If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree

When I was a teenager, my cousins joked that I had discovered the cure for AIDS. It was their way of saying I was smart because I read a lot.

I even overheard my mother telling my aunt I was special. I got offended because I thought she meant special as in slow.

That’s because when I was a kid, I thought I was stupid.

In grammar school, I was a terrible student. I got straight Fs in the early years. And when we had to take the IOWA Test, I started to get held back. I can remember going to summer school as early as third grade, and I failed sixth grade twice. I failed seventh grade too, but someone had mercy on me enough to add my name to the eighth-grade roster, and that is how I entered the eighth grade.

I honestly cannot tell you what happened. I never learned the details. As far as I was concerned, it was a miracle.

Once in the eighth grade, they routinely removed me from class to go with the Special Ed teacher. My specific area of difficulty was math.

Whenever that teacher came to the door, all five of us would get up and walk out, and everyone knew what for. It was embarrassing, and I felt ashamed.

If I was so terrible at school, how did I graduate with honors with an armful of Creative Writing awards? And how did I end up in ILCA?

ILCA is short for International Language Career Academy. It was a program at my high school where students had to take four years of language instead of two, and all their courses were advanced except for the electives.

By my junior year of High School, I was not only enrolled in all honors classes, but I was also taking courses at Robert Morris College in downtown Chicago.

I would go to school during the day and then hop on the Green Line and go to college at night.

At the time, I was a member of the UMOJA Spoken Word Poetry club, trying out for track, and the only member of the yearbook team.

My schedule was crazy.

I was also on the drama team, where we wrote and performed plays at school assemblies.

At one of these plays, I recited my poem, “Black Beauty.” It was the first time I had ever shared my poetry with the public.

But let me back up just a bit.

I never explained how I went from Special Ed for math to taking advanced math classes…and passing.

Writing.

My eighth-grade teacher discovered I knew how to write, so they built my assignments around writing.

I excelled.

I excelled so much that I passed math, graduated with honors, and was placed in an advanced High School Program.

There’s an old saying, usually attributed to Einstein, that goes something like:

I was this fish. I used to think I was stupid.

Something in my brain just did not click. I didn’t even learn to ride a bike until I was nine years old.

At the time, The Robert Taylor Projects were considered the poorest urban community in the United States, second only to Cabrini Green. We did not ride bikes. We made tents out of dirty bedsheets, seesaws out of bed railings, and rollercoasters out of shopping carts.

Ain’t nobody have money for bikes.

And even though I’m a full adult now, I still get anxious about math and count slower than most.

People think I’m book smart, but the truth is it wasn’t until I focused on what I was good at (my purpose) that I started to do well.

It was never about being smart, but I was also not stupid. I just needed to find what worked for me, even if that meant I had to work harder than others.

The Point

Passion is connected to purpose. Those things you love to do (with or without payment), has a lot to do with what you are called to do.

Some of you are struggling with something, and it’s not because you are stupid or slow or incapable.

It could just be because you are a fish, trying to climb trees because that’s what everyone else is doing.

Find you some water.


I am Soul is 99cents through February. If you have read this book, be sure to leave an honest review on Amazon!

One Cool Strategy for Busy Bloggers

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Blogging takes up a lot of time and staying consistent, whether that’s blogging once a week or every other day, isn’t easy.

But it could be more manageable.

Republish Your Content

Who says you can’t share the same content again? Whether that is an interview you did, a radio show, or a blog post, every once in a while, you can reshare an older post by rescheduling it to republish.

Even though it is an earlier post, it can still apply to the current time. For instance, if you wrote about Juneteenth this year, you can reschedule that post to publish again on Juneteenth next year. Between this year and next year, you would have met more readers and gained more views. It will also surprise you to see how many of your current readers did not see the post the first time around.

Go through your blog posts and choose a post that resonated deeply with your audience you feel is relevant enough or important enough to repost.

Using myself as an example, Thursday, I republished a Throwback Thursday Jam by Minnie Riperton.

First, you will need to edit the post. I prefer the classic editor because it’s easier for me.

Next to the published label, click on edit and change the date and time to the day you want to republish the post.

Once you have chosen your new date, click ok and schedule.

I will not republish this video because I already did, but if I were to keep it this way, this post would publish again on August 2, 2020, at 12a EST, and new people will see it.

The first time I posted this song was back in 2017, and when I republished it last week, it received more views from people who had not seen it.

It reminds me of publishing in that your book is always new to the people who have never read it.

