Freedom Ring – Part One

Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels

The Train

Louis pulled the olive-drab wool service cap down as far as it could go. Why he was hiding his face, he didn’t know. It was not like anyone could see him. Louis’s heart fluttered. After all these years, even the thought of her made him blush. His excitement was quickly replaced by sorrow. He had not been the best husband. Maybe if he were, she would not have asked for that restraining order, he would not have joined the Army, and the terrible future he knew was coming would not happen.

But Louis was on a mission, so now he couldn’t think about that. Life was funny in that way. Sometimes you don’t realize your purpose until after you have already lived.

The scream of the train’s horn startled him out of his thoughts. The 63rd Street Station in Chicago was lively, with travelers. He looked down at his watch as the train’s horn sounded again. They will be here any minute now.

“Now, where do you think you are going?”

Louis looked up and smiled. That tiny voice and round, golden-brown face always did something to him. Then, she had the nerve to have those sexy glasses on. But Mamie wasn’t talking to him and had not spoken to him in years. No, Mamie Carthan was talking to their son.

Louis stopped thinking about her beauty and rushed over to stand next to them. There was not much time left, and although he knew neither one could see him, the whole situation still made him nervous. Nerves. Was that even a thing anymore? Louis brushed imaginary lint from his wool, four-button olive coat. It was the same coat he had been wearing for ten years now. The same uniform he has worn since he died.

“Come on, ma. I’m gonna be late,” whined the chubby little boy.

Louis smiled. He knew Emmett would be a handful the day they discovered he was a breech baby. That’s why he gave him his name because he knew he’d be hard-headed, just like his father. Emmett Louis Till. Bursting into the world wide-eyed and feet first.

“Yea, but you didn’t kiss me goodbye.”

Emmett smiled and gave Mamie a peck on the cheek.

Give her the watch.

Louis cleared his throat. He hadn’t realized how long it’s been since he had said anything out loud. He looked around at the people walking by. It was strange the way they seemed to look right at him.

Give her the watch. 

He repeated the command as he stared down at his son.

You won’t need it where you are going.

He could see the boy thinking the words over in his head. He knew he thought they were coming from his own mind. Louis had come to learn that sadness was different in the after-world, but if he could, he would shed a tear. He stood watching his son remove the watch he was wearing and give it to his mother, and his heart ached at the future.

“Here,” said Emmett, “take my watch.”

Mamie frowned as she put it on, “Why?”

“I won’t need it where I’m going,” he said, turning his back to his mother and dashing off in the direction of the train where his cousin Wheeler and great Uncle Moses were waiting.

“Bobo, wait! What about your ring?”

Louis turned away from Emmett to look admirably at his ex-wife. She was the one and had always been the one. He thought she was chosen for him to be his wife this entire time. But the truth is she was chosen to be Emmett’s mother.

He pulled himself away from her face. He was running out of time. Emmett had to be on that train.

Show it to the fellas.

Emmett turned around and pulled the ring from his pants pocket, and put it on, rubbing his fingers across his father’s initials. He lifted his head and stared straight ahead, like someone who had just discovered a new world or happened upon a new invention, and flashed a big grin.

“I’m gonna show this to the fellas!”

Mamie laughed and waved her handkerchief.

“Alright then, boy. Go on ahead now.”

Louis watched his son jump on the train and Mamie staring after him. He remembered the day he got the thing made in Europe, just one year since he had been drafted into the Army. But it was not his ring anymore. Soon, the whole African American community would wear that ring. 

No. This was no longer LT’s ring. Now, it was the ring of freedom.

The quietness of the station alarmed him, and Louis looked around in awe of the now dark, empty station. The Master warned him that time moved differently here. He had better get a move on it if he was going to make it to Money in time.

Louis inhaled deeply as his body disintegrated into the wind for his next mission.


After watching ABC’s “Let the World See” about the role of Mamie Till and how she handled Emmett Till’s death, I was happy to see some discussion about Emmett’s father, Louis. Since grade school, I have been studying the Emmett Till story, when I first learned about it, heard many versions of the story, and have seen countless documentaries. My favorite is the one that aired in 2005, “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till,” on YouTube. I like it mostly because Mamie Till was still alive and could tell it the way only she could.

