I am from Chicago, where kids paid close attention to the shoes you were wearing after winter break.
Everybody was checking to see who was wearing something new. See, in the hood where money is scarce, you got your best clothes and shoes around Christmas, so when kids come back from break, everybody is looking to see what you got on.
I walked into my eighth-grade classroom with my all-blue suede Timbs (what we called Timberland boots), and I didn’t like the way everyone’s eyes noticed them.
The same thing happened in High School.
I grew up poor and didn’t start wearing name-brand shoes until the second round of sixth grade. While I loved Air Force Ones, I had never owned a pair of Jordans.
It wasn’t until High School I owned a pair and joined the other “cool” kids and experienced what it was like to sit on the pedestal of those who wore Jordans.
And I didn’t like it.
I wished I hadn’t worn those shoes. I liked them a lot, but I didn’t like the attention they garnered. I also didn’t like being like everyone else. I quickly realized I wasn’t a Jordan-wearing type of person. As I got older, I learned I am not all that into gym shoes (sneakers if you are not from the Chi) in general. I wear them, and I have them (and I like looking at the different styles), but my personal style is more casual.
But anyway, those Jordans were my first and only pair.
Here’s the truth:
I don’t like the spotlight. Despite what I do for a living, I am not an “out there in front” kind of person, and I get embarrassed easily because I’m shy.
Just as Moses did not want to go to the Pharaoh and tell him to let his people go at first, I do not always want to show up.
But at some point, Moses had to obey the voice that spoke to him and fulfill his purpose which is why I show up despite the quiver in my chest.
Maya Angelou said courage is the most important of all virtues because, without courage, you cannot practice any other virtue consistently.
You can’t be consistently kind or loving, or generous. You can be these things for a time, but not consistently because there is no endurance without courage.
When the threat is too much, you will quit if not for courage. So, while everyone is afraid, those who are courageous go on despite the fear.
“I do what I hate to do, but I do it like I love it. That’s discipline.” – Mike Tyson
What Tyson isn’t saying:
Settle for a life that does not bring you joy.
What Tyson is saying:
Even while doing what you love, there will be moments where you have to be disciplined to accomplish a goal, and this won’t be fun, but it will be worth it.
Stop Predicting What Other People Are Thinking
I am pretty sure we are all guilty of this!
The biggest stumbling block to showing up is thinking about what other people would think of you. We make up these stories in our head about what we expect to happen and what we think other people are thinking.
Tell yourself a different story than the one in your head.
People do love you and think about you often.
Readers do want to read your book, and they do care about your story.
People want to hear from you more than you think.
You do matter.
I mean, I know you’re a genius and all that, but you can’t predict what people are thinking. You just cannot do that to yourself.
“But I don’t want people to think…”
This is a phrase we should all work to eliminate from our vocabulary, and I admit, I have work to do myself. When we say things like this, we are expecting a response that may or may not even be real.
“I don’t want to post about my book because I don’t want people to think ________.”
If you don’t tell people about it, how are they supposed to know it exists? What about this instead:
“I am so excited to tell people about my new book!”
I notice the more I am excited about something, the more excited the people around me are. Take the smile test for example.
Look at someone and smile. I bet you they are going to smile back. If they are extra silly like me, they might even laugh. Then you will laugh, and neither of us knows what’s funny.
One of my favorite quotes is:
“What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”
Anticipate the best possible outcome instead of the worst.
Release the Need to Know.
Trying to control the outcome is like trying to catch the wind. Get excited about what you don’t know and all the possibilities of a new experience. You don’t need to know the outcome to start.
You Don’t Have to Say Yes to Everything.
You don’t have to drink from every cup handed to you. That’s how you get poisoned. You are only required to accept those things that speak to your soul, nothing more and nothing less. If it does not set your soul on fire, you don’t have to do it.
Saying no is not wearing Jordans if you really don’t like them.
Another quick story.
In my early teens, fifteen-sixteen-ish, my brother spray-painted hats and t-shirts for the neighborhood. He did stuff like this all the time because he’s an amazing artist. He even designed clothing for the entire cheerleading team. Anywho, my brother spray-painted my and my sisters’ and cousin hats to match our shirts. That’s how I got into wearing hats that summer. Eventually, my sisters and cousin let go of the hat thing, but I would still wear mine even at school. My twin thought I looked like a boy, but I wasn’t a tomboy. I just liked the hat.
