Question

Yecheilyah brainstorming at the Lounge, 2018.

When Def Jam started they had a small office with three desks, two phones, and no air conditioning. The point is that you can’t be afraid to start from the bottom. If you can see the vision through to the end, there are no limits to where you can go. Do not misunderstand me, I am not telling you to be Def Jam (let those who read understand.) I am simply showing you the power of endurance. If you can’t endure the struggle for a little while and in that process be hated, mocked, lied on, judged unrighteously, and looked down upon… please tell me again why you deserve to be great?

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No Whining Wednesday – Peace Under Pressure

Welcome back to No Whining Wednesday, the only day of the week where you do not get to whine, criticize, or complain. If you are new to this blog or new to this segment please do scurry on over HERE to learn more about what this is all about.

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I’m excited about today’s inspiring quote so let’s get into it:

I’ve been loving on Ryan’s social media pages. His IG is hilariously funny with writer memes and as soon as I saw this nugget of wisdom I had to feature it for today. Whining, complaining, or criticizing really just comes from one source: Lack of contentment or peace. Whether this is because we are upset, confused or frustrated the point is that somewhere, for whatever reason, we are not content with our present situation and we are not at peace.

How do we overcome these situations? After all, it is not that stress is a bad thing entirely. It exists naturally in everyone for a reason. It is there surely to be helpful to the body in some way. How do we allow it to be what it is without over-stressing ourselves? Learning to identify the good in bad situations is one way.

This series I am writing, for instance, is probably the most challenging project I’ve ever written. There’s so much going on as I am writing these books. Personally, professionally, emotionally, mentally, its hitting me from all directions but I have to keep going.

I have been looking for the silver lining in every situation to help carry me through. The diamond in the ruff, the light in the darkness, the calm in the storm, the peace under the pressure. Here’s an example:

If I get not-so-good feedback on my manuscript, instead of focus all my energy on the negative, I look for something good. Unless the person is just a total (fill in the blank) about it, there’s always something positive that is said among not-so-positive feedback. After licking my internal wounds, I look to find the something good I missed and use it as fuel to keep pushing on.

Find the good and when you find it celebrate it. That’s peace under pressure. Don’t ignore changes that need to be made but celebrate the good as well. Be excited about it! Sorry. I don’t mean to yell, but you understand why I have to.

The good is a light. Take it and let your light shine.

But, dear non-writing readers…

….this is not about manuscripts and writing. I’m using myself as an example but this is about life in general.

The message is:

Celebrate your successes no matter how few or small.

It is not easy and sometimes it is good to vent. Good to let off the steam. The problem is when we do not balance this out with anything good.

See, I don’t want to get on my whole “balance soapbox” here but everything in life must have a balance. I spoke yesterday about being yourself on Social Media but even this is with a certain level of balance. You don’t just want to be all out boring. Or maybe you don’t care about blog stats. That’s cool. I get it, but there’s nothing wrong with paying attention to it sometimes. You don’t have to be obsessed with it, but it is good to know where you are. There’s nothing wrong with monitoring growth.

In life, we just do not balance things out as much as we should. We find ourselves venting too much and letting it rob us of peace. We find ourselves not celebrating the good and not forgiving ourselves for the not-so-good.

Today, we will strive to limit our number of complaints by looking for the good in not-so-good situations.

Good Writers

Maybe the book didn’t come out the way you envisioned it would or maybe you’ve got a one-star review. Maybe your editor marked all up and down your manuscript or someone critiqued the confidence right out of you. Maybe you failed, miserably. And maybe you want to crawl underneath the covers and will yourself away. If only you could shrink so that even your body disappears. Maybe, just maybe you are becoming a good writer.

Good writers get negative feedback at some point, period. Good writers get it wrong A LOT. Good writers fail, miserably. Good writers have confidence that appears low because good writers are humble. Good writers are scared to death of publishing the next book because good writers are real. They mess up. They get mixed reviews and feedback.

