Thank you to Asha G. Kumar, host of The Writer Talks, for having me on!
Check out Part One of this two-part interview with yours truly. In this first part, we talk about the inspiration behind my first forthcoming Urban Fantasy/SciFi/Speculative Fiction novel, The Women with Blue Eyes, my belief in aliens lol, and my latest poetry collection, My Soul is a Witness. In part two, we dig deeper into my journey as a writer, my advice to other writers, Black History, and you know I had to recite some poetry!
Entrepreneurship has been the talk of 2020. With the COVID-19 virus sweeping the world, many new businesses have been born. It is a delight to see people take something as detrimental as a deadly global pandemic and use it as the catalyst for stepping outside their comfort zones. Every day someone is beaming about their new business endeavor, and I am here for it.
Self-Publishing a book is a business, too, so if you published a book this year, congratulations! This is a fantastic accomplishment that deserves recognition and celebration.
But Self-Publishing a book is not a business for every author.
There are two kinds of authors. We must identify them before going into it:
Authors who publish books for themselves
Authors who publish books for an audience
If you publish a book for yourself, you are not necessarily interested in creating a writing business from the book or making money. You might have published this book as a primary teaching tool to awaken the lost sheep, or you may have published this book as a lifetime goal you always wanted to achieve. You might want to print a few copies for family and friends, but you aren’t interested in creating a business out of it.
You are doing this for yourself, and there is nothing wrong with that, but also, in this case, you don’t have to continue to read this post.
You probably should though. Ya know, in case you change your mind.
If you are Self-Publishing a book that’s important to you AND appeals to a particular audience, you want to keep reading this post.
You write a book for yourself and then try to sell it to everyone.
“Most self-published books are vanity projects, which means, the author paid for the privilege of having them published, and spent money getting professionals to help them edit, design and produce it, but they earn less than they cost.” -Derek Murphy
The mistake is you wrote this book and did not think about who you want to read it so you try to appeal to everyone.
“It’s easy to fall into the habit of writing what you love or writing to impress your peers or your editor. That might make for good writing… but it won’t necessarily attract readers. To do that, you have to write for, well, readers.” – Writer’s Digest
Who are these readers? Hint: They are not everyone you know.
Dear Indie Authors, Please Identify Your Target Audience in 2021.
Identifying your target audience means identifying your customer demographics and then figuring out which tools will best attract them.
Rather than targeting everyone, you are focusing on the ideal customer for your business. “That means, stop begging, asking for help and support. Stop desperate, useless marketing tactics like spamming Facebook or blasting Twitter.” (Murphy)
You are not only identifying the ideal reader, you are thinking about real, actual people who would like to read your book.
“A lot of writing advice encourages you to define this ideal reader… but forgets to mention they need to be actual readers. If your ideal reader isn’t real, no one will read what you write. Instead of deciding what to write and defining a reader for it, start by defining your reader and writing for them.” – Dana Sitar
When you know your target audience it makes it easier to find your tribe. Your focus is on the people who are there instead of those who aren’t because you know you can’t please everyone.
But that’s what selling to everyone is like: trying to please everyone.
“Most self-publishing authors see their books as an investment, when it’s actually a gamble. It’s a gamble because they don’t know how to reach their readers (or who their readers even are). They don’t know whether anybody will really enjoy their books. They hope to make some money from their books but because they didn’t write it for the money, they are OK with continuously spending more and more time, effort and money into their books even when they get zero results.” (Murphy)
Instead of saying your book is for women, think about who these women are in more specific terms.
“My book targets women history buffs, aged 25-45, who love black history but are tired of the same white male-dominated narratives.”
Ask yourself: “Who am I writing this book for? What real people do I know would read a book like this? Maybe there is a black woman I know who is always talking about Ta-Nehisi Coates and happens to be reading Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad. She might enjoy my Stella Trilogy.
Not so Good Example:
“My book targets women 20-70, suffering, that want to feel better.”
