The Power of Systems and Consistency

I’ve been Self-Publishing my books for twelve years now. Usually, after learning I’ve published fourteen books and counting, people are astonished. They want to know what the secret is. There’s only one problem.

I don’t have a secret.

But, I do have a system. 

System: A set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized framework or method.

Every time I publish a book, I follow the same 5-7 steps. 

Call it a schedule if that’s easier, but this timetable helps me to publish with ease every time. 

Cover by Yocla Designs

This is the new book cover for my first novel, The Aftermath (2012), which I revealed years ago. I had planned to launch a second edition but still have not finished revising it. However, I won’t have to worry about a cover when I get around to it. It is bought and paid for.

As you can see, I don’t always keep my steps in exact order, but I am never too far off track because I have a blueprint to follow. 

Tip: Always get your book edited and formatted before your artist designs the entire book cover because the book’s trim size determines the book’s dimensions. A cover design (just the front) is okay if you’d like to use it to promote and build excitement, but for an accurate width of the spine, for instance, your artist will need your exact number of pages which you won’t know until the book is edited and formatted. Getting the text formatted before the final cover is complete is part of my system. 

What I am saying to you is I do the same thing repeatedly. No magic. No secret sauce. Just systems and consistency. 

I call this series Indie Author Basics because I genuinely believe simplicity is king. All you have to do is find a way that works for you and repeat it. That’s a system. A collection of parts working together. 

If you have not written your book, what can you do every day to move you closer to finishing? Could you write it every morning while drinking coffee? Could you write it before bed? During lunch? What system works for you?

If you’ve written your book but have not published it, click on the link below and schedule a call with me. If you are looking to Self-Publish, you don’t have to figure out a system. Just use mine!


Schedule a free discovery call.

Need more Indie Author Tips?

Check out the IAB archive here.

Black Only Awards

I hope you are doing well.

It’s finally time to reveal some news I’ve been sitting on.

I was nominated for the Book Author of the Year Award by the Black Only Awards a couple of months ago. I sat on this to give me time to verify their legitimacy as I had never heard of them.

My first thought was, what in the Indie BET awards is going on here? (I’m not in the business of being scammed, lol.)

It turns out that they’re legit. (And unlike BET they are black owned.) A little hood, but that’s alright! I’m from the south side of Chicago. These my people. No judgment here.

That said, I am excited at the opportunity to win a literary award. I don’t do it for the applause, but it is nice to be appreciated, and I thank whoever in the world who considered me for this and cast my name.

I am especially honored to end the year this way because of how the year started. I had an emergency surgery in February that took a long time to recover, and I am still healing. Also approaching is the second anniversary of my mom’s death (9/23). I needed this boost of encouragement.

How you start is not how you finish, that’s for sure! Keep striving, folks.

Now, here’s how to vote!

Visit the website at blackonlyawards.com.

Who Are You Voting For:

Yecheilyah

Category:

Book Author of the Year

Your Email

Why You Think I Should Win

That’s it! Easy peasy.

Note: Because I am asking for votes later than everyone else (I had to do my research first), I really need your support. You can vote as many times as you like, but voting ends October 1st.

Thank You!

5 Things I Do to Stay Productive

Many people ask me how I manage doing so many things. First, you should know I don’t have a 9-5 and no small children to look out for, so this gives me more flexibility with my day. Here are some things I do daily to increase productivity.

I Walk Daily

One of the first things I do in the morning after prayer and coffee is walk a mile. Georgia is a hilly place and there’s this big hill around my house that will have you dying chile, but is a great way to get the blood pumping. If I don’t walk around the house, me and hubs go to the park and do two rounds around the area.

If I feel like doing more, I come back and hit the treadmill or the AB machine. You might wonder what this has to do with anything.

Physical activity helps to reduce anxiety, depression, and negative moods by improving self-esteem and cognitive function.The way I feel after a good workout and all the creativity flowing through me is thrilling. I feel energetic and happier than sluggish and irritated. It doesn’t have to be over the top. Thirty minutes a few times a week consistently can work wonders. You’ll find you have more mental clarity and creativity after working out.

I Don’t Watch Much TV

As much as I love my black movies and go around quoting them, the truth is I don’t actually watch a lot of TV during the day. Most of my TV watching is in the evenings and on the weekends. During the day, I’m working. If I finish early, I read or listen to a podcast or I’ll have an inspirational YouTube video playing in the background. I can listen to Maya Angelou interviews all day.

I Set Deadlines

This is important for me because I forget a lot. I set dates for important stuff I need to get done. I mark these dates on a calendar and it has to be a literal, physical calendar and not my phone because again, I’ll forget. Setting deadlines also helps me to be more accountable for what I said I would do.