Your post is always new to the people who have never read it.

You can also share some of your older posts/articles on social media. People who don’t know you and never read your work will probably become new followers of your blog for more value.

I have found some cons to doing this, I must mention. If you are blogging on WordPress (which is the platform I am always referring to since I blog here), I caution on reposting blog posts that have been re-blogged a lot. The republished version will have a new link meaning that backlinks to your article that someone may have shared with their audience on their blogs won’t work.

A backlink is a link created when one website links to another and is suitable for SEO or search engine optimization. This is why I said you could also share the posts as many times as you want on social media without reposting it. In this way, you can edit the post and share it without breaking the original link. I would also recommend avoiding reposting too much. Fresh content is always preferable.

Don’t have time to blog? If you have been blogging for a while, you possibly have tons of content sitting right there to republish and it only takes about ten minutes.


Note: Republishing is easier and more effective if you have built up an archive of posts. You can’t repurpose content if there’s no content.

Click here for more blog tips!

My 7 Instagram Tips for New Authors

I think Instagram is a great place for writers because there is a prodigious reader and writing community there.

Below, you will find seven tips I put together for new writers who also enjoy using the gram. Hope it helps.

  • Tip #1: Private Page to Business Page

If you’re an author using Instagram, it’s a good idea that your author page is a business page. This will allow you to use insights and other metrics that can help you post quality content by looking beyond the number of likes and tracking things like saves, shares, demographics, and the best times to post based on when your audience is online. (You can find this under insights)

Business pages are also automatically public, which is what you want. If you are trying to build readership and engagement, your author pages should not be private. That is like having a closed sign hanging off the door of your new business. To be clear, this isn’t your personal page (unless you have turned your personal page into a business page, but we will touch on that in a second). This is your business page, and business pages should be public.

Get out of thinking anything you post on the internet is private. It’s not, and if it’s any consolation, making your profile private does not necessarily make it “safe.”

Switching to Business Account

  • Although I am not a big fan of Facebook, you will need to connect it to a Facebook page to create an Instagram business page (at this writing). I know, it sucks. But IG is owned by Facebook so, go figure.

    This page cannot be your personal page but a Facebook business page. If you have not already, head over to Facebook and create a Facebook page for your author business. This will make it easier when you switch over. Then, come back to your IG, click on the three bars in the upper right-hand corner and go to settings. Click on account, then scroll down until you see the option to create a business page.

Changing a Personal Page to a Business Page

If you are going to turn your personal page into a business page, there are some things you will need to do first. Some people say not to do this and to create a separate business page, but I agree with both ways with a few exceptions.

To turn your personal page into a business page, you will want to make sure you delete everything that is not in some way relatable to your business. This means you might want to delete those nudes and all fifteen pictures of your cat.

Another option is to delete everyone who is not part of your readership and unfollow people who aren’t right for your business. While it is best to create a separate business page, turning your personal page into a business page could work if you are willing to make a few adjustments.

You will also have a lot of family and friends on your personal page, and family and friends are not your target audience. The chances are that’s why you are complaining so much about not getting the support you deserve. You are trying to sell to the family instead of the strangers who want to buy from you.

Family is family, but they are not your customers. Even those who buy from you aren’t doing it for the same reasons your readers are. A family who buys from you is just trying to be supportive because they are related to you, not because they actually like to read your books. It’s a hard pill to swallow, I know, and it doesn’t apply to all family members (some of them do like your work), but the quicker you move out of the mentality that your family must support you to be successful, the more successful you will actually be because you will have embraced the strangers who are readers passionate about the kinds of books you write.

Just as author blogs differ from business blogs, I believe author social media pages differ from other business social media pages in some ways. One way is that for writers, showing off our likes, interest, and personality is all part of author branding. People buy from people they know, like, trust, and getting personal (though, not too personal…keep it clean) helps build trust.

  • Tip #2: Track Progress by Using Instagram’s Insights So You Know What’s Working and What’s Not

One of the hardest things I have found as an introvert is figuring out what other people want. The only way to know is to ask, track behavior, and pay attention to actions.

Once you’ve decided you are ready, making the switch from a private to a business page will help you track your audience’s actions and see which posts are reaching people. 

When your IG page is a business page, you get to see things you won’t see on personal pages. Below are screenshots of posts from my page.

If you click on the insights (which you can see under your post on business accounts), you can see not just how many likes you got but how many people shared your post, saved your post, viewed your profile, or clicked on your website link.