This one is too broad. Every woman you know is suffering from something and want to feel better, and it will be hard to market a book to this wide of an age group. You got millennials and senior citizens in the same club.
Why Does It Matter?
Once you know your target audience and what they want, you can give it to them by being of authentic service to your tribe, which means offering exceptional value consistently. Consistency builds trust, and people buy from brands they trust.
Understanding our target audience doesn’t mean our family and friends won’t support us. It means we are not targeting them in our marketing. To target is to direct an action or message to someone or something. Pookie and Ray-Ray may know you, but are you trying to direct your message to them?
How many family members have bought your book?
But this doesn’t only apply to Self-Publishers but entrepreneurs in general, especially in the age of social media. Most people have not even done the basic work of securing a website. You appear out of nowhere with something to sell. You then tell people to cash app you the money and expect them to trust you enough to do it. You can have all the faith in the world, but it still doesn’t exempt you from following a basic business practice.
It’s easy to become frustrated and exhausted about the lack of support for a company without much to show for your efforts when you are trying to appeal to the broadest possible audience. If you start a business and then spam all your Facebook and Instagram friends hoping they will support you, your message may seem inauthentic and doesn’t really resonate with anyone in particular. – Tucker Max, How to Write For and Target the Right Audience for Your Book
Another benefit to knowing your target audience is knowing you don’t have to be everywhere to be seen. If your audience does not hang out on Facebook, you do not have to be on Facebook. If they are not on Instagram, you do not have to be on Instagram. It is easier to be consistent when your attention is focused instead of divided. Go where your people are and build.
Indie Authors, and new entrepreneurs in general, would be a lot happier if we focused on serving our targeted audience instead of everyone we knew. Everyone does not care about you or your business, and it’s a waste of time, energy, and resources trying to appeal to everyone. No one is obligated to support you. People do not care about your product, book, or service. They only care about what it can do for them. Please understand this.
“If you aren’t writing for an audience and carefully considering the commercial viability of your project, if you aren’t expecting and planning to make more money than you spend, and learning exactly what it takes to achieve that, then you’re publishing for yourself, and it’s a big risk and gamble.”
Are You Building a Book Business or a Hustle?
Self-Publishing a book is expensive without a return on investment. As Murphy explains, it just becomes a gamble. I like to call it a hustle. When I think of that word hustle, I think of someone doing anything and everything to make it instead of aligning oneself with a strategic plan and purpose. If you are continually spending money to produce something that doesn’t give anything in return, it can quickly get frustrating.
Excellent cover design, editing, ISBN, and all that is basic; we should all know the importance of this in 2021. The self-publishing service providers, coaches, vanity presses, and assisted self-publishers rarely talk about how authors can make money from that book they just paid five thousand dollars to produce. Launching a #1 Amazon Best Seller is great, but that doesn’t mean the author is earning money. Being on the Amazon Best Sellers list is cool but what’s even more neat is having a faithful readership because a loyal audience will bring consistent book sales.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t pay to publish a high-quality product. It is to say that without an audience to buy it, it will feel like a waste of money.
Identifying a target audience is the key to any business’s success, and I mean success outside of personal gratification. In 2021, I hope we can all do better (myself included) in focusing on those who best fit the people we want to serve.
Don’t forget that if you have read My Soul is a Witness I am trying to reach 20 Book Reviews before this year closes and we are almost there! If you have the book (and have read it), do consider leaving an honest review on Amazon.
Why It Matters:
It’s a real challenge for Indie Authors to market books without Amazon reviews because reviews act as social proof and establish credibility and competence in the publishing marketplace. Are you an author? In need of reviews? Be sure you RSVP for my 2021 list. Click Here.
How to Review on Amazon:
Click this link. Scroll down to ‘Write a Customer Review,’ rate and leave your thoughts on the book.
Also, I am Soul is 99cents on Kindle for a limited time.
