All posts by Jannelle Moore

From Surviving to Thriving w/ Beverly Smith

 

People love to spew inspirational phrases about adversity. They love to talk about how it builds character. How it reveals character,and how it enhances success and progress. For some, those phrases are more than just hollow and vapid cliches. It’s the toughest strand in the fabric of their lives.

For author Beverly Smith, her adversity  fueled her  desire  and motivated her to create her own world.     beverly

 

Born and raised in Southeast Washington DC, Smith experienced the gamut of negative circumstances-from homlessness to domestic violence, Smith has endured it , but now she took that negativity  and turned it into success.  Three years ago, she released her debut novel ” He Kept Me”, a powerful and soul gripping story about a young woman’s struggle through the streets of DC.  After releasing her novel, Smith went on to establish “Momma’s Safe Haven”, a foundation that offers a bridge of support to those in need of resources to help improve their lives and two businesses.

Recently, I spoke with Smith about her book, some of her favorite things and what’s next  on the horizon for this dynamic woman.

hekeptme

 

Jannelle: Your book, “He Kept Me” has been out for three years and has received great reviews. For those who aren’t familiar with the book, fill readers in on the theme of the story. Tell them what makes the story “pop”. How does it resonate with your audience? What makes it a great read?

Beverly: The theme of my book is ” My Testimony  straight no chaser!”  What makes it pop is the rawness of the real life situations, representing DC, and landmarks in the city. It resonates with my audience through struggle, This is for  people who have been through the fire. It’s a great read because there is a never a dull moment. It is definitely a page turner that will have you on a emotional roller coaster.

Jannelle: You have a foundation called Momma’s Safe Haven. What kind of projects and programs that your foundation spearhead?

Beverly: At Momma’s Safe Haven, we promote self love, higher education and self employment. We have ‘DC Youth has talent’, which is a program for the youth to display their talents while keeping them engaged. We had our first annual Show in February at  the Benning Park Rec Center.  Currently, we are in the planning process for our 2nd annual showcase. We  also have a program called “Never Give Up”.It is a three hour work shop on wheels. The workshop consist of me sharing my story through my book, encouraging a purge through a writing session, a vision board, letting go of guilt and shame.

 

Jannelle:  Some foundations sell products and take a percentages of the proceeds to support the the foundations or initiatives etc. Are some of your book sales funding “Momma’s Safe Haven”? If not, is it in the cards for the future?

Beverly:Yes! Momma’s Safe Haven  has several sponsors that help fund our events. Some of the proceeds from “He Kept Me”, D&B Handyman Service, and B’s Natural Products just to name a few. I believe it’s very important to maintain a great relationship with those who are heading in the same direction as you.

Jannelle: What inspired you to take on the publishing world?

Beverly:  I was inspired by pain that was eating me alive! I had to get it out. The purging was great and I knew it had to do something with the strength that I had gained from believing in God. I was inspired by wanting to help someone else who has experienced any of the things that I have been through.

Jannelle:  You are a DV survivor and many people always talk about leaving the situation. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done. What steps did you take to escape your situation?

Beverly: Yes I am a DV survivor and yes for me it was easier said than done. My strength to leave came when I gave birth to my second child my 12 grade year at Cardozo High School. I knew in order for me to provide for my children I had to leave the abuse. The first step for me was when I started to love myself more than I loved him and suddenly my fear of what happen if I left turned into what would happen had I stayed.

Jannelle: What advice do you have for women and even men who are victims of Domestic Violence?

Beverly:  My advice to anyone who are victims of DV is to tell a loved one  and talk to someone who you can trust. Leave them  (the abusers) alone They will never be worth your time because love doesn’t hurt! Love nurtures, caress, protect. Self love is key! I have a support group on my website and you can call DV Hotline 1-800-799-7233.

Jannelle: Describe your writing process for “He Kept Me” ? What was your writing schedule like? How did you deal with writer’s block if you had any?

