An Elder Must Teach by Mike Ramey
TOOLS FOR BUILDING AN ECONOMIC SUCCESS LIBRARY
I recently ran into a young brother who had brought an interesting problem my way! As we were talking about business building and Black economic success, he seemed a little frustrated in the fact that he could not find any books written by African Americans on business success.
You know me. Once the opportunity to share wisdom which I had been blessed to gather over the years, I was ready for service. I quickly provided him with a few books that I could spare from my personal library (I make it a point to keep some extras around). Later, I named off a few titles and authors which still provide great wisdom and encouragement…authors of which he had NOT been familiar.
I dedicate this column to him, and other brothers out there—young and old—who have the tenacity to reach past the 30 second soundbites or the blue social media screen and actually take the time to want to improve themselves and READ! In books is where you find knowledge and wisdom. Books don’t need batteries. Books are not bound by the Internet. Now that the Wuhan Virus pestilence seems to be winding down, there are going to be new business opportunities available on the horizon.
Your job…FIND them, brothers!
Young brothers, NOW is the time to do the bookwork to make yourself an overcomer, instead of a ‘toe tag’ for the undertaker. Older brothers, NOW is the time to ‘clean out’ some of those books that have inspired you over the years and pass them on to a new generation. After all, a Black man who has become an elder in the village has not got those ‘grey hairs’ on his head by accident. He’s crossed a lot of rivers, fought a lot of battles and come out to fight another day—regardless of victory or defeat.
The young Black man who is NOT part of the Social Justice Warrior, Black Lives Matter, Antifa ‘alphabet soup’ siren song of deception, destruction and excuses must be reached! The young Black man who believes in rolling up his sleeves and getting to work in this system of free market ideology and capitalism which composes America is going to be an achiever—not a mental hostage controlled by modern liberals who talk socialism…but are quick to send THEIR OWN kids to private schools and buy pricey homes on other people’s money.
All the while…trying to talk about ‘racist’ America is. Balderdash! They just don’t want to compete! The ‘alphabet soup’ crowd want to get any potential threats OFF the field so THEY can ‘get the goodies’ before you get out of the starting blocks.
Brothers—intimidation is NOT a sincere form of flattery.
SUCCESS HAS PRINCIPLES—AND IS COLOR BLIND:
A dollar is color blind to the hand where it resides. As I learned years ago—from some older brothers who have put pen to paper and encased their wisdom into book form—IF you understand the rules and spend your money in your OWN community THEN you will make the life chances better for YOUR people. Black folk—in our so-called ‘justice warrior age’—in spite of all the hype of the entertainment/sports/education/media coven STILL do not have major-league economic thinking OR doing.
Here are a few Black economic realities:
*There are FEWER Blacks in meaningful media positions NOW than 20 years ago.
*There are FEWER Black-owned businesses in our OWN neighborhoods.
*Blacks STILL have not mastered the concept of keeping more of OUR money circulating in our own neighborhoods, while OTHER races have AND continue to!
*There are NO Blacks who are sole owners/family owners of ANY professional sports franchises in the NBA, MLB, NFL, or NHL.
*While surveys indicate Blacks are the #1 consumers of mainstream media, we STILL do not choose to exercise the economic clout to control the images on the screen.
I realize that these items may upset some people…but the truth is the truth!
It may be easy to ‘blame’ the pandemic and the Wuhan Virus for our losses, but we were losing economic ground BEFORE the economy shut down. Here’s a news flash: ONCE the economy gets fully up and running—in spite of the coming tax hikes by Congressional Democrats (spurred on by the Biden administration)—the need for Black entrepreneurs with a sound understanding of business principles and willing to ‘get their hands dirty’ to build something that will provide wealth and opportunity amongst ourselves will be huge. Thus, we don’t have to go out with hat-in-hand, but with economic clout like the other people-of-color who live in this land.
Economic success has rules, and the rules need to be obeyed in order for one to become prosperous. One of the main rules is that one has to have their relationships right, beginning with their relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. In many of the books on my list, the successful have defined their spiritual relationship ahead of their economic relationship.