I read a book a couple of weekends ago. I feel it has the utmost potential. To be clear, this isn’t a book from my book review service. I read this book on my own time from an author I do not know. I enjoyed the testimony; I loved the cover, and I can relate to much of the information.
Unfortunately, the book was in such terrible need of editing and formatting that it was troublesome to get through, which broke my heart. I am not usually ultra-sensitive to typos and such when reading a book for leisure. I am only irritated when the errors are so bad I can’t enjoy or understand the story.
I could tell very little money went into this book’s production just from reading it.
That is when I knew what I wanted to write to you as we enter this new month.
I know because I have been here. I have published books written in a Microsoft Word Document, turned it into a PDF, and uploaded it. I have not only removed a lot of my earlier works, but I have risked book reviews taking books down to revise them for this reason.
As many of us do when we enter Self-Publishing, I learned the hard way that authoring a book takes more than uploading a Microsoft Word Document or PDF to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing or Lulu. The hardest pill to swallow is that it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, but it’s essential for new authors who choose to Self-Publish to be aware there are costs involved. Self-Publishing is not the easy route if pursued the right way. It requires both time and financial investment.
What Happens Traditionally:
I found it is helpful to understand what happens when someone publishes a book traditionally.
Traditionally, a publisher offers an author a contract. The author signs with the publisher who prints, publishes and sells the book through bookstores and other retailers. The publisher is buying the rights to the book and pays the author royalties from the sales.
Since this isn’t my area of expertise, I will leave it here. That’s the gist of it, but to learn more on Traditional Publishing steps, click here.
The most crucial part as it relates to this post is that the traditional publishing house “takes on the responsibilities and costs of designing, printing, distributing, and marketing the book.” (McLachlin)
Vanity Publishing, the center of much controversy in the Indie world, is a publisher who publishes a book provided the author can pay for services. If the author doesn’t want to do everything independently and can afford to spend thousands of dollars to publish this book, a Vanity Publisher will gladly publish them.
Vanity Presses can look like Traditional Publishers to the untrained eye, but there’s a significant difference. The Vanity Press does not get paid royalties from the sale like a Traditional Publishing House. The Vanity Press gets paid money upfront from the author to publish them. The author is paying to get their book published. As you now know, this is not how traditional publishing works. After the Vanity Press publish the book, some allow the author to own the book and keep the profit from sales, but some Vanity Presses do not.
Why VP’s charge
Newbie authors get excited to be “signed” with Vanity Presses under the presumption they are like traditional publishing houses. They are not. VP’s charge authors to publish them because, without paying for services, there are no services. Vanity Presses have a bad reputation for outsourcing to mediocre editors and designers, so authors spend thousands of dollars (sometimes upwards of $5,000+) to receive poor editing and crappy formatting and graphic design.
Take Rocket Science Productions / RSP Marketing Services, for example, where “Phase One” of this publishing scheme involves a $595 payment for copyright registration and an ISBN. (ALLI)
ISBN’s are expensive, but you can purchase a block of TEN from Bowker (US) for $295.
That’s TEN ISBNs for TEN separate books (or multiple versions of the same book) as opposed to paying almost six-hundred dollars for ONE.
Morgan James Publishing is another example, a vanity press that profits by selling books to their authors rather than readers. (ALLI)
Author Solutions and anything under Author Solutions and Xlibris are also Vanity Presses to watch out for.
The only people who get paid in this situation are the publisher or company offering the services. There are tons of people making six figures off green Self-Publishers. If I charged eight thousand dollars per author, I’d be a millionaire too.
The primary way to identify a Vanity Press is to understand one simple fact:
A traditional publisher pays the author, not the other way round.
But the traditional publisher also owns the rights to the book, which is why many choose to Self-Publish.
With Self-Publishing, you pay to produce, market, distribute, and warehouse the book. This investment can get expensive, which is why I understand why writers fall for vanity presses. Suppose you pay $2,000 to get a book edited (which is not out of the ordinary for skilled, professional editing depending on the editing needed) and still need a decent cover and everything else. Why not pay $5,000 for a team of professionals to do everything for you?