Beverly: I purged when I wrote my book. I was unemployed, attending Ashford University studying on line for my BA in ECE Administration and I was also studying spanish with Rosetta Stone. So my schedule was pretty flexible. I  moved about an hour away from my family so I had plenty of peace and quiet. No i didn’t have to deal writers’ block. I feel writers’ block is just fear. It took me four months to write my book from beginning to end.

Jannelle: What do you find the most rewarding? Your book or your foundation? Are they equally rewarding? Or are they rewarding in different ways?

Beverly: They are both equally rewarding in different ways. My book is so personal and it draws others who has been hurt. My organization focuses on the healing process from the pain.

Jannelle: I have a few either or questions for you as well.

Jannelle: Paperback or Ebook?

Beverly: Paperback.

Jannelle: Online or Stores?

Beverly: Stores.

Jannelle: Early Bird or Night Owl?

Beverly: Early Bird

Jannelle: Country or City?

Beverly:  City.

Jannelle: Mall or Boutique?

Beverly: Mall.

Jannelle: Dress Up or Dress Down?

Beverly: Dress Up.

Jannelle: Money or Fame?

Beverly: Money.

Jannelle: What is next for you? Please give us some links to where we can learn more about you and your projects.

Beverly: I  have a short film titled  “Still I Rise”.  It’s  a ten minute movie inspired by Dr. Maya Angelou’s  poem. I entered it into a contest and won!! We finished filming my movie in July and it will premiere in the Fall! Stay tuned!

You can pick up “He Kept Me” on Amazon now and don’t forget to leave reviews.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0073GWD86/ref=cm_sw_su_dp

Check out Beverly’s  ” Momma’s Save Haven” as well

http://www.mommassafehaven2014.com/

About the author

Jannelle is the author of “Wild Cards” “Thirst”, “Thirst II”, and “Love’s Hangover” and is a fresh voice in African-American fiction, spending time on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list for two of her four titles. She’s also a freelance journalist. Her DC Bookdiva Debut, “Uppity” will be released in November, and is available for pre-order now at http://www.dcbookdiva.com

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Website: http://www.jannelle.net
Twitter: @jannelle12
Instagram: writerdiva
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jannelle1

Ratchet INK 2: Beefs and Crab Barrel Politics

In publishing, just as in any entertainment based industry, I believe in these two things:  One, there’s enough of success and money to be had for anyone who is willing to work hard and grind for it. Two, your work will speak for itself, regardless of whatever the competition does.

With that said, it seems to me that some literary feuds go beyond general competition into something very childish and viscous.  You see the posts: an Author blast his or her gripes with a publisher over money. Authors taking shots at each other out of pure jealousy and envy. You also see the comments of avid readers saying how petty the latest round of beef is and later, you see these same readers post how they stopped buying books from authors and publishers because of how bad some of them act online.

 

ghetto2

 

Just in the past three months, I have observed an author lashing out at a book club that gave his book a poor review, another author airing out issues with a publisher , and  some authors trying to dictate how a reader spends his or her money.

So let me get this straight: A reader doesn’t have the right to read another author’s work and buy another author’s work because you think it’s a betrayal of your product? To me,this kind of thinking is rooted in insecurity. Nothing more and nothing less.   If you as an author know the kind of hard work that you put into your product and into building your audience, there’s no need  for shaming and intimidation tactics. If you write amazing stories, they will come. If you write amazing stories on a consistent basis,they will stay. Yes, they will read other people’s work from time to time, but  I promise that you will still be in their library.

As far as author/publisher feuds are concerned, it’s very easy to forget that books are a business and with businesses, Rule #4080 (shout out to A Tribe Called Quest) sometimes applies. Whether it applies or not, fulfilling a contract should be a simple, painless process.

