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.

Where to Start

So, you want to write a book. Maybe you have an idea or maybe you have a character in mind. Either way, you’re itching to get those words down on paper.

What now? Now, you grab your coffee and writing, right? Maybe. Maybe not.

Let me start by saying this, the process is different for every single writer and that’s okay. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa, but every great book starts with a few basic questions.

These are the questions I sit down to ask before I plot or outline any book:

Who is/are your character(s)?
What do they want?
How are they going to get what they want and what stands in their way?
What do they stand to lose if they don’t get what they want?

Simple enough, right? On the surface, yes, these are simple questions. The difficulty lies in answering them in a unique way that drives your story forward and ultimately engages your readers. The most important question to ask is this:

What makes this story unique/different?

The hard truth of publishing is that the marketplace is saturated and finding that one hook that will make your book stand out is the single most daunting task facing a writer.

So, what makes your book or idea different or special?

New Author Services

Y’all … I’ve been sitting on some pretty big ideas the past few months, and I’ve finally decided to take the plunge.

One of my biggest passions and favorite things to do is to help my fellow authors and writers develop their craft and promote their books and brand. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit of a marketing and social media junkie.

I’ve also spent the past few years really diving into publishing and learning the pros and cons of both traditional and self-publishing.

Now, I want to use what I’ve learned to help other writers realize their dreams.

Ready to learn more? Click here or on the Author Services link at the top of the site.

Comparison, the Thief of Everything

What’s your dream? Are you actively chasing it or working towards your goals? If not, what holds you back?

For me, my biggest obstacle is comparison. I see the success of others and wonder why not me. What am I doing wrong?

On my bad days, the list is a mile long—not enough of this, too much of that—and it’s easy to drown in the comparisons.

The good days are the days I can remind myself that no two journeys are the same, just as no two people are the same. My path forward diverting away from the “normal” isn’t failure. Me being different isn’t bad.

When they say comparison is the thief of everything the truth in that is overwhelming. It’s so easy to sit back and blame yourself for all the ways you think you don’t measure up, but it’s neither productive nor healthy.

When I see other authors getting stellar reviews and selling thousands of books (or hundreds), it’s so easy to let my jealousy shout louder than my joy and pride for them. It’s completely possibly to celebrate the success of others without feeling like you’re lagging behind.

Celebrating success, whether your own or someone else’s, is a choice. We can either choose to find the joy or we can let the darkness win.

I refuse to let the darkness win.I want to be your cheerleader and biggest fan. I want to see your success as a win for everyone.

But I still want to grow and succeed on my own.

These are not mutually exclusive. Celebrate both. Celebrate your wins and your failures. Celebrate that you tried. Celebrate that you finished. Celebrate that you put yourself out there.

Don’t ever let fear of rejection or comparison steal your dreams.

One to Watch, Kate Stayman-London

(Thank you to the tagged publisher for the gifted copy)

This book was refreshing and unique. I absolutely loved the way it was told through a variety of narrators and mediums.

Bea felt so real to me and even though I’m not one to watch reality TV, One to Watch made me wish Main Squeeze was real.

If One to Watch isn’t on your TBR, you definitely need to add it.

Luster, Raven Leilani

Wow. The prose. The insane plot points. The punchy internal dialog. This book was perfection. I found this book to be both heartbreaking and a bit inspiring, which surprised me given the content. But I loved how unapologetic the main character was. She knew who she was and didn’t ever try to hide that.

You need this book in your life. That is all.