Are You In? - (R-U-N)

Welcome to my journey of writing, editing and publishing my first independently published novel, "Fish and Grits". Although this blog is about the adventures of publishing it is an inclusive journey, open to all who chose to join me on the path. It is not only my story, it is also your story, your dream. The "Are You In Campaign" is a partnership of people, spirit and vision. It is a connection - a power grid that grows stronger with each person who supports another person. It is about encouragement, wisdom, and advice. ARE YOU IN? Together our dreams can light up the world!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Marketing Moment

Yesterday, 6 ABC News Anchor Woman, Tamala Edwards interviewed me about Fish and Grits.  Great moment in time!

Raising a Book

Wow, a lot has happened in the last few months.  Fish and Grits official went on line on Kindle in August, followed not so quickly with Smashwords, LuLu and finally Barnes and Noble.  I've found out quite bit since publishing.  Let me share a few things with you. 

In addition to electronic publishing, I ordered 500 copies of Fish and Grits.  The first week I sold about 70 at book - true book hustling - by asking any and everybody at my place of employment "if they would like to try my book."  I found out, people will buy just to support you, because you've always been friendly, smiled and said "good morning".  At first I worried whether they would like the book until a friend of mine reminded me about all the books she's purchase which has gone unread and remains to this day permanent dust collectors.  That taught me that when you are publishing your book your have to because a salesperson.  You have to sell your book like a product, and no like it's your baby that people will look at and judge.  Some people will give you feedback, most won't.  That doesn't mean that they don't like the book, they just don't know how to respond to it.  Either way, your job is now the retail salesperson and you must take that just as seriously as the position of writer.

Second, I used every form of free media I could think of, Facebook, Twitter, E-mail, etc. to reach out to a new audience.  I befriended and accepted the friendship of every and anybody on Facebook and advertised, advertised, advertised my book. 

I created commercials using family and friends and posted them on my Facebook page and sent them out as emails.

I designed postcards and fliers to hand out about Fish and Grits. 

I had a all out book launching party which included a Fish and Grits brunch where the guests received brunch, and a signed copy of my book.  TURN OUT WAS TERRIFIC!  Your family and friends do want to be apart of your success.  Use them until they stop taking your calls and ignoring your email messages.

Very Important:  I scoped out and joined on-line community groups on Amazon, LuLu and Barnes and Noble. 

I went where I was invited and prepared myself to sell my book:  Always carry a Sharpie, a table cover, and at least a small amount of your books.  Wear a smile and try to keep your fingernails looking decent (people will be looking).

Talk about your book to anyone who is willing to listen, and to a few people who are not.  Often they are your best buyers.  Be prepare to give some books away. 

Ask for reviews from your readers.  REVIEWS SELLS BOOKS!

Get in involved with a community organization.  That is a great way to make friends and get a lot of help with your personal goals while helping others.

Ask others for help.

Just think, my book is only 3 months. 


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Selling Your Book Ain't Easy

So, I've spent the last couple of weeks doing absolutely everything I could possibly think of to market Fish and Grits.  Let me catch you up: (1) Advertised on Facebook; (2) Put book up on Lulu and joined community groups on site; (3) Put two additional videos up on Facebook and YouTube; (5) Participated in community groups on Smashwords and Createspace; (6) Joined a wonderful literary community group where writers can share their work, read the works of others, and give feedback; (7) emailed everyone I knew and asked them to email their contacts; and (8) purchased ads on Facebook and Mosaic.

Seems like a lot, seems like it should have attracted some attention right?  Maybe, maybe not.  First, remember not to depend to heavily on friends and family.  Although they tend to have good intentions, good intention don't buy or sell books.  Second, don't be to worry if your book doesn't sell a lot of copies at first.  Whether selling electronically or in person, buyers want the opportunity to mull over their book buying decision.  Third, keep telling yourself the first two things and you shouldn't lose all of your hair.