The problem is that the books these “professionals” publish are low in quality, and sometimes the author doesn’t maintain the rights to their book even after paying so much to get it published. If you charge someone $5,000 to publish their book, it should look like it, and the author should own the rights to the book. There is no excuse for charging this much money to upload a poorly edited and formatted text with a generic cover to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and then call yourself a publisher.
Why Self-Publishing Can Be Free But Isn’t If You Do It Right
With Self-Publishing, you do not sign with a publisher, so there is no one to cover the cost of book editing and cover design. You are the publisher, so the financial responsibility is yours.
It will cost you nothing to upload a manuscript to Amazon’s KDP or Kobo or iTunes or whichever platform you’d like to use. You can take your Word Document or PDF and create an account with that platform and upload it. You can also go wide using Draft2Digital to make your book available on other ebook platforms like Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and iTunes.
But, if you want to produce a high-quality book, there are costs involved in getting the manuscript ready for publication.
You are not paying someone to publish your book, or I should say, upload your manuscript to KDP. You are investing in producing a quality product.
Technically, you do not have to pay anything to publish a book, but it will look like it.
You OWN your book, which places you in great authority, and with eminent authority comes greater responsibility. If you don’t want to be responsible for everything, then Self-Publishing might not be the route for you. It may be best to look into Traditional Publishing.
This post’s purpose is not for you to think that paying a lot of money will make your book great automatically. No editor, despite how talented, can make a crappy story great again.
The purpose of this post is to inform those of you new to Self-Publishing that if you want to be an Independent Author/Publisher, you will have to invest some money in publishing your book if you want it done right.
Indie Author Basics with EC exists because after Self-Publishing my books, I quickly realized the lack of information available to Indie Authors. Sometimes the only way to learn is through experience, and I have discovered some ups and downs that I think will help those who are just beginning. I do not present these as concrete, guaranteed solutions, but I hope new authors can use these tips to better the Self-Publishing experience and make it less confusing.
with me that every day
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.”
– Lucille Clifton
Last week, Saturday, October 3, 2020, I buried my mother.
On Tuesday, September 22nd, we learned she might night make it. That night I spent the night in the basement on the couch watching Grey’s Anatomy episodes with a glass of wine. I couldn’t sleep, but you will inevitably fall asleep on the sofa when you are downstairs in my house. We’ve had the couch for a while, and it has claimed many victims who promised themselves it was not comfortable enough to tame them. What also happens is I lose service down there, and while I drifted, my phone rang and rang, but I couldn’t hear it.
Finally, I went upstairs, and my phone rang again. My heart dropped. There is only one reason people call that early. I accepted my sister’s call and asked, “why are you calling me so early?,” although I already knew the answer.
“It was the twenty-third of September. That day I’ll always remember, yes I will ‘Cause that was the day that my mama died”
The next day, September 24th my aunt, my late dad’s sister, also passed.
I didn’t talk about it, but my Uncle John passed earlier this year on May 28th, two days after my birthday, and on June 2nd, a dear friend and brother passed.
The world also lost Kobe Bryant, Chadwick Boseman, and Thomas Jefferson Byrd, known best for his role as Luther from Set It Off. He passed the day we buried my mother.
I need no more reminders of how fragile life is, and that’s what sticks out to me the most in my time of silence as I seek to process all this death.
I think we are all aware of this delicacy that is life, but it becomes much more real when a loved one passes. It is then that we realize how insignificant we are and precious too. The insignificance is the weakness of our flesh; how it so easily topples and breaks down. The preciousness is the breath of life, without which we are lumps of clay.
It made me think about how we treat each other. It wasn’t until Yah breathed into Adam the breath of life that he became a living being. We are nothing without this power, and yet, we treat each other as if the breath pulsing through our veins differs from someone else’s. We treat each other as if the Almighty can’t call our spirit back at any moment.
