Dying on my Feet: Why I Write (A Message)

Last week, I asked for support of Black-Owned Businesses in a campaign that runs from June 19, 2020 (today) through July 6, 2020. I added that those who RSVP to join the campaign, called My Black Receipt, will be in the running to win a free signed copy of one of my books.

I got no support and no email with an RSVP screenshot for a free book.

What I Got:

  • 6 email unsubscribes
  • 2 Abuse Complaints
  • 1 Nasty Email Reply

I was told I was discriminating against other races and religions and that I had gone “too far,” for asking people to support black-owned businesses.

Instead of talk about that, I thought I’d re-introduce myself. I realize some of you are new to me, so you may not fully understand the extent of my work.

Atlanta African American Book Festival | Georgia State University circa July 2018. Copyright © Yecheilyah Books LLC

My passion for the state of my people isn’t something that sprang up while watching protests on the news. I am not a “jump on the bandwagon,” kind of person. Supporting black people and black businesses is something I have done for many years. For me, it’s not about “white vs. black.” It has never been. It is about good vs. evil and right vs. wrong.

I write Black Historical Fiction and Poetry. My work targets black readers and aims to raise the consciousness of all people interested in understanding the plight of Black America.

The reason I say “Black America” is because Israelites/Blacks/African Americans have lived a different experience than the rest of the World, and for years that experience has been virtually unknown to non-black people. My goal is to expose those unknowns and free the mind of the black man, woman, and child.

I strive to manifest the restoration of the forgotten past to a forgotten people through book publishing and education.

In doing so, I hope my books can provide a roadmap for all people who find it difficult to be liberated in their own lives. I understand this isn’t easy to do considering the level of misinformation, deception, and religious ideologies that have enslaved us for so long.

I believe that faith without works is dead, so being actively involved is fundamental to me. Black readers are those I target and have targeted long before the Black Lives Matter movement. We are the people for whom my books are written, and these are our stories.

Those familiar with my work understand this statement by no means alienates other nationalities of people.

In the words of the Messiah Yahoshua, who I believe was a black man, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel .” (Matt. 15:24) It is to the lost sheep first and then to the nations. I believe black people are those lost sheep, and before I can liberate the minds of non-black people, I must work to free the black mind first.

I won’t apologize for this.

I have promoted people of all races, belief systems, and countries on this blog and social media, but I have also spoken about my love for black people. Anyone surprised about this either has not been paying attention or doesn’t know me very well and, therefore, are not members of my targeted audience.

And that’s okay.

I am not worried about those who leave because I would rather “die on my feet than live on my knees.” I would rather lose support standing for what I believe in than to sell myself short for a pat on the back. In the words of MLK, who so many non-black people are so apt to quote, “there comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

For anyone to say my request for support of black businesses is abusive and discriminatory is proof of the very abuse and racial discrimination blacks face every day from people who do not understand what it’s like and what it means to be “black” in America.


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Black History Fun Fact Friday – Anna M. Mangin

Born in October of 1854 in Louisiana, Anna invented a kitchen tool she called a pastry fork.

The system of patents for inventions was not easy for African Americans at the time. Enslaved people were not considered people, they were not US citizens, and the rights of the US constitution did not apply to them. Consider the Dred Scott Decision where enslaved Scott unsuccessfully sued for him and his family’s freedom (they were eventually freed on May 26, 1857). This made it difficult for even free blacks to secure patents on their inventions, making it easy for their work to be stolen or attributed to someone else.

Of all the inventions by African Americans, we can just about imagine how much more this contribution would be if full credit had been given to those who were not considered worthy to receive it. Consider the following inventions:

  • The Clock (Benjamin Banneker)
  • The Traffic Signal (Garret Morgan
  • The Ironing Board (Sarah Boone)
  • The Mailbox (Phillip Downing)
  • The Sanitary Belt/Maxi Pad Precursor (Beatrice Davidson Kenner)
  • The Artificial Heart Pacemaker Control Unit (Otis Boykin )
  • The Closed Circuit Television Security (leading to the home security system) Marie Van Brittan Brown
  • The Modern Home-Video Gaming Console (Gerald A. Lawson)

We can go on and on.