Bottom line - selling your book ain't going to be easy, just continue to work hard.  Someone told me once that "I'm only responsible for the effort, not the result."  That feels like pretty good advice to me right now.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Newborn Book

Well Fish and Grits is officially PUBLISHED!  I've pressed the red button people and ain't no turning back now.  Let me catch you up on process.  Over the last month I've been totally engrossed in the editing process of Fish and Grits.  Rule # 1 - Just 'cause it's electronic, don't mean it don't have be right!  The readers of electronic books (E-Books) expect the same well written, mistake free product that they would buy in the their local bookstore.

Therein lies the problem.  Most E-Book writers don't have the money to afford a professional copywriter (thanks to some very good friends, I did) and we struggled to produce a quality product with no financial means.  I caution you to be creative and trying to produce the quality product because it will be expected.

Second, don't assume that your book will sell itself.  It won't.  You MUST do some marketing of your book.  Join the Amazon, Smashwords, and Lulu Discussion Boards and check on them fairly often.  You will find a whole community of e-readers there who will share their work and allow you to share your own.

Do use social networking.  Take advantage of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and any other FREE networking tools available to publicize your book.

Third, talk about your book project with anyone who will listen, and they talk about it some more.  These people are not just your family, friends, co-workers, etc., they are also your customers and they want as much information about your product as they can get before buying.

Fourth, research and read up on any information you can find about the electronic publishing industry.

Fifth, you will be afraid, like every new mother or father, do it any way.

Six, links, links and more links.  Create links to your work everywhere.  The internet offers you a world of customers.  Grab as many as you can get

Seven, take advantage of the chance to up your own book review of your work.  Write your own review, leave question if you like about the book and the journey.  Ask people to review your book and bite your tongue when they do so.  You want honest criticism of your work - that is the only way you get better at it.

Eighth, enjoy the journey.  Independently publishing is a lot of hard work.  Remember that and allow yourself time away from the project.

The following is my many links to my work and my email address.

I wish you good writing and Godspeed.


Email –

Website –

Amazon Link Kindle Book -

Createspace Purchase on Demand -

Amazon Book Purchase on Demand -

Smashwords E-Book Link -

Friday, July 9, 2010

Art Sanctuary Dinner and A Reading

Recently I attended the Art Sanctuary's Volunteer Celebration which was a wonderful event dedicated to the people who are the backbone of our organization.  Held at the home the Founder and Executive Director of Art Sanctuary, Lorene Cary, the evening was memorable.

A warm Tuesday at dusk, the evening air over-flowed with the sweet taste of music and art, laughter and conversation, questions and answers.  It was a night  pregnant with  gratitude and thanks to a group of people who'd un-selfishly sacrificed their time and energy throughout our 2009-2010 Artistic Season, highlighted by the kind and generous treatment of the Art Sanctuary Staff and the North Stars Teenagers. 

As volunteers arrived they were warmly greeted and treated like honored guests for the evening.  "There was an electric vibe in the room," one of the volunteers, Enyotta Watkins said remembering the night.  Event Volunteers mingled with North Star parents, Board Members and Staff sharing magical moments and suggestions for improvement. North Star Teens would not allow us to touch our plates as they rushed to serve us food and drink to show their appreciation.

"The dinner was very informative.  It gave the volunteers the chance to share their opinions on how Art Sanctuary can "make it better"," said Pam Payton.  She added, "The environment was very friendly and it was great to meet people that you normally don't have a chance to talk to because you're working."

Delicious light fair, cool drinks, royal service, and my first reading.  What a night!

I had the opportunity to read a segment of Fish and Grits, and then listen as Lorene read from If Sons then Heirs.  My first reading from Fish and Grits, and it was an amazing, humbling experience.  That's what I love about this organization - Art Sanctuary gives opportunity to the seasoned professional and the "new kid on the block".

Dinner and A Reading - Art in the Community "for real".


A Book is Born

I'm exhausted - Isn't every mother after the birth of her child?  But Fish and Grits is finished the copy editing stage, which felt like labor and delivery to me.  This is the segment when the book is totally out of your control and you can do nothing else but PUSH PUSH PUSH and hope your kid comes out with 10 fingers and 10 toes or in the case of a book, no errors and no holes.