This helps you to see which posts have high engagement and which posts do not.

The thing about any business social media page is that it differs from pages that you are only using to connect with family members, friends, or just hang out. On those pages, likes, shares, and follows don’t mean anything except maybe to boost your ego. On business pages, though, likes and shares are important to you understanding how your content performs – by tracking metrics over time – and is the key to developing a content strategy that works best for your audience.

As a business page on social media, the formula is typically:

Engagement =

Likes + Comments / Followers

You also see things like the number of people who viewed your profile, clicks to your website, where the people are coming from (what city/state), age range, gender, and more to consider in terms of what’s working other than counting likes, which is actually the least important form of engagement.

Let’s look at some examples of my high performing Instagram posts and how I determine they are high performing. Try not to look at the number of likes. Although that plays a part, you can see likes on everyone’s post. In this example, we are looking at what you can only see on a business page and how to increase posts’ quality.

Example #1

Here, the winner is the number of shares (46) and saves (74). The number of comments is next (20) and then, lastly, number of likes. Also, you will notice the number of people I reached and the number of people who clicked on my profile. Although there are more likes than saves, liking a post is last in terms of engagement.

Example #2

Here, there were only two profile visits but the reach was huge and so were the saves. A lot of people enjoyed this post. But I want you to notice something else.

While this post has the most likes and a higher reach, example number one is still a better post to me because it’s my own original content.

This is important.

In example two, I was reposting a black history meme from another page (you can see my credit at the bottom left…always give people credit when you share their post. You can do this easily using a repost app). The posts that are yours are always the best!

Never share more of someone else content than you do your own.

Example #3

 

Example number three was lit. The reach is impressive, the shares and saves are outstanding, and the likes even got up there a bit. Here, everything outshined the number of comments, so while people loved the post, they didn’t have too much to say about it. I guess we all know Alice Walker by now lol.

Chicago (my hometown), Atlanta, New York, Houston, and Charlotte are where the bulk of my support comes from (at this writing). I am happy to see ATL at the top since I live in Georgia and see the Chi representing. My biggest audience is made up of women, which is always good since I am a woman, and the age group is between 25-44. Let’s move on.

  • Tip #3 Use Sharp, HQ Images

Instagram’s focus is on photos, so uploading pictures that are grainy, pixelated, or include text that’s hard to read is like the IG cardinal sin. If your images look like crap, you won’t get much engagement. Trust.

Use sharp, high-quality images in all your posts. You can brand yourself by creating lovely images using Canva or PosterMyWall

It’s also good if the images have something to do with your books or show off your personality in some way. A good practice is something I saw someone post about looking at your last nine posts. Can someone understand who you are and what you offer by these posts alone? I have been doing this (looking at my previous nine posts), and it has been a helpful reminder to pay attention to the kinds of content I post. People will see the image before seeing the caption, so the image must speak first.

  • Tip #4: Include Text/Caption with Images

Speaking of seeing the image first, people pay attention to the caption! Add some context to the image by adding a caption. Now, I have noticed many celebrities don’t do this. They often post a selfie, and leave it at that, but that’s because they are celebrities who already have a strong audience and platform. David Banner doesn’t have to include text on his images, and he will still get over a thousand likes and hundreds of comments and shares.

But you are not David Banner.

You are a new author at the beginning of an exciting journey, and you are introducing people to who you are for the first time. Use the caption to explain the images you post. It doesn’t have to be uber long and fancy, but something is better than leaving it blank.

  • Tip #5 Hashtags

Going back to this screenshot, it appears my hashtags are working on this post, reaching 45 people alone. Hashtags don’t exist just so you can be cute but they work just like the tags you’ll use on a blog post. They are searchable on social media. If you click on your hashtag, it will take you to all the posts relevant to that hashtag. They help categorize content and track discussion topics based on keywords. You can Google the hashtags that are best for your business. It may even be necessary to research your hashtags (I did because I’m a nerd lol). There are tools available like Hashtags.org or HashtagDirectory.com that can help you. You don’t really need 50 hashtags. The most important thing is that the hashtags you use are trending and apply to your business.

Tip #6: Clean Up Your IG Bio

I just changed my bio again because I wanted it to reflect what I do and offer. This is one of the most critical parts of your account. Since you are limited on characters, you must quickly tell people what you have to offer in as few words as possible. As you can see, I don’t have tons of followers, so don’t think because you have less or even more, that’s the most important thing because it’s not. The number of followers doesn’t determine quality.

