I Thank My J-Crew and Other VIPs for This Journey

One advantage of growing old or growing older is that the aged have a different vantage point than those much younger. I started my second Master’s degree at Southern New Hampshire University much older, what is called the non-traditional student. As such, I collected years of living and writing under my belt and amassed a wealth of literary pieces and launched several blogs. I have been working on Daughters of the Soil and hope to have it released as soon as possible in 2018. I had intended to release it in 2016, but a personal technology upheaval caused a change in my plans, and I am happy in retrospect.

500_F_49637851_0hRQqpHePGR8qevqJO7bfPISs3IMpJZgI want to pause today and acknowledge my exponential growth gained from the people I call my “J-Crew,” authors and authorpreneurs whose first names begin with “J.” Thank you, Joanna Penn, Jonathan Gunson, Joel Friedlander, Jon Bard, JA Konrath, Jeff Goins, Julie Andrews (dame and Hollywood icon), Judy Hedlund, Jane Friedman, Julie Isaac, and James J. Jones, to name a few. I am grateful to Derek Murphy, Nick Stephenson, Mark Dawson, Derek Doepker, Ty Cohen, Laura Backes, BookBaby, Hazel Edwards (who coined “authorpreneur,” a word that describes me well), and IngramSparks. I subscribed to their websites/blogs for the last eight years and downloaded truckloads of wisdom. Most of these people and companies gave access to their intellectual creations freely to rising authors/poets who are on their way to self-publication. I will pay forward such unparalleled generosity.

This appreciation blog will be incomplete without expressing my gratitude to my workshop organizers and graduate school instructors, professors who pushed me far beyond my comfort zone. Foremost is Gregory A. Fraser, Ph.D. (University of West Georgia), whose advanced creative writing course was my first graduate level poetry course. It was so intensive that I wanted more and wrote a poem about it titled “I Tasted Poetry.” From his class and from our class discussions sprang the name of my publishing company, Beautiful Parts Publishing Group, LLC., which is still work in progress. Wanting more, I started the formal journey into my Masters’ in Creative Writing and English at Southern New Hampshire University where I engaged in rigorous writing and bare-bone critiques at the hands of Dr. Sandra Dutton, Sarah Shotland, Dr. Douglas McFarland, Professor Conine, and Mrs. Tiffany Hawk.

Fortunately, I gathered so much expertise about the publishing industry in the last few years that I know I am where I ought to be. I have founded a company that will allow me to realize my dreams of writing and being publishing. Let’s just say that rejection letters from traditional publishers have a way of inspiring a writer to take an alternative course of action. I have networked with other publishers to barter services. They review my manuscripts, and I offer editing, revising, and proofreading services.

I joined both online and face-to-face writing communities. The online ones are through Meet Up, but we assemble on Saturday mornings to critique each other’s works and to offer feedback. I am no longer protective of my work. I attend workshops at Georgia Tech in Atlanta and at Inprint Houston and at any venue where my novels will be workshopped. At Inprint, I had the fortune to work with Claire Anderson and Conor Bracken, winner of the 2017 (Robert) Frost Place annual poetry competition.

I have been published in these outlets: as a contributor for The Guardian Newspaper (Nigeria’s equivalent of The New York Times), freelancer for Yahoo! Voices (defunct), ghostwriter for Textbroker, editor for Georgia Poetry Society (and my poem was included in the anthology, Reach of Song), columnist for Atlanta Parent magazine, poem published in Georgia’s Best Emerging Poets (November 2017), and academic papers in the Journal of Social and Natural Science Research. I maintain several blogs, one of which (https://literarynomad11.wordpress.com) was featured online as “a literary blog to explore.” I hold separate Master of Arts degrees in Journalism and in Creative Writing, and I teach English composition/rhetoric and literature at a college and at a high school, respectively.

I attend writing and author conferences anywhere and anytime I can afford it, mostly when I was unemployed and underemployed. Let’s acknowledge that there is a silver lining in every dark cloud. Because of the loss of my teaching job of 19 years, I propelled myself to fill the void and restore my writing life, which I started when I was only eight years old. Still, I have spent the last eight years immersed in the science and art of my craft of writing and in the unfamiliar territories of publishing and promotion/ marketing.

I am ready for my name to grace the cover of a book. To that end, I purchased 100 ISBN’s, several bar codes, and obtained several LCCN’s (free). I have connected with companies who will begin pre-publication advertising as soon as I finish editing Daughters of the Soil, a mystery novel that combines police procedural, fantasy, and thriller. I have grown in the journey toward the publication of this novel by enlisting other professionals. More so now than ever, an urgency has brought the project into a sharper focus, but my laptop crashed during fall of 2016, and I lost almost everything I created since I obtained my first Masters (in Journalism). It cost me thousands in hours and dollars for a data retrieval company to restore my intellectual creations. I had to go on a religious retreat to ask God to save my sanity. Somethings cannot be replaced.