Anna’s story is special because she was one of few blacks to receive a patent for her invention of the pastry fork.*

The Pastry Fork was an older version of the wisp and other electronic mixers today as it automatically mixed without manual effort. This tool had many uses, including beating eggs, thickening foods, making butter, mashing potatoes, making salad dressings, and most pastry dough, which was difficult on the hands and wrists.

Anna filed an application for a patent of her Pastry Fork in July of 1891 and was awarded the patent on March 1, 1892.

*Martha Jones was the first black woman to obtain a US Patent.


Learn more black history by reading more articles on the Black History Fun Fact Friday page here. Have a black history fun fact of your own? Submit your article for a blog feature by emailing it in a Word Doc attachment to yecheilyah@yecheilyahysrayl.com. Read the submission guidelines here.

Stella: Beyond the Colored Line is Live (The Stella Trilogy Book 2)

Beyond the Colored Line is LIVE

“This story retells the history of many African-American families alive today. It is a heritage rich with strife and suffering but also filled with a hope and a desire to finally grasp the freedom that has been so elusive and out of reach for so many. At times, I was forced to accept some uncomfortable truths about our American past. There is nothing wrong with that. This story makes you think about freedom and what it really means to you as a person, and as an American. I loved this story because it is through the learning of other’s journeys that we begin to learn much about ourselves. Their pain becomes our pain and we begin to see through their eyes. Stella will touch your soul with such a sweet simplicity you won’t even know it.”

– Colleen Chesebro, on Stella: Beyond the Colored Line, First Edition

About.

In book two, we dig deeper into the McNair family’s legacy. Named after her great-grandmother, Stella has a very light complexion which causes her to be the tease of her classmates. Unable to find solace among her African American contemporaries, Stella finds it challenging to adjust to a world where she is too light to be “black.” After The Great Depression of the 1930s forces Stella’s family to move to Chicago, a conversation with Aunt Sara provokes Stella to do something that will dramatically affect not just her life but the life of her children and grandchildren.


Excerpt.

1928

Daddy runs off to no one knows where on account of his life. Some racist whites had seen him and Mama together and threatened to lynch him if found, so he runs off. The community gossip is that his brothers know, but they won’t say. We weren’t alone, though, Mama and me. It seems like Mama filled the hole where Papa should have been with our whole family. The house always stayed filled with guests, my people, and peoples of my people. My granddaddy was a colored man and owned this land. My namesake, his Mama Stella, was a slave and was given this house by her owner. As the story goes, after Grandma died, I was born. Since Mama was the closest, she named me after her.

My aunts would gather around the table with my mama, and they laugh and cry most of the night about their girlhood. They would talk about what it was like being four mixed girls in Illinois. I don’t have uncles on my mother’s side, but Daddy got six brothers.

Due to the controversy around my parent’s relationship, Daddy being a Negro, and Mama being half-white, they only visit on special occasions. Uncle Roy, Daddy’s younger brother, says Mama acts differently around her sisters and that we too uppity, especially Aunt Sara. She’s the youngest of my aunties and the most spoiled. She’s the one who convinced Mama to send me to a white school in the first place, and boy was my uncles hot! They said we were breaking the law–that a Negro had no business in a white school. But Aunt Sara said I had all the right in the world since I was half white. For her, not only could I do this, I had a right to do it.

“But does the school know she a Negro?” Uncle Roy would ask.

“That’s none of the school’s business, now is it?” Aunt Sara would say, and they’d go back and forth until Mama break it up.

Not all talks were good talks. I used to sit until my eyes were red with fatigue to hear Mama and my uncles talk about all the killings that were taking place around the country, and especially in the South. I felt like I lived in two worlds, one black and one white, but none mixed. And what did that mean, mixed?