Saying no is also about not denying a part of yourself because of what other people think.
This means knowing ourselves well enough to know what we want and don’t want.
Sometimes, we accept things we don’t like, things that are not inherently us, and things we are not comfortable with because we don’t know ourselves, and that’s another discussion altogether.
It can be hard to show up when you are naturally more laid back and reserved, but I challenge you to push yourself. The best way to get used to doing something is to get out there and do it, and the more you do that thing, the easier it’ll be.
And being an introvert doesn’t necessarily mean that you are shy, although many shy people are introverted.
I took an online quiz before posting this. My results say I am an introvert (not surprised) with the following traits:
You crave alone time. Having time to think, private space, and quiet time helps you feel rested and whole.
People can drain you. Even the most well-meaning people can pull a lot out of you. You can absolutely do social situations; they just take a lot of energy.
When socializing, you like to observe before partaking. You like to think before you speak and have one-on-one conversations rather than speaking in groups.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
I am not at all surprised I am enjoying Cicely Tyson’s memoir, Just as I am. While I am not an actor,* I try to learn as much as I can from others. Even if it’s reading a book, I want to know what brought us together and what purpose I might piece together that we are intended to serve to each other.
I have had this post sitting in my drafts since the beginning of May. It wasn’t until I read this chapter last night I could finish it and feel comfortable publishing it.
In Chapter Ten, Center Stage, Miss Cicely is recounting her training with Vinnette Carroll, playwright, actress, theater director, and the first black woman to direct on Broadway, with her 1972 production of the musical Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope.
In discussing art, Miss Cicely (I like saying that) explains in just a few short sentences everything I want to convey in this post.
“Vinnette taught me to learn technique and then to forget it–and to resurrect it only if it served my portrayal. Technique is important, to the extent that it is undergirded by emotion. I once knew an actress who was a brilliant technician, but her portrayal fell flat. She could create a moment and bring it to fruition, yet it was apparent she wasn’t feeling anything, and as a result, neither was her audience.”
Cicely Tyson, Just as I am, Chapter Ten, pg. 156-57
“Technique is important, to the extent that it is undergirded by emotion.”
I never consider myself an expert on anything. I will say what I have come to know in my experience, both as a writer and listener of poetry, is to watch out for intellect. By intellect, I mean the need to be so fancy you confuse the reader. It is, in my opinion, similar to using technique and forgetting emotion.
That is why I often feel that intellect, if not used in balance with emotion, passion, and heart, is the enemy of sound poetry.
“Watch out for intellect, because it knows so much it knows nothing and leaves you hanging upside down, mouthing knowledge as your heart falls out of your mouth.”
I have read poetry so over my head I could not possibly relate to it. Metaphors and similes were so puzzling I am not even sure Maya Angelou could decipher what the poet meant if she were alive. I once read a poem that ended with the author saying he or she had eaten a bird. I do not know who or what the bird symbolized. All I know is a bird at the beginning that ended up eaten by the end of the poem.
I did feel sorry for the bird to this poet’s credit, so I was not without emotion completely. It is not lost on me that readers can discover their own meanings and interpretations of poems, which is part of the fun. We learn what the author intended for the poem to communicate and what we got from it based on our personal experiences and feelings. I love hearing how a poem I’ve written resonated with readers, even if what they got from it was different from what I thought as I wrote it.
But, I like to think reading and writing is a partnership. While the first person our writing serves is ourselves, I would hope there is something to be gained by the reader too. I don’t want to get so wrapped up in the beauty of language that there is no substance, just pretty words. I expressed this in the poem Give Me Life.
To me, this would be similar to the woman Tyson references, who was a brilliant technician when acting but could not move her audience.
If you know anything about me by now, you know I am a Black Movie Buff. It’s like Justice said in Poetic Justice about having something deep to say, about having a voice.
Lucky: “What you write about in that notebook?”
Justice: “That’s my poetry.”
Lucky: “You trying to say my cousin’s shit ain’t poetry?”
Justice: “It ain’t if he ain’t got nothing deep to say. Gotta have a voice. A perspective.”
Intellect can be a strength or it can be a weakness.
If there is an easier way to say something, write it plainly, and it will reveal its own depth. I like to write the poem as it comes to me and then come back later to dress it up. Ain’t nothing wrong with a little icing once you have the cake.
