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.
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 many people working and the world is sick, this could be the perfect time for us to plan, organize, and restructure some things. The other day we cleaned out a closet that had served as the junk closet since we moved in, and Moshe (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 an excellent time to 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, such as at book signings.
UPDATE: Card readers are becoming more outdated as apps like Cash App and Zelle become increasingly popular. I highly recommend authors to have a Cash App for book signings and festivals.
Depending on your financial situation, it may be necessary to level up if you’ve been at this awhile.
How do you level up from this basic structure? How do you go from author to authorpreneur?
Author + Entrepreneurial Practices = Authorpreneur
An authorpreneur is an author with entrepreneurial practices.
If publishing a book is like opening a business, you can do things 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, realizing 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 initially, 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 will discover how important it is to have a legal business structure. It has done wonders for me and helps me keep up with how much is coming in and going out, which helps me have a realistic picture of my ROI or return on investment. You work hard to write these books, 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 specific 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.
* Most people do not recommend a Sole Proprietorship, but it will work just fine. I am all about keeping things simple.
- 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 conditions 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 US, 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
Free assigned ISBNs belong to the company that issues it, such as KDP or Lulu. This means they (KDP/Lulu/Other said company) are listed as the publishers of that book, not you.
*There are tons of fake ISBN companies out there. If you are in the US, be sure you purchase your ISBN from Bowker.
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, your business structure secure, your EIN in hand, your bank account set up, and books under your ISBN, you have positioned yourself as a serious business person. It is now easier than ever for high-profile people to do business with you.
It’s easy to go the free route, but free is limiting, and it does not always set you apart. Creating an actual business complete with the necessary paperwork makes it easier for you to stay organized, file taxes, rise above the crowd, and stand out as a professional author.
- 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. If you want to go the extra mile and register a copyright with the copyright office you can do that inexpensively at copyright.gov.
- 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 paperbacks because a). I have personally done better with paperbacks and b). authors can sell paperbacks through their own author website along with cool author swag and things instead of relying only on Amazon. However, 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 who sell paperbacks, consider lowering your print book price if you do not see sales. I love buying paperbacks from Indies, but a lot of them are also costly. I am not saying you can’t raise your price (I have a separate post about that here), that there aren’t people who will buy at that price, or that your book isn’t quality enough to sell that price.
I am only saying to be realistic.
Who is buying a $30 (plus s&h) 100-page paperback from an unknown first-time Self-Published Author?
Do what works for you, but make sure you are being practical.
When I first drafted this post, I 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 spoke of 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. This may not be ideal for everyone, but if you fit one of these categories a legal business name and account may be worth it:
- You’ve been publishing awhile and you are making a significant income from your books and services.
- You want to separate your personal funds (finances from your day job or other income) from your book business.
Want more Indie Author Tips? Visit the Indie Author Basics with EC page here!
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.”
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!
Book one is out and we are on to book two!
My main challenge for book two is making sure that it stays consistent with book one. This is important for any series, but for Historical Fiction, it is even more critical.
Since writing Historical Fiction is writing set in a time that has already occurred, the details of the past must be realistic to what was going on. A good Historical Fiction book places fictional characters somewhere in a world that has already existed in a way that reads authentic. Readers should be able to reimagine what that world was like by immersing themselves in the life of the characters and the world around them. I like to think of it as a time machine, which is also what makes writing #Histfic fun to me.
Style, Language, Dialogue
Like book one, book two opens in 1996 and picks up where we left off at Mama Sidney’s house in book one. But book two also takes us back into the life of Mama Sidney, and we revisit history from the 1920s through the 60s. My focus for book two was to make sure the dialogue, language, racial and political events occurring during this time were realistic to what was happening in the world. We talk about The Great Depression and touch on the reoccurring lynchings taking place in both the north and south. We look at the brutal murder of Emmett Till, the shooting of Dr. King, Jim Crow Laws, and The Black Panther Party. While I immerse Stella in her own world, there is still the larger world to deal with and we watch how she navigates both. How does Stella’s personal identity crises correlate to the identity crises plaguing her larger community?