There shouldn’t be a beef with someone playing out their contract and moving on.  It’s a problem when the publisher takes business personal and begin berating said author for moving on and doing everything in their power to blackball and intimidate him or her for moving on. To me, author/ publisher feuds that are  being played out in public has to be the most shameful and tacky feud of them all. They are the tackiest because the burden of perception is on the publisher. Authors, would you like to sign with a janky publisher, who blast their business matters on Facebook? Readers, would you want to buy books from a publishing company that is always in the middle of the mess that they start?   If I were a betting woman, those answers are a resounding “NO”.

When I think about the feuds and shadiness of the industry, I think about the root of the problem.   Here’s my theory: In the world of African-American publishing, we are operating off of a sense of lack. We believe that it isn’t enough of room for everyone in the game.  It really seems that way when readers throw crumbs of their money to us when they buy our titles for $.99 to $2.99.  We think there’s just crumbs for us and we are all doing whatever it takes to get our lion’s share of the crumbs.

Another theory is most of these authors aren’t used to much and when they get something, they hold on to it with everything in them. They cling to it like static to clothes in a dryer without softener. For some, it’s their first taste of legal money or their first taste of some kind of acclaim. So they do whatever they can to keep it, even if it means applying some of the same tactics learned on the streets to solidify their position in the game.   Regardless of the theories and causes, the beefs and the shady dealings are unnecessary and beneath us. I believe that there is enough of talent in the industry to create great work, and create it consistently. There is no lack in opportunity. It’s there for you to seize it and embrace it. It’s impossible to do that if you attend every argument you’re invited to.

Authors: What do you think is the source of the feuds and what could be done to get the focus back on the books?

Readers: How has the feuds displayed on Facebook and twitter influenced who and what you read?

 

 

About the author

Jannelle is the author of “Wild Cards” “Thirst”, “Thirst II”, and “Love’s Hangover” and is a fresh voice in African-American fiction, spending time on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list for two of her four titles. She’s also a freelance journalist. Her DC Bookdiva Debut, “Uppity” will be released in November, and is available for pre-order now at www.dcbookdiva.com

 

uppitypromo

 

Website: http://www.jannelle.net
Twitter: @jannelle12
Instagram: writerdiva
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jannelle1

Ratchet INK

Disclaimer: By no means am I criticizing  for the sake of it or calling out anyone in particular. These are just my observations and opinion.  However, if you are offended by my views don’t take it personal because it is not my intent to bash.

On my Facebook feed this week, the theme seemed to be the presence of trifling titles and tasteless covers in Urban Lit.  I couldn’t turn around without seeing a status about some low budget and base title or a cover that leaves nothing to the imagination and devalues the words between the front and back covers.  In Urban Lit, it is nothing to see the grit and rawness of the streets, because anything less would  water things down a bit .

However, when there’s a “bitchapalooza”  (ie hoards of books with “bitch” in the title after it’s been done before), covers with images that would put porn mags to shame festering on the wall of African-American and Urban lit like  kudzu, it’s beginning to become a problem with  some readers. I have heard thoughts like this:

It (The book) might be a good story but I’m at the point where I can’t look beyond the title anymore”

“Using profanity in their titles and pretty much X Rated pictures on the covers. Deal Breaker. Turn Off.”

“Just because a story is based on ghetto reality, the title doesn’t have to be ghetto. With some books, you can tell it’s ghetto as hell just by the title. It’ shouldn’t be that way.”

