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From the The Pantheon Collective site:
Daily rigors of a busy life have funny ways of keeping us from doing the things we are most passionate about. The TPC3 can attest to that.
Oh, it’s been a while, so let me re-introduce the “TPC3”: Stephanie Casher, James W. Lewis (me), and Omar Luqmaan-Harris. Nice to meet you. Again. 🙂
Around this time four years ago, we were spitting out blogs like bullets from three AK-47s, reporting the real-time, behind-the-scenes processes of our first book Sellout months before its debut. But four books later, that high octane tank dropped to “E.” Simply put, we needed a break. Sure, we still promoted our books, “social mediacated” through Facebook and Twitter, and conducted the necessary in-house business practices, but that fire behind the blogs—and even for our own individual works-in-progress—died down. Life changes leaked the air out of the well-worn tires of the TPC3, so we couldn’t get our roll on with the same intensity of four years ago.
The passion never really dies, though. It just slows down sometimes.
But now? Well, let’s just say we have a brand new set of tires, rotated and balanced, baby. Ready to fire up again, starting with this blog. Or is it “turnt up?” Whatever – both of ’em.
Last year, my life fired off into all kinds of new directions. I went from undergrad studies in the spring to the graduate level in the fall, which dumped a fresh batch of stress in my life. On top of that, personal training sessions and fitness boot camp classes increased, so by the end of each workday, my body and brain cells are beat down. Hell, even my old Mitsubishi Eclipse—a ride I had for 14 years—kicked the bucket, so I splurged on a Nissan Altima as a graduation present. But as 2013 came to a close, I celebrated the holidays with my family, including a new grand-niece, finished my first semester of grad school and … wait for it … got hitched! Yup. Capped off 2013 by tying the knot with the pretty little lady in the pictures with Omar and I. With a wife as my business partner, preparing the taxes will be interesting.
Those life changes were behind my own burnout, too. But like I said, the passion never dies, and although I wasn’t writing everyday (and still not), I found a unique way of banging out my latest novel Tangled Web by using my iPhone’s notepad and sometimes, SiRi. Hell, I wrote at least half of the novel with my thumb! I hope to drop my third child on ya’ll by the end of the summer, if I don’t jack up my thumb, of course.
And yet, amid the chaos among the three of us, we still managed to cook up our first collabo entitled F.A.T.E.: From Authors to Entrepreneurs, the true-to-life rendition of the six months it took to prepare Sellout, written in different chapters from the unique perspectives of the author (yours truly), the editor (Stephanie) and marketing expert (Omar). You want to know what it’s really like to write, edit, re-write, proofread, typeset, promote, upload, order, print, ship, and prepare for a book launch in a city we’d never been in before under a tight deadline—all while trying not to rip out each others’ throats? Then F.A.T.E is definitely the book for you.
But while my book is still in the pre-teen stages, Stephanie’s book The Space Between, the sequel to her award-winning novel When Love Isn’t Enough, is nearly full-grown, dressed, and ready to go at the start of the summer. I’ll let her tell you all about that. 🙂
For Immediate Release . . .
March 03, 2014 – Award-winning novelist James W. Lewis’ controversial anthology, “Black People Can’t Be Republican And Other Hot Button Topics In the African American Community,” has been nominated for best short story collection in the 2014 Global eBook Awards.
About the book:
In the eyes of many, an African American commits the ultimate act of betrayal if he or she dares to express conservative beliefs. Ironically, those before us fought for African Americans to simply vote, not be handcuffed to one particular party.
Still, because approximately ninety percent (90%) of African Americans are registered Democrats, it’s almost as if we have a “negrofied” bible that says, “If you’re black, you’re Democrat”—and that’s it. Period. That closed frame of mind leaves little desire to even acknowledge another viewpoint, let alone try to understand it.
Black People Can’t Be Republican is a collection of short stories based in Anytown, USA that explores viewpoints from various angles in a debate format—not only about political party affiliations, but other hot-button topics common in the community, such as the N-word, homosexuality, “thick” versus “fat”, and sagging pants.
About the Global ebook Awards:
The Global ebook Awards honor and bring attention to the future of book publishing: Ebooks. Now in its fourth year, the Awards are in 72 specific categories. They are open to all publishers large and small so that a winner is the best in its category not just the best of small or regionally-published ebooks. Most ebooks are also available as printed books as well.
Readers may purchase the eBook at this link: http://tinyurl.com/nz7mspy
Happy New Year!