What right do I have to mistreat someone when I return to the Earth just as they will? What right do I have to judge someone’s life or mock their pain when I know that I bleed just as they do?
What right does any of us have to think we are better than anyone else when the sun rises and falls on all of us, righteous and wicked, alike?
There are so many promises we make to one another at times, such as this. We promise to be there for one another, we promise to keep in touch, and we promise to appreciate the time we have.
But these promises do not last and are only remembered at the next funeral.
Our life is like the wind, a breeze that comes and goes. How I wish we could be consciously aware of our own lives’ fragility as we live and not only in death.
Don’t forget to grab your copy of My Soul is a Witnessand leave a review as reviews help to expose the work of Independent Artists.
He passed me his phone with a world map pulled up next to an article. The article detailed that because of the extreme of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, most countries are not allowing citizens from America into its lands. While we were not planning a trip out of the country, this made me think about the preciousness of now, of gratitude, and how quickly moments become memories.
How often do we stop to enjoy the minutes in front of us, before rushing on to the next something?
Fun Fact: I take a lot of pictures on vacation, but I rarely post them to social media when they were taken. Sometimes, I may not post photos at all on that day.
I started this practice after realizing how much I was missing with my head down. My husband would say stuff like, “did you see that deer?” No. I didn’t. I was uploading photos to Facebook.
I kept taking lots of pictures and sharing them, but not before enjoying the moment in front of me first. It has made all the difference. I can still taste the sweetness of the oranges we picked from the orange trees in Spain and smell the delicate fragrance of the lemons we picked from the lemon trees. And I can still remember the moment my husband snapped this picture, capturing forever a time I am not sure will ever return.
I do not know if the world is going back to what we considered normal, and I am not sure when we will travel again. But, I know that I will keep taking pictures and capturing moments because today is here; living and waiting to be filled. This second. This minute. This single hour. This unprecedented time. This precious right now that will undoubtedly become history. How does it feel to live history? Will we remember? What will we make of these moments before they become memories? What will we do with all these precious hours in front of us before they are gone?
My book review registry is back open. I am ready to read and support the best Indie Books around. Please take the time to read through my blog book review policy below. This same policy can also be found on its own page here.
Many times authors ask for a review from book bloggers without checking to see if they have a system in place first. This negligence to be thorough and get to know the blogger almost always leads to a resounding silence. This is a hard “No,” from the reviewer so please, understand my policy before you request a review.
What is a Book Review?
A book review is a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review may be a primary source, opinion piece, summary review, or scholarly review. A book review’s length may vary from a single paragraph to a substantial essay but can also be as short as a single sentence. Book reviews help encourage readers to purchase a book, acts as social proof, helps with an author’s Amazon ranking, and increases the book’s visibility.
About Yecheilyah’s Reviews
I have reviewed over thirty books (thirty-six to be exact) by over thirty different authors spanning five years. My authors include both new and Best Selling writers from all over the world. The PBS Blog has been on Reedsy’s Best Book Review Blogs since 2017 and still holds a spot in 2020 as one of it’s vetted catalog of active book blogs and thoughtful, quality, book reviews. My reviews are honest and thorough without giving away spoilers.
“It’s not just because she reviewed my novelette, All Good Stories, and gave it 5 stars, I’m writing about her because she gives great (and helpful) reviews. In a market, so full, it’s hard to choose what to read, isn’t it? We really need reviews these days that go beyond the minimalistic, “I liked it,” to know what we’re investing our money in. Because money doesn’t grow on trees. Neither do books anymore, for that matter.” – Linda G. Hill, author,All Good Stories.
How to Apply for a Review
1). Email me the link to your book on Amazon.
Put Blog Book Review Request in the header and do not send anything but the link to the book. I don’t need the title or description. Just the link.
If the book is not published, send me the title, description, and book cover if you have it. Email this to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is only if the books is not published.