IF you get the spiritual right, the economic falls right into line—even when things get rough. God can give you a business dream that could provide a service to thousands—but He want to do ‘urban renewal’ on you, FIRST!
Why is this so strange? The KJV Bible contains a LOT about spiritual and economic success. In The Book of Proverbs, there are a HOST of items dealing with economic success, business failure, the types of people to stay in touch with—and the types of people to stay away FROM! The Book of Job—held to be the oldest book in the Bible—centers upon a man who had it all, lost it all, and got it back. It did not come easy, but in the end, Job had to tighten up his relationship with God, and understand that God calls the shots—for His glory.
One of the other foundation principles of economic and business success is giving God His–RIGHT off the top! This might not be a popular concept but is truth worth sharing. The concept of Tithing—for the Christian—is as important as breathing. IF God is in charge of your finances, a tenth share of what comes into your bank account belongs to Him. It’s called ‘Tithing’. When God prospers you, giving back to Him through your local church is your way of demonstrating your partnership with Him. One other thing—NO ONE can cancel your relationship with God, for He is in charge (Romans, Chapter 8 KJV). You find out how He works in His Bible. IF you don’t want to Tithe, my response is a simple one: “Go on and stay broke and busted.”
MOVING ALONG TO THE BOOKSHELF—THE RAMEY STARTER LIST:
Keep in mind that this is NOT an ‘exhaustive list’ of books and authors. Many of these books I have owned, reviewed, given away, or have wanted to get ahold of because I am familiar with the work of the author. For my older brothers, this is a great ‘starter list’ to begin in sharing your economic and business success with some young brothers just ‘starting out’ onto the field of competition.
Every player needs a coach, and every young man needs an elder in his corner. The RIGHT book will provide one with the ‘up close coaching’ that one needs. A good author can have his words last for centuries—or longer!
With some of the schools ‘still’ closed or in limited service, the emphasis is placed on the parent and student to keep their ‘schooling’ going and growing. If we take a look at history, an education is built upon not only ‘classroom’ experience, but READING and STUDYING by the individual. This list of books, aimed at the young—or not so young—can serve as a foundation of learning to get many of our young men to the next economic level.
I’ve already mentioned the KJV Bible. One key fact: one who masters the KJV Bible can read and comprehend at the 12th grade level or higher? Thus, this is the reason why many of our Black grandparents and ancestors WANTED to learn how to read from the Bible. They were wise beyond their years thanks to the Word of God.
This still holds true today!
Here are some OTHER business and economic books by mainly Black authors that have stood the test of time:
- “Basic Economics” by Thomas Sowell.
- “Empower The People” by Tony Brown.
- “Uncommon” by Tony Dungy.
- “Character Building” by Booker T. Washington.
- “What Color Is A Conservative?” by J. C. Watts.
- “Please Stop Helping Us” by Jason Riley.
- “Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice” by Dennis Kimbro & Napoleon Hill.
- “Black and Free” by Tom Skinner.
- “Debt Free Degree” by Anthony O’Neal.
- “Everyday Millionaires” by Chris Hogan.
- “God is Bigger than a Game” by Charles Washington, Jr.
- “Retire Inspired” by Chris Hogan.
- “The Thomas Sowell Reader” by Thomas Sowell.
- “Fight The Good Fight” by Reggie White.
- “In The Trenches” by Reggie White.
- “Why Should White Guys Have All The Fun?” by Reginald F. Lewis.
- “God In My Corner” by George Foreman.
- “Going The Extra Smile” by George Foreman.
- “Victory In Jesus” by E. V. Hill.
- “American Contempt for Liberty” by Walter E. Williams.
- “In The Black: History of African Americans on Wall Street” by Gregory S. Bell.
- “Doing Business by the Good Book” by David Steward.
- “Leadership by the Good Book” by David Steward.
