri, 2019) Don’t wait two weeks before release to prepare your audience for your book. Here are some tips:

  • Put some money aside for your book. Your biggest expense will be editing, then cover design. You will also need the book formatted for e-readers. Don’t wait until the last minute to put something to the side. Invest in your book. Invest in yourself. Save some coins. (Prioritize your expenses! Don’t spend money on the tools you don’t need right now. Business cards and fancy thank you cards can wait. Save your money.)
  • If you want to start a blog, do it 3-6months before your book releases. Post content relatable to the book and who you are as a person (don’t make your blog all about your book. Talk about other stuff you like.)
  • Set up your Author Social Media pages and get to work. Talk about the upcoming book, educate, inform, uplift, go live. Use SM for something other than memes and gossip. Social Media is a FREE platform to use to spread the word about your book/business. Don’t sleep on it.
  • Make sure your website is ready to go. Here’s something the “gurus” won’t tell you: Selling through Amazon is nice, but selling through your own website is better because you get the entire dollar instead of just a percentage. Print on Demand Companies like Amazon’s KDP, Lulu, and Ingram Spark makes it easy to order copies of your book in bulk that you can sell individually through your website. (You can also sell your books in bulk! I’m trying to tell you something…level it up)
  • Create a landing page with a great giveaway offer or freebie to collect emails for your author email list. A sample of the first few chapters of the new book is a good start. The email list isn’t for everyone, but it’s good to have in case Social Media (blogs included) is no more. You will still have a connection with your audience. Find what works best for you. For instance, the giveaway/freebie thing is a good idea and many people use it, but this strategy didn’t work for me. I get more email sign-ups by having the pop up on this blog than giving away a free chapter of a book. People say pop-ups don’t work but they do for me so don’t let people tell you what will or won’t work for you. I wrote a post on how to set up an email list with Mailchimp here.  Also check out 7 Common Sense Reasons You Should Build an Email List.
  • If your book is up for pre-order on Amazon, make sure you set up your Amazon Author Central Page. Add an author photo, bio, and link your blog. You can also list your events. (Listing events is no longer an option). This is a good time to set up your Author Goodreads account too. I wrote a tutorial on how to set up the Amazon Author Central page here.
  • If you want to host author events in bookstores, start pitching them about 3-4months out. If they’re local, walk-in and introduce yourself. (I book most of my events by walking in and talking to people in person.) Always travel with a copy of your book and some business cards.

The point of starting early:

You want to build your readership ahead of time so when you release the book you have people who want to buy it.


CLICK HERE for more Indie Author Basics and happy writing! I’m rooting for you.

The Pros and Cons of Author Vending

I enjoy networking with readers, other authors and business people present at conferences and festivals. One of the many ways I have access to these opportunities is through vending. Today, I would like to share a few of the pros and cons of author vending.

What is author vending?

To put it simply, author vending is when authors partner with an organization to reserve a space where they can sell their books/services/products, usually at a book festival or conference. Vending is not new and is something other businesses do all the time. The benefits of vending are numerous but there can also be some challenges for Independent Authors. As usual, I base this on my own experience which may very well differ from other authors.

Con: Financial Risk

“Consider the benefits and risks to your business when deciding to exhibit your product or service. These will be different for each event. Choosing the wrong trade show to exhibit your business’s products or services can result in displaying to the wrong audience. Poor promotion can mean the costs of attending the trade show outweigh any revenue you gain.” – Business Queensland

When you are a vendor, it means you have paid to reserve a table at an event where you will sell your books/products/services. Sometimes these costs can be very expensive. The authors must be careful not to “overpay to play.” I’ve seen tables costs as much as $600. This money could easily go toward good editing instead or the publishing of another book entirely. Authors should consider that not only will they reserve a table, but they will also  buy books and author swag for the table and travel to the event. Before saying yes to vending, consider the financial benefits and potential challenges. Ask:

  • Do I have enough funds to cover books, attendance, display and other associated costs
  • Have I worked out how many prospects and readers I will need to obtain to generate a return on my investment
  • Have I researched/visited/asked questions about the event at which I am contemplating exhibiting and am I confident that a suitable number of people will attend
  • Have I worked out a way to capture people’s attention (*This is important. I see a lot of authors at expos  looking down at their phones or just looking bored. They sit at the table for the entire time and rarely communicate with the people walking by. Then, at the conclusion, these same authors are upset because they sold no books. The people are not just going to come to you. Chances are you are not famous and no one owes you a thing. Stop being lazy, get up, and represent yourself.