Here is another quote I picked up from the quote of the day from author and editor Shayla Raquel’s newsletter, which I also just read yesterday.
“Your writing voice is the deepest possible reflection of who you are. The job of your voice is not to seduce or flatter or make well-shaped sentences. In your voice, your readers should be able to hear the contents of your mind, your heart, your soul.”
— Meg Rosof
*I said at the beginning of this post I was not an actor. I should say I am not a professional actor, as I do have some experience with it. In High School, I was part of a special program to write and perform plays. I cannot remember the program’s name or what the aim was, but this was my first official summer job. I did this for the summer of my Sophomore and Junior year, taking an official drama class my senior year, where I would also perform my poetry live for the first time as a monologue. In 2015, I was featured in a stage play at the DuSable Museum.
But as I reflect, fun as it was, I prefer to write the screenplay. Ya’ll can do the acting.
Have you entered this year’s poetry contest? I hope I gave you some inspiration! Take your time but keep your eyes on the clock. June will be here before you know it.
Due to how the royalties are structured, an author with a 99cent ebook on Amazon will only get about 35 cents per sale. For books priced between $2.99 and $9.99, there is a delivery cost for the ebook file (based on the size) for each book sold.
You also pay Amazon a sales commission based on your royalty rate.
35% royalty: the Amazon sales commission is 65% for books priced below $2.99 and above $9.99
70% royalty: the Amazon sales commission is 30% for books priced between $2.99 and $9.99
What about taxes?
You pay that too.
These are just a few reasons why it can benefit you to sell your book directly to readers from your website.
While I have only made a few dollars in ebook sales from my new book, my print book preorder sales from my website are doing far better, and I am close to making money back from the cover art. By the time the book releases next month, I expect to make back what I paid for editing.
I am going to make this post real short because it’s real simple.
The hard truth is that if you are not selling books through your website or worse, you don’t have an author website, you are leaving money on the table.
While some authors have chosen not to deal with Amazon at all, it’s smart to make sure your book is on Amazon for a few reasons.
To start, Amazon is a giant. To have your book available there is just good sense. People trust Amazon, so some people will look for your book there before they look anywhere else. And with the pandemic, people use Amazon regularly. It’s all about making it easy for your readers, and being able to tell them to go to Amazon isn’t only super cool, but it’s also super easy.
But while Amazon is easily accessible to your readers, the relationship between Amazon and you as the author is a bit different.
There are tons of authors making good money from Amazon, but they are not the majority.
Here is an example from an author about his Amazon royalties:
“One month, I sold 5 paperbacks at a list of 13.99 each. The report stated the manufacturing cost was 5.33 (I assume each), and I’m on the 70% royalty. I got a total of 1.30 cents. That’s 26 cents a book. The next month I sold 1 paperback at 13.99, and I got a 3.13 royalty on it.”
The 2021 Guide to Amazon Fees and Royalties for Kindle eBooks and KDP Print, 2019, Comment Section
This is where your author website comes in to pick up the slack.
What if he had sold five paperback copies of this book from his author website? Since he would have to calculate shipping, let’s just round it up to a cool fifteen dollars per book. That’s $75 in his pocket. If he sells 20 books, that’s $300.
It might not sound like much, but it adds up if he sells books at this rate daily.
Even with website transaction fees, authors can still add more to their bank accounts by having their books on their websites alongside Amazon.
In closing, if you are a Self-Publisher, you can buy your books in bulk and sell them in bulk to companies and corporations like schools and independent bookstores.
Heck, you can sell the books out of the trunk of your car if you want.
The sky is not the limit of what you can do when you control the distribution of your own work.
Considering you are not signed to a publisher or are not restricted to any outside contracts that may otherwise prohibit you, you don’t have to be exclusive to Amazon. Instead, you use Amazon as one of many options.
For digital, you can set your book up on Draft2Digital to distribute it to several digital platforms outside of Amazon. For print, you can set your book up on Amazon KDP but also Ingram Spark for distribution to bookstores and libraries.
When Tina’s nephew, Ronnie is killed, she is left to care for his siblings and to solve a series of mysterious murders involving only black men. Investigating each murder thrusts her and her team into a world of deities, demons, and fallen angels, leading Tina to battle a serial killer beyond this realm.