Some of these books may be hard to find. Others, you may find at a local book sale, or half-priced bookstore. Still others may exist on-line. These works will form a solid foundation for business and economic success.
To the young men in the house: PLEASE don’t fall for the lie that there are NO ‘Black’ authors on business or economic success on the market. There are plenty of brothers out there. Your job now? Find them and heed their wisdom and advice. As one African proverb notes: “Give advice: IF they won’t listen, let adversity teach them!”
Mike Ramey is a Minister, syndicated columnist and Modern Street Gangs Consultant who lives in Indianapolis, Indiana. “An Elder Must Teach” is one of a variety of his written works appearing in cyberspace. To drop a line—or a whine—the address is still the same: email@example.com. ©2021 Barnstorm Communications International.
The Literary Corner – Joseph Snorton
Submitted by Donna M. Gray-Banks, Founder of F.R.E.S.H. Book Festival www.freshbookfestivals.net
Edited by L.D. Robinson, Owner, Ladero Press LLC www.laderopress.com
I Am an Author
After growing up in New Jersey, my writing skills further developed being an English-Sociology double-major at Wake Forest University. I continued to develop my writing skills as a writer for the online magazine Examiner (from March 2010 – July 2016), along with handling press/media and related work with the LEAD Foundation, Inc, along with my current role as the host of the show The Conversation Corner (on the Status Network). Combined with the press/media work covering a myriad of events (i.e. sports, community, arts and entertainment, etc.) through Creative Community Solutions, I added to my writing resume.
Based out of the Atlanta, Georgia area, my other background components include board positions (past and present) for entities, including Family Food Festival (Atlanta), Wake Forest University (Alumni Council, president of the Association of Wake Forest University Black Alumni [2011-15], Alumni-in-Admissions, Greek Alumni Advisory Board, and the School of Divinity), a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (Alphas of Atlanta – the entity behind the #AlphaDerbyWeekend [Kentucky Derby themed event which supports 8 nonprofits throughout the metro area], as well as, a member of the Loganville-Conyers [GA] chapter [formerly a member of the Gwinnett County chapter and initially, the Xi Eta Chapter at Wake Forest University]).
It Is All About the Journey
The evolution of my writing journey took place in 2017 with my first book, Deeper than your deepest sleep: thoughts on love with Joseph Snorton. Based on conversation with a long-lost family member as we looked at the action of love through the lenses of family, friends, community, loved ones past and present, and self-reflection (among other themes), it’s different as each chapter opens with a segment of the conversation; that allows for the reader to draw better connections and embark on the journey with the author.
My second book, 9 stories of faith: volume 1, is an interview-based book that is more than a cross-faith conversation (Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam). Each person shares their life’s biggest daily challenges, cutting across physical and mental health, life after incarceration, and others, but through the application of best practices in health and wellness, their support network, and change in thinking, they also share how they live lives of positivity and purpose.
Both books are rated Top-1000 reads by the Author Academy Awards (2019).
The audiobook series, The Author’s Mixtape (Volumes 1 and 2), is part music and spoken word. Influenced by the mixtape concept in music (where the lyricist essentially improvises or “freestyles” over a musical track), both audiobooks are truly organic experiences for the listener and reader. In individual studio sessions (2-hours), all the writing, recording, and editing is done; nothing is pre-written, so essentially, it’s “writing” a book unscripted. With topics covering health, what gives you peace, family, community, and more, including the input of middle school students (for the first book), it’s an accessible experience for students as young as middle school to adults.
The genres I cover include poetry, interview-based, and with the audiobooks, spoken word and music. Future works will incorporate other genres, so stay tuned!
This is a great way to get started in writing. You do have to take ownership of a lot of the processes, including editing (if you don’t get an editor), proofing, formatting, design, marketing, bookstore placement, and other factors. The key is you learn how the process works, so as you grow and look at your traditional/larger publishers, you build up your knowledge and reference base. And while there are trade offs, the key is learning more so you expand your reach and accentuate your growth.