Any author who wishes to be a vendor must be sure to research the event, understand what is included in the package, and know what they are looking to gain from the experience. If the goal is only to sell books, the author(s) should consider hosting something at their local library where the table is free or collaborating with other authors to cover the price of the table.

The primary purpose of vending (as I have found it) is the chance to network and get your name out there. It is a discoverability strategy, not neccessarily a profitability one (except if you have a large platform already). While an author can sell books, how many books are sold depends on the strength of that author’s network. More on that on the next con point.

Pro: Networking Opportunity

“Face-to-face communication builds the most memorable brand awareness. Last year our expos had hundreds of people walk through the door. Expos centralize a local audience that will be most receptive and ready to learn. This might be a rare occurrence for your industry depending on where you are geographically. You’ll have an opportunity to connect with new people and reconnect with those already invested in your brand.” – Peter O’Donnell, 4 Key Benefits of Becoming a Vendor

One of the major benefits of being an author vendor is the chance to network with individuals you probably would not have met or had the chance to speak with before. It is a chance to get your name out there in the public and expose your brand to people face-to-face. Last year, I spoke with the owner of Acapella Books in Atlanta when I was shopping my books around bookstores. First, he denied stocking my book, but he told me why and while it hurt my ego, I had to listen to sound advice:

“Your book will only get lost among the hundreds of celebrity authors’ books in the store. The best thing you can do right now is to get your name out there. Are you attending the Decatur Book Festival?”

I told him I was. I wasn’t a vendor, but I would be in attendance. He said good and to start there. He told me to “focus on building your platform and getting your name out there.”

Conferences and Book Festivals attract an array of media depending on the host of the event. You have the potential to meet editors, agents, publishers, celebrity authors and corporate influencers.

I don’t care what the experts say, online will never be as good as face-to-face contact and connection. Giving your readers a chance to meet you in person adds a special kind of value. “People see the truth in you through your actions, personality, and in how genuine you are with them.” (Greg Dabbs, Business Development Manager) They get to hear your voice, see your face outside of photos, ask questions, give advice, laugh and get to know you more personally.

The chances of pitching are significantly higher when you position yourself to be present at these events. You get to practice your sales pitch, research competition and increase the chances of collaboration opportunities. It is not all about money. At a decent rate vending can be the boost you need to jump-start your business. Financial investment in yourself is something you will need to consider in your career at some point anyway. Whether that is vending at a notable event or paying for professional author photos, it is something you will need to do at some point.

It is about showing up and being an author vendor is one of the easiest ways to show up, to get out and connect with people.

Con: Difficult for New/Unknown Indie Authors

Author vending is the opportunity for you to connect with your readers. It gives them the chance to meet with you face-to-face, to take pictures with you, to buy paperback copies of your books, or to have books signed they already bought. But it could be even more challenging for new/unknown Indie Authors.

“No one will come to your book reading/signing unless you are already famous. The packed author readings on the news are only packed because the author is already very well known. Book readings at bookstores are among the worst uses of time for a new author.” – Writing Well

While I don’t believe you have to be famous to do a book signing/reading for people to support you (I do well at signings and I am certainly no one famous), there is some truth in this quote. While the chances of people buying are higher in person because physical presence increases trust, authors who have multiple books out and who have already built a strong platform and audience before vending will do much better. People will already know who they are, and readers will come out to support them.

Paying money to reserve a table at an author event when you are a new author no one knows, when you have done no work to promote the event to your audience or where you have not built an audience will be like posting your Amazon buy link on social media hoping people will take a chance on an unknown author. While some people will (I usually do but I’m nice like that 🙂 ) this kind of “Hope Marketing,” rarely works. Vending is usually not free, and the money is usually nonrefundable. If you can’t at least make the money back you spent on the table, it is not worth it. Not if selling books is your only aim.

Before you spend money on reserving a table, focus on publishing more books and developing a relationship with your readers so that when you do an event people will come out to support you. Now do not misunderstand me, a first-time author can certainly do well at signings and events but only because that author already have people who are willing to support him/her from previous works.

