Kimberla Lawson Roby and Me!

Recently I had the opportunity to listen to a book talk given by Kimberla Lawson-Roby. She’s a prolific women’s fiction author who has written over 24 books in the last couple of decades. So when she talked, I listened. I also took notes because, one day, I fully intend to be able to get a hundred or so people in a room to discuss my books and writing process, too!

Kimberla

 


From Kimberla, I learned a few things.

Be yourself. People came to see her because they like her books. But, they also like her. Otherwise, they could have bought the book, read it, and let that be the end of it. She was personable and engaging.

Go with the Flow. The person who gave her introduction mentioned that Kimberla’s husband was her biggest supporter. She used that as an opportunity to share about how she first started out (self-published, by the way!) and to give her personal/professional background.

Know your audience. The event took place at a library that was also hosting a large gathering of authors. She not only spoke about her books, but also specifically gave tips and encouragement for aspiring writers.

Invest in your talent. Kimberla left a well-paying career that she was already established in to pursue her dream of being an author. Initially, she attempted to obtain a book deal with one of the Big 5 and, unfortunately, that didn’t pan out. Instead of giving up, or continuing to chase publishing houses that weren’t checking for her, she invested in herself and independently published her first book. Her dedication to writing, marketing and engaging with readers paid off. Eventually, one of the Big 5 came knocking at her door and the rest is history!

Stand by your work. A large body of Kimberla’s work speaks on the hypocrisy of some churches in general, and a man of the clothe by the name of Curtis Black in particular. Some critics took offense at the fact that Kimberla chose to ‘expose’ the church by writing on topics of infidelity, abuse, addiction, etc., as they relate to church folk. Kimberla stood by the fact that she wrote what she saw and experienced in some churches. What you choose to write may not always be pretty, but speak your truth and be prepared to stand by it.

Promote yourself. I almost did a fist pump when she effortless segued from a question that had spiraled into a rather long off-topic discussion, and gently ushered in the title of her upcoming release. From there, Kimberla proceeded to read the opening pages of her next novel, sharing just enough to wet everyone’s appetite. I’m sure her pre-orders had a spike that day!

Show your appreciation. I couldn’t count the number of times Kimberla made it a point to show her gratitude and appreciation for her readers, the library staff, the book clubs in attendance and everyone who came out in support of her. I always say that appreciation and grace are the marks of a true lady, and I saw that in her.


I thoroughly enjoyed being in the audience that day and witnessing first hand the impact that a single person can have on so many people through her dedication to the art of writing. Writers spend a lot of time alone as a part of the job, but moments of engagement help reinforce that it’s all for a very good reason.

As a reader, what do you most look forward to at book discussions? As a writer, what do you hope to accomplish with your craft?

Personally, as a reader, I want some back story on the characters, and as a writer, I want to speak to the heart of people and become one of their ‘must-read’ authors!

 

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Confessions of Faith: How I Fell Into (And Got Out Of) The Comparison Trap

The other day, I came across this post by one of my writer friends on Instagram.

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And then, last week, I came across this AMAZING blog on identity by my good friend Simone. Seriously, click the link. You’ll thank me later.

They both spoke to me and reminded me of a time not too long ago when I fell into the horrible habit of comparing myself to others. I thought I had kicked that nasty pesky inclination in high school. But there it was again, rearing its ugly head in my 30’s.

And this time, it wasn’t about anything superficial like my looks or fashion sense. This was intense and deeply personal. This time I was comparing my God-given talent for writing to other authors. This time, the whole situation was personal.

I’m the type of person who is genuinely happy when good things happen to other people. I don’t have a hateful bone in my body. The way I see it, if God did it for them, He will certainly do it for me. So don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t mad at them for succeeding. I was mad at myself for not doing all that I thought I was supposed to be doing.

You see, I kept thinking that having one full length novel published wasn’t good enough. My author buddies were putting out books left and right, and I was still struggling through the first draft of my sophomoric effort. I kept thinking ‘what’s wrong with me?’

When comparison takes root, despondency is not far behind it. I went from wondering how other authors were able to do so much, to beating myself up for not doing enough, to wondering if I’m really cut out for this author thing after all.

That’s when God’s counsel stepped in and told me in no uncertain terms to pump my breaks. Who did I think I was questioning His plan and His pace? How dare I even consider neglecting my gift simply because things weren’t progressing the way I thought they should?