How Do You Market Your Books?
Pre-COVID19, book-signings, book-readings, and book festivals were key. In the now-normal, doing virtual events is important; it’s different, but you still have to reach people. Social media is helpful, and as mentioned earlier, platforms like my television show and a Zoom-based series #allabouttheauthors (that I co-host with fellow author, Entertainment Source, Tyressa Ty), interfacing with radio, television, newspapers (online), and other outlets are important (including this platform). The important thing is focusing on reaching people, especially those you don’t know, so they know who you are and the work you do.
What Was Your First Featured Author Experience?
Officially, my first featured experience was my launch to support “Deeper” on February 12, 2017, in Atlanta (at the Starbucks Coffee at Howell Mill Road). My first book festival was the Mississippi Book Festival as a participating author (August 19, 2017) in Jackson, MS. Any author who has done a festival can speak to how enriching an experience and opportunity it is to be a part of a festival. Definitely get involved!
How Do You Invest in Yourself?
I remind myself of who I am and whose I am. I focus on remaining dedicated to the craft and looking for ways to improve; I do celebrate my accomplishments (as well you should), but I realize there’s more in store. Writing in different genres and topics helps me keep my skill sets sharp along with being passionate and purposeful as an author.
What Was Hardest to Learn?
This is the proverbial “what they don’t tell you” (LOL). I would say the hardest thing to learn is reminding yourself this is a marathon, not a sprint. Things do take time; akin to marinating a steak before you put it on the grill, the longer it marinates, the better it tastes. You must stay aggressive and patient simultaneously.
Keep in mind the Harry Potter series; those books were out for up to 10 years before they received the visibility and eventually, getting on the big screen. I say that to say, “Be patient, persistent, passionate, and purposeful.” Remember things do take time, so when you see these success stories, even with additional means and tools of engagement, it still takes time.
How Have You Expanded Your Streams of Income?
Through writing, along with the press/media services and education services done under Creative Community Solutions, I continue to explore ways to expand my reach. Editing (I’ve edited books written by fellow authors, including Willie Cartwright) is another area I’m able to tap into to expand my streams and reach.
Worst Advice Ever?
I have not really received any bad advice. Other than some negative commentary from people who have not pursued their dreams, passions, and talents, including one person who at an event (May 13, 2018) emphasized how he’d written more books than me; when I asked how many he published, his answer was none. I did offer to help him as I gave him my business card, and perhaps one day, he’ll reach out so he can make his passions more permanent and publishable.
Best Advice Ever?
Get started. Everyone has a story to tell, so why not tell it, as people need to hear from you?
Pearl of Wisdom for Up and Coming Authors
Be authentic and accessible. Your work is yours; tell it with your audience instead of at them. And cast as wide a net as possible so people know who you are and the work you are doing, be it through contemporary, traditional, and creative (non-traditional) means.
- Facebook: Author Andrew Snorton (official page)
- Instagram/Twitter: @authorasnorton
- YouTube: Author ASnorton
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: asnortonccs.wixsite.com/authorpage/
- Website (business): asnortonccs.com
- Website (television show): statusnetwork.net/Shows/conversation-corner/
COMING SOON…The Black Father Perspective – What we want America to know.
With heartbreaking headlines everyday surrounding the plight of our black men, this work is timely and necessary.
Black fathers play a pivotal role in the lives of our black children. According to the 2011 U.S. Census, nearly 2 in 3 (64%) African American children live in father-absent homes. However, we know that all fathers are not absent. Many of them are very present and we want to hear what they have to say about parenting.
Please Donate to Help “Kids In Trouble” Continue their Work for Another 50+ Years. Please watch the video below to see 51 years of service to our community.
“My Walk Through Sports History with Champs & Chumps”
Harold: Just finished reading your book. Thanks for the honorable mention in your dedication section. I really enjoyed reading the book. There are not too many people on this planet who get to have their life’s work memorialized in such a beautiful and attractive book.