Pro: Invitations for More Work

Photo Copyright ©2019. The Velvet Note | Velvet Voices. Yecheilyah Ysrayl.
I read somewhere that “the reward for a job well done is the opportunity to do more,” (Dr.Jonas Salk). The biggest benefit to author vending is that eventually, you will not have to look for opportunities. Opportunities will find you. It was at the Atlanta African American Book Festival that I was asked to participate in Velvet Voices, The Velvet Note Jazz club’s new and first Author/Word event. People will remember you and reach out to you for other projects. They may even ask you to be a vendor at another event. This is significant because once people reach out to you, the ball is in your court. You get to decide the terms of your acceptance. Can your table be free of cost/discounted? Can they pay you to speak? Can they purchase your ticket if the place is not in your home city/state? What is it you require for your presence? The idea here is to one day graduate from vending alone to being requested and paid to speak as well.

This is the beginnings of earning the passive income you want to help to leverage the income from your book royalties. These days, you need the additional income that comes from other streams of income related to your writing.

You may not think people are paying attention, but they are. Author vending is a great way to give a very good first-person impression that can lead to an even bigger opportunity and business partnership.

Pro/Con – Organizer / Host

It is important to ask, who is the organizer/host? The person(s) behind the event is a big deal. You want to make sure the organization or cause is something you can get behind. Vending is a big deal these days and it shouldn’t escape authors that it is also a way for businesses and organizations to make money. Choosing to be a vendor is not just about meeting new people and exposing your business, it is also about investment. Vending is an investment in yourself and an investment in the company or organization hosting the event.

The people behind the event can make this a Pro if the organization is well organized, grounded, relatively known and actively promoting the event and its participants.

The people behind the event can make this a Con if the event host is unorganized, the event is poorly promoted (bad for you if you paid for a table and are looking to turn a profit) and does little to nothing to promote the event and its participants.

It is not about jumping on every so-called opportunity available to authors. It is about being strategic and intentional with every decision you make regarding your book business.

When you are asked, invited or when you take part in a vending opportunity, be sure you connect with an organization that is relatable to the goals and the purpose you have set for yourself, that the vision of the organization is something you can support and rally behind and that they will work just as hard for you as you intend to work for them. Vending is a partnership and partnerships are not one-way streets. Or at least they shouldn’t be.

Major Cons

  • Can be costly
  • Challenging to sell books for new authors with no audience
  • Can be overwhelming
  • Can sometimes go downhill

Every marketing platform has advantages and disadvantages. Don’t let the disadvantages of author vending discourage you from participating in exhibitions and reaping the benefits of it. Just do your research first.

Major Pros.

  • Exposure to a wider set of audience
  • Creates brand awareness
  • Increases credibility
  • Promotes brand loyalty
  • Helps in Networking

I know vending is like the It thing to do now but drinking from every cup of “opportunity” is how you get poisoned. Understand the pros and cons first and be sure to research the organization hosting the event. 

Author Caution: Be careful putting all your eggs in one Basket

 

Since B&N was sold (no panic neccessary….related article links below) and since Instagram went down (again), the time is right to repost this message. It’s long but I recommend reading all the way through. It was originally published December 5, 2018 after Facebook went down. Since then both Facebook and Instagram have had continual glitches, Google Plus is no more and Createspace is now Kindle Direct Publishing.
 
 
After experiencing multiple problems with Facebook the other day, amazon admitting to accidentally sharing people’s personal information, and reading Derek Murphy’s email about hacks, author websites and updating passwords, I think it’s time to publish a post that has been sitting in my drafts (and in my heart) for some time. It has also been a while since I’ve dedicated significant time to this blog and as we come upon the end of the year; I think it’s a good way to get us thinking about potential changes in 2019.
 
Be careful putting all your eggs in one basket.
 
 
When the stock market crashed in 1929, it shocked people. They couldn’t believe they couldn’t get their money out of the banks. It was like in the movies when there’s a natural disaster or alien invasion. Right before it all comes crashing down, life is perfect. A family is sitting at the table eating breakfast. Soccer moms are dropping their children off to school and dads are hoping for that corporate promotion. And then it happens, right there. You are at the breakfast table eating a bowl of cereal and your kitchen floor splits in half with your toddler on the other side of that half.
 