The difference between their failures and those who quit is that good writers have failed so many times that they are equipped to handle disappointment. And therefore, have the resilience and maturity to get back up and try again.

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The next time you receive feedback that makes you want to cringe you gotta remember that you are in good company. Every good writer was a failure first and every master was first a student.

Don’t misunderstand me, everyday ain’t beautiful. I don’t want my optimism on this blog to be too sweet for you. Cheerfulness ain’t a pill you can take that will make it all go away. I don’t want you to think that the struggle isn’t real, but if you never mess up, if you have never doubted, if you have never failed, never been knocked down, and if you give up too easily then maybe you can never really become a good writer.

Prepare for your Success Part 2: The 80/20 Rule – Blogging for Writers

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What is the difference between writing and blogging? Do you really know?

Before going on, please read part one HERE.

I was listening to Lynn Serafinn during the Publishing Success Summit and she spoke about social media layers and how this influences a writer who strives to build an author platform through the blog. I read complaints from many writers who want to start blogs but are not sure what to blog about.

I thought about this and how beneficial it may be for some authors to come up with a strategy. Well, I hate to use the word strategy because it makes it sound too much like a plan when what we blog about should be a natural extension of us. However, there may be some who really do need to develop a system. They want to use the blog to help their writing but they aren’t sure how to blog or how to use it as an author. Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk to you about author blogs or what makes one. (I have my own opinions on that. I’ll share them later). Instead, let’s explore something to which we’re all familiar.

How many of you have seen Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor? I’m not a Tyler Perry fan but this movie had a great message: You never leave 80 for 20.

Briefly, here is what the movie is about:

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Judith is a therapist who works at a matchmaking agency owned by Janice and is married to Brice, whom Judith has known since she was six. After obtaining her masters Judith is unfulfilled and dissatisfied with her job and anxious to start her own marriage counseling business, but Brice tells her to wait until they are more financially stable. Meanwhile, Judith meets Harley at work, a wealthy Internet entrepreneur who wants to invest in Janice’s business. He attempts to seduce Judith as they work late on matchmaking surveys. When Harley questions the absence of sex in the surveys, Judith says she does not believe in premarital sex. Harley thinks Judith’s sex life is boring and Judith, now questioning her sex life with Brice, tries to improve it.

Judith and Harley
Judith and Harley

Long story short, when Judith changes her hair and makeup for her birthday and Brice fails to notice the change or remember her birthday, Judith is more inclined to give into Harley’s advances (though she is unwilling to admit it). She receives flowers that she believes are from Brice but are really from Harley who appears and notes her change in appearance – something she didn’t get from Brice (hope you’re seeing where I’m going with this). Janice sends Judith to New Orleans with Harley to finalize a deal with shareholders, telling her to flirt with Harley, but also to be careful. Judith’s co-worker, Ava gives Judith a makeover and in New Orleans, Judith and Harley complete the business deal and go dancing and sightseeing. On the way home, Harley seduces Judith in his private jet and the sexual tension between them is solidified when Judith gives in. She has the affair.

The moral of the story is that Harley is 20%. Yes, the sex is good but there isn’t anything of substance that would denote he is husband material. After the making out there is basically nothing. This isn’t to say that Brice is perfect either but Judith could have communicated with Brice how she likes it and kept the 80% she was getting from him while working on the 20% she wasn’t getting. At the end of the day, you never leave 80 for 20 people.

Everyone’s got flaws, but you don’t leave someone with at least 80% of their stuff together for someone who just looks good but head is in the clouds, also known as 20. Anyway, it looks good and probably feels the same but after that, there’s nothing left. No mind. No aspirations. Nothing.

In blogging, it helps (or at least it has helped me) if 80% of your time is spent networking and providing value. Writing is good but building a blog takes a little bit more than that. How do we measure a blog’s success? That depends on the individual. One thing is for sure, writing is just 20%. To learn to blog is to do much more and that much more is largely rooted in one word: Network.