The irony in all of this is the complaints by some about Urban Lit not being taken seriously. The titles and the covers  are only two  of the reasons why the genre is being vilified.  I get that the author wants to appeal to their demographic  and wants to sell, but I really believe that it could be done without the  outrageous titles, covers and fonts. I go as far as to say that watching what you put on your covers should be mandatory. Before you look at me with a skeptical eye, picture this:

A reader strolls into Barnes And Noble, really thristy for a great novel. He or She searches endlessly for that little section in the store reserved for black authors in the corner. The store lumped them all together because if we “look” alike, we may “write” alike, but I digress. The eager reader sees  tastefully done covers on the shelves such as   Treasure Blue’s ” Fly Betty”, Terry McMillan’s “Who Asked You?“,   Jason Mott’s “The Returned” or even  Zane’s “Afterburn” or  Walter Mosley’s “Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore”  next to your “ Hand Me Down Bitches part 3″, “Shame On You, Bitch 2” or “My Baby  Daddy May Be Shit But He’s My Lump of Shit and I love Him“. What would they think? I’m willing to bet you that  they’ll either scrunch their face and frown  and frown before moving on and away. If it isn’t that,  they’d probably  pickup the book  and laugh at the title before putting it back on the shelf  and going on facebook to tell  their friends about the tomfoolery  that they found in the store. Either way,  you lost a customer and a potential fan with those covers and titles.            ratchet

For some, maybe your aim isn’t Barnes and Noble. However, the same principle applies on Amazon. The covers and titles will still turn them off.

If some of these readers see it, you better believe that some authors are paying attention as well. I believe that while a huge percentage of authors are serious in their titles, there are some that wrote a story and came up with such a crazy title and cover just to see if it would sale or get a bunch of reviews.  Sadly, they get the pop of attention  and the reviews to go with it sometimes.  Even if an author get the reviews and the acclaim from that experiment or even those who are serious about the titles, the billion dollar question of the hour is “will they keep the readers coming back in the long run?”

Readers! I would love to hear more from you. What kind of titles and covers appeal to you generally?

Authors! I’m not leaving you out either.  Why the graphic titles and covers in the first place? Is it preference or is it profit that’s driving you to put them out there or both?

About the author

 

Jannelle is the author of “Wild Cards”  “Thirst”, “Thirst II”, and “Love’s Hangover” and is  a fresh voice in African-American fiction, spending time on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list for two of her four titles. She’s also a freelance journalist.  Her DC Bookdiva Debut, “Uppity” will be released in November, and is available for  pre order now.

Twitter: @jannelle12
Instagram: writerdiva

Soft As Steel

The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. -Norman Vincent Peale

steel

 

As authors,  it is a given that we run the risk of readers not liking our work.  Yet, we have two ways to handle it when it happens and how we choose to handle it determines A) how serious we are about the craft and B) what kind of character we have away from the pages.

On my newsfeed a week ago, I read where an author took issue with a book club after receiving a poor review. This person called the reviewers out of their names, cursing them out and accusing them of favoritism. This person acted out so bad that  people were still talking about the incident days later. Other authors, including myself, chimed in with our thoughts and opinions and the general consensus was: ‘This guy had only one job and his job was to take the hit and use it to make himself a better writer”

I hope I’m not coming off self righteous and didactic when  I write this because I understand what it is like to work tirelessly on a story only to have it bashed. A moment that stuck out for me was when I entered a contest and the judges weren’t impressed. Instead of getting my ass on my shoulders and cursing out the judges and acting a fool to put some balm on my ego, I continued to write and practiced showing the reader what was going on instead of telling. I was determined to get better and put in the work to do so.

I haven’t been writing creatively for a long time, but I immediately learned two things: One, any author worth his or her salt, consistently works on the craft. Two, your skin in this business has to be soft as steel.  You can’t let the negative opinion of readers and fellow authors deter you. If anything, use it as fuel to get better.

Yeah, I know that sometimes  we as artists-be it authors, singers, musicians, actors or  actresses, etc get sensitive about our work, but that gives us no excuse to come at our audiences. For the author, especially black authors, bashing book clubs and arguing with readers is a sure way to commit career suicide.

Lashing out doesn’t only effect the offending author, it also effect others. Why?  When authors lash out at the readers, it makes a few apprehensive  about posting reviews. The majority of us rely on these reviews-good or bad because how else are we supposed to give the reader what they want without them telling us via a fair review?  We will mess around and not only have a few reviews here and there, but we won’t  have readers at all if we continue to carry on as some of us have.