  • Author – Make sure you let people know you are an author. Don’t be afraid. If your an author, say that.
  • Tell us what you do or offer. If you’re an author, tell us the kinds of books you write.
  • Be sure your website or Linktree link is in the bio.

Tip #7 Website Link in Bio

What do you want people to do once when they visit your profile? Do you want them to like, comment, and then move on with their lives? Do you want them to research something? Do you want them to buy something? What do you want people to do when they come across your page? That answer is the link you promote in your bio.

If you are using Social media for business, the end of the road isn’t your Instagram/Facebook/Twitter page. You need an author website/blog/email list and should be directing people to these sources to learn more about who you are, what you offer, and how it is beneficial to their lives.

In your bio, you may also want to include a special website link. This link is special because it can be created specifically for Instagram. Instead of posting the link to your website alone, you can create a landing page with buttons specific to where you want people to go. Instagram only allows one link, but you can post several when you:

  • Set up a Linktree account where you can house several buttons, accessible through one link

Even if you don’t have a website yet, Linktree is excellent because it allows you to list more than one thing at a time. You can add buttons to your social media sites, for example. When people visit your link, they can choose where they want to go. You can also see how often people are visiting your sites. I used linktree for a while, and it’s excellent.

  • You can create your own linktree-like link through your website

To get the best out of Linktree would mean using the paid version so you can customize it, but if you have your own website (that you are already paying for), you can also opt to create a page on your website that mimics the Linktree platform. This is a special page specifically for Instagram, so you don’t have to make it visible from your home page, but add the link to your IG bio. (Click here to see my page for an example)

This saves money, points people directly to your website, and promotes you and not Linktree.

Website Link + Call to action button helps direct potential readers to your books, blog, or wherever you want them to go. Remember, social media is not the end of the road. If you want people to do more than like a post, be sure to lead them somewhere they can learn more.


To Summarize:

  • Make your profile public, and create a business page. Be sure to shake up your content to reflect your business profile

 

  • Use the insights and metrics you see over time to improve your strategy and increase clicks to your website.

 

  • Write a bio that targets what it is that you do and what you offer.

 

  • Use sharp, high-quality images

 

  • Use caption/text to describe images

 

  • Use hashtags strategically, researching the ones that best apply to the kind of content you post.

 

  • Include the link to your website in your bio or use linktr.ee for multiple links

 

My Top 5 Email List Building Mistakes

I believe we Indie Authors have to stick together people and that is why I am sharing some of my top email list building mistakes. Before I jump to the conclusion that email lists don’t work, I am going to identify some of the things I am doing or have done wrong. Before finding solutions, we must identify the problem. Sometimes it is not that something is not working, we are just doing it wrong.

Problem#1 – Randomly Asking People to Sign-Up

When I started focusing on building my list, I didn’t pay attention to who was signing up. I just wanted the numbers up. I had heard the hype about getting email list subscribers and how helpful it was to authors. By just asking people to sign-up, people subscribed who were not part of my target audience. This means that when I came out with a book, they weren’t taking action. It wasn’t because they didn’t like me or thought I was a bad person. It was probably because they didn’t read the kinds of books I wrote!

Lesson: I should have been seeking targeted readers (readers who like my genre/topic) and not everyone. Just like a target audience isn’t everyone, my email list is also not for everyone.

Problem #2 – Hard selling to my list

In other words, selling my books directly to my email list. I just thought, what’s the point of having an email list if you can’t sell your book to your readers? Isn’t that what the list is for? To help authors to sell books?

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Lesson: I should have been nurturing the list with reading material, short stories, etc, giving away copies of my current works and hoping for reviews (this helps if I’ve learned lesson one).

Problem #3 – Not Focusing on Core Fans

I was too busy trying to build my list and increase my numbers that I didn’t pay attention to the few people that were engaged and reading and responding. These are my core fans. They are the ones who will buy, leave reviews and communicate consistently.

Lesson – Not everyone will respond and interact with my list. This is the hard part and I am still trying to figure how to get people to simply communicate with me. But, there are core fans and when broken down, this is a more realistic number far as readership is concerned. It starts to matter little how many people are subscribed if the people subscribed aren’t readers interested in the kinds of books I write (again, goes back to number one) or intrigued enough to interact with me.