  • Comments – When they come, respond back to them! Yes, on comments left to you on the blogs of others too.
  • Negative Feedback – It happens. Not everyone is going to agree with you. If you publish a controversial post, be prepared to stand on it.
  • Carve Out Some Time – Be ready to put the hours in that are necessary to achieve your blog goals. If you want to increase your number of followers/subscribers, it’s going to take you blogging more than once a month. I may not have many subscribers myself but I will tell you, with my integrity in tact, that I have earned every last one of you! I put mad hours into this blog. As expressed in The First 300: How I Reached 300 Blog Followers in 3 Months, I started this blog publishing three posts a day for six days. Yes, I only took one day off from blogging and not because anyone forced me to. Of course I’ve slowed down now but I can only afford to do that because of the foundation I’ve laid in the beginning.
  • Work on Your Tags – The tagging on my older posts are just sad. Don’t be like me. Jason over at Harsh Reality has some great advice on tagging. He recommends 15 Tags (includes a category. Categories act as tags) and is a mixture of unique as well as generic tags. Generic tags are tags that are used the most by bloggers like blog, blogging, bloggers. Unique tags are tags that are exclusive to your post, tags you make up or tailor to your content. Because of this theme, my tags show up at the top of each of my post. Look at them. In each of my post you’ll count 14 tags. My 15th tag is my category. Or, you’ll count 13 tags if I chose two categories and so on (the lesser my tags, the more the categories. Remember, categories count as tags). To learn more, visit Jason’s posts on tagging. I’ve followed his advice since the beginning and it has worked for me thus far. No, I don’t have the link. You have to do some of the work.
  • Visible Follow Buttons – I’ve been preaching this same “sermon” for probably about a year now but it’s only because I run into it probably every day. I’m trying to follow someone’s blog but I can’t find the follow button. That means guess what? I’m not following you. Go to your WP Dashboard > Widgets and add a follow button. Make sure it’s the one that says “Follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts via email”. The other one will just allow people to follow you through the reader.
  • About Page – Although I am starting to wonder how many people pay attention to the about page (people tend to follow a blog after liking a post that caught their attention, hoping to receive the same kind of content) be sure to complete your about page. It just looks professional and helps those who do read about pages to know more about you. (Tip: Read a blogger about page. You’d be surprised to find many of your questions about them answered).
  • INTERACT – This is in all caps for a reason. If you’re interested in building a blog that does well, be sure that you’re interacting with others. Try to leave comments that aren’t so phony. OK, let me define “phony”. It’s OK to be short, but to really start to get to know people you’re going to have to say more than “Great post!” There’s nothing wrong with this, but if you find something that really moves you, dig in as my mother used to say. Give us full explanations on why you feel a certain way. This allows your personality to come out and for others to be prompted to respond. This is how relationships are formed, through communication.
  • Easy to Read – The easier your blog is to read, the better. Stay away from brightly colored text that is hard to read and clutter. Don’t just throw your blog furniture all over the place. Too many widgets are distracting.

Providing Value means (but is not limited to):

–    Well written and consistent content (Aka blogging as often as possible)

–    Following other blogs (and re-blogging others)

–    Responding to comments (both on your blog and the blogs of others)

–    Promoting and helping others

–    Writing about life in general (not just your writing)

–    Keeping your blog updated, clean, easy to read, and easy to follow (so like, have a follow button!)

Is there a word that sticks out to you? Right. Others. Blogging isn’t about just focusing on content far as publishing posts are concerned (which is why it’s about more than just writing. Sorry, but blogging does have a lot to do with the technical things as well. Views, stats, subscribers, tags, photos, etc.) it also means that most of your time is spent on engaging your readers and helping others.

In short, it may help if authors learn to blog because it will help (or at least it has helped me so far) to reach a new readership. I also believe in the importance of building trust and that authors should do this first before expecting new readers.