Sleep

I sleep more now than I did before and it has made a tremendous difference. I don’t necessarily go to bed super early, but I take naps if I am feeling tired during the day. Yesterday, I got a lot of good rest because I went to bed earlier than usual. Slept for a few hours, woke up to eat and went back to bed. It was great. When we sleep, our brain reorganizes and recharges itself, and removes toxic waste byproducts which have accumulated throughout the day. This shows that sleeping can clear the brain and help maintain its normal functioning. If you are not getting enough sleep, it’s like a computer whose battery is low, it will eventually shut down. This means this “No days off, no sleep” grind culture is actually not very healthy.

Schedule Blog Posts

Far as keeping this blog updated is concerned, a lot of the posts ya’ll read I’ve scheduled to go live days in advance. First, I write a draft. When I come back to finish it I set a time I want it to publish. I also have the WordPress app on my phone so I can share the post on Twitter and respond to comments on the go.

Other things that help me is that I drink a lot of water and I don’t smoke or drink hard liquor. (I do drink wine.)

That’s it!

Speak to Me of My Mother, Who Was She by Jasmine Mans

As we get closer to September and the close of this year’s poetry contest, I will post more poems from other artists to help spark creativity.

This year’s theme is Freedom, so we will focus on poems that have to do with that in some way.

This one, “Speak to me of My Mother, Who was She,” is an excellent example of a freedom poem that digs deeper than the surface. Enjoy!

Photo by Thiago Borges

Tell me about the girl

my mother was,

before she traded in

all her girl

to be my mother.

What did she smell like?

How many friends did she have,

before she had no room?

Before I took up so much

space in her prayers,

who did she pray for?

  • Source: Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans, p. 13

Haven’t heard of the poetry contest yet? Wanna win interviews, cash prizes and more?

Click Here!

Dear Self-Published Author, Don’t Overpay to Play

“Don’t Overpay to Play”

– Vivica A. Fox

I low-key don’t like this picture because that black shirt was cuter in my mirror at home, lol.

I met Vivica in 2018 when she released her book Everyday I’m Hustling, which I read and reviewed. In it, she talks about not overpaying to play. When applied to Self-Publishing, this kind of advice can save us tons of money and wasted time.

The scammers are getting clever by the day, and they gear their tactics toward Self-Published authors. One thing we can do to arm ourselves is to understand the difference between investing in ourselves and our books and paying to play. 

Investments

An investment in your book is anything that will help with the publication, promotion, and marketing of your work in a way that brings value. These are usually services offered by well-known, reputable people and organizations that produce quality. It is when you vet and hire a competent editor, when you pay for a dope cover design, when you buy ads, when you pay for web design, coaching, and so forth. These are investments that can take you to new levels. It’s an investment because you get a return.

Paying to Play

Paying to play is paying an obscene amount of money for hype that offers no real value. They usually package these as opportunities to take your business to the next level. It could mean paying 10K to a vanity press to publish your book only to come out with a crappy cover and poorly edited book slapped up on Amazon or paying 2K to attend a pointless conference. 

Vivica explains it this way:

“When you get a little bit of success, you start getting invited to these big dinners and awards nights that on paper look like a great place to network. These invites can cost three hundred dollars and up! After you go to a few, you realize that you really just get the cocktail hour to network, and then it’s hard to see anyone once you’re seated for the presentation.”

Anytime you are paying tons of money to “get in the room,” you are overpaying to play. It doesn’t have to be literally in the room, as in Vivica’s example, but it could be anything that promises luxury but is not worth it in the end. Here are some examples from Anne R. Allen’s Bogus Agents, Phony Communities, Fake Conferences, and Pay-to-Play Anthologies: New Scam Warnings for Writers:

  • Republishing your book to send to “investors” or “get you a traditional publishing contract.”
  • Filming a pricey book trailer
  • Book-to-Film “licensing” (See my post on this heartbreaking scam And here’s Alli’s warning, including business names the book-to-film scammers use.) I hear from people every day who have been snagged by this scam.
  • High-ticket, useless marketing services.
  • Buying you an interview on a podcast or radio show nobody listens to.

And I will add to that:

  • Paying to be featured in an article no one knows exists or reads
  • Paying thousands to a vanity press only to receive poor editing and crappy cover art
  • Paying to speak at an event in exchange for “exposure” (seasoned speakers should get paid to speak)

Let’s say someone offers to promote your book to their 20K followers. What you want to look at is their engagement, not followers. No one will see your book if they have tons of followers, but no engagement. Engagement is likes, comments, saves, and shares. If they charge you money to promote on their page and they have 20K followers but 0-3 likes on a post, this is a red flag. It means chances are they bought their followers. (Buying followers is also a form of paying to play.)

Note: There’s nothing wrong with not having much engagement for the everyday social media user who is learning. I am talking about the people charging you money to be featured on their platform and using their millions of followers as bait.

Paying to play can also look like being offered a chance to be featured in an article in Forbes for the low price of $500.