The biggest thing to deal with for book two is the racial classifications of blacks during this period. African Americans are the only people whose racial terminology has changed with the census. We have been “Niggers,” Negros, Coloreds, Blacks, and African Americans, and this can get confusing when trying to use the right term for the right year. This is also not to mention other racial “nicknames” we called ourselves, such as Afro-American and The New Negro.
The challenge of using the right term for the right years is because there were terms that blacks preferred to call themselves and terms used discriminately by the wider society. Although by the 60s Black Americans were preferring to be called blacks or Afro-Americans (as Malcolm X used a lot after leaving the Nation of Islam) white separatist signage still referred to us as coloreds. “Whites Only / Coloreds Only,” or “Welcome to the Colored Zone,” banners and store signs could have read.
Credited to W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington, blacks advocated for a switch from Colored to Negro in the early 1920s. As blacks redefined themselves, terms like “The New Negro,” became popular and sparked a movement that later became known as The Harlem Renaissance.
By the 1960s, though, African Americans had transitioned from being “Negros,” to “Blacks.” (Malcolm X specifically didn’t like the term Negro).
During the Black Power movement when sayings such as “I’m Black and I’m Proud,” were popular (think James Brown “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud!”) blacks wore their hair natural, read and published black literature and did what they thought would reconnect them with their lost heritage. In this process, many black political leaders of the time, such as Kwame Ture or Stokely Carmichael, helped to shift the terminology away from Negro and toward Black. Black publications like Ebony followed by switching from Negro to Black.
While a large majority of people still preferred Negro, “Black“ was becoming the preferred term with the New York Times and Associated Press abandoning “Negro” in the 1970s.
By the 1980s, Jesse Jackson called for a shift from Black to African American and while the change is still not as accepted or monumental as black was during the 60s, it is the term most socially acceptable when referring to black Americans.
I had to consider these changes when referring to blacks throughout this part of the book. What did they call themselves? What did society call them? How do I integrate this into the dialogue and setting realistically?
Setting, language, and dialogue is the backbone of Historical Fiction because the setting makes the story seem real and determines the character’s beliefs and actions. Not only do I strive to make the characters stand out but the culture of the time in which they live.
About Book Two:
In book two, we dig deeper into the McNair family’s legacy. Named after her great-grandmother, Stella has a very light complexion causing 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.
Stella: Beyond the Colored Line will be available through my website and back up on Amazon in digital and print by April 24th. I am not putting the rest of the books up for preorder, so you’ll be able to order it immediately on 4/24.
If you have not already read book one, click one of the links below.
- The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni (1968 – 1998)
- Maya Angelou Poems: Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie, Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well, And Still I Rise, Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing?
- If Only There Was Music : The Poetry of Forbidden Love by Nonnie Jules
Good Evening Poets!
I hope you are all doing well amidst this Coronavirus mess and that you are safe. I had an emergency to take care of this morning that did not allow me to access my computer and my phone died, but for those of you wondering, yes! LitMag 2020 still releases today!
LitMag is the Literary Magazine for poets I established to feature, promote, and highlight the winners and contributors of “Yecheilyah’s Annual Poetry Contests.” It grew out of a desire to give the poets another platform to use to showcase their work outside of this blog and social media. The mag is still in its early stages of development but who knows what it can become.
LitMag 2020 is Volume 2, it is out in digital and print and available on the site (link below). This year we are featuring winners and contributors from our 2019 contest. Inside: Poems from Chanelle Barnes (she’s on the cover!) BuddahDesmond, Dondi Springer, Kiyana Blount, Jahkazia Richardson, Zerahyah Ysrayl, Karen Abah SoFloetic Jones, Ivy Mae Tolentino, and Michelle Stevens. Special thanks to Lisa W. Tetting and Tehilayah Ysrayl for their assistance with last year’s contest.