The State of Things

Y’all I don’t even know anymore. This year has been one punch in the face after the other.

Personally, there have been some highs but the world is literally burning, so those moments pale in comparison to the lows. It’s hard to celebrate a new house or a new book in the midst of a global pandemic that’s infected millions and killed hundreds of thousands or as we watch Black men, women, and children being murdered in cold blood by the people who are paid to protect and serve or as the rights of our LGBTQ+ friends are on the line.

Yesterday, I received the lovely contact tracing call. Last night (7 days ahead of a presidential election) the “Senate” confirmed a radical originalist to the SCOTUS that forever changes the landscape of the court.

I’m not going to lie, it’s hard to remain positive or feel hopeful.

I’m beyond angry. I don’t know if there is a feeling deeper than rage, but I’m feeling it.

If you haven’t voted, make a plan for 11/3. VOTE. Don’t be cute and vote for Kanye because you believe the bullshit being spoon-fed to us by Fox News, Russia, and internet trolls. There is too much at stake this year.

Oh, and wear a fucking mask.

After Everything is Here!

Somehow, I missed posting about After Everything on release day. When I say this week has been a whirlwind, I am not even exaggerating.

The release of After Everything has felt so different from all my previous books. There’s something magical about all book releases, but this one made my heart burst into a million tiny pieces.

Ya’ll, my book is in a bookstore! A real live bookstore! And, not just any bookstore, but Parnassus Books here in Nashville. I don’t even know if I can put into words how amazing that feels.

The early reviews have been amazing, and as I read each one I am reminded of why I wrote this book. I wanted to write a book that felt real, honest, emotional, and raw. After Everything is all of those things. Abby is real. Her struggles are real. Her dreams are real. She makes terrible choices and has to face the consequences, but each choice she makes is made with one goal in mind: to be true to herself.

Thank you to all of the readers, bloggers, and Bookstagrammers who have helped make my dreams come true. I love you all!

I’m Speaking

“Mr. Vice President, I’m Speaking.”

“If you don’t mind letting me finish, we can then have a conversation, OK?”

These two phrases (and the fly) are what struck me the most during last night’s Vice Presidential debate.

I’m speaking.

Such a powerful statement in two simple words.

As an educated woman with a career, I was never taught or encouraged to say those two words. Though, I’ve thought them every time a man spoke over me or interrupted me or refused to pay attention as I spoke. I’m not alone in this. Every woman in America is familiar with the silent seething that accompanies these moments.

At the end of the debate, I sent a co-worker a text saying I was going to order us shirts that say “I’m speaking” for us to wear to meetings.

Senator Harris exuded power and confidence as she refused to yield her time or voice to the white man who, without a hint of shame or hesitation, worked to overpower and silence her. She didn’t flinch. She looked him dead in the (pink) eye and said, “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking.”

When my daughter is older, I will play her clips of Senator Harris during last night’s debate. Our voices as women matter. Our words matter.

Thank you Senator Harris for reclaiming your time and asserting your voice.

Review: Grown, Tiffany D. Jackson

Wow.

This book exceeded every single one of my expectations. Jackson’s writing pulled me right into Enchanted’s world and held me hostage. I could not put this book down.

The topics weren’t light and were absolutely gut wrenching at times.

I highly recommend this book, but go into it knowing your heart will break and you’ll want to jump into the pages to save Enchanted.
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Review: Washington: A Life, Ron Chernow

Good. Lord. 40ish hours later …

This book was an exhaustive look at George Washington’s life, the American Revolution, and the beginning of the American experiment.

Chernow didn’t shy away from Washington’s complicated and troubling relationship with slavery. He may have had reservations about slavery as a practice, but he didn’t shy away from owning slaves or protecting slave ownership.

Whitewashed American history is a disservice to all. Our founding fathers may have done wonders for the freedom of white men, but their actions toward Native Americans and enslaved Blacks did damage that we continue to struggle with.

I appreciate Chernow’s approach on this and other topics. But, I didn’t need 3 hours on Washington posing for portraits and statues 😴

September Recap

I’ve been HORRIBLE at posting my reviews here. So, I am cheating a bit and posting a quick recap for the month of September.

What did you read in September?

I mostly read CNN, my IG feed, and the cool side of my pillow. In other words, it was a slow month.

But … I did read a few books:
📱Throne of Glass
📱Crown of Midnight
📱The Second Home
📖 Transcendent Kingdom
📖 Loathe at First Sight

Transcendent Kingdom, Yaa Gyasi

After absolutely loving Homegoing, I had high hopes for Transcendent Kingdom and it did not disappoint. Yaa Gyasi is a phenomenal writer and storyteller.

Gifty felt like such a real character. The way she matured and grew over the course of the book pulled me into her world.