The reason you spend most of your time (80%) understanding blogging and doing it effectively (if you’re trying to build a blog that is. If you don’t care about blogging or think it’s a waste of time then this obviously does not apply to you) is because people must grow to like you enough to trust you and no one needs a Best-Selling book or fancy certificate to understand that. In fact, I’ve learned that learning how to blog (which I am still doing myself) is just understanding people in general. What are they trusting you to do? They’re trusting you to deliver valuable content without constantly selling to them. If people think you’re just trying to sell your book to them, they won’t trust that your content is genuine. No matter how relevant, they will ignore your service because they think you’re just out to make money.

Serafinn identified four layers of social media and we all know that when baking a cake or pie or anything that has layers, we know that the good stuff is somewhere in the middle, not at the top.

Lynn didn’t name the layers in her interview so I took the liberty of doing so. You know, so this is a bit more fun.

Layer 1: The Crust

–    The crust is the top layer and it is oh so good! But, it is also usually too good. You see, the crust doesn’t usually have any nutritional value to it whether that’s the buttery crust on an apple pie or crust on the lasagna (you know that’s where all that cheese is!). Per Serafinn, the first layer is made up of people who don’t know you at all and don’t care about you or your writings. The crust looks good but that’s about it.

Layer 2: The Sauce

–    I call layer two the sauce. Like layer one, the sauce doesn’t do much. Although it may provide a bit more than the crust only because there are probably bits of onions and green peppers in there somewhere. The second layer is the people who follow you on social networks and know you only slightly. Maybe they liked your Tweet or Facebook Post.

Layer 3: The Noodle

–    Now we’re starting to get somewhere. I call the third layer the noodle. It’s bound to provide a lot more substance than crust and sauce. At least the noodle will coat your stomach. The third group is your casual blog visitors. They know you a little bit more than the second group because they read your blog every so often.

Layer 4: The Meat

–    Now we’re deep into it and get to take a mouthful of that delicious meatball! The final layer is the layer we want to pay attention to. They are our regular blog readers or people who support us consistently. They are always liking, commenting, and sharing our content, they have signed up to our email lists, and may have even bought a book. These are the people who trust us more than the other three groups because they read us consistently. They are the meat. This isn’t to say they know you in the deeper sense of the word considering it takes so much more to really get to know a person but they are trying and on the surface of knowing, these are the people who at least trust you more than the other groups to deliver. This is the layer we want to grow because it means that they will support us during that 20% of the time that we are pushing our books.

Writers looking to build a readership through the blog should focus on building trust with the fourth layer by providing valuable content on a consistent basis. This means that you should do more than post excerpts and chapters of your book. Even if you’re a great writer blogging is more than that. By networking, commenting, sharing, and sharing other things about ourselves  we are giving people enough to grasp at our personality or become interested in who we are as a person. This will lead them to genuinely care about our writing. How so? You are concerned about people you care about. The more people get to know you, genuinely as a person (not that phony stuff), the more interested they are in your work because they are interested in you.


Yecheilyah Ysrayl is the YA, Historical Fiction author of The Stella Trilogy. She is currently working on her next book series “The Nora White Story” about a young black woman writer who dreams of taking part in The Harlem Renaissance movement and her parents struggle to accept their traumatic past in the Jim Crow south. “Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One)” is due for release July 15-16, 2017. For updates on this project, be sure to follow this blog and to subscribe to Yecheilyah’s email list HERE.

Prepare for Your Success – Part 1

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The biggest mistake that people make is focusing exclusively on where they want to be instead of preparing for where they want to be. Someone may want to publish a book or have a successful blog but they aren’t prepared to receive it. What will happen if the book does blow up like you want it to, are you prepared? What if one of your blog posts does go “viral”, are you prepared? It’s not just about the end goal, it is also about the journey. I want to encourage you today to prepare for where you want to be. I wanted to provide blog and writing tips but I’ve decided to split this into multiple posts so it’s not too long because I know you got places to be. Today’s post is on mental preparation.