God’s conviction is so much lighter than our conscience’s condemnation. Because His conviction comes with clear instruction and hope for the future.

God's conviction is so much lighter than our conscience's condemnation. Because His conviction comes with clear instruction and

I stopped comparing myself to other writers and started reminding myself of who God says that I am and what He promised me for my future. Long before I ever had the courage to pursue this writing dream, I stood on the promises of God for years. He said that my gift would make room for me and bring me before great men.

He’s been faithful to that, so it’s only right that I remain faithful to Him.

My point is this: don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. You don’t know what it cost them to get where they are and you don’t know how hard it may be for them to keep going. Focus on you and what you were purposed here to do, and then do it with all your might.

I promise that the payoff will far exceed your wildest dreams.

XoXo,

Faith

A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men. Proverbs 18:16 

Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you go. Ecclesiastes 9:10

BWABC Literacy Festival: Authors All Over the Place (pic heavy)

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the BWABC Literacy Festival! I had an author/vendor table and while my sales weren’t the best, I appreciated the opportunity to connect with other authors and potential readers. The best part of the weekend was meeting so many of my fellow author friends in person, after connecting with them online. We ate BBQ in the hood, traded war stories, talked writing and had an all around good time! It’s the simple things that bring me the most joy.

The Crew
Christian Fiction writers unite! From left to right: Nicky (Nigeria’s sister), Nigeria, Me, Unoma and Michelle.
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I so enjoyed meeting Ms. Evelyn! She’s 79 years old and loves to write about ‘The Adventures of Herman Ant, Private Detective’. She’s an inspiration to me. 🙂

In the pics that follow, you might notice that my hair is different in a lot of them, even though most of them were taken on the same day. See what had happened was that I woke up to a bad hair day situation and was running late, so I decided that getting there on time was more important than looking good…until I realized that people wanted to take my pic. So I went to the restroom planning to fix my bun situation aannnnddd my hair tie broke!  After crying out to Jesus, wetting my hair with my hands and engaging in all kinds of fluffing, it worked out. Those that know me, know that shenanigans like this are just how I roll.

Author table
My Author Table!
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Michelle Stimpson is the author of one of the first Christian fiction books I read. She’s the reason I knew such a genre existed!
BWABC had wonderful volunteers who would monitor our vendor tables when we had to step away. Kayla was so sweet and helpful!
BWABC had wonderful volunteers who would monitor our vendor tables when we had to step away. Kayla was so sweet and helpful! She wants to be a writer too, and I know she can do it. 🙂
This author had her whole family with her for support! I loved how they cheered and danced and just had a good time. :)
Author LaCricia A’ngelle had her whole family with her for support! I loved how they cheered and danced and just had a good time. 🙂
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Savvy Book Club was in the house! I fell in love with these ladies at NBCC and was thrilled to see them again. I promised to head to Jackson to be a featured author at their book club and I can hardly wait.
There were so many great book clubs in attendance. Ask any author and they will tell you that book clubs are our best friends. They tell it like it is, and support authors. I've got nothing but love for them!
There were so many great book clubs in attendance. Ask any author and they’ll tell you that book clubs are our best friends. They tell it like it is, and support authors. I’ve got nothing but love for them!

There were a LOT of authors at this event and I was only able to get pics of about 1/4 of them. I was hot as all get out (maybe hot flashes? I thought I was too young for that, but whateves) so I decided to limit myself to the authors at the tables closest to mine.

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Overall, I enjoyed the experience. I made some new friends that are also pursuing this author thing, and that’s priceless to me. Nobody can understand and support each other like people walking the same path in life, which is why I so appreciated every single one of the conversations I had with other writers this weekend.

Stay tuned. In the near future I have a special announcement to make! Also, I’m going to be sharing my tips for helping to stack the deck in your favor at author events like this one. Because you know that I’m an expert now, right? I’ve attended TWO whole events this year 😉

Do you have connections with people you’ve only ‘met’ online? Have you ever met any of your online friends in person? Did they come off the same in person as they did online? My peeps were exactly the same, and I didn’t feel like I was meeting them, more like just getting to know them better! I’d love to hear your experiences. And if you’re ever in my neck of the woods, holla at me. For real. 

 

National Book Club Conference in Atlanta!