My aunties wanted to talk about education, family, career, and navigating the world as a mixed-race person, whereas Daddy’s side liked to talk about the black condition, what was going on in the black community, and what it meant to be black in America. They talked less about blacks navigating a world that they felt didn’t include them, and more about blacks redefining themselves and creating their own worlds. The conversations were intriguing and fascinating on both sides, but it left me feeling like my very body was a contradiction. Was I white? Was I black? Race wars always involved these two groups of people, and there ain’t seemed to be room for a mulatto.

“That’s what I say,” said the voice of Uncle Keith, Daddy’s second oldest brother.

“Up there in Minnesota.”

“That close?” Mama gasped.

“Yeah, that close. What woman, you living under a rock? They just had one over in DeKalb last month,” said Uncle Roy.

“It’s a crying-out-loud shame,” continued Keith. “Say they dragged the boys from the cell and a whole mob of ‘em lynched ‘em. Say it was ‘bout a thousand of ‘em.”

“My my,” said Aunt Rebecca.

There were times even I witnessed evidence of the events rocking the country. One day, Mama and I went to visit Cousin Mary in Texas and drove the truck up to a general store. We walked in, and I picked up a postcard from a rack. It was of a man hanging on a tree that supported an iron chain that lifted him above a fire. The man didn’t seem to have much of a body left. They cut his fingers off, his ears and his body was burned to a crisp. On the back of the postcard read: “This is the barbecue we had last night. My picture is to the left with a cross over it. Your son, Dan.”

I learned later the picture was of a seventeen-year-old mentally ill boy named, Johnny, who had agreed to have raped a white woman. And everybody at home still talked of the Cairo Circus of 1909, the public lynching that took place here in Illinois. I couldn’t understand why Mama was so upset about a circus until I found out what kind of spectacle it was. My aunts didn’t want anything to do with the land or the house because of events like these. They say it’s too close to slavery. No one wanted to inherit the home or the property, but Mama, and this is how I spent several years of my life living in the same house where my great-grandmother had been a slave. Mama kept the house full of guests by renting out rooms to help with her washerwoman salary.

We weren’t much of a churchgoing family, party going is more like it, unless Mama wanted to show off a new dress or hat when somebody died or needed saving and on holidays and such. Folk would come from all over southern Illinois to hang out with “Cousin Judy.” Sundays sure were fun, my second favorite day of the week. Saturdays were my favorite day of the week. It was the day for shopping, and that only meant one thing, Chicago.

First, Mama would wake me to the smell of biscuits or pancakes. This massive breakfast was to keep me full enough throughout the day, so she didn’t have to worry any about food buying. Then, she commanded me to bathe real good, paint my arms and legs with coconut oil, untie my curls, and we’d both put on our Sunday’s best and be two of the most beautiful women you’d ever seen. I was a young lady now, and shopping was the best thing for a young lady, next to boys, but you couldn’t like them in public.

You could like shopping, though, and I loved going from store to store in search of the finest. I skipped along while Mama scanned the insides of magazines for stuff she heard about from the white women whose laundry she cleaned. We would squeeze our way through crowds of people, just bumping into each other. Everyone dressed in their weekend wear and bought ice cream for their children. Some went to see the picture show, and so did Mama and me. We could buy candy or jewelry, or perhaps a new hat or two. We could drink from water fountains without a label and spend money without prejudice.

We had a good time on Saturdays because on Saturday, no one knew we were colored.

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New Words

It was either the fresh smell of an expanding vocabulary or the sweet taste of new words on my tongue. Or perhaps the way they moved around in my mind. It was the way they sounded, like soft wings flapping against the air and the effortless inspiration they stirred while teaching me their foundations. It was 6th Grade English, 8th Grade Creative Writing, AP Literature in High School, and African American studies in College. Ms. Lang was a little woman with a big appetite for dissecting poetry and she fed us well. New words have always been motivational in provoking me to write. I would come home from school with an armful under the flap of my notebook and feast on multi-syllable honey. I would string sentences together that really made no sense because all I really wanted to do was use the words. All I really wanted to do was “simile” sentences on paper like hanging linen that I could sit back and watch as they dried. Metaphor them into something digestible. I would sit there highlighting words I didn’t know. Forget parties, all I wanted to do was crack open the mind of an author and anatomize his usage of irony. I was the sole proprietor of time that day and it never seemed to move as long as I was building. Eventually, I no longer depended on organized schooling for my fix. Instead, pocket dictionaries and thesauruses found a home in my backpack as new words found a home in my poetry. To this day I look forward to different ways to use overly used words, synonyms that could be used much simpler and give my palate something new to get excited about.