2).Wait for approval
I will email you back and let you know if I would like to move forward and review your book. Please allow 2-3 business days before hearing back from me.
3). Upon approval pay the readers fee* through the main author website.
If I choose to review the book there is a small reader’s fee. Pay the fee through my site at this link.
*If your book is not approved for a review you will not have to pay the fee as I will not be reading/reviewing the book.
*The reader’s fee does not guarantee a positive review, nor is it payment for an Amazon review, which is against Amazon’s terms of service.
4).Gift me a copy of your book.
If your book is published:
Gift it through amazon email@example.com.
For published books I am no longer accepting PDF documents. You must gift me the book.
You may send an epub or mobi file directly to my kindle email address at firstname.lastname@example.org. PDF documents are acceptable if the book is notpublished.
If the book is in Kindle Unlimited you won’t have to gift it. I have a KU account and I can grab it for free.
You may ship me a paperback / hard copy but let me know this in our email correspondence.
Pro.This option will allow me to post a picture of the book on Social Media! (If I reviewed your book as an ebook and loved it, you can always send me a paperback if you want me to go the extra mile and post a pic to sm!)
Con. This option is a longer turnaround time on the review since I have to wait for it in the mail, read it, and then review it. I do not recommend this option if you are in a hurry for feedback.
I take the “honesty” part of the honest review seriously. If you’re looking for someone to sugar coat feedback of your book, I am not the reviewer for you. I invest much time and attention to the books I review. I do not skim through your writing, skip large text, or copy and paste the book blurb from Amazon. I take my time to read.
As a professional book reviewer and Indie Author, I consider it my responsibility to promote the best, so I am not cutting corners this year. If your book is full of typos and errors, you lessen the chances of being approved for a review. Excellence is a priority.
If your book is approved, I rate on the scale of 3-5 only on this blog. If your review falls below a 3-star rating, I will email you the report and my thoughts — only scores of 3-5 qualify for a published feature and spotlight on this blog.
Only ratings of 3 – 5 are published on this blog.
Rating meanings vary between reviewers but here are mine.
Plot Movement / Strength
Authenticity / Believable
*Poetry ratings will differ from other books:
Creativity / Authenticity
Five Stars – Amazing, Outstanding
This book was hard to put down and is highly recommended. It was well-written, wasn’t preachy, included fully developed characters who were relatable and realistic, masterful use of language, an engaging plot, and a satisfying ending.
Four Stars– Very Good
This book is delightful and well worth the read. Great story with only minor weaknesses that may include aspects of plot/dialogue/character development.
Three Stars– Nice
This book was lovely. The writing and storytelling are sound, but several aspects could be improved. The author may have too many editing/typo errors, too much telling, or I couldn’t get into the story as much as I’d hoped, but it was enjoyable.
In the event you receive a one or two-star personal review from me:
Two Stars– Not Recommended
This book did not fully capture the reader’s attention or interest. Admirable attempt but needs more attention to plot/dialogue/editing/formatting/character development.
One Star– Poor
This book has significant issues with text that outweigh any enjoyment by the reader. Poorly written, preachy, unprofessional editing/layout/printing; needs considerable revision to deserve the reader’s time.
My Favorite Genres to Read/Review:
Motivational / Inspirational
Pro Tip: It is best that you try to send reviewers books they are most interested in reading!
Genres I Don’t Review
I do not currently review the following genres. It is not intended to be discriminatory in any way. Thank you for understanding:
• LGBT Fiction / Literature • Erotica*
*Romance is okay, but not strict erotica.
a. I do not accept unsolicited requests for reviews. Do not email me a digital copy of your book if we have not already corresponded through email using the steps mentioned above.
b. Agreement on my part to read a book does not imply blanket authorization to send me other works of yours (including books in a series.) You must follow these steps for each book you want to be reviewed.
c.Turnaround time for receipt of the review depends on the length of the book. Naturally, shorter texts are read and reviewed quicker than longer books.