Y’all, I have been on one. I traveled to Atlanta, GA over the weekend to attend the 13th annual National Book Club Conference and my little nerd heart must have expanded at least a dozen times! It was so much fun connecting with other authors and new readers. Here’s a quick re-cap of the weekend.

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We arrived in Atlanta safe and sound. I had to take a pic next to this welcome sign, even though I had been on the road for hours. Leave it to a car full of women to turn a 5.5 hour road trip into 10 hours. What can I say? We like to stop. 🙂
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My author/vendor badge!
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Me at my beautiful author table. Can you tell I was nervous? I got several compliments on how welcoming my table was. I think the candy helped. A lot.
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But when I busted out the cookies, things went to a whole ‘nother level. Just FYI, if you’re ever trying to market a children’s book, put cookies on your table. The kids just kept coming back for more. I was like, “Bring your mama next time!” Just kidding, I love the kiddies.
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These ladies made my day! They were my first customers of the day and they bought a total of 5 books! Color me happy. They even brought me a piece of homemade strawberry pound cake that was all of that and then some.
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I was able to attend one of the workshops with Victoria Christopher Murray and Eric Jerome Dickey. They have over 50 books between them and it was very interesting to learn about their process. I’ll post (and Periscope) more about that later.
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After the first day of the conference, me and my sisters headed downtown to the Sun Dial Restaurant & Bar. No pics of me, although I did Periscope. I was a sweaty hot mess! 72 floors up is HIGH! I think I may have had a minor panic attack. Smh…
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But why weren’t either one of my sisters afraid tho? Just me with my crazy self.
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Day 2. I’m tired as all get out from my late night shenanigans, but still ready for the day ahead! Can you tell how red my eyes were?
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Me and fellow author Melinda Michelle trying to get our selfie together. We’ve been cyber friends for months, and it was great to finally meet in person. Can’t wait ’til I meet the rest of y’all too. 🙂
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My A 1 since day 1. Sista C.J. was a great assistant and totally redeemed herself for her past slip ups!

Well, that’s all folks! If you have a love affair with books and love connecting with like minded people, I highly suggest you attend the National Book Club Conference.

Update: I had a cameo appearance in the conference video. I look like I’m having the time of my life at approximately 1:45 ish. Check it out!

What did you get into over the weekend? 

Self Publishing Series, Step 5: Connect With Potential Readers

potential readersThe day has finally arrived. Your polished book is ready and available for readers to enjoy! Now what do you do? Why, you market of course! I strongly debated whether or not to even write a post about marketing simply because, to put it quite plainly, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing! The struggle is real. Then I reminded myself that this blog is not about me being an expert, but about creating a community of writers, both seasoned and new, coming together to share knowledge. It’s also about connecting with people who love reading. That’s when the light finally clicked on! Marketing for writers is simply a way to connect with current and potential readers. When I think of it that way, the rest is a piece of cake. I LOVE connecting with readers.

Fortunately, we’re operating in a time when it’s easier than ever to connect with fans. There are so many outlets available. Social media has completely changed the marketing game. Writers have the opportunity to connect with readers via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Tumbler, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, Blogging, E-mail blasts, newsletters and the list could go on….and on. Which leads me to my next point.

Get ready to get on your grind. Marketing these days could easily become a round the clock job. For independently published authors it practically is. I’m not kidding.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of spending more time marketing than actually writing. Balance is key. Social media is both a gift and a curse to the modern self published author. My advice is to pick your social media platforms carefully, then put in the time and effort required to build a following. I know that some authors believe that you should create a profile with every single available social media source, but I disagree.

If the point of marketing is to truly connect with potential readers, you can only do that if you’re dedicated to faithfully using that particular social platform. For example, what’s the point of creating an author page on Facebook if you rarely log in to it? I think that the best route is to dive right into a few select outlets and really seek to engage with your followers. Hopefully in the end, whatever source you choose will become less of a required chore and more of a joy as you build sincere relationships.

So that’s my two cents on marketing for now. Future posts to come on other marketing strategies and tips such as: creating a solid brand, soliciting book reviews, etc. As I navigate my way into successful marketing, I’ll take y’all with me! It would be a real shame if I ended this post without inviting you to connect with me via the social media outlet of your choice right over there——>>>>> Pick one, you know you want to 🙂

What marketing strategies have you used or are using? Tell me about them in the comments below!

 

Photo credit: WorldLitToday / Foter / CC BY-SA