Problem #4 – Not collaborating with other authors in my genre

This one is kinda not my fault. Kinda. OK it is, whatever. The point is, I am finding it difficult to find Indie Authors of black historical fiction. I hate to have to add the “black” part but there is a difference between the historical fiction I write and the historical fiction novels that come up when I put Historical Fiction into Google or Amazon’s search engine. There probably shouldn’t be a difference but it is. I have to put in Black Literature or something to find books like mine. Needless to say, I am not interested in just any historical fiction but historical fiction as it pertains to the African American experience. While Romance and Urban Fiction writers are abundant, I am having a hard time finding Indie Authors to connect with of my genre. I participated in a writer support thread on Instagram for example and stopped when I realized the people following me were Romance writers. I enjoy Romance and I support Romance writers but it doesn’t really help me on the flip side.

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Lesson: Find more writers in my genre? Interact more on Goodreads maybe? I don’t really know what to do here. Where are y’all at? Lol.

Problem #5 – Not making use of Giveaways (using my book or books in my genre so that the readers who enter are my targeted readers)

I have not been taking advantage of giveaways as much as I know that I should. Giveaways work when it comes to building an email list. I know this for sure. I don’t like to keep talking about my books over and over again. I do not think it works very well. Probably because I assume people have already made up their minds as to what they choose or choose not to support and I don’t like the idea of begging people to support me (which is the image I get when I think of constantly pushing books in peoples faces).

Lesson: I should use giveaways more as a way to build my email list and promote my books. Update: I forgot to mention that when it comes to giveaways or contests in which people subscribe to your email list as a form of entry, for a contest or giveaway to be successful, the prize must be relevant to your niche. And since the goal is to get new subscribers, what you give away should attract people who are interested in what you write about. And as always, I am talking to myself here. I am trying to learn this too.

And there you have it. My top 5 mistakes. Now, don’t make them!

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Enjoy Black History? Literary Fiction? Historical Fiction as it pertains to the Black experience in America? Poetry? Young Adult / Coming of Age stories? Subscribe to my email list HERE. (get a free book when you do!…I also dabble in Sci-Fi!)

Why Authors Need To Know About Book Sales Cycles

HNCK8984

Very insightful article. I’ll also add:

Release your books strategically. Launch those books during high reading cycles (Around Holidays, Black History Month if you’re a Black Lit / Historical Author, Weekends, and Summer).
Real Life Example: I released The Road to Freedom in February for two reasons:

Black History Month – My book is a work of Historical Fiction, Black History, and deals with identity and nationality.

Target Audience – My Target Audience were going to be in Atlanta for a Black History Stage Play. That’s when I decided to release it at The Metropolitan Library in ATL.

*Steps off soapbox*

Now to the expert lol:

Article Excerpt:

“A book is a product. Just like with most products there is a sales cycle on a year-to-year basis. Readers are still buying books in the same cycle as they always have. Just on a different medium.”

Keep Reading:

Why Authors Need to Know about Book Sales Cycles

Five Ways to Embrace Marketing Your Book (Guest Post)

Well said. Keep it simple and keep it fun.

Carly Watters, Literary Agent

Today is guest post day! Client, author (LOSING THE LIGHT, Simon and Schuster/Atria Books 2016), and social media expert Andrea Dunlop is here to talk about how to embrace marketing your book. Don’t panic! She has all the answers. (And if you like what you read she is now taking on clients herself as a consultant.)

Having worked with authors for over a decade—first in publicity, now in social media—I know how reluctant many feel about marketing their own work. And as a newly-minted author myself, I can completely empathize. I often see authors with new books out—a time that should be exciting and celebratory—wracked with misery, guilt, and even outright panic. A little of this is expected, just as with any big life event (weddings, births, new jobs) it can be unsettling. But often the level of despair leaves authors unable to enjoy their momentous accomplishment…

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Analysis of a Book Reviewer

Very well said. Colleen shares with us her Book Review thoughts.

Lit World Interviews

Did you ever wonder what it was like to write about other people’s writing? That is the job of a book reviewer. I always wanted to be a freelance writer, and for me reviewing books is a perfect example of what a freelance writer does. I write book reviews as a public service to readers and authors alike, sharing my opinions of what I read.

Book reviewers are a valuable asset to all writers. I believe all serious writers should write reviews on other author’s books. The lessons learned are invaluable and will benefit your own writing. This process works for me. I see a marked improvement in my own writing skills since I began reading and sharing other writer’s work.

I follow a format designed to bring out the best aspects of any author’s work. The idea is to express my thoughts about a book in as honest a…

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