This is how quickly things change.

Life before the crash was great. People were doing well. People bought stocks with easy credit. During the 1920s there was a rapid growth in bank credit and easily acquired loans. People encouraged by the market’s stability were unafraid of debt. People were comfortable. So comfortable that they weren’t prepared when it all came crashing down. Not everyone was as affected though. The great depression didn’t affect poor people as much as those who had wealth because poor people were used to having nothing. Many of them were also already growing their own food, and already self-sufficient. They had to be innovative and entrepreneurial to survive.

There is a bitter and yet wry statement which was made by blacks about the depression. They said in the south that the depression had been going on for ten years before black people even know about (laughs)… knew it existed.”  – Maya Angelou
 
 

Social Media has made it possible to make millions with online-only businesses. No longer do you need a college degree or fancy training to start a business online. Social media and e-courses changed that. Writers can now publish their own books without a traditional publisher. Independent Publishing has been around for a long time, but Print on Demand took it to another level. Print on Demand services are platforms where authors can upload manuscripts easily and quickly online and order print copies of their books. Platforms such as Lulu, Kindle Direct Publishing and Bookbaby are examples. Not only is it easier than ever to publish books, but it‘s easier to make millions from social media alone. Professional Instagrammer or YouTuber are legit business titles now. College kids are dropping out to become YouTube stars and Insta-celebrities. Because of advanced technology you don’t need to understand code to build a website yourself or need a fancy camera to shoot a movie anymore. With a basic understanding of video editing you can do this with your iPhone.

Life is good.

But remember how quickly things change.

Social Media is changing. People are more outspoken about privacy and data use. Facebook is being more strict about limitations so it’s difficult to do any promotion without buying ads (and although we do it anyway, we’re not supposed to use our personal pages as business pages). Algorithms don’t show everyone‘s post and Facebook is losing readers because of problems like the one I faced the other day (where I couldn’t log in). Facebook is constantly down and Google+ and Createspace have already closed down. Although Social Media looks good now, I wouldn’t be surprised if it, like the stock market, drastically changed so that users have to either pay for accounts or it unexpectedly closed down completely. Poof. Gone. Tragedies often happen suddenly.

gold

“By the mid-1800s, most countries wanted to standardize transactions in the booming world trade market. They adopted the gold standard. It guaranteed that the government would redeem any amount of paper money for its value in gold. That meant transactions no longer had to be done with heavy gold bullion or coins. It also increased the trust needed for successful global trade. Paper currency now had guaranteed value tied to something real.” (Amadeo, K. 2018, 17 April. History of the Gold Standard.)

The history of paper money is worth the research and is too extensive to go in depth here but in short, the dollar began its decline on being backed by gold when the Gold Standard was suspended and even more after the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Paper money was only receipts that represented a certain amount of gold. When the Gold Standard was suspended more receipts were printed, printing receipts caused hyperinflation and money hasn’t been the same sense.

What does this mean / have to do with authors?

“This isn’t 1955 where we can use a typewriter and write a book every year and a half and make money to live off of while we do book tours. Might as well get in the horse and buggy business.” – Kristen Lamb
 
Putting your eggs in one basket is a phrase which means that one should not concentrate all efforts and resources in one area as one could lose everything. For Authors, putting your eggs in one basket could mean many things.

Holding onto Outdated Information about Book Publishing

I know you see celebrities going on book tours and all that but don’t let that make you look down on Self-Publishing because it has changed the game. Traditional Publishing is not the giant it used to be. Sure traditionally published authors still get tons of publicity but the digital era is here and while huge bookstore chains like Barnes and Noble are struggling, Indie Bookstores and Indie Publishers are thriving. The key to Self-Publishing is in the ebooks big publishing companies thought would never work. “In a dismal twist of fate, NY helped self-publishing transition from ‘shunned last-ditch of the hack wanna-be writer’ into a viable and respectable publishing alternative.” (Kristen Lamb) Don’t let your perception of success cloud your judgment. The Big Six (or is it 5 now?) is not all it’s cracked up to be. And since we’re talking about not putting our eggs in one basket, nothing is as it’s cracked up to be. Amazon can be in the same boat as Barnes and Noble.

