Welcome author, Yecheilyah Ysrayl to THE WRITER’S JOURNEY segment of Kim’s Author Support Blog. Take it away, Yecheilyah. This is her journey.
As we come to the end of another year, this one has been one of self-reflection for me both on a personal as well as a professional level. There’s been ups, downs, doubts, excitement, frustration, and everything in-between.
I’ve come out of my shell a lot this year and have learned to embrace my own vulnerabilities without fear of judgment. I used to be timid and shy about what I did or thought for fear that people wouldn’t understand me. This has caused me to, consequently, shy away from opportunities that could have been of help to me as a writer.
This year I’ve learned to be unapologetically me and to not let anyone bait me out of my character. I think these lessons have impacted my experience as a person as well as a writer and from that perspective, it has allowed me to reach out more and to network more with others. Not only have I learned so much but I’ve shared just as much as I’ve learned. Again, this was new for me. I am usually too introverted to share my experiences for fear people will take me for bragging or not being humble.
That said, it has not been easy to share my writing processes and Self-Publishing thoughts with you on my blog. It was even more terrifying to expand and to share those same thoughts on the blogs of others. But Sandra Beckwith, author, and national award-winning former publicist said something that sticks with me. Sometimes I wonder if I am giving away too much of my process or being too generous with my service. But Sandra said:
“I understand people feeling like, “this is my special thing, maybe I should keep it to myself.” I get it. But the people who are most successful are those who aren’t worried about that knowing that if they put it out there it will come back to them. They give freely. They got a mindset of generosity.”
There are always moments of frustration, doubt, and even anger. There are times where I’ve yearned to be encouraged just as much as I’ve encouraged. Pouting and folding my arms, “Why me? Why do I have to be the one to uplift? Why can’t someone uplift me?” These are the kinds of questions I wrestle with in addition to the famous, “Am I good enough?”
Suffice to say, I’ve had many moments of frustration and many moments of naivete in my quest to do good and to be good. What I’ve learned in the process is to think less about what others are thinking and more about the work, how I can sharpen my skills and how I can be of service to those around me. The less you think about what others are thinking, the better you become at being yourself. It is because of such revelations, I’d like to share some of the primary lessons I’ve learned this year, some of which have had the most impact on my writing life so far.
I tried to think of more things I learned this year but it just boiled down to three.
I’ve been spending a lot of time studying list building. Not just why they are important, but how to nurture them so they are of value to those signed up. After focusing on building my own list, I am amazed that I did not start sooner or that I once thought they weren’t important. If there are any aspiring authors out there, I’d highly recommend starting an email list the same time that you start your blog and social media. Email lists are targeted, meaning these are people who want to be in the know about you, your work, and your next project. They aren’t people subscribing to your blog who may read your post every blue moon. They are people who want to connect with you on another level and who will support you as long as you provide value.
Three of the most powerful Author Platforms to date are The Blog, Social Media, and Email List. As you can probably tell, blogs are much like social media. In fact, many consider them the same as social media. The only thing truly set-apart is the email list.
If your social media pages go down or your blog is hacked and for some reason is no longer accessible, your email list will remain. What is an email list? A list of email addresses from people who opted in to receive updates from you. You didn’t pay them and you aren’t twisting their arm. They want to be involved. This is a huge platform opportunity for authors. It can be the difference between having a group of stalwart fans ready to purchase your new book or not.
As many of you may have noticed, I’ve written a lot of Guest Blog Posts this year and was even featured on Annette Rochelle’s BlogTalkRadio Show. Part of this has been my increasing understanding of Publicity’s role in Author Platform. Unlike many Self-Publishers, I’m not so partial to Self-Publishing that I rule out Traditional Publishing completely. I don’t hate or condemn it. Instead, I embrace it and study its strategies and methods. This year, I’ve paid more attention to the business side of publishing and how this can apply to me as an Independent Author. One area that has been my focus is publicity.
Sandra Beckwith, who now teaches authors how to save thousands of dollars by doing their own publicity, promotion, and marketing, talked about the difference between Advertisement and Publicity. To sum up her distinction, an advertisement is anything paid for, such as an advertisement (AD) or commercial. It’s controlled and costs money. Publicity is the free exposure you get in those same media outlets but it’s free, you can’t pay for it and you can’t control it. An interview in an article is an example of publicity and you’re not being paid for it, radio appearances, featured articles, guest blog post, are examples. This is publicity. Beckwith explains how this gets you credibility which is much more valuable to you as an author than advertising.
Further, she went on to discuss how in Traditional Publishing you must write a book proposal and there’s a publicity section where you list everything you’ve done publicity wise. The Publicity shows the publisher that there’s a demand for you and your topic.