Wow, 2014. Can you believe it? It’s been four years since my publishing company The Pantheon Collective started this new venture that led to four published books and 30,000 copies sold. Who knew? 🙂
This year, look out for new books from the three of us. If all goes well, it will be the first year where we each launch a book in the same year, another major milestone. It’s been a while since we published a book (since 2011, to be exact), but this year is poppin’ off right with the launch of our FIRST collaboration entitled F.A.T.E: From Authors to Entrepreneurs! You still have time to cop a free e-book of F.A.T.E, too! Just go to this link for more info: http://bit.ly/JLejoz.
I’m working on my third novel Tangled Web, which I hope to have in an editor’s hands by March or April. In the meantime, if you want to check out a few short stories I’ve published since Sellout and A Hard Man Is Good to Find, check out my “cocktales!”
I hope amid graduate school and personal training sessions, I’ll be able to finish this novel, but believe it or not, I’ve found an effective way to write during different breaks throughout the day: I use my iPhone’s digital notepad and sometimes, Siri. Whether standing in line, waiting on a client, hell, even while driving (using Siri, of course), I can pump out pages in a chapter with one finger and/or by talking into the phone. Works for me!
Hey, gotta do what you gotta do to get in that daily word count, right?
What is F.A.T.E, you ask? It’s our first collaboration and the first of its kind, as far as we know. 🙂
F.A.T.E: From Authors to Entrepreneurs encompasses excitement, exhilaration, doubt, fear–all the rollercoaster human emotions mangled together during the process of not only launching a debut novel, but a new publishing company at the same time. It ain’t all fun and games for sanity. Definitely no picnic, either.
Learn about Stephanie cussing me out when I questioned the edits of one particular sentence; Omar’s concerns of his first book marketing plan; my perpetual battle against the Sandman, re-writing and re-writing and more freakin’ re-writing into the wee hours under a strict deadline; and the three of us struggling and juggling our managing partner roles as we tried to figure out the intricacies of a publishing company, like a new website, social media, legal matters (partnership or LLC?), printer selection, distribution, ISBNs, edits, typesetting, bookkeeping, taxes, seed money, travel costs, networking, e-books…
My head hurts already, but yes, the list goes on. This is not your typical “how-to” book; it’s more of a behind-the-scenes reality show from the moment we conceived the idea of a publishing company to the realization of a dream at an Atlanta book conference, written from the unique perspectives of the author (me); editor (Stephanie); and marketing expert (Omar). Like our own collaborative diary.
If you want a FREE copy of F.A.T.E: From Authors to Entrepreneurs, a chance at a $150 Amazon gift AND all four of our company’s previous e-books, just take about 5 minutes to complete a survey at this link: http://bit.ly/JLejoz.
Our tagline encapsulates everything F.A.T.E is about: Three Minds. One Mission. No Limits.
I didn’t meet my NaNo goal by the end of November. Matter of fact, I was about … um … 44,000 words short, BUT! I have a valid excuse. I’d mentioned if I didn’t finish 50,000 words by November 30, I suck monkey balls; however, I’m in grad school right now and at the same time of the NaNo marathon, I had a major research paper due by Dec 6th at 5:00pm. I submitted that beeyotch of a paper at 4:45. Yup, fifteen minutes to spare. So, most of my energy went into writing this paper than my NaNo. As much as I wanted to get to 50,000 words in my new novel, NaNo ain’t gonna give me that grade I need for the next semester. Oh, well. I’ll aim for April to have Tangled Web completed.
On another note…
As of this writing F.A.T.E: From Authors To Entrepreneurs is in the typesetting stage (yay!). We should have it ready to go in a week or so. Read about all the behind-the-scenes soap opera mess of writing and launching a debut novel, from the perspectives of the writer (me), marketing expert (Omar) and editor (Stephanie). Oh, buddy! If you haven’t launched a novel yet and want to see what it’s like–all the while establishing a new publishing company with two other people (dra-ma!)–this is the book for you.
If you want a free copy, contact us at email@example.com. Into the new year, our goal is to have our first collaboration and three new books from each of us. Can we do it?
We will see…
Earlier this month, I hopped onboard the NaNo bandwagon, hoping to jump-start my latest novel TANGLED WEB. So far, I’ve … oh, if you don’t know, NaNo is short for National Novel Writing Month, an initiative where thousands of writers pump themselves up to write their novels in November. The goal is at least 50,000 words before November 30th.