But in all the docs, even my favorite one, there was never anything about his father. This had me thinking.

What if we tell both of their stories at the same time? 

Louis Till died at the young age of twenty-three when he was accused of assaulting some Italian women in Europe while serving overseas in the Transportation Corps of the U.S. Army during World War II. He and a friend were found guilty and lynched in 1945. 

What if our story doesn’t end here? 

What if the spirit world informs Louis about his son’s death and its necessity to jump start The Civil Rights Movement? 

And what if it becomes Louis’s responsibility to make sure Emmett wears his ring so that they can identify his body? 

And what if his soul isn’t allowed to rest until he does? 

What if we can tell both stories through the power of the ring that binds them?

Signs You Are Not Ready to Self-Publish Part 4: You Are Afraid Someone Will Steal Your Idea

One of the first signs that someone is new to publishing is their obsession with copyright.

Everyone at some point thinks about ways to protect what they have built, but obsessing over the possibility of someone stealing your work is one sure way of waving your hands in a crowded room and shouting, “Hey, everyone! Newbie here!”

“People who are paranoid about the theft of an unpublished manuscript or who obsess about somebody “stealing their ideas” red-flag themselves as amateurs.”

Anne R. Allen
Pixabay

Despite how brilliant I am sure you are, your book idea is not unique in the sense that no one has heard of it in some form before, and you cannot copyright an idea. According to Section 102(b) of US Copyright Law:

“In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated or embodied in such work.”

Us Copyright Law
Yes, it’s true!|Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels

Since January 1, 1978, American Copyright laws have stated that anything you produce is automatically under copyright. That’s right, at creation. Whether you typed it up in Word on your computer or published it in a book, it is automatically under copyright and lasts for life plus 70 years:

“Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”

US Copyright, https://www.copyright.gov/

“In general, for works created on or after January 1, 1978, the term of copyright is the life of the author plus seventy years after the author’s death. If the work is a joint work with multiple authors, the term lasts for seventy years after the last surviving author’s death.”

https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf

Now, I can see how this would not be enough to convince someone that their work is safe. Authors can register their work with the US copyright office here as an added layer of security. They have also added a new option to register short online literary works, such as blog entries, social media posts, and short online articles.

But remember, this is optional. You do not need to do this for your work to be considered under copyright, though it can be helpful in the event of a lawsuit:

“In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a US work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”

US Copyright Office

“Copyright exists automatically in an original work of authorship once it is fixed in a tangible medium, but a copyright owner can take steps to enhance the protections of copyright, the most important of which is registering the work. Although registering a work is not mandatory, for U.S. works, registration (or refusal) is necessary to enforce the exclusive rights of copyright through litigation.”

https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf

You also don’t need to send a copy of your manuscript to yourself. Also known as “Poor Man’s Copyright,” this would not stand up in court if a lawsuit is in play and does not replace registration.

“The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.”

Us Copyright

Warning: Registering your unpublished work with the Copyright Office can set you up to be scammed because scammers sometimes scroll the copyright database for unpublished work to snag. Click here to learn more. I recommend reading the whole thing but scroll to the bottom for this particular part. Publish the book first, and then register the copyright. 

You Don’t Need an LLC to Self-Publish a Book

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels | I don’t get the obsession with LLCs these days , but you don’t need one to Self-Publish a book.

Suppose you find you are making a significant amount of money from your self-published books, and it becomes necessary to separate your business and personal accounts. In that case, creating an LLC is ideal. However, it is unnecessary to pay money to form an LLC to self-publish a book when you are just starting. Consider the fees associated with applying for and keeping an LLC.

Remember that the LLC serves the purpose of operating as a separate legal entity and that you, personally, won’t be responsible for any debts the LLC incurs. But that’s not usually necessary with self-publishing because it is low risk. By low-risk, I mean you do not start out making tons of money, or at least not the kind of money that would warrant you to separate your accounts.

I operate under an LLC because I do other things outside of publishing, such as coaching, book reviews, interviews, and other services I provide. However, I have only had an LLC for about a year now. Until then, I operated under my legal government name just fine.