I thank all my English teachers in Nigerian who planted the seeds that germinated into the love of reading, writing, spelling, and English in general. Thank you especially to my Class Five (12th grade) high school English teacher (Reverend Akomah) who forced me to rise to the challenge of writing a poem about a frog and refused to allow me to give up. After writing the poem, I came to love poetry and to realize that inherent in a frog are many figures of speech. For example, its sound is an onomatopoeia. Its description is an imagery. You can imagine what a valuable lesson that assignment was.

I thank these very generous and very important people from the bottom of my heart. I hope my published work will deliver a clear voice that yields a crisp harvest.

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What to Know Before Assembling the Marketing Plan

Prior to this year, I had not produced an entire marketing plan. I had created parts here and bits there. After going through the entire process, I believe anyone so determined can complete that daunting task.

By way of introduction to establish my credibility, I am an English composition instructor at a college and also teach English literature to high school seniors. In effect, by teaching at the college level as well, I am catching students at critical points in their secondary and post-secondary journeys. Prior to that, I taught public speaking at Kennesaw State University and University of West Georgia. Also, I taught grammar and an assortment of courses to gifted middle school students.

Additionally, I am an authorpreneur, the convergence of my creative side (writing) and the business aspect of my creative side. Evidence of my creative side is that I have written extensively and have been published in several media outlets. As part of that business aspect of my creative side, I own a publishing company.

[Incidentally, the term, “authorpreneur,” was coined by and made famous by Australian author, Hazel Edwards, as recently as 2011 (Morris, n.p.).]

I cannot over-emphasize the importance of the marketing plan. Everyone who is considering publication needs to become familiar with this process and engage in it. Of course, it takes trial and error to become confident and competent in it. In its entirety, the book proposal is the marketing plan that entices a publisher and/or an agent. It puts a book (figuratively) in the palms of the agent or the traditional publisher.

Drs. Gregory Fraser and Chad Davidson of University of West Georgia call the marketing plan “a close analysis of cultural signs and a set of informed recommendations” (Frasier & Davidson 11). They urge all students to undergo the process of creating the documents that make up the marketing plan: “Outside the academic environment, however, students will need to take part in this activity no matter what goals they hope to achieve” (Fraser and Davidson 11).

The advice is not to be taken lightly. Every agent and traditional publisher demand it, and it is as the professors indicate: a cultural sign agreed upon by all in the book business and a set of informed recommendations expected for submission by all in the book publishing business. The advice is not only for students but also for anyone who hopes to submit a book (fiction or non) for agent representation or for publication (if choosing to bypass the agent, which traditional publishers will not tolerate).

As I indicated earlier, completing this process is a trial-and-error exercise. I have, at one time or another, written many query letters, pitched my novels and children’s books, written aspects of a book proposal, composed synopses of my novels for jackets and possible plugs in the right places should I be fortunate to be required, written my author resume (a.k.a, author profile) and the accompanying cover letters, crafted book descriptions, and provided a chapter-by-chapter explanation of one of my books.

I must not have followed the protocol: I queried and solicited traditional publishers directly, a cardinal sin. Rejections abound daily, and they can break a budding author, but resilience is key. Referring to the rejection of his first novel by 31 publishers, James Patterson indicated in Chapter 2 of his Masterclass Online Course, “I have the scars. The scars don’t go away.”

He called the rejections “31 wrong opinions.” That rejected first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, won the Edgar Award for the ‘Best First Novel by an American Author’! Again, resilience is key. Alternatively, independent publishers have become quite lucrative as Plan A (where authors ignore the highly recommended but frustrating road of traditional publishing) or Plan B (where authors fall back on independent publishers after rejections by traditional publishers).

I have listed the components of a marketing plan. Of course, marketing plans vary. Before a writer submits the items listed below, he/she is urged to research publishers to ensure they publish his/her genre and whether or not they accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Marketing Plan Parts and Pieces:

  1. Pitch: a one-sentence explanation of the book’s content or theme. Condense the 100,000+-word novel/book into one sentence.
  2. Query letter: a semi-business letter that introduces the project and writer to an agent and/or publisher. It should be single-spaced.
  3. Book proposal: the plan for the book and should contain
    • A longer synopsis of the book (500–1,000 words)
    • Table of contents
    • Marketing plan
    • Author biography/resume (with professional credentials)
    • Sample chapters, and (if requested)
    • A chapter-by-chapter synopsis of all the chapters

A writer must start the journey over every day. The writer must be passionate and must be willing to learn and to grow daily. At the urgings of Doctors Fraser and Davidson, every student/aspiring author needs a marketing plan and must create one or several.

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Works Cited

“Book Proposal Boot Camp” Southern New Hampshire University. 19 November 2015. Web. December 2, 2015.

Fraser, Gregory and Davidson, Chad. Analyze Anything: A Guide to Critical Reading and Writing. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2012. Print.

Morris, Linda. “Becoming ‘Authorpreneurial’ Online.” 22 November 2011. Web. November 28, 2015.

Patterson, James. “Passion + Habit.” Masterclass. 2015. Web. December 28, 2015.