Using Social Media to build your business without a website

Investing in a business website is one of the most basic ways of running a successful business. Instead of just create a Facebook page or Instagram account, consider also creating a website. It’s not expensive and can even be a one page website but it’s good to have. You can also use your blog as your website as we discussed before (because it doesn’t make much sense to spend money on a full website if you have one or no books out). Using social media without a website is putting your eggs in one basket because social media is not stable. Likes does not mean sales unless you have somewhere to direct people to purchase your books. Social media is not the final destination or at least it shouldn’t be. Social media is a doorway that must lead to a place. Your website is that place.

❌Only marketing and promoting your books online

“Social media is an important part of your business but it shouldn’t be the ONLY part of your business.”
– Cici aka The Six Figure Chick
 
By only focusing on promoting and marketing and selling books online you are leaving money on the table and I don’t mean to sound like it’s all about money. It’s obviously not but for writers who want to make a living out of publishing books, money is pretty important. Although people talk about the death of print, radio and traditional media is still a big deal. There are still many people who aren’t tech savvy, still many people who prefer to visit libraries and bookstores, still many who prefer print books, and still many who want to see you in person or hear you speak. If you are already outspoken, this is an extra good thing for you. You’ll have no problem networking at events and meeting new readers. If you’re an introvert (like me), events help you come out of your shell and meet new readers who can follow you online. My social media pages don’t have many followers but my numbers go up after every event. While I don’t think requiring your presence to make your money is wise (because I mean, the technology is here), scheduling at least one public appearance (such as a book signing) every now and again is a good way to meet your readers face to face.

❌Only publishing books. (Neglecting other ways of making long-term sustainable income as an author)

I recently attended the inaugural We Buy Black Convention in Atlanta where hundreds of black-owned businesses convened to support one another. There, I met Real Estate Super Agent Lisa Puerto, one of the featured speakers during one of the business talks (Jay Morrison was another speaker and Dr. Boyce Watkins was another speaker but I missed them). Long story short, my husband and I loved her passion so much that although we aren’t into real estate, we were ready to buy her book when she finished and got to chat with her after the segment.

Here’s the thing that surprised me though: her table was basic. Black table cloth, books and business cards. It looked similar to my table at the signing at Nubian books earlier this year! (see pic) There weren’t any fancy fixings but her line stretched down the hall and her business cards were getting picked up like candy. She had wowed us with her passion alone and her voice was big enough to outdo any banner. I say all of this to say I’ve learned that public speaking is how we as authors get the message out about our books. Instead of promoting the book, we could promote the message of the book and help people to understand why it’s worth their time to read our stories. It’s why celebrity authors go on book tours where they get to speak to the audience and despite how we feel about her, Omarosa sold the mess out her book just by talking about it!

The book is important, but it is not the only way of making money as an author. Once you’ve established yourself as an author and have made waves with your books (please do this first), you can expand into other things such as teaching, coaching, and public speaking, as additional income sources. Only writing books is another form of putting your eggs in one basket because you’re limited to just one income stream. If you write full time (no day job, spousal support, no side hustle, e.g.) this is especially important. In striving to make a living from writing alone (once you’ve been established for a while), it’s a good idea to expand your brand beyond just writing books.

❌Not having an email list

Email lists aren’t for everyone (and certainly not before you have built some kind of audience to send them to), but could be useful if there is no more social media (blogs included). This will make the email list of great value alongside your website. It becomes another way for you to connect to your audience on a personal level. While I don’t have many subscribers, I can say with the integrity I have more subscribes than unsubscribes and I am learning more and more how to better manage my team. Every business has an email marketing to accompany their business. I don’t know why writing has to be any different. Do you want to know why people don’t take Indie writers seriously? Because we assume the basic rules of running a business doesn’t apply to us. Yes, you can opt not to do certain things as there are no rules, technically. However, there are basics and you can‘t opt out until you fully understand the basics. A website, email list, social media, and a payment method are among the foundational basis of an online business. 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 is how you get paid. These are the basics.

