This week, Atlanta Film and TV had a chance to interview writer, producer, and advocate Yvonne Pierre in regards to being an indie writer and her process of becoming self-published.
What made you decide to go the self-publishing route as opposed to going through a publishing company?
In 2002, I was working on a self-help book. At the time, I had no idea about the publishing industry or even how to write, but I had this great idea. I went into Kroger to their small book section. I looked for books that were similar to mine. I wrote it down, went home, and called 411 to get the number for the publishing company. Although it was considered an indie company, it was very successful – a multimillion-dollar company. I called and spoke with the owner. I told him that I had this amazing book that he’s going to want to publish. So, he invited me to his home office.
When I got there I felt I had “arrived”. My life was about to change, so I thought. We got along great. He read my book. He was silent for a moment. He looked at me and busted out laughing in my face. I was confused. He commended me for being bold, but then he harshly told me what was wrong with my book. He said he would publish my book under the condition that I remove myself from it. He told me how I was nobody and no one would be interested in my story. I smiled. I told him, “Thank you, but no thank you.” I left hurt.
It took me years to write again. The reason I mentioned his success is that I put weight on his words because of his success. Several years later, I decided to allow his words to work for me instead of against me. I thought, “If part of the problem is that no one knows me, so how do I need to do to change that?” I studied the publishing industry. I launched my radio show, “The Yvonne Pierre Show.” I published my first book a few years after my radio show.
To answer the question, I did want to wait for someone to believe in me. So, I launched my own indie publishing company, Zyonair’s Unlimited, LLC.
How many books did you self-publish? What are the names of the books and or projects that you self-published?
Publishing companies typically do all the marketing and branding for authors/writers, how was it for you? How long was your process?
Self-publishing is a business. Writing the book and getting it published is a small percentage of the work. The rest is marketing. And it’s an ongoing process. Some people only promote for a few months and that’s it. But you continue to market your books. It might be old to you, but it’s new to someone else.
I must point out that the marketing process was also an emotional and spiritual process. I had to overcome so fears and concerns of not wanting people to think that I think I’m all that. LOL! I had to peel back some layers of doubt and feeling like my work is not good enough.
Over the years, I have mentored and coached a lot of writers. I met this woman years ago on Facebook. We were chatting about something else, but it slipped that she has a book. I was like, “What?” I wouldn’t have ever known if she didn’t tell me because nothing on her page, in bio, on the profile picture, or even posts told me that she had a book. I asked her why. She said she didn’t want people to think that she was bragging. This is very common.
Beyond the emotional process of marketing, my process is writing out my goal first. Once I know my goal, I then build a campaign around it. For example, if my goal is to market to book clubs who might be interested in my type of book. I first figure out what is the best way to reach them – email, social media, etc. What information do I need to get to them? How is it beneficial for them? Am I going to offer to come to their meeting or call in for a meet and greet? The thing about marketing is you have to know who your audience is and keep in mind that people will always want to know “What’s in it for me?”
What have you found to be the most rewarding part of self-publishing?
The most rewarding part of self-publishing is having the control of when, how, and what I will publish. There are many rewards that go beyond money. My first book is about overcoming various abuses including childhood sexual abuse. To have people come to me in tears inspired me, and opening up about their story is why I wrote the book. And although ZOEY is a fictional drama, when someone tells me how they were touched by the story, I am inspired to continue to write. We all want to make a living doing what we love, but the “why” must be bigger than money or fame.
I eventually would like to self-publish my children’s books. How much money would you recommend putting into it?
Congratulations on your children books. Your budget can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. It will depend on a few things. Are you able to do the work yourself or will you outsource? Will you be having events centered on the book? You will need your ISBN, cover design, interior layout (typeset), advertising, press releases, promotional video and/or images, etc. I recommend that write down your goal with the book, then make a list. You can price match online for each thing that needs to be done. Write everything you want to do down and price it out. Also, think of other ways you can earn from the book such as t-shirts, public speaking, bookmarks, or maybe something out of the box. The sky is the limit.
What would be your best piece of advice for writers/authors wanting to self-publish?
If you have a story within you, write. Don’t let fear or doubt stop you from writing. Let me tell you a little bit about how I became a writer.
I’m going to try to keep this brief. I was a troubled kid that was sexually abused my entire childhood. This led me down a self-destructive road. I was eventually banned from public school in Gary, IN where I was born and raised. I graduated from an alternative school. I wanted to go to college but I couldn’t pass the basic entry exam, because I couldn’t read and write. But I didn’t give up.
Fast-forward to today, I hold two Master degrees – an Executive MBA and MA in English/Creative Writing. I wrote and produced a stage play, “Then You Stand,