I did struggle a bit with the science and details around her work, but it was interesting and I loved how it all tied back to her life.

Why I Self-Published (Again)

I spent nearly all of 2019 researching literary agents, querying those agents, writing books that said agents might be interested in, writing queries, sending partial and full manuscripts, and crying and stressing.

I doubted myself.
I hated my writing.
I questioned my dreams and goals.
I felt like crap.

When people would ask why I wanted to go from self-publishing to traditional publishing, my answer was (and still is) because I want to seem my book at Target. Yup. Is that silly? Sure, but I’m owning it.

Why Target? This answer is two part … 1.) I write books for women like me and women like me love Target. 2.) I dream about walking down the aisles at Target with a latte in one hand, a child-free shopping cart being pushed with the other, and seeing MY BOOK on an end-cap begging to be found by new readers.

That last one is the true answer for why I tried the agent and traditional publishing route—I want to reach more readers. It would also be nice to not have to do everything myself. Then again, having 100% of the control is a hell of a drug.

So, why am I going indie again? This one is a little harder to answer.

The first reason has more to do with my mental health than anything. Querying agents and going from the high of getting a request to the low of a generic rejection is exhausting and painful. It’s a gut punch. I queried three books last year and became obsessed with my numbers and checking my email. Not healthy.

Control is the second reason. Some of the feedback I got with rejections made sense from a “what sells” perspective, but the stories that “sell” aren’t always the stories that need to be told. I don’t want to write solely for the sake of selling. Yes, being an author is a business but it is art first. Along those same lines, I like having control over cover art and timelines and edits. Do I always make the right choice? Probably not, but I learn something every time.

Timing is the last (big) reason. Y’all publishing is sloooooooow. Like, slower than Christmas. As in, I could write a perfect book tomorrow, land the dream agent, and earn a 6-figure advance and it would be at least 2-3 years before that book landed in readers hands. I do not have that kind of patience. The 1.5 minutes it takes my microwave popcorn to pop is too long. So, yeah, waiting 2 years to publish a book sounds excruciating.

Do I still want to see my book in Target? Yes, please (if you wanna reach out to your store or corporate and request my book, that would be cool). For me, though, it’s more important to get my books out into the world and reach readers. If the right opportunity came along, I’d definitely be open to traditional publishing, but right now, I’m happy where I am.

Instagram for Indie Authors

Instagram, and particularly Bookstagram, can be an invaluable tool for indie authors, but Instagram can often seem like a daunting platform. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a huge fan of social media and love how I am able to connect with readers.

As an Indie Author, one of my biggest tasks (aside from writing books) is figuring out who my readers are and how to reach them. This is the one business side of self-publishing that I actually enjoy … I’m sure it also helps that my day job is in marketing.

A few years ago, I stumbled on the Bookstagram community (#bookstagram) on Instagram and knew I’d found my people. Without a single hint of hesitation, I decided to dive head-first into the community. I’d be lying if I didn’t join in-part because I wanted to sell books, but my primary goal was to connect with people like me. I love to read almost as much as I love to write.

At first, I was intimidated by the gorgeous photos and massive followings I saw on the “big” accounts. It took a few months for me to find my footing and balance. I learned what worked for me and my books.

Here in it’s most basic form is what I’ve learned about how to use Instagram as an Indie Author:

Instagram for Indie Authors:
Know who your ideal reader is (general demographics and a bit deeper. I.E. women, aged 25-45 who enjoy books by Elin Hilderbrand, drink coffee, and have families)
Follow Hashtags & Accounts that align with your ideal reader
Be Yourself – this is one I cannot stress enough. Your readers want YOU. Yes, pretty, overly-staged photos are nice, but what matters most is the authenticity behind them. They don’t want another influencer selling them BS. Use your bio to share you & link to your website (if you can, create your own Instagram link page and avoid Link Tree).
Be Consistent find a posting cadence that works for you and stick to it
Utilize Stories post in your stories consistently, reply to stories, use the tools IG gives you (polls, quizzes, questions, etc.). Keep highlights of the best stories on your grid.
Engage. Engage. Engage. Like, comment, follow, post content that drives conversations. Don’t post and ghost.
Don’t Dive Into an Ask please, please, please. Do not blindly message someone you have never engaged with and ask them to buy or read your book. No one likes being sold to or feeling used.
Don’t Play Follow/Unfollow Games they don’t work. It’s an old trick and no one likes it.

Most importantly: Be you. Be real. Be the type of person you’d want to follow.

While this may seem simple, it does take work. You probably won’t hit a million followers or sell a million books, but you will find an engaged, supportive, and real audience that could become your biggest advocates.

Remember, social media is a great marketing tool BUT it’s a community first and foremost. Treat it as such.

If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at your social media or Instagram, check out the Author Services section of my website.