Working with your copy editor is like working with your obstetrician, both of them open you real wide and sometimes you see things you don't want to see.  Whether it feels uncomfortable to you or not working with a copy editor is as good of an idea as working with your doctor is.  Through the process can be painful at times, the end result is worth the hours of back and forth.  Your copy editor, if she's good, like mine (who was great) will help you take your book to the next level.  Don't ever think you can't get better or the story can't get better - We can all "Make it more better" as Denzel said in Mo' Better Blues.

I'm constantly reminding myself that before a mother takes her child home she plans for the homecoming.  The homecoming of Fish and Grits involves me locating a publishing corp. that I trust with my project (I'm sticking with Createspace), plotting out an marketing course and building a marketing team, writing/re-evaluating my budget, considering distribution courses of actions and options. All of which takes patience.  Unfortunately for me, patience is my biggest weakness.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fish and Grits Cover Design/Author Photo

Well you voted, you've waited while I recovered from a stomach virus, and now - "Fish and Grits" the cover, and the author's photo that you chose! 

Thanks so much for voting.

Okay, I cheated on the cover.  I went with the fish face, which was the most popular, but I lightened the design a bit.


In Labor

This is will definitely not be a quick birth.  In fact it feels as though this book will never be born.  I guess this is that period when the mother prepares for their new arrival by cleaning everything in site and preparing the home.  For me, since I'm preparing for an inanimate object, preparing equals research, design and much patience.

The independent publishing field is wide open, still new (but not brand new), and growing daily.  This means there is a wealth of information to be found on the subject and people willing to share their experiences and knowledge.  One these places can be found at which offers current and past web seminars on independently publishing that makes the book inside of you jump with joy.  This site is like finding a treasure chest of publishing wisdom, offering information on how to sell your book, listing distributors, giving creative opportunities ideas, how to(s) on marketing strategy and packaging and  much, much more!  Take a visit to this site.

Another important piece of this journey has been waiting for the doctor (or copy editor) to tell you that your baby (book) is turning downward and heading towards delivery.  Nothing you can do about this but work on your front and back cover ideas, write your dedications and thank you(s) and think about layout.  Since none of these things are exactly easy thinking, this is a good time to get them done.

So, although I feel as though I'm about ready to POP, my baby is still not ready for delivery.  Of well, guess I'll eat another pickle and pray.  Hey, what else can a writer do?


Saturday, May 22, 2010


Writing a book, like getting pregnant is the easiest part of the birthing or publishing process.   Once the story takes hold of your body, planning for it's arrival to world becomes the incubation period. 

Once I decided that I would independently publish "Fish and Grits", I began my journey. 

  • In September of 2009 I made the decision that I would pursue the publication of Fish and Grits.  So began what I like to call the "parade of agents".  I constructed my query letter and sent out 20-30 to the agents I thought might would fall in love with my novel and be willing to represent the book.  I received about 10 rejection letters and silence from the rest.
  • My next steps involved investigating the option of electronic publishing or E-publishing, studying this new avenue for the author who wants to independently pursue their novel.  This I discovered was a
    growing business which required no agent or even a large financial investment. I studied, religiously, the journey of other writers who have pursued this path and researched the companies who were offering this publishing options. One great cite I found in from the Createspace Blog, Amazon's electronic publishing company is a terrific blog page from an author who has published her book with them. It gives a clean, clear map of the publishing process with Createspace - - and convinced me that this was the company to entrust my baby (Fish and Grits) to.
    I begin to study everything I could get my hands on about the electronic publishing business and the new age E-Books (I got the Kindle for Christmas). I discovered that while the print publishing business was still trying to recovered from the recession that almost devastated us, the electronic publishing business had grown by 175% and has a growth potential of 500% over the next two years.
    In January 2010, I took ownership over the publishing of my own novel.
    February 2010 I did an official copyright of Fish and Grits
    March 2010, I purchased an ISBN number un-necessarily from Ecko House publishing because I discovered a month later that Createspace would have provided me one for free. I discovered the Self-Publishing Hall of Fame which gave me courage to continue the journey. On this website they have hundreds of authors who have independently published projects and turned them into a huge success.
    In April 2010 I announced the birth date of Fish and Grits and knew I wouldn't turn back. I scheduled a photo shoot for the cover at Geechee Girl Rice Cafe (It's good to know the owners of great restaurants).
    In May 2010 I put my book into the hands of a professional copy editor (which I had never done before with my previous five manuscripts). IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that you allow a professional to edit your manuscript if you are serious about independent publishing. If you don't know of any I found which offers the service. I can't recommend them because I did not use them, but this is just to let you know that they do exist. Also, most electronic publisher offer the service at a cost also. As a graphic designer I would design my own cover to save on cost. Having a catchy cover is one of the most important things you can do for your book since that is that first thing to attract the attention of your readers. On Facebook I began the Are you In (R-U-N-) Campaign building friends and announcing the soon to be arriving Fish and Grits. It would be a 3-fold literary attack (e-book, on-demand and print) and I planned it all carefully in a business plan. The photo shoot complete, I narrowed an hundred choices down to five and designed five covers that I put on this blog to be judged by my wonderful Facebook and Email friends.