As Self-Publishers (Or Independent Publisher, whichever you prefer), we don’t have to create a Book Proposal because we are the publisher.
However, we can create a Book Business Plan and list our publicity there and when this realization occurred, a Book Business Plan is what I set out to write.
Simplicity is important to me so mine is probably not as in depth as some but a Book Business Plan for each book can be quite valuable. It establishes your credibility beyond social media followers. Twitter followers can be bought. So can New York Times Best Seller status and so can Amazon Best Seller Status. In words of Tom Antion:
“You can buy yourself an NYT Best Seller status if you know how to play the game and you can be brain dead and be an Amazon Best Seller. It’s not something to brag about for people who really know.”
I must say Tom’s interview for The Publishing Success Summit is the most real to me. Am I saying being a Best Seller is a bad thing? Of course, not. My point is that you can’t buy media exposure and publicity.
In short, publicity is a great platform building strategy because it helps pre-sale your book to your target audience because they already know who you are. You may even gain readers who were not initially attracted to your kind of book but because they heard you on the radio or saw your name as the list of guest speakers at their alma ma mater, now they’re interested. Who knows. The sky is not the limit!
I say all of this to say that I’ve learned there really is no such thing as a shy writer. OK, there is, technically because I’m shy but you know what I mean. You can’t run a business behind a wall.
So, I’ve learned to be more open and outgoing with my writing, approaching people for Author Interviews, writing more guest blog posts, and putting myself out there. Sure, I’m not where I’d like to be yet but it’s a start. Little did I know that I was strengthening my platform. In truth, I didn’t really see it as this before but as this year closes, that is exactly what I’ve learned to do. And I’m still learning.
This revelation is number one but I wrote it last so that it stays with you because I think it’s that important. It came to me by way of workout commercials. After seeing fitness after fitness advertisement I was convinced, “Any routine will work if you stay committed to it. You can buy this DVD or walk a flight of stairs every day.” I was being facetious but that’s when it hit me. Independent Publishing is filled with advice after advice on what we should do, shouldn’t do and how we can get better at the skill of writing.
There are people who will say there are no rules to writing and then stone you for breaking a rule. There are those who won’t hear anything you say because you don’t have a degree or fancy background in publishing. They’ll look at your Self-Published book and laugh in your face. That’s right, with all the talk about being different and unique, there’s really no such thing.
Everyone who talks that talk aren’t being real with themselves. Most people aren’t setting out to be unique or different. I know because they’re afraid to step outside the box, to change the game, to do (or say) what has not been done before. Some of you are even afraid to be a little controversial on your own blogs. So, afraid of what people will think of you. We talk about this being the key ingredient to standing out as writers, being different, but when different arrives, we aren’t ready for it.
After an entire year of advice from others and being told (and criticized beyond words….good thing my life has afforded me an extra layer of skin), it occurred to me that anything can work if it is done right.
It’s not about how many social media followers or likes you have, how many blog followers, or email list subscribers you have, anything you work at on a consistent basis has the potential to be successful. Yes, these things are important elements but I’ve learned that they only work because of the effort that you put into them. This goes for your blogs as well. They only work when you do.
It is not the tool you use to tend to the garden, it’s the person who gets up 4am every morning to till the ground and water the crops that will determine if the tree grows and will bear fruit. It’s that person and the belief that person has in what it is that they are doing.
I’ve learned that everything works if it is done right. After my hair has grown gray from research and reading articles, after the late nights, and even nights of frustrating tears I’ve come to understand that it is not what you do but how you do it. It’s not Self-Publishing the book or even your strategy, it’s Self-Publishing the book correctly and implementing a strategy the way it is to be done. When I started focusing on how to build my email list the right way, that is when it grew. Likewise, when we start learning how to publish books the right way, that is when we will be successful. Of course, I say we because I am talking to myself. You all are just listening to my conversation….with myself.
This is merely a snippet of what I’ve learned this 2016 but it is what I felt compelled to share as the most important. I hope that they will keep you encouraged and strengthened during those times of doubt and uncertainty as you push forward on your road to Independent Publishing.
I look forward to what the new year has in store.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Deeply concerned about the state of Black America, a fight with his brother compels a young Joseph to leave his mother’s house and join his friends for a trip to Atlanta for SNCC’s (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) second conference. Excited to live life on their own, Jo and his friends have left school and the lives they were living for a chance to become part of the movement. With no money and essentially no plan the seven friends, three black and four white, set out for the road when they are stopped by a racist cop who makes them exit the car. The teens are unaware that a mob of Klansmen also awaits them at the New Orleans bus terminal.
Find out in the 3rd installment of the Stella Trilogy how Joseph and his friends discover the truth about themselves in the Jim Crow south on The Road to Freedom.