The good news is I’ve been writing more, especially since so many other writers are “NaNo-ized,” which inspires me to light a fire under these fingers so I can blaze the keyboard like my fellow scribes. And yet, The bad news is my daily word count. Pathetic. Paltry. Sucky. I probably average 250 words a day–way below the recommended 1700 word count, which by November 30th, at that rate would put you well over the 50,000-word mark. But, damn, I’ll be happy with half at 25,000 words. And I started this journey with a ” credit” of 7,279 words, so I really only need about 18,000 more. Definitely doable. If I don’t reach 25,000 words, I suck monkey balls.
You’re a writer, James! Kick your ass in gear!
Well, at least I wrote this blog at 3a.m. That’s what real writers do, stay up deep into the AM hours, fighting sleep at the desk. Sleep always wins. I’m nodding off right now, but dang it I’m pushing through it.
On another note, our first book collaboration–“our” includes me, Stephanie Casher, and Omar Luqmaan-Harris, my business partners–will drop (hopefully) in early December. It’s called F.A.T.E: FROM AUTHORS TO ENTREPRENEURS and it details our journey as a small business, from the first seed planted for a new publishing company, to the launch of our debut novel SELLOUT. Learn about my brief stint as a rapper. Stephanie cussing me out during one of our power summits. Omar’s concern about the first marketing plan. The doubts, the fights, good, bad, ugly–its all in there. You’ll be reading our diary, like an author version of a reality show behind the scenes, from December 2009 to the present.
If you want to know about the up’s and down’s of starting a publishing business while trying to launch a book under a strict six-month deadline–from the point-of-views of the debut author (me), editor (Stephanie), and marketing expert (Omar)–this book is for you. We have our defined roles, but during the initial stages of The Pantheon Collective, best believe we changed business hats as often as underwear.
How would you like a FREE e-copy of F.A.T.E when it launches? Just email firstname.lastname@example.org to get on our mailing list and we’ll shoot one to ya! 🙂 In the meantime, November 30th is fast-approaching, so I need to jump back on the NaNo bandwagon before it leaves me behind.
I admit, I haven’t been the greatest at posting blogs. I looked at my website today and was like,”Dang, I haven’t written a blog in a while. I should let everyone know what’s going on with J Willy!”
The skinny: Since my last blog, I started graduate school at SJSU, working on a Masters in Exercise Physiology (kicking my ass sumn’ proper, too). I’m also working two jobs as a personal trainer and boot camp instructor, helping a variety of people reach their fitness and health goals. It’s all hard work, but I’m lovin’ it! Check out my personal trainer bio here.
Considering the to-do’s on my daily schedule have mashed and cut into my free time, I now take advantage of portable technology to squeeze in blogs and chapters for my work-in-progress Tangled Web whenever I can get it in. That means while standing in line at Subway for a 12-inch cold cut sandwich, eating said sandwich in the food court, waiting on my car for an oil change, walking to and from classes, waiting on a client, etc. For these short spaces of extra time, I’ve introduced a new habit: Writing via my iPhone’s notepad. Smart phone texting is like a 21st century typewriter on-the-go, perfectly designed for hustle-and-bustle people like me. I’m five chapters into my new novel and at least 60% of it came solely from my thumb and an itty-bitty touchscreen. Works for me, but it’s not for everyone. And I’m sure I’m slowly working my way toward some type of thumb-related carpel tunnel, so I try to scale back a bit, but hell, I typed this entire blog with one thumb! Pretty impressive, huh?
If graduate studies, two jobs, and a new novel isn’t enough, my partners and I are finishing up our first collaboration entitled F.A.T.E: From Authors To Entrepreneurs, our memoir-ish look at publishing our first novel Sellout, spoken from the point-of-view of the editor (Stephanie Casher), marketer (Qwantu Amaru), and author (me!). I think people will enjoy reading what happened behind the scenes prior to book launch (from January 2010 and beyond). The good, the bad, the ugly–it’s all in there. Like a VH1 reality show in a book.
I hope to finish Tangled Web before the end of the year, but that’s ambitious as hell. I have homework, constant readings, F.A.T.E to edit, projects to finish, exams to study for, exercise routines to design … sheesh. It’s going to be a rough semester.