    Stay Tuned - Fish and Grits has planned birth date of late June/early July.

    Tina (thanks for taking this journey with me)


The first step in any birth, of course, is inception.  For the writer, finding the beginning of a book is like finding love - warm and satisfying - a little scary but an adventure you would not trade for anything.  I think stories unfold first in your heart - you write what interests you - what you love. When the story progresses to your mind, that is actually when you begin to carry it, like a baby deeply inside of you. 

While it is extremely scary to share the news of your book (your baby), like being naked in the woods my friend Lisa likes to say, it is also one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.  At first you tell your family and closest friends, tentative and shy like, but as the months progress you become bolder and more confident.  See once you share the news, like sharing the news of a new baby on the way, the world expects you to produce. 

The idea grows larger in your mind each week, characters taking on lives of their own, directing you where they should go and say, and write, write, write.  Then rewrite.  You live on a diet of words, thoughts, sentences, paragraphs, chapters and worry all the time - is it good enough?  Have I prepared?  Have I done my homework?  Have I given the reader excitement, love, fear, satisfaction?  You worry like a pregnant woman worries about  her unborn baby.  And you write more.

Your book extends, like the growing belly, the story waking you in the middle of the night with kicking and movement.  Sometimes you jump up to jot down the perfect sentence, or dream of make believe people and scenes.  You carry your book, carefully, protectively, with the trepidation and excitement as it grows deeply inside of you.



Friday, May 21, 2010

The Big Question

You will ask why I wrote Fish and Grits, of course.  It is a standard question for the author.  I can answer now by saying we do always return to what we know best.  I know the "projects childhood". 
Sometimes if I listen very close, I can hear the sidewalk spiritual calling out to me in the evening dusk.  "Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack, all dress in the Black, Black, Black.  I can feel the hot winds of thick ponytails bouncing freely up and down as young legs "jumped" and immature breasts bounced.  I still smell the stench of thick urine, strong like turpentine cutting my nose as I dashed up and down the steps of the high rise buildings. 

Yesterday is only a paragraph away.

I see the tail of the disappearing mouse, the smell of raid from the neighbors fighting the battle of the roaches, hear the voice of mother telling one of her nine children to "run and get a can" before those devils move in over here.  A battle, always.

I look at my hands and see blood, my knees are scarred from cement, my head wears the memory of the telephone that "busted it wide open".  In the distance a drunk lady calls out "I need a man, tired of making love to myself", her voice mixing with the song of dice hitting the side of a dilapidated building. 

Oh yes boys and girls, you can go home again.

Steven Wonder's voice floated out of open windows - "living just enough, just enough for the city" - and once a month people lined up for government cheese and peanut butter. Mothers traded books of green stamps and kids borrowed "a cup of sugar" until Friday. Tube tops fell and under arms smelled and wasn't no secrets for nobody tell - 'cause it ain't no privacy in the concrete jungle baby!
Writing Fish and Grits for me was like a taking a deep breath, an accepting of self, and childhood and parents doing the best they could do.  Days and nights on our knees and bullets whizzing overhead in man made bomb shelters built to house thousands.  It was a life.  It remains the life of many.  I love this story, like a woman loves a man, completely, totally, without shame or regard.  It is a love affair with life's good and bad, and all those little things in between. 

Why did I write Fish and Grits?  How could I not.