Dr. Harry Edwards was right, “Your work was a major force over the years especially in terms of the struggle to define and project Our Truth.” I hope that you will think about teaching at a local university or college. There are a lot of bright-eyed and bushy tailed journalism and communications students who would love to receive your direction and guidance.
In addition to what you give the students, the joy and satisfaction you would receive from seeing their faces light up when they understand a point you are making is immeasurable. — Byron Berry is a native Washingtonian and a Administrative Law Judge now living in California.
“If you get a chance to meet a living legend who is known by the “who’s who” in sports, broadcasting, politics, civil rights and philanthropy, that’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. If you get a chance to work closely with that individual, you are truly blessed. Harold Bell is a “truth teller,” from Washington, DC. He has touched the lives of thousands and mentored many of this nation’s black broadcasters, writers and sports personalities.
“My World Through Sports History with Champs & Chumps,” is a book that tells it’s story through photographs. Harold Bell’s personal archives is “museum-worthy” and he has it on full display in this book covering over 50 years of history, tragedy and personal triumph. And through it all, he’s still standing, with a lot more to give.
“Gary Johnson – Publisher, Black Men In America.com
Book Signing at the “South East White House”Click Here To Learn Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About DC Sports Legend, Mr. Harold Bell!
Keith Kareem Williams
I Am An Author
I am an author and I believe that I have always been an author, way before I even realized it myself. My mother taught me how to read and write when I was just 3 years old. Since then, I’ve been an avid reader and as a child, I would tinker with writing my own stories. That creativity has always been in me. I would win essay contests, poetry contests and storytelling contests since a very young age. My mother has all of my awards somewhere stashed with the rest of her keepsakes I’m sure. What a lot of people don’t know is that I didn’t always plan to be a writer. There was a time when I wanted to be an aerospace engineer and design aircraft. I’ve always been really good at math and was doing college algebra when I was fourteen. For my junior high school science project, I built a ramjet engine. (My teacher wouldn’t allow me to enter it because flammable liquids weren’t allowed.) However, life has a funny way of pushing you towards your purpose if you don’t resist and just let what is meant to be, just be. That is exactly what happened to me. As much as I loved science and engineering, the mathematical side of it always felt too restraining and rigid to me. I eventually drifted towards writing as a career because of the creative freedom it would give me. Becoming an author would allow me to create anything I could imagine on the pages. The possibilities were infinite and I loved that. Writing has also helped me get through some of the most painful, difficult times in my life. The blank pages is where I go when I really need to express myself. It is liberating and keeps me sane. I always joke and tell folks that my empty notebooks are all my favorite therapists.
It Is All About The Journey
Setting big goals is great and keeping your eye on the prize might sound cliché but, it is necessary. However, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that, in order to find success, you have to fall in love with the journey. Otherwise, every day that you haven’t reached your ultimate goals will become heavier and heavier. That’s one of the main reasons why many people give up before they accomplish what they originally set out to do. My journey has been, and still is difficult but, I love it all the same.
At age 19, I moved out of my mother’s apartment. I was an English major at the City College of New York but after two semesters, despite working two jobs, I couldn’t keep up with the tuition and my rent. I decided to take a semester off and save up money until I could go back to school. Then, life happened. I was 22 years old when my son was born. I put all of my plans to go back to college on hold because taking care of my new family became my financial priority. So, instead of working two jobs to pay for school, I worked two jobs to provide for them. Eventually, I was able to save up enough to start thinking about finishing up my degree but, in 2003 my daughter was born so again, college was not my priority. My children are more important to me than anything in the world.
Although I wasn’t able to go back to college, I still didn’t want to give up on what I had always dreamed of doing. I’m stubborn in that way so, I began to research self-publishing. In 2004, I used my entire income-tax refund check to self-publish and purchase 500 copies of my 1st novel, “Water Flows Under Doors,” but then, I put my career on the shelf. I had a family to take care of and the pressures of doing that forced me to put my writing on the back burner for a time. In 2005, I became a single father with no idea how to raise a five-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl. I was terrified about how I would manage but, somehow, I did. Family helped which was a blessing but, I was still working long hours. I came home from work exhausted and, on my days off, all I wanted to do was sleep. Even though my life became much more complicated than it had been before, I started working on my second novel whenever I found a moment to spare and writing that book helped me to get through a very difficult time in my life.