Mental

  • Nerves and Doubt is a Part of It

Don’t let others deceive you and don’t deceive yourself. You’re always going to be nervous before embarking on something that is truly life changing. You’re always going to have that fear or that doubt in the beginning and truth be told the only way to overcome that doubt is to do the very thing you’re absolutely nervous about doing. I always say that if you ever get too comfortable that’s when your humility is not as strong as it needs to be because you should always be just a little bit nervous before embarking on something great. Why is that? Because that uncomfortable nervous feeling is where the growth happens. No one ever did anything in the comfort zone.

  • Stop Telling Everyone Your Plans

Discouragement doesn’t just come organically but we also invite it. Not everyone deserves to know what you plan to do and how you plan to do it, especially people who don’t deserve to know. Spell casting is real and all it takes is the word. Words are spiritual and they live. When someone speaks negatively about your life they are trying to cast a spell on you whether they know it or not. Stop telling hateful people your plans and surround yourself with people who will support you. Remember, destruction is always loud just as the tree falls and hits the ground. However, the seed grows with no sound. Grow silently.

  • Surround Yourself with Like-Minded People

Steve Harvey said that if nine of your friends are broke then you’re going to be the tenth. If eight of your friends are smokers, you’re going to be the ninth. We’ve heard the saying repeatedly, “Birds of a feather, flock together” because they do. If you’re truly trying to grow your business or writing career, surround yourself with the people who are where you want to go. Don’t be intimidated by their success or jealous of it, feed off it. Mimic it. Work ethic is great but effort directed in the wrong places is counterproductive. It won’t do you any good. Chances are if someone is more successful than me it’s because they’re doing something that I’m not. That’s motivation for me to find out what it is.

  • Learn not to Respond to Negativity

Silence is a beast. Listen, many of you don’t know me and I don’t say this to be mean or to say that we can’t develop a closer relationship at some point in our blogging journey’s together as we become more acquainted and of service to one another (wow, that was a long sentence lol), but it’s the truth, you don’t. If you knew me, you would know that I am not the most liked person in the world. People hate me fiercely. They annihilate me and my family on and off social media both for who I am as a person, for what I believe in, for the things that I say, and for just being me. I don’t count this as a bad thing, in fact, it’s a blessing and I pray for the people who I have loved but who have given me hate in return. In fact, I know that many of you will one day grow to hate me too and that’s OK because I know what I do this for and it’s not to please any of you. I say this because if you’re going to be successful at anything in your life you have got to learn not to respond to negativity. You’ve got to change your perspective on life itself and stop listening to people who tell you your silence represents guilt or fear.

The true mark of maturity is when someone hurts you and you try to understand their situation instead of hurting them back. Silence amid the storm does not make you weak or incapable. It means that you’re meek and humble. You’re humble because you are not concerned about what you can say to lift yourself up above someone else who has torn you down. We’ve got to get to the point in our lives where we can understand that how we overcome adversity shines a light on who we really are. When you can hear something bad about me, something so unbelievable (because chances are it’s a lie) and still stand with me, that’s when I know that you know me as a person. It’s not the good times that you really get to know a person, it’s in the struggle that you find out just how real people are. If you have to jump in someone’s face or say something bad about someone because they said it about you that doesn’t mean that you’re fearless, it means that you are weak.

  • Spotting the Haters

Investing time in haters will halt your success. Point blank and period. If every time you bring something to someone they have something negative to say about it, that’s a red flag. They don’t have to agree with you but real friends will at least give you some insight into what you’re doing. They don’t just disagree but they give you something you can take back with you. You have to get to the point of understanding that everyone can’t go where you’re going.

