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