Towards the end of 2009, I had a moment that would change my life. I was parked outside an office building where I was scheduled to have a meeting with a client for my job. The meeting was at 9 am but I was there at 8:15 am. (I hate being late.) As I sat in my car, I saw a dad walking his daughter to school and they seemed to be having a great conversation. I realized that I hadn’t even had a chance to tell my kids good morning. My aunt would take them to school for me and when I had dropped them off at her house earlier, it had still been dark outside and they were half-asleep. That bothered me. I wanted to be able to take my kids to school and talk to them on the way. Instead of having my mother pick them up for me on her way home from work, I wanted to be home in time to pick them up from school and talk to them about their day. I was providing for them as a father but, I didn’t feel like I was being a dad, at least not the kind of dad I wanted to be.
In the spring of 2010, when I finally finished writing “Open Spaces,” I decided that I would quit my job to become a full-time author. As soon as I received the first proof copy in my hand, I wrote my two weeks resignation notice in the company blackberry and hit send. One of the owners of the company I worked for tried to talk me out of quitting on my last day but, my mind was already made up. I needed to spend more time with my children and, I had also started to feel like a failure for letting my talent waste away for so long. I also needed to take that chance before I became so comfortable with working for someone else that I would lose the courage to step out on faith and work for myself. I believed that if I put the same energy into my career as I had on all the jobs I’ve ever had in my life that I would make it. I walked out that evening with my last paycheck and nothing else. I had no savings. I used all of that money, and I mean every penny, to purchase copies of my books. When I received that first shipment, I had no choice but to get out in the streets and sell them. Pushing those books was the only way I was going to be able to take care of my children and keep the bills paid.
The best part of being a full-time author was really raising my children. I was able to be present. I didn’t have to ask permission from anyone to take a day off to care for them when they were sick. I was able to go on every school trip. I was there for every important moment in their lives over the years and that makes me happy. I am so proud of the young adults that my children have become. No matter how many books I publish, raising my son and daughter will always be my greatest accomplishment. That will always be the thing in life that gave me the most joy. I love my career because it allowed me to be a better dad. One of the things I’m most proud of is how my children look at me with pride because I’m accomplishing my goals and doing the things, I set out to do with my career. They recognize and respect my passion. They’ve also seen what kind of dedication, work ethic and obsession it takes to make things happen.
I write constantly and I already have the titles & plots lined up for my next 107 novels. This is what I do and I’m just trying to let the rest of the world know this. My ambition is to become as legendary as some of the writers I admire. I believe that a GOOD writer pulls you into their story. A GREAT writer makes the world around you fall away as you read. The LEGENDARY writers tell stories that become a part of you and linger long after you’ve read the last line of the last chapter.
This journey has never been easy. There have been rough times and I have the scars to prove it but, I’m still here. I’m still in the fight. I’m still building, and growing, and fighting to get to the goals I set for myself. At times, I get anxious and impatient but, when I look back at my journey, where I started in relation to where I am now, I have learned to be proud of my progress. I embrace the daily challenges and celebrate the small victories because all of those little steps are necessary. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Why Self Publish
I decided to self-publish for a few reasons. As I did my research on how to become a published author, it was just the best fit for me. I wanted to be able to write whatever I wanted and I wanted the freedom to release as many books as I wanted to, whenever I wanted to. My writing style is unique as is my subject matter at times. I chose to put the work out myself instead of trying to convince publishers to sign me. I enjoy the creative freedom and control that I have as a self-published author.