But on another note…
My second novel A Hard Man is Good To Find is approaching 10,000 sales! Only have 300 to go! Last week, I held a BookBub promotion and it more than delivered. I sold nearly 1,000 copies in two days (yeah, for real. Authors, you need to get up on the BookBub train!). But will it reach 10,000 before the end of the year as its sister Sellout? Hell, the real question is will I pass my classes and finish F.A.T.E while maintaining two freakin’ jobs? Need to keep my head above water. We shall see. Stay tuned…
Way too often, new authors go through all the trouble of writing, editing, typesetting, then publishing a book–but have no idea how and where to sell it.
They ask, “I just published my third novel. How do I sell it?”
Uh-oh. It’s too late to ask such a question. An author should know his or her audience long before the novel hits the street. It’s like this: Everyone won’t read your book. Not targeting a particular group is like throwing darts at a swarm of flies, hoping to stick one.
Analogy alert: Serious fishermen know fish and how to catch ‘em. They know the best season of the year, time of day, right temperature, specific locations, the right bait to use, and best equipment to catch the most fish–more so than the novice Joe Schmoe who just wings up, hoping to snag something. Yeah, Joe Schmoe may catch a few snappers, but the true “Fish Heads” will return home with a seafood buffet in a bucket. Why? Because the Fish Head did his homework. Joe Schmoe didn’t.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, as the author, you’re the fisherman who’s trying to hook as many “fish” as possible–the readers.
Many new authors just don’t ask themselves two important questions when trying to sell their books: 1) Who’s my audience and 2) how do I reach them?
Answering those questions is not as hard as you think. However, to get the answers to those broad questions, you’ll have to ask additional questions that are more focused. What’s your book’s genre? Who reads this genre? What’s your typical reader’s profession? Relationship status? Where do they live? What kind of books do they read? Where do they buy their books? Are they on social media?
Focused questions help you target your audience–the people most likely to read your book. It’s probably not a good idea to promote an erotica novella to a group of people who normally read children’s books.
You can also ask focused questions about the book itself, like what city is the book based in? Or what’s the main character’s profession? If your book is a murder mystery involving a magician who lives in Seattle, you’ve already narrowed down two categories of potential readers–magicians and Seattle book clubs. I’ve found that some readers love reading books based in the city they live in. And just about every profession has a regional, statewide, and/or national organization an author could target (i.e., The International Brotherhood of Magicians).
Once you identify the specific group who are interested in your book’s genre, you’ll need to know how to reach them. My first book SELLOUT is about the struggles of interracial dating from the perspectives of three individuals, so my partners and I came up with a game plan to target individuals in interracial relationships, which, actually, wasn’t that hard.
For example, I’m engaged in several Facebook groups for interracial couples, participating in relationship topics (they often get heated, too); I’ve published essays in online journals that focus on subjects related to race; have done radio interviews on interracial dating; and even received a written review for Sellout from a student who conducted a panel on interracial dating at a local university. I’ve also targeted book clubs and book bloggers who read my novel’s genre.
If you do research BEFORE your book launches by narrowing your audience, you won’t feel like Mr. Joe Schmoe the clueless fisherman, hoping to get lucky with no set plan on how to catch ’em. Fish don’t just jump on the boat. You need to know what kind of fish are biting and the right bait and equipment to use, THEN know how to get to them.
Dang, now I want a Red Snapper sandwich!
41. Previous publishing credits: Long before I wrote my first novel, I published short stories online, mostly for critique. Timbooktu got the creative juices boiling, and I credit them for jump-starting the path I’m on now. Some made it into local print media for free; others on a national level with pay. My biggest paydays came from an erotica anthology by New York Times-bestselling author Zane and two Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Every now and then I’ll stumble on an ancient piece of writing from over ten years ago. A few old pieces link to my website (I first purchased my domain in early 2003). I was building a platform before I knew the definition of a platform.
42. Automated Newsletter: You can create a quick newsletter with Paper.li that does all the work for you. Similar to Google Alerts, all you do is select a topic, write keywords related to that topic, choose media sources (Twitter, Facebook, Google), how often you want it to post and boom! Instant newsletter with the latest 411. Pretty easy. My KDP Select News newsletter posts daily via Twitter and email with the latest “news,” usually current blogs from other authors that have tried (or trying) KDP Select. If a new tweet contains one of my keywords or hashtags (i.e., “#kdpselect”) the newsletter links that tweet and hashtags the author. Or it may find a recent post on Google and Facebook. When notified via Twitter, authors often thank me for including their blog. Then they follow me and sometimes retweet my newsletter. KDP Select News has my bio, including my two novels and website link.