  • Be Yourself

I know this sounds cliche but you’d be surprised how many people compromise their personal integrity once they think they’ve reached a level of success. Even in the blog world some of you start changing up your ways to please new followers. The truth is that things will constantly change but you have to stay true to who you are because who you are becomes your brand.

When Oprah started out she didn’t know what a brand was, and even though she’s a named brand today it wasn’t because she intentionally set out to be that, she just did what felt right to her. In fact, when she started The Oprah Winfrey Show everyone (except one person) said that she would fail. The point is that you are only successful being yourself. I hear people time and time again talk about how authors should be more personal on social media. That we should talk about more than books but more so of other things that we like and that’s cool if that’s you.

The reason I’m not as personal on Twitter, for instance (since I’m on there the most) is because I’ve never been that way on social media. Even when I was on Facebook I didn’t talk about walking the dog today or my favorite color. I keep telling ya’ll that I’m a private and laid back person so social media for me is just business and that’s how I use it. This isn’t to say that it’s wrong to get more personal online but that’s just not me is the point.

It don’t matter how many times people say it that’s not going to change my social media habits because it’s just not who I am. The same with this blog. I’m not changing the name of my blog, not even to my name. Is that a good strategy? It’s a great author branding strategy. Is it me? Nope.

I have this one blog post that I did not expect to do well (8 Ways to go from Author to Authorpreneur). I wasn’t trying to be someone giving advice, I was just sharing (as I always am) what I do and how it may can help you. Everything in that post is something that I did, that I literally put into practice myself and I wanted to share it with you. In short, I was just being me and it turned out to be one of my greatest PBS Blog posts (far as engagement is concerned).

In all things, to yourself be true. That’s what people are attracted to. You don’t have to change up because your subscriber number is growing or because the social media guru tells you to do this instead of that. Only do it if that’s what you would do anyway. Only do it if that’s already in line with who you are.


Yecheilyah Ysrayl is the YA, Historical Fiction author of The Stella Trilogy. She is currently working on her next book series “The Nora White Story” about a young black woman writer who dreams of taking part in The Harlem Renaissance movement and her parents struggle to accept their traumatic past in the Jim Crow south. “Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One)” is due for release July 15-16, 2017. For updates on this project, be sure to follow this blog and to subscribe to Yecheilyah’s email list HERE.

Excel At Being Yourself: Redefining Success

A man and his son were on their way to town. On their way they ran into different people. The first group thought someone should be riding the donkey. They thought it silly that the man and his son had a donkey that they were not riding. So the old man decided to ride the donkey. The next group thought the son should be riding the donkey. “How could he have his son to walk?” they thought. So the son climbed on top the donkey. Another group thought, “Poor Donkey. You two should carry the donkey,” they thought. So the old man and his son tied the donkey to a pole and carried him. The final group just laughed and laughed. “Why are they carrying the Donkey?” In the end, the Donkey finally got frustrated and ran away. So read a children’s book.

A man wrote a book. He Self-Published this book, and spent 200k on a book launch that failed. According to him, he didn’t make The New York Times Bestsellers list. Sure, he made other awesome lists and made enough money to quit his job. But he didn’t make the NYT so the launch failed, or so he said.

A Bestseller could be a book that just keeps selling. A book that people cannot stop talking about. A book that, years from now, will continue to make money. How much? It doesn’t matter. What matters? People keep talking about it. At least this is one definition of a bestseller.

Success is when you excel at being who you are and doing things the way you want it done. Perfecting your invention is what makes others want to invest in it because its original. Its something that hasn’t been done before. Why hasn’t it been done before? Because you hadn’t been born yet. Instead of figuring out how everyone else has done it, how about we redefine what it means to be successful by investing in the visions we’ve been given and perfecting them? How about we sharpen our blogging, writing, photography, or whatever skills we have and release this greatness into the world? How about we become professionals because we’re good at what we do and not because the status quo deems it so. After all, what is a professional anyway? More so, who told you that’s what it was?