Umm. Why would I pay to be featured in an article if I’m for real dope? Shouldn’t Forbes reach out to me?

This is the stuff we have to pay attention to. Many of these features in articles and media have been bought, not earned. This is paying to play the game.

I didn’t think I was going to enjoy this book tbh, but Fox drops some great gems.

Everything is Not a Scam, But Vet People

I am not one of those “everything is a scam,” type people. Some businesses are new to what they are offering and we all know to become an expert, you must start. Everybody was a newbie at something at some point. You will know the scammer by the services offered in relation to the price tag. Why am I paying 5K to attend a conference for you to tell me to have more faith? Not when I can take that money and pay for professional therapy.

AJC Book Festival

I’m passionate about sharing my experiences as a Self-Published author because there are so many scams aimed at us. They mainly target the novice Self-Publisher. I do not mean the novice writer. You can have written before and be a master of the English language and still get scammed because you know little about Self-Publishing a book. Or, you can have Self-Published and still get scammed. It can happen to any of us.

That’s why our greatest weapon against it is knowledge and experience.

“I always tell people to educate themselves with real experience.” – Vivica A. Fox


Need more Indie Author Tips?

Check out the IAB archive here.

Need More Guidance? Schedule a free discovery call or book a consult.

Clothes by Kahlil Gibran

As we get closer to September and the close of this year’s poetry contest, I will post more poems from other artists to help spark creativity.

This year’s theme is Freedom, so we will focus on poems that have to do with that in some way. Here’s a powerful one called “Clothes,” by Kahlil Gibran. Enjoy!

Photo by Uus Supend

And the weaver said, ‘Speak to us of Clothes.’

And he answered:

Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the unbeautiful.

And though you seek in garments the freedom of privacy you may find in them a harness and a chain.

Would that you could meet the sun and the wind with more of your skin and less of your raiment,

For the breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind.

Some of you say, ‘It is the north wind who has woven the clothes to wear.’

But shame was his loom, and the softening of the sinews was his thread.

And when his work was done he laughed in the forest.

Forget not that modesty is for a shield against the eye of the unclean.

And when the unclean shall be no more, what were modesty but a fetter and a fouling of the mind?

And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.


Haven’t heard of the poetry contest yet? Wanna win interviews, cash prizes and more?

Click Here!

Is Writing Still a Gift?

Photo by Lisa Fotios

When I was coming up, we treated writing like a special gift, and those who could write well felt like they had superpowers. Or at least I did.

In elementary school, I was a terrible student. I got straight F’s, and the source of my lousy grades was math. I failed the sixth grade twice and almost failed the seventh grade. 

Correction: I did fail the seventh grade, but someone had mercy on me, and I passed on to the eighth grade. I cannot say for sure today how it happened. Only I am glad it did.

By the time I was in eighth grade, I was seeing a special ed teacher. Every day he would come into our class, they would announce the special ed teacher was here, and the four, five, or six of us would stand and leave with him. 

If that weren’t degrading enough, the work we did in that small room was fit for a first grader. Two plus two and four plus four. It was frustrating because the math I needed help with was the eighth-grade stuff.

I knew that one plus one was two. I didn’t know how it applied to the more advanced math in the other room. Still, they would give us these long worksheets with these kindergarten math problems, tons of them all down the paper. Some days, they would give us candy. 

It was humiliating, and I would go home and vent my rage in my diary. I would write about how it felt to be singled out in front of the entire class and for the teacher to utter the words, “The special ed teacher is here,” which I thought was unnecessary. The lack of discretion seemed to me a lack of care for our feelings as students. I felt stupid and if that’s how I felt, I am sure the other kids felt it, too.

And then something happened.

This same teacher discovered I knew how to write. Suddenly, everything turned around. I cannot even say for sure how it happened. I still did not understand the math, but the more I wrote, the better my grades got. By the time the school year ended, I had an armful of academic awards and was graduating with honors.

Photo by Anna Tarazevich

Writing got me out of the eighth grade and into honors classes in High School. (Even honors math.)

Writing got me into College while still in High School. I attended Robert Morris College in my Junior year for early credit. I would go to High School in the daytime and then take the green line downtown for my college course in the evenings. It was dark when I got home every day.

Writing got me into AP Literature, graduating High School with honors, tenth in my class.

Photo by Thirdman

The Point of it All

For writers like me, writing isn’t something we dreamed up on a whim, but is an intimate part of our lives. It is something we can trace as ever-present. For us, writing is a deeply rooted passion that played a major role in developing who we are.

My concern now is writing isn’t taken as seriously as other gifts. Do we even consider it a gift? Indeed, one can learn to write through education, training, and coaching, but is it still a gift

Are there still people who are natural wordsmiths? People, who go the extra mile to string words together into comprehension? People, who devour books like a man starving? And is writing still opening doors for them? As it did for me?

Do we still consider writing a gift, or is everyone a writer?