Buy Your ISBN for Your Own Imprint

Be Your Own Boss | Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

As I cannot reiterate enough, there are tons of scams out there, so it’s important to remember that you do not need to pay someone thousands of dollars to “maintain your copyright.” As we have already established, copyright belongs to you when you create the work, and you can register it through the copyright website for thirty bucks.

However, if you wish to maintain your publishing rights and have your own imprint, buy your own ISBN. This will ensure you publish books under your name or company name. This means the book will point to you as the publisher, not Amazon. In this way, you use Amazon as a printer or the platform you use to print physical copies of your book and house your book online, but the rights to the book belong to you.

Can you Self-Publish a book without buying an ISBN? Yes, you can. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Lulu, and many others will allow you to choose to use one of their free ISBNs. ISBNs in the US are not cheap (they are free in Canada), so this is ideal for many beginning publishers. However, I highly recommend buying your own.

  • You have complete control over what is entered in your book’s metadata—that is, the descriptions and categories that help libraries, bookstores, and readers worldwide discover your book and decide whether they want to purchase it. In today’s digital world, your book’s metadata can hugely impact its chances of being found and purchased by your target audience. This would mean a lot to self-published authors, who do not have a traditional publisher’s marketing and distribution capabilities to fall back on.
  • As you will be the publisher of record, your ISBN will remain unchanged even if you change your publishing service company or publish with multiple companies.
  • Any individual or organization with specific orders or inquiries regarding your book will approach the publisher of record; you would rather this be you instead of your publishing service company.
  • If you plan on writing several books, it makes sense to take on the mantle of a publisher and have your own constant publishing imprint on your books.

https://www.editage.com/info/book-editing-services/articles/10-faqs-on-isbn-every-self-publishing-author-must-know.html

“Your ISBN is the identification number that is tied to you and your book. If you use an identification number tied to a business that could go under (because remember, a free ISBN belongs to them), you risk your book not being available for purchase. This is an even bigger concern if you are using a Vanity Publisher. They could easily disappear, and you will have to start over on the publishing front.”

https://www.shawnpbrobinson.com/reasons-to-get-your-own-isbn/

If you are going to be constantly paranoid and obsessed with copyright and worrying that people will steal your book or idea of a book, you are not ready to Self-Publish. You might feel better going the traditional route. However, if you are ready to publish Independently, you have to relax on the copyright stuff. It is going to be okay. Go ahead and register it with the copyright office and publish the book. You will be fine. 


Need more guidance? I can help! Click Here to learn how.


The Hardest Lesson I Have Had to Learn as an Authorpreneur

One of the biggest mistakes I made on my Authorprenur* journey was doing everything for free. Everything from book reviews to interviews to consults was free at one time. I gave everything away. I even taught people the steps needed to publish books on their own without them giving me a dime.

*A play on the word entrepreneur, an authorpreneur is an author who blends publishing books with business practices. These authors do not only write and publish books, but they build brands.

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This might sound good. It might make your heart melt and make you shout “Halleluyah.” You might do a little praise dance for my commitment to service and admire my generous soul.

But you can save charity for your congregation and your nonprofit programs. This is not good for running a business because you train your audience to expect everything you do to be free.

This is what has happened to me.

Not only did doing everything for free teach my audience to expect free from me, but people also started taking advantage of me. They took the information I gave and tried to do it independently, so they didn’t have to pay for the service.

You also attract a low-paying tribe when you do everything for free.

Once you have set a foundation for giving your services away, it becomes difficult to start charging because you have already groomed and equipped people to expect this service to be free or extremely low-cost. It is much easier to charge your worth from the beginning.

pexels-thirdman-5058915

If you struggle with this or are just starting, you can schedule your day like a workday and only accept work during your work hours. I work from 10a-4p on Fridays. This means anything after 4 is set up for the next workday, Monday at 9am EST.

Now that your day is scheduled, what can you fit in that time? Do you write? Blog? Create Social Media Content? Are you answering questions? Emails? If people are constantly asking you questions, set up a discovery call system and put a price tag on that.