❌Publishing on Amazon exclusively while neglecting other retailers

I think relying too heavily on Amazon is a mistake. I think a smart person would definitely have their books on Amazon but that they will also explore other retailers. It‘s about balance. Say what you want about them but having books on Amazon is just good business sense (you have to look at it the way readers do…they will search for your book on Amazon first before anything), but that doesn’t mean we have to only have books on amazon. One of the most valuable ways to sell your books is through your own author website! The reason Amazon is winning is that mostly we are promoting it. Our books may be present on other sites but if we aren’t promoting those links alongside Amazon, we cannot expect to see sales through those channels. How many times do you promote links to your book on Kobo? Barnes and Noble? Smashwords? Your own author website? If you’re honest with yourself your answer would be like mine, very little. If something were to happen to Amazon, do you know of any alternative ways of publishing? Have you educated yourself or are you only sticking with the zon? Publishing only on Amazon is putting your eggs in one basket because if amazon suddenly crashed it will take your eggs with it.

Private Business Social Media Pages

Setting your Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook author pages to private. I simply don’t understand this. Not only is nothing private online, but you are losing out on potential readers. Unless your goal is not to sell books or reach readers, it is a good idea that your author pages are public. They don’t necessarily have to be business pages but it’s not a good idea if they are private. Here’s why:

A reader comes across your page from whatever source. Someone has referred them to you or they liked your bio. They go to your Instagram page to see more of your work and get a feel for who you are but your page is set to private. They go to your Twitter page, it’s set to private. They go to like your Facebook page and hit the private wall. Few people will send you a request. Most people will leave and not come back. Why? Because if you’re using social media for any kind of business (and if you wrote a book, you are in business) potential readers/clients shouldn’t have to follow you to see what you offer.

Private business pages force people to follow you just to see what you are about. If you are that afraid of scammers and trolls then you should probably not be on social media. I’m just being real with you here. If your social media pages are business pages, if you are trying to connect with readers and clients, why is your page private? That is just not good business sense unless your goal is only to reach the choir. 

❌Wasting time arguing about whether Self-Publishing or Traditional Publishing is better.

These debates are a waste of time (this is coming from the person who thinks nothing is a waste of time) and forces authors into putting their eggs in one basket. Publishing Independently works for me but I won’t sit here and say I will never traditionally publish a book if it came time for it. There’s a time and place for everything and I am at a place where Independent Publishing works well for me. (Indie Publishing is also thriving right now). I cannot say this won’t change because I cannot predict the future. There’s nothing wrong if you suddenly went the traditional route or if you decided to self-publish because the value doesn’t change. You are still worthy no matter how you publish. By making this out to be some competition we lose sight of what really matters and create self-imposed limitations. This bullet point differs from the others and may seem out of place but that’s why I must mention it. It’s a low-key way of putting your eggs in one basket. Self-Publishing is one basket and Traditional Publishing is another basket. You are not limited to just using one. It’s okay to keep your options open.

This post will be too long to cover every single area of how we leave money on the table by putting all our eggs into one basket but here are some additional areas:

Neglecting audiobooks

Not developing a business plan for your writing business / not legalizing your writing business

Not listing your books on Goodreads or creating an Amazon Author Central Page

Discounting your books / products online so much that it undermines your business

Not discounting your books / products at events and conferences. (People aren’t going to pay $20 for a Self-Published book from an unknown author. Unless you’re already a celebrity or very good at persuasion, most people won’t take the chance. Discount your books when you sell them in person!)

Consider not relying on one way of doing things. People say that you don’t own social media but that is true for everything online. You don’t own that blog no more than you own that email list, no more than you own those social media pages.

I have to say, when Facebook tripped, as it often does, I was so happy that I at least have a website and email list to direct people to. If I had to rely on my Facebook page only, it would have caused me to panic as Facebook not working would mean losing all my contacts. Social media is an excellent tool as I can sit here and write to people all over the world from my computer. But traditional media still holds weight and that face-to-face “old stuff” still works as an option to connect you to your readers. People thought farming was old too until it was the poor black farmers whose homegrown food fed them during the depression. The same thing for social media. Those who neglect digital are doing themselves a great disservice as well. Balance is the key to all of this.

The eleven sons of Jacob survived and flourished because their brother Joseph, who had become second in command to Pharaoh through his gift of properly interpreting the Pharaoh‘s dream, had created storehouses throughout Egypt where the people could come and buy food. When his brothers left Canaan for Egypt, they could find refuge. Could we learn from this? Could we be the Joseph’s of our day? Or will we wait until the famine wipes out all we have?

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