Explain Your Multiple Genres
I’ve always read multiple genres so, when I decided to pick up my pen to become a novelist, that was the only route I was ever going to take. So far, I’ve written urban, urban contemporary, dramas, thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, romance and erotica. I never wanted my work to become stale or predictable so, I try my best to surprise my readers with something different with each book I write.
In interviews, one of the most difficult questions I’ve been asked is, ‘What genre are your novels?’ because honestly, I never write with any particular style in mind. I enjoy blending styles and mashing different genres together in interesting ways. Basically, I pen whatever is in my heart and soul. However, if I had to describe my style, I would use musical terms and say that I write Urban, Hip-Hop, fiction with the rhythm of Reggae that crashed into Heavy Metal and then began to bleed Neo Soul. I call it Alternative Urban Fiction.©
How Do You Market Your Books?
I market my books in a few ways. I really enjoy going out in the real world with a table, flyers and books to promote my work to readers and also non-readers. I actually love the challenge of getting someone who typically doesn’t like to read to really get into reading because of MY books. Online, I’ve found that the best way to market my books is to simply post samples from my books. To post a book cover over and over isn’t enough. (There are books out there with gorgeous covers but inside, they are very poorly written.) The absolute BEST way to let readers know that they SHOULD be reading your work is by actually letting them read your work. It is really that simple. I also use my blog and my Patreon page to leak samples from my works in progress, post short stories created exclusively for both pages and also share interesting parts of my life. That keeps me connected with my readers in-between novels. With so many new books coming out every day, it is vital that you stay connected to your core audience.
What Was Your First Featured Author Experience?
In October of 2014, I was invited to the “Building Relationships Around Books” book club’s “Southern Affair” readers retreat in Atlanta Georgia to be one of the featured authors. I had been featured by online book clubs prior to that but, that was the first time I was a featured author in a real-world event. I was surprised when I received the invite because, I really wasn’t sure if anyone was really paying attention to the work I was putting out. I was doing well pushing my books here in New York but, it was exciting to be recognized outside of my hometown. That meant I was doing something right. The book club covered my meals and my hotel stay. I just had to handle my travel expenses. At the time, I couldn’t afford a flight so I booked a one-way train ticket to Atlanta because, after I paid all of my bills, I didn’t have enough for a return ticket. I got on that train for that seventeen-hour trip in October of 2014 on faith that I would sell enough books at the event to buy my return trip ticket. If not, I had every intention of staying at that Amtrak station on my way back until I sold enough books to get home. Fortunately for me, the event was a huge success. I met readers from book clubs all over the country and I always mark that event as one of the early high points of my career. It gave me that boost of attention I needed to take a step in the direction of getting the recognition I had been fighting so hard for since 2010, when I first became a full-time author.
How Do You Invest In Yourself?
I’ve heard a lot of authors say that they write for the love and the passion of it and not for the money. I write because I love being an author as well but, I also recognize that you have to treat it like the business it is. Even if your main focus isn’t monetary gain, it does take money to print books and to be an independent author. Therefore, if you want to reach as many people as possible with your work, you have to be willing to invest in yourself, with time, money and sweat equity. I purchase my own books; travel etc. with money I earn selling my books. I spend many hours every week studying the publishing industry to acquire new skills. I also invest sweat equity by going out in the real world and putting the work in on the ground level, in the streets to promote my work.
What Was The Hardest Lesson To Learn?
The hardest lesson I’ve learned is that these books don’t sell themselves. I remember when I put my first book on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and every other website I could find that sold books. I was so proud of myself. I sat back, rubbed my hands and waited for the sales to pour in. Then…crickets. No sales. No reviews. Nothing. I learned very early on that marketing and promotion is just as important, and just as NECESSARY as writing a great novel. Without those two things, even GREAT books sit on shelves and collect dust.
How Have You Expanded Your Streams Of Income?
I have always believed that if I am going to do a thing, then I should just DO A THING. On every job I’ve ever had, I tried my best to learn every aspect of that job so I treat my self-publishing the same way. When I first started out, I had to pay professionals to do the things I did not know how to do but over the years, I made it my business to learn how to do those things myself. I’ve taught myself graphic design so I can create my own promo material, book covers etc. I’ve also learned to format, typeset and pretty much do everything else required to publishing books. I’ve also learned how to write screenplays. Now, I’m able to provide all of those services to others for a fee.