Tightening Up the Business Structure of Your Writing

I have had this post sitting in my drafts since October 2019. I didn’t want to publish it until I had tightened up my own business structure and then Corona hit and I thought, “maybe this isn’t appropriate right now” and I put it off. I have a habit of meditating on what I have to do throughout the day before I get up from the bed. This morning I thought, “wait a minute, this could actually be the perfect time to present this information.”

Even though there aren’t a lot of people working and the world is sick, this could be the perfect time for us to plan, organize, and restructure some things. Just the other day we cleaned out a closet that had served as the junk closet since we moved in and Husband organized the garage. These days, we are paying attention to things we have neglected to give much attention to, why not include our writing business too? Whether you will use this information now or later, this is a good time to at least give it some thought.

In the Beginning

For Self-Publishing a book, things are relatively easy in the beginning. You create a KDP account, connect your bank account (so you can get paid your royalties) and you are set. You can also create a PayPal account to collect funds from books bought through your website or blog and get a card reader to accept payments on the go (like at book signings or heck, you can sell books out the trunk of your car if you want). It also helps to have a Cash App account. Other apps like Zelle are also good, but I’ve found most readers have CashApp. These are the basics every Indie Author should have in place.

In the beginning…

Next Level

Everything I said is good in the beginning, but what if you’ve been doing this for some time? How do you level up from this structure? How do you go from author to authorpreneur?

Author + Entrepreneurial Practices = Authorpreneur

An authorpreneur is an author with entrepreneurial practices. 

Publishing a book automatically puts you in business, yes, but there are other things you can do to make sure you are running it like one. It’s not 2008 and Self-Publishing is not what it used to be. The standards are higher.

Anyone can publish a book today (even if they aren’t good writers), by uploading a Word Document or PDF to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. In the past, this has brought down the quality of the prestigious process of book publishing and specifically, Indie Book Publishing. Today, though, the stigma attached to Self-Publishing is fading and authors who publish top-quality material are being separated from those who do not.

With the current Pandemic ravaging the world, the realization of the value of Indie Publishing, social media, and doing business online is apparent now more than ever. A lot of brick and mortar bookstores are closed and some will not reopen.

The basic system I started this post out as is good in the beginning but the Indie Author who goes beyond the bare minimum will set themselves apart from the pack.

Create a business name/structure that is legal and connected to a business bank account.

When your business grows, you’ll discover how important it is to have a legal business structure. It has done wonders for me and is very helpful in keeping up with how much is coming in and going out which helps me to have a realistic picture of my ROI or return on investment.  You work hard to write these books, to publish them and spend good money to get them out into the world. Don’t let all this hard work go to waste.

You can get away with using a Pseudonym or creative business name at first but if you are serious about using that name, for certain projects you will need it to be legit. What happens if someone sends you a check in your fake business name and you have not made it legal? Without a business bank account in that name, you will not be able to cash it.

    • Decide if you want to be a Sole Proprietorship,* LLC, Corporation, Non-Profit (if you publish books for charity) or any other structure that suits you.

*A Sole Proprietorship is not recommended but it’s better than nothing.

  • Set up a business bank account – You can set up your bank account once you have your business structure in place and monitor just how much is coming in from your book sales and other author endeavors separate from other forms of income. You will get a business debit/bank card and checks to use for your business. You can even establish a line of credit.
  • Creating a business structure can motivate you because you get to see your writing as a real business and not just a fancy play-name. You can get logos made if you want and do transactions under this name which comes in handy when completing W-9 forms and other paperwork that may be required for you to get paid.