And by questions I mean, like, if you have a skill. Don’t be charging people for stuff and you don’t know what you are doing or talking about. That’s called a scam.

I don’t get paid to blog in general. Like, I am not being paid to publish this post. However, I do charge for Book Reviews, and Author Interviews featured on this blog, something I was not doing initially. After noticing how much time it took me to schedule the interviews (it can take hours) and put together the book reviews (this can take weeks), I switched things up a bit.

When Authors pay for a review* or Interview, it gives me more incentive to follow through. It also ensures I prioritize that project (paid projects supersede free ones). I also charge because I pay for space on this blog. This means this blog is no longer something I do for fun. It is also now part of my business.

*Paid book reviews featured on this blog do not guarantee a positive review so no, authors are not paying me for a positive review. Blog book reviews are also not posted to Amazon as paid reviews are against Amazon’s policy. 

It’s not even about the money. It is about putting value on your time.

Nowadays, saying you’re an entrepreneur can also mean unemployed, depending on who’s talking. The value has been cheapened by people chasing the next hustle. But a hustle is not a business.

The truth is if you are not charging for your work or constantly giving your books away for free, you do not have a business. You are either still hustling to see what will stick or have an expensive hobby.

Click Here for more Indie Author Basics. But Hurry. This series is moving to a new platform soon.

If We Were Having Coffee Right Now

Photo by Chevanon Photography from Pexels

Hey, ya’ll, hey!

It’s been a lil minute since we had a lil chat. This year I decided I would not rush back to this blog after the New Year.

If you are one of those extra woke people who need to remind me it is not technically a “New Year” until spring, don’t. I know, and we not talking about that right now.

Anyway, come on in!

Please remove your shoes. House policy.

Go ahead and grab some coffee. The Kerug is self-serving, so help yourself. There is also tea on the counter if that’s your thing. Sugar is in the pantry, and cream is in the fridge. I hope International Delight’s Sweet Cream is okay?

Pineapple, mango, Bananas, Strawberry, Carrots, and Ginger. I thought this was gonna be nasty, but it was good!
  • If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you I am on a month-long fast from alcohol. I have started drinking more fruit and vegetable-infused smoothies instead. It hasn’t been long enough for me to really notice any changes, but I’ll keep you updated on that. I am not much of a drinker (I tend to stick with wine), but I wanted to start the year with a fresh flush of my system. No alcohol and fast foods and processed stuff and all that junk. If you take care of your body now, it will take care of you later!

2021 Me: “Look at us tryna be all healthy and stuff!”

2022 Me: “Girlll. I know right?!

  • Speaking of body, if we were having coffee right now, I would tell you about this dope essay contest that the Navigating the Life blog is hosting on body positivity. “Body positivity refers to the assertion that all people deserve to have a positive body image, regardless of how society and popular culture view ideal shape, size, and appearance.” Click here to learn more.
  • If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you my main priority is finishing the black history book. If you are new to this blog, click here to check out my Black History Fun Fact series. It was something I started to honor Black History Month that turned into a weekly feature when I realized Black history is too powerful to limit to 28 days. Long story short, I am turning the series into a book. My goal is to finish the rough draft by the end of February, if not the start. I am about 32K words in now on the road to 50K.

By the looks of it, this will be a thick book, so 50K is not necessarily the end word count, but it is what I am striving for now. I am noticing how easily distracting it can be to finish a book and keep up with social media simultaneously. Suffice to say, I have severely limited my time on this blog and my socials. I pop in to see what ya’ll are up to, but I gotta be focused this month if I am going to reach my goal. You’ll see me around, though.

Photo by Jack Sparrow from Pexels
  • If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you I am preparing to present at my first conference this March. I am teaching a class on the importance of faith in business. My specific topic is “Overcoming Fear in Business.” We will discuss and identify the symptoms of fear and learn practical methods of overcoming the barriers in business caused by fear.

Suppose you’ve ever had anxiety about showing up to promote your brand or company (especially if you are Introverted). In that case, you want to be in the building. It’s going down on March 11th in Gulfport, MS. Be sure you follow my social media for more updates as the date approaches.

