More than ten years ago, Eartha Watts-Hicks began writing Love Changes, a novel about a young woman in search of love.
By 2008, the novel was completed. It had been critiqued at several writer’s workshops, and it had gone through five rounds of editing.
And Eartha was ready to find a publisher for her novel that infused song lyrics of the late 1990s with a young woman’s quest to understand adulthood.
She never received any offers from publishing companies.
Eartha decided by that she would self-publish her novel using her skills as a writer, an editor, designer and public relations maven.
Self-publishing is not only costly, but it is also a saturated market. According to Bowker, an estimated 450,000 books were self-published in 2013. I-Universe also notes that the average self-published author sells 25 books a year.
“I get mixed responses because it is self-published,” Eartha admits. “Yet they are always taken by the quality of the book. People are hooked on the content.”
Eartha sold 350 books in her first year of business. And she has not looked back since.
“The market is flooded with options,” she said. “I had to differentiate and push myself to the forefront.”
Today, when Eartha is not writing press releases for businesses through her venture, Earthatone Enterprises, she is pounding the pavement and selling her novel. She vends at events such as the Harlem Book Fair and has even traveled to Washington DC to attend the Congressional Black Caucus. Eartha also participates in readings at local bookstores.
Her novel can be borrowed from the public library and is available not only through Amazon, but is featured at major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble. And let’s not even talk about her social media hustle.
Eartha is an astute businesswoman who is always willing to take chances and learn from her experiences. She’s also always willing to help a fellow entrepreneur!
Besides selling so many books, what would you consider some great successes in your business? In October 2015, I won the Capital One Bank Columbia University Project. They were really drawn to my project because I’m publishing books that portray people of color in life-affirming roles.
I assisted another author, Miriam Kelly Ferguson, self-publish her novel, Weaver through my imprint, Earthatone Books. I essentially did the work of I-Universe and guided her steps as an author. Weaver as well as Love Changes has received accolades from poet Nikki Giovanni.
And in 2013, I won the Just Read Literary Game Changers Award from the NYCHA Branch of the NAACP.
What advice can you provide for women interested in self-publishing? Focus on marketing and packaging your book. I did the following:
- Before the book was even published, I was handing out sample chapters at book fairs.
- I had an up and running website and accepted pre-publication sales.
- I established a social media presence.
- I ordered all of my marketing materials in advance so that when my book finally came out, I was ready to start vending.
- I networked and did a whole lot of handshaking.
- I participate in readings.
- I give credit where credit is due. I try to spread and share the love.
What lessons did you learn along the way?
Stop second guessing myself. I wanted Love Changes to be perfect and did not believe it was strong enough to be published. But it was. However, I could not have imagined that it would be where it is right now. I can take my books, hit the library, and it’s loved.
I also couldn’t have anticipated the digital shift nor its speed. I followed an old book publishing plan initially. I send out the books for reviews. But the younger generation of readers loves bloggers and YouTube videos, not magazines and newspapers.
How do you find a way to relax?
This is most definitely a work in progress. I’m actually terrible. I’m still writing a New Year’s resolution and penciling in sleep. I want to organize to stay ahead.
What advice can you offer other businesswomen?Surround yourself with people you can trust. Women entrepreneurs need sisters who can help them along the way. #selfpublishedauthor #businesswomen #entrepreneur #entrepreness Click To Tweet
Write down your vision. You can’t see the vision if it’s not down on paper.
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