Stay Legally Compliant

With a business structure, you will need to keep your business compliant with state and federal business laws. The requirements will vary based on your business structure. (For instance, the requirements are more strict for corporations than LLC’s). An example is that you may have to file once a year with a filing fee of maybe $30 to stay in compliance. The process is not tedious and you may even be able to do it online. For details on staying compliant you can visit the small business administration website here.

If you don’t stay compliant your business will fall into an inactive status.

Publish Your Books Under Your Own Imprint

Once you have your legal business structure, and business bank account in place, it is time to publish your books like you own your business.

  • Buy Your ISBNs – The ISBN is a unique identifier for a book, issued by an ISBN registration agency. In the U.S., this agency is Bowker.* In some other countries, the ISBN is free but in the US they are not. They are expensive so it’s best to buy them in bulk if you can. You can buy a block of ten which would cover ten separate paperback or hardcopy books. KDP, Lulu, and other POD (Print on Demand) companies do provide ISBNs for free if you absolutely cannot afford to buy one.

But…

Free assigned ISBNs belong to the company that issues it, such as KDP or Lulu. This means they (KDP/Lulu/Other said company) are the publishers and owners of that book and they will be listed as such. 

Once you have your own company, you will want to have your books listed under your company name. If you are the publisher you should be listed as the publisher. If ownership is important to you, buying your own ISBNs is something you might want to look into.

With your company name legalized and books under your ISBN, this sets you apart as a serious business person and makes it easier for high-profile people to do business with you.

There are tons of fake ISBN companies out there. If you are in the US, be sure you purchase your ISBN from Bowker.

It’s easy to go the free route but free is limiting and it does not always set you apart. By creating an actual business complete with the necessary paperwork, it is easier for you to stay organized, to file taxes, and to rise above the crowd and stand out as a professional author.

Extra Tips

  • Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created. Don’t let scam publishing companies fool you by saying “Keep 100% of Your Copyright.” This means they are promising you something you already have. For publishing rights (different from copyright) all you have to do is buy your own ISBN.
  • When tightening up your writing business, be sure you have both a paperback and a digital version of your book available.

I talk a lot about paperback books because I’ve always sold more hardcopies than digital (I’ve always been different, guess that translated to my business too lol) and I just love them but that doesn’t negate the importance of having digital versions of your book available too. We are living in a digital age and with everything being online, authors without digital books will be left out. Brick and Mortar bookstores without an online presence are struggling right now.

  • For those of you who sell paperbacks, consider lowering your print book price if you are not seeing sales. I love buying paperbacks from Indies but a lot of them are also very expensive. I am not saying you can’t raise your price. As an Independent Author, you can do what you want. I am saying to consider raising the price only after you see consistent sales. Who is buying a $30, 100-page paperback from an unknown first-time Self-Published Author? Do what works for you, but make sure you are being realistic.
Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

When this post was first drafted, it was after I had watched a video of Tyler Perry advising entrepreneurs. I am not a big Perry fan but when people are advising about business, I listen. Perry talked about entrepreneurs learning when to let go. Here, he meant letting go of business practices that no longer serve you once your business grows. He talked about not being so used to how it has always been done that we are not open to change. For example, Perry’s sister used to keep receipts in a folder but as Tyler’s business grew that kind of accounting system no longer worked for taxes. Not when you have over 400 employees.

As professional Indie Authors, we must have the same mindset.


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There is a Movement in Stillness

I saw a sunflower bow to a bee without moving. It arched its stem, its petals already stretched wide and willing. There it waited for the wind to whistle the way it does when it pushes the flower forward, and here, the flower bowed. Beautiful and with grace, this sunflower let itself go in the wind’s direction, its sweet liquid substance sending the scent of fresh Nectar floating into the air. I couldn’t smell it but it wasn’t for me to smell so I looked down in my notebook and wrote a reminder: “what’s for you is for you.”

I looked up and noticed a bumblebee was already singing its way to our area and the whole time the flower did not move; it waited. The flower was only moved by the wind, the invisible force that guides it, and so this I wrote in my notebook: “do not chase, attract. What is yours will come to you. Put out the right scent and let the invisible force guide you.”