43. Being male: Book clubs are mostly comprised of women. No matter the book of the month, what often becomes the number one topic when a bunch of women get together, often fueled by some alcoholic beverage? Yup, you already know—the weaker sex. Not many men write in the multicultural fiction genre, either, so that alone helps me with book club invites (I’ve found women like to get male opinions on relationships in particular, with “why do men do such-and-such” type of questions). Sometimes, I feel like the sole spokesperson for the male species when blasted with questions from ten to fifteen women. Also, three of the four main characters from my two novels are female, so I know a few readers who have purchased the book purely out of curiosity to see how I handled the female voice. From the reviews, I think I got it a right (thanks to my female editors, of course!).
44. Controversial topic: Yes, race relations have improved, but interracial dating, especially between blacks and whites, is still taboo for some—not so much for black women and white men, though, (think the show Scandal), but the other way around. Cheerios ran a commercial of an interracial couple and hate flooded the Internet. Be honest: Do you think Barack Obama would be president if his wife was blond-haired and blue-eyed?
45. Being approachable: I accept everyone who sends me a Facebook friend request and respond to authors who ask questions on the publishing biz (I get about 5 friend requests a day). People hit me up in Facebook chat all the time, too, mostly just to say hi or ask questions on fitness and health (I’m also a personal trainer). I’ve responded to a few random pop up chats like “I’m on page 238 of your book!” You think I’m going to ignore a fan reading my book in real time?
46. Questions of the day: I often post questions related to issues between men and women, and boy, they get heated! No holds barred on my page—sex, dating, married life, divorce, cheating, etc. I even post questions from friends who want to remain anonymous and are looking for unbiased opinions. Sometimes, questions derive from events or character actions in my books.
47. Facebook friends with cover models: I wanted live models for the cover because I had this wild idea that by promoting themselves, they would promote the book, too. If featured on a book cover, wouldn’t you tell everyone about it? And the book cover gig becomes a part of their resume (like on Tribble’s site). Of the four models, I’m Facebook friends with three of them and have sent each autographed copies: Tribble Reese, Ebru Keskin and Deborah O Ayorinde. These three are doing big things, and it’s always fun to see them in random spots, like while browsing a magazine (Deborah in Essence magazine); channel surfing (caught Tribble on the reality show Sweet Home Alabama while both females were on the show The Game); or even a motion picture (I spotted Ebru sashaying like a model in Tyler Perry’s movie Temptation). Ebru and Deborah even took pictures of themselves holding a copy of SELLOUT!
48. PayPal link for various sites: During the first few weeks after launch, we linked PayPal buttons on my author site, TPC site, and even our Facebook fan pages for customers to order autographed copies (they’re now on all our individual websites, too). PayPal makes book transactions easy because you can pay with either a credit card or PayPal account, especially when processing bulk orders. Then I take my happy self to the post office and mail them off.
49. Time and patience: Reading a book takes time. Building a platform takes time. Reviews take time. Selling 10,000 copies took time (nearly three years!). Just the way it is. However, with e-books, you don’t have to worry about returns or limited shelf space. The World Wide Web is your shelf space, and there’s plenty of room and time to build demand for your book—even if it takes years. Still, the earlier you lay down the “slab” for your platform foundation, the better the chances of high book sales.
50. Being open to just about anything. In this wild journey toward writing, publishing, promoting, and selling SELLOUT, we have encountered many waves in rough seas, but instead of staying ashore, we grabbed our mythical surfboard and rode as many waves as we could—not entirely certain where the waves would take us. That’s what happening in the publishing industry right now—waves and ripples. Borders has closed forever. The #1 bookseller in the world is an online retailer (Amazon). Publishers and literary agents are redefining their roles. More people find comfort in reading on electronic devices. Geesh, could you have imagined these ripples just five years ago? Probably not.
Think what the next five years will bring…
However, changes help to usher in new opportunities, which is why it’s a good idea to stay abreast of which way the tide is turning by subscribing to newsletters and staying active in different writer groups—and be willing to try new things. I’m not saying throw your money at just anything. Research will help you decide on the next move, but if the results of your analysis shows you can possibly improve sales, why not try it (whatever “it” is)? BookBub had less than 100,000 subscribers last year. Today? Over 1,000,000. Yup, things just ain’t the same anymore, but I find it exciting! Don’t you?
Well, I hope you found these blogs helpful! If you’re looking for a PDF copy of this blog with all the “reasons,” hit me up at email@example.com.