I’m not saying that you can’t feel disappointed about a review or even feel angry, I’m saying that you just have to have tough skin to navigate through this industry if you want staying power in it. There are so many constructive ways to deal with a bad review. Again, you can take that review and learn and grow from it during your next project. You could even use that same bad review to move some units and turn a loss into a gain that way.

No mater what you chose to do with that less than favorable review, remember that whatever we create and release to the public is up for criticism and  there’s no getting around it. You can take the criticism, as well the praise, and continue to improve  or you can waste your keystrokes and breath trying to fight a battle you know you cant win when you’re beefing with book clubs and readers and end up being labeled as a “cancer” in the game. Choose wisely!

 

 

 

Business Picks Up in Amazon/Publisher Feud

Hatchette will be the least of Amazon’s worries in the near future. If I were them, I would just try to wrap the spat up.

Why?

Because Simon and Schuster and News Corp has next when they come up for renegotiation. If  Amazon is already blocking pre-orders of books from names such as J.K. Rowling, Nicolas Parks and James Patterson, you know they will block Veronica Roth, Stephen King and any and everyone on the HarperCollins and Simon and Schuster rosters.

The way I see it may be a bit trite  and cliche but I promise you, if these publishers set it up the right way, they will win: Its always strength in numbers.th-1

 

Clearly, Simon and  Schuster and News Corp have been sitting in the cut, observing the Amazon/Hatchette spat. Make no mistakes about it. So with that said, I think that publishers should collaborate  and strong arm Amazon. They better, because what Amazon is going for is a larger percent of the retail price. If that happens, that could mean lower fees for authors. So what was once 25 percent of the publisher’s take on sales could be wittled down to 15 to less than 10 percent. Amazon on the other hand, will continue to win because by getting a bigger chunk of the retail price, the mega retailer can discount more while retaining the profit.

If I were these publishers, I would create my own ebook biz and not sell ANYTHING to Amazon. By doing this, publishers and authors can sell directly to the consumers. Look at all of the music artists starting their own “labels”. Thanks to itunes and even Napster before them, the only value that a record label has now is management and marketing.  It’s the same thing going on in publishing right now. There is no need for the middle man.

Another thing that the publishers can do is revise their relationship with Apple. Before the Justice Department popped Apple and publisher for collusion,  Apple took a 30 percent cut of each e-book sold through iTunes and their ibookstores.  Another option is to collab with them again and maybe appeal the Justice departments’ decision. The way I see it is Amazon is trying to make the publishers be in collusion with them. The difference is Apple was at least trying to hide their greed.

The bottom line is the outcome of this feud will change the landscape of literature as we know it. Its worth it for the publishers to come together and plan.round-two-amazon-vs-publishers-1

So what do you think the next move should be and Why? I would love to read your opinions on here or you can hit me up on my facebook (www.facebook.com/ jannelle1) or tweet me @jannelle12 directly or you can sound off in the comments section here on Straight No Chaser

You Get What You Pay For

Amazon be like:

“We provide readers with books at yard sale price and constantly develop and refine our technologies all in the name of changing how we read.  Oh and by the way, we are deep in our investment of new authors to the point where we developed and promoted new formats just for them.  These formats have been great for the industry  because it has unearthed new talent and made reading ‘cool’ again.”

That’s the main course meal, but does anyone see the dessert that’s been baked, glazed and steeped in the finest bullshit that millions dollars could buy?  The kind of bullshit that’s revealed when a monopoly rises?

Bon Appetit!money-flying-bills-air

Some authors and publishing houses tried to warn us years ago that Amazon would turn on the industry as well as the customers but we, for the most part, plugged up our ears and rationalized what they were doing with ‘Oh shit this book is just .99 cents lemme one click this,  or ‘What a sweet hustle: I put my book on here for .99 cent a pop and my reader base will eat my stuff up like it’s last thing in the cabinet. Amazon been great for ME! I don’t know nor do I care about the other authors.”