Photo by Andrew Neel from Pexels
  • If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you I have not published much poetry to this blog because I am working on another book. When I published My Soul is a Witness, I ran into issues with publishing poems featured on this blog. I had to verify they belonged to me before Amazon could approve it. I am not sharing many of them with this blog this time to overcome that hurdle. I already have the name of the collection and will reveal it with the cover. For now, you should know it will follow in the same vibe as I am Soul and My Soul is a Witness.
Photo by Jack Sparrow from Pexels

If we were having coffee right now, I would also tell you I am thinking of turning Indie Author Basics with EC into a Podcast. Part of the reason is I have felt a strong sense that I should speak more. Now, most people don’t believe me when I say I am shy, but I really am. If you notice, I don’t go live a lot. I am not a fan of being out front. For you 90s fans, I’m not tryna be “all in the videos.” Only the real one’s will get this reference. Tee hee.

Suffice it to say, I feel a need to push myself more, step out from behind the keyboard and speak. Allowing you to hear me discuss the Indie Author Basic topics and maybe even interview authors would help. Whatcha think? Should we give it a go?

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you the Book Review Registry is still closed. I cannot possibly read any more books and finish mine at the same time. I hope to reopen as early as March. Be sure to check out this page for details on how to apply. Keep in mind you are not booked, and your space is not reserved until payment is received.

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you your cup is empty. Your coffee/tea is gone, and so is my time. Now, you don’t have to go home but…

…I’ll be seeing you.

Lol

Yecheilyah’s Book List 2021

Hey guys!

As we wrap up 2021, I thought I’d copy off Barrack Obama and share my book list, a combination of Trade and Indie books I read this year. This list is based on books I’ve read or am reading now. I missed a lot of hot releases reading for research, so I only got around to about twenty books this year, and not all of them were published in 2021. And for the sake of time, I will not talk about every book.

So heerree we go.

Just as I am by Cicely Tyson

This list is in no particular order, but if it was, this would still be the number one read for me this year. Publishing a memoir is among many of my author goals, and the way this was structured is precisely what I have in mind. Cicely Tyson’s Just as I am is not only a memoir. It is a magnifying glass on 96 years of black history told through the eyes of someone who lived it in real-time. A perfect blend of personal testimony with the political and social climate of the times, a poetic proclamation to some of the most historical events of the 20th Century. 

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

Listen, if you can get me to read your book and keep reading it or think about it so much when I am not reading it, I want to pick it up at my earliest convenience to finish, then you can make the top of my list. This book was hilarious and thought-provoking at the same time. It was also refreshing that the book was not too long and engaging enough to read in one sitting. I hadn’t done that in a while. I enjoyed it.

Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans

I read the first half of this book at the library while I was supposed to be reading Amanda’s new book. No shade to Gorman, but I had to let hers sit to the side a lil bit reading this here. I love Jasmine’s rawness. She is all fire and straightforwardness. When I got home, I bought my own copy.

Promise That You Will Sing for Me: The Power and Poetry of Kendrick Lamar by Miles Marshall Lewis

For clarity, this is not a memoir. It is biography written by pop culture critic, essayist, literary editor, fiction writer, and music journalist Miles Marshall Lewis. I really like how he structured this, mixing pop culture, some hip-hop history leading up to Kendrick’s birth, and Lamar’s coming of age story.

The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman

Because I heard this poem recited first at the Presidential Inauguration, it’s so fun to read because Gorman’s voice is in my head. I can read this repeatedly because it’s short and inspiring.

Will (Currently reading)

I literally just got this book yesterday, but I had to put it on the list because I think Will is dope so I know this book will be entertaining. Looking forward to digging in.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Dubois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers

This book is mad thick, so no, I have not finished reading it. What I have read so far is good, though, and I will be picking this back up again for sure.

The Queen V: Everything You Need to Know About Sex, Intimacy, and Down There Health Care by Dr. Jackie Walters

Ladies, listen. There are so many myths surrounding this here vajayjay of ours. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of this book by Married to Medicine’s Jackie Walters. She’s an MD of Comprehensive Women’s OB/GYN, located in Duluth and Dunwoody, Georgia, and is a household name in the Atlanta area. If you know her from the show, the book reads in her voice, which is cool.