Worst Advice Given?
When I first decided to self-publish, I researched the different methods I could use to have my books printed. Back when I started, many authors were still using traditional printers and pressing 10,000 books at a time but, print-on-demand appealed to me. I loved the ability to print 1 copy or 1,000 depending on my needs. Early on, I remember how some independent, self-published authors mocked writers who used print-on-demand services and told those of us who chose that route that we weren’t real publishers, which was always silly to me. (Now, almost EVERYONE uses print-on-demand.) The lesson for me was, print your books whichever way works best for you, as long as you’re getting your books in the hands of readers.
Best Advice Given?
At my very first Harlem Book Fair way back in 2009, I approached a veteran author and asked him what advice he would give a rookie author. (I had published my first novel, “Water Flows Under Doors,” almost five years prior to that but, I hadn’t really gone all in with my writing career yet and I was still just getting my feet wet.) He generously shared a pearl of wisdom with me that I’ve carried ever since. He told me to show readers who I am FIRST, and then let them become curious about my work. He explained that once they heard my story, they would be eager to support my writing. I’ve been convincing folks to read my books that way ever since.
Pearl of Wisdom For Up and Coming Authors
Read often, write often and don’t be afraid to be yourself on your pages. It is perfectly fine to have authors that you admire but, always make sure that you are writing in your own voice, with your own style, in your own way. Also, don’t waste time sitting around waiting for inspiration. Writing is a habit you have to create. Creativity is like a muscle. The more you use it is the stronger it becomes.
AMAZON PAGE: www.amazon.com/Keith-Kareem-Williams/e/B0063K6JJC
As founder and director of the F.R.E.S.H. Book Festival which is held in the beautiful City of Daytona Beach, Florida, I have been given the honor to commence “The Literary Corner” for Black Men In America.com. F.R.E.S.H. stands for Fiction, Romance, Erotica, Spiritual and Health (History). Children’s literature is paramount to our festival, but there was nowhere to place the “C” in F.R.E.S.H. The book festival honors 25 of the best Black authors in the Country every year, the second week in January. Our motto is “Literacy is a Legacy.”
“The Literary Corner” will feature some of the authors who attended the festival in 2020, as well as authors who are up and coming in the business.
What does it take to become a selected author for “The Literary Corner?”
- You must have published at least three books in the last four years
- Be of African American descent and have a proven track record of marketing your product
- Authors will be chosen by committee after their work has been read and reviewed
- Authors must submit copies of their books along with a bio and picture of the author in JPEG format
Submitting your books does not mean you will be selected; however, think of the possibilities if you are selected. Authors not selected will be notified, and their books will be donated to a local independent book store.
Donna M. Gray-Banks is the Founder and Director of the F.R.E.S.H. Book Festival which is one of the largest book festivals held in Volusia/Flagler Counties in the State of Florida. The Festival began in 2011, and the City of Daytona Beach began sponsorship of the Festival in 2012. Gray-Banks is the author of a very successful trilogy, Ila’s Diamonds I, II, and III. She is currently working on her fourth novel The House That Jack Built. To purchase copies of her suspense erotic thriller, go to www.donnamgraybanks.net, Authorhouse.com, or Amazon.com. Copies purchased through her website will be autographed.
Gray-Banks is the host of a weekly radio show “A F.R.E.S.H. Conversation” on Joy 106.3 FM Daytona Beach, every Monday night from 8-9 PM.
Ms. Banks is the proud mother of Gregory Taylor Banks, and her siblings Christine Hogan, Gilbert Gray, and Jackson Gray, Jr, are the rocks on which she stands. Donna resides in the beautiful City of Palm Coast, Florida.
“The Literary Corner” is edited as a service of Ladero Press.