I looked up, and the bee seemed much more anxious and excited, but I knew better than to kill it. This creature was on a mission, so I didn’t swap him away because this wasn’t my business. I was here only as a witness to the meditative buzz of togetherness. I saw a sunflower bow to a bee without moving, so I bowed my head too and wrote: “there is a movement even in stillness.”

Helping Indie Authors Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

I’ve been spending my social distance-time staying at home as much as possible, reading books, writing books, catching up on some scriptures, enjoying time with my family and binging my favorite TV shows. Earlier last week I got an email from someone whose email I don’t remember subscribing to, but, it mentioned the point that Self-Publishers are small businesses too.

And I concur.

Small businesses are taking a big hit amid the COVID-19 crisis and I thought I’d share a way we can help Self-Publishers in this time of uncertainty.

Buy the author’s book directly from them if you can.

If the author has a website, purchase a paperback or digital version of the book from the author’s website. If you are an author and you don’t have a website or you’re not selling through your website, Joanna Penn’s article here goes into detail on how to set up a store.

Something to keep in mind:

Amazon pays authors royalties for print and ebook sales. A royalty is a percentage of a sale. An ebook going for $2.99 at 70% according to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing will make the author $2.09. This means the author will have to sell at least 10 ebooks to make $20 and still have to wait a month to see that.

“If you publish through traditional publishing, royalties can take many months to arrive. You can’t control the schedule of payment and you don’t get any details of the customers.

If you publish independently through online publishers like Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Google, and other distributors, you will get your money sooner — but it will still be 30-60 days later and once again, you don’t get any details of the customers.”

Authors who sell direct can buy author copies of their books in bulk at a discount, sell those books from their website and fulfill the order themselves. The author also gets to see who their customers are which helps them to build a stronger relationship with them.

I wouldn’t be keeping it authentic if I didn’t also mention authors will have to account for shipping, state tax, and whatever website fees are associated with their platform of choice. The benefit, however, to selling direct is that the author doesn’t have to wait 30-60 days to get paid.

If the author got ten print book sales at $20 through their author website, they’ve already made $200 and $200 in the age of COVID-19 can be very helpful to families. Consider that most Indie Authors with day and night jobs are either working from home or not working at all. People are being fired, furloughed, and layed off left and right. Besides this, if we are being honest, some Indie Authors don’t even see $200 in royalty checks from Amazon from their Self-Published books.

Of course, there are pros and cons to everything. The major pros have already been stated, you are helping a small business to keep going at a time when money is scarce for everyone. The cons for authors include:

  • Not having the sale go toward your Amazon sales or ranking.

 

  • You must have the right to sell through your website first. You can’t, for example, sell your digital book anywhere outside of Amazon while enrolled in the KDP Select program and if you are signed with a publisher (includes Indie Publishers) you might be restricted from selling your print book through your own website depending on the details of your contract. You will have to check this and see.

“Many authors are so obsessed with chart rankings on Amazon that they forget the point is to reach readers who love our books — and for many of us, make a living with our writing. Selling direct enables readers to support us and money to arrive in our bank accounts quickly — but you will not see a spike in your Amazon rankings. So what do you really want?” – Joanna Penn

Here are ways to help Indies Amid the COVID_19 Pandemic:

  • Buy Directly From the Author (from their Website) If You Can.
  • Those ebook sales do add up. If you can’t afford the print book, buy the digital book.
  • Be sure to leave a review on Amazon so the author can attract more readers and get more sales.

Read Joanna Penn’s entire article “How To Sell Your Books Directly To Readers And Get Paid Immediately” here.


Book 2 is on the way! Get started on Book One.

Order a Signed Paperback* Here

Get it in ebook here.

*Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, stay-at-home, and shelter in place policies I am shipping books in shifts so I don’t have to keep going out. If you want to be included in this week’s shipment, be sure to place your print book order today so you don’t miss it! Paperbacks are signed and includes my author seal.


Want more Indie Author Tips? I’ve written over 50 articles sharing my tips, process, and publishing journey as an Indie Author. You can find them on this page. Enjoy!