It was all good until Amazon decided to strong arm Hachette.  They began to take down preorder buttons for favorites such as James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks and J.K. Rowling and raising the price of their titles. Amazon also increased the shipping times for Hachette books. All of this mess is about the pricing of e-books.  The word is Amazon’s share of e-book sales is more than 60 percent.  They sell their popular titles at $9.99 a clip. They walk away with  over $6 per book sold, while the rest is divvied up between publisher author and an agent. Since Amazon’s stocks fell, they decided to take it out on some publishers because they could. They’re a monopoly and now they could do whatever the hell they want to.

I’ve always thought that the publisher set the prices on Amazon, but I was wrong. I’m pretty sure that the publishers knew that no one in their right mind would pay $10 for an e-book when they’ve been getting them for a dollar or free on demand.  Amazon proponents in the industry, deep down had to know that Amazon was boosting the prices to only help themselves at the publishers’ and authors’ expense.  However they were blinded by the possibilities of reaching new readers that they ended up getting played.

As far as the readers are concerned, they’ve been played to as far as I’m concerned. Here they are, downloading books for little to nothing and reading, not knowing that doing so gassed Amazon’s head up to the point where they marked up the prices of e-books. “What were the customers gonna do? Go to Barnes and Noble.com and buy the same book  for way more than what we offer at $9?”  was and is the thought here.

The fact of the matter is nothing will change here until the publishers and authors ban together in a class action lawsuit and even set up their own distribution channels. Otherwise, they will continue to pay Amazon to punk them under the guise of  promoting industry growth.

Balance is Vital in the Process

Clean water is a goal for many Americans.

Written by Jannelle Moore

 

As authors and publishers, we revel in our late nights and early mornings. We pride ourselves on parking our asses in that chair with our eyes crammed in that computer, as we crank out thousands of words and multiple chapters a day. For the publishers out there, you cradle that phone or that tablet and strategize and network. You battle distributors to make sure your label is represented. You gloss over countless submissions, draw up contracts, and set the prices of books.

Pandora, drinks and junk food our chosen fuel, pushing us through to completion, as we charge towards that dead-line. We sacrifice sleep, decent food, and time away from our friends and family to get our creative statement, our latest vision out to the masses.

This way of life is the standard for us  in the literary world and while some of us  like to brag about creating and handling business under “extreme” conditions, I think that it’s imperative in our creative processes (and for the sake of our sanity and health) to take breaks in between. There’s no shame in slowing down to regain focus, when it starts to drift or when you are getting consumed with your project to the point where you are so tired that you can’t even walk outside to your patio without wanting to collapse. Without rest and some time away from the manuscript, you will lose focus. You’ll lose focus because your need for sleep, a break, and food will eventually trump your will to keep going and it will show. Your daily performance will fall off, making those sacrifices in vain.

Recently, I finished writing “Uppity”, which is my second full- length novel, after a three novella series, and my outlet was my p90x workout and a mid- book break of a week.  During my break, I caught up on rest, my friends and family.  My workouts gave me an outlet and for an hour a day, I didn’t think about “Uppity” or the fact that this was my first time writing in the first person. All I was focused on was the workout and the foundation of a lean, toned body. I know if it weren’t for those two things, I’d be a wreck and those habits would have caught up with me and knocked me on my ass.

To break it all down, what I’m trying to say is this: We are authors and publishers and we do work odd hours.  We sacrifice meals and sleep to get our voices out to the world to entertain and inspire. In our process, we shouldn’t forget who we are and our needs outside of the business.  I am far from the most balanced, but, it’s worth it to at least try to create some. It will be worth it for me, as an author and as a woman, to balance. And it will be worth it, for all of us in the industry to remember to take time for self and those around you, to unplug. Your bodies will thank you as well as your novels.