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

If you want to learn about how the US government systematically imposed residential segregation: with undisguised racial zoning; public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities; subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs; tax exemptions for institutions that enforced segregation; and support for violent resistance to African Americans in white neighborhoods, this the one.

Immersed in West Africa by Terry Lister (Indie)

I enjoyed “traveling” with this author on his journey through Senegal, Mauritania, The Gambia, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau.

Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism by James W. Loewen

They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South (Current Research Book)

Chile. If you want a history of Karen’s behavior, babbyy. This the one.

Family Medicine: A Psychological Suspense Thriller (Indie)

Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman (Currently reading)

I am not as invested in this one as I was in the first one, but I’m still enjoying it.

Things I Wish I Said by AVG (Indie)

Fields of Grace by Wendy Waters (Indie)

Capitalism and Slavery by Eric Williams (Research Book)

Ya’ll notice my nails got better in the latter part of the year? Cause this was this summer, and what in the messy nail polish is going on here, lol.

Living in the Land of I am: Your Life Journey Reveals Your Purpose by Tiffany James (Indie)

Life After Death by Sister Souljah

I had such high hopes for this book. Read my full review here.

She Wins (Indie)

When Poets Pray by Marilyn McEntyre

I did not enjoy this book like I thought I would. I should have researched it more, but I judged it by its cover and title, both of which I think are awesome. But I’m gonna have to pass.

I’m Speaking Now: Black Women Share Their Truth in 101 Stories of Love, Courage, and Hope

A compelling anthology. Highly recommended.

Books I Didn’t Get Around to but Want to Read:

The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Feeding the Soul by Tabitha Brown

You Got Anything Stronger? by Gabrielle Union

And that’s my book list for 2021!

Have you read any on this list? Tell me your favorite!

They Don’t Know My Name

I walk into a library
tighten the mask around my ears
choose a table in the furthest corner
of the room.
No one comes over.
“Good,” I think to myself.
“It’s good to social distance.”
I say that as if I wouldn’t have distanced myself anyway.
The girl with the braids smiles,
waves.
I nod. Afraid to speak.
She might think I’m friendly and come over.
She carries her book over to the table
on the other side of the room
away from me.
“Good,” I say to myself again.
I don’t feel like discussing the book she has in her hands.
I wonder if she knows how to pronounce the name.
I wonder if she knows the author
is sitting over here in the corner
trying not to be seen.

Indie Author Hack: Study Your Negative Reviews

Getting negative reviews on your book is a real heart-breaker. How dare they talk about your baby like that? I mean, you are obviously the best writer ever. Getting negative feedback on your book feels like a personal attack.

And not just for Indie Authors, but for all authors.

Sister Souljah got so many negative reviews for her latest release, Life After Death, that she was compelled to address it on Instagram, saying, “Stop crying about the death experience of WINTER SANTIAGA, AND START THINKING. STOP DEBATING and start reading.”

Please refer to this post for a full breakdown of my thoughts on this book.

A Review is Someone’s Opinion

The first part of studying a review is remembering that it is someone’s opinion based on their experience. Even professional reviews are expert opinions. We are not changing our voice or altering our style based on the views of fifty people.

We are only looking to see if this person’s opinion has any value we can learn from.

The Women with Blue Eyes: Rise of the Fallen

“It was a little difficult discerning who exactly was talking or even who was who at the beginning. The scenes seem to always end at a cliffhanger. The premise is interesting, bit the follow through needs work.”

This is a two-star review of my latest novel, The Women with Blue Eyes: Rise of the Fallen. The dialogue in my stories is strong, but my tense usage and POV need work. Because I know these are my weaknesses, this review has merit. 

Do I think it is so bad it deserved two stars? Of course not, but that doesn’t make the point invalid.

Use Your Discernment

Once the shock of the negative reviews has worn off, we can use the power of our discernment to see that not all critical feedback is hostile. Our wisdom will show us what part of the review is worth looking into and what part to let be.

While I will work on the point of view, I am not worried about ending scenes with a cliffhanger. I like it because it’s a good way to keep people reading.

In the words of bestselling author James Patterson, “At the end, something has to propel you into the next chapter.” This is the reason we are addicted to that TV show. We come back week after week because we are held in suspense. Cliffhanger endings are the hallmark of page-turner fiction or, in this case, binge-worthy shows.

Even Salt Looks Like Sugar: A Novella

“I enjoyed the premise of the story, but sometimes was a little thrown with whose point of view I was reading.”

See that? I cannot ignore this. It comes up repeatedly, which means it is a legitimate issue I need to fix. Now I know what to work on for my next book. I hope to hear fewer complaints about this in the future.

Authenticity

If we change the way we look at it, critical reviews are cause for celebration.

In this fake everything era, where people buy followers, engagement, and body parts, what we might consider a negative review is a good thing. Unless the negative reviews come from a hater who is trolling you, having a good mixture of good and “bad” reviews gives the book authenticity.’

This is so important to understand in the Indie Author community. There are some poorly written and produced books with nothing but five-star reviews.

How Detailed is the Review?

I have learned the more detailed the review is, the more likely there is something there. While “Excellent book” makes us feel good, explaining what made it an excellent book is more helpful.

In the same vein, commenting that a book was “terrible” does nothing for the author. What made it terrible? What are the ways the author can improve? What did not work for you?

“I wish I could get a refund. This will not get read this is a terrible book and she could have kept this.”

– Amazon Customer Review of Life After Death by Sister Souljah

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but this is not a helpful review and the “she could have kept this” is unnecessary. This is the kind of review you do not have to spend your time trying to dissect. It offers no insight. I am sure Sister Souljah laughed it off.

Renaissance: The Nora White Story Book 1
“I think this author has much more to give. I felt as though she was dancing on the outskirts of the story, just giving the reader a little tease. With the author’s style of writing, I really think this book could be a nice, long novel, really delving into Nora’s life and her families past, followed with nice, long novels in the series.”
 

This reviewer has a good point worth considering. I definitely need to continue Nora’s story. I accept the reader’s thoughts here because they make sense.

Repetition in my writing is something I need to work on, so this reader’s thoughts have merit. Sure, it stings, but it is also true.

“Many of the poems have a good message. Liked the ones with imagination like Sabbath. But to really touch a heart, the thinking and framing should be less self-centered, in my humble opinion.”

My Brain: What?

This is an example of a review I didn’t bother to give much thought.

First, the self-centered part is confusing. Next, the reviewer is a white man who probably couldn’t discern the book is mainly about the collective Black experience more than anything. (He only gave it 3 stars) This one is another example of how you don’t have to worry about the negative reviews that don’t make sense.

But it also brings to my attention something I almost forgot to mention:

A book marketed to the wrong audience increases the likelihood of bad reviews.

If I buy a Historical Fiction novel that turns out to be a Romance, I will more than likely rate it low.

Going back to Life After Death, the book is marketed as urban fiction, but it would be more appropriate for the Paranormal / Sci-Fi or even religious fiction genre.

Unfortunately, the audience that loved The Coldest Winter Ever is not the same audience for Life After Death

This means as a Self-Publisher, identifying your target audience and marketing your books to that audience is critical. I am Soul will rate higher with Black women and Black people than anyone else because I wrote it for them. It doesn’t mean other people can’t read it or won’t read it. It means I increase the likelihood of positive reviews if the people I wrote the book for are reading it. 

All Reviews Matter

You do the author a great disservice when you decide not to review a book because you didn’t like it. You not only rob them of the chance to increase their reviews, but you also rob them of the chance to improve on their writing. And if you are an author and only want positive reviews, you are robbing yourself.

The purpose of reviews for any product or service is not to only talk about how good it is. Positive and negative reviews are helpful, though I use negative loosely here. The reviews that are off the wall and utterly ridiculous are reviews I consider negative. But, the critical thoughts that offer insight on how the author can do better are necessary for growth.

So, what to do the next time someone rates your book low?

First, be grateful. Many great writers have received negative feedback on their books. You are in good company.

Next, study the review itself. Is there something you need to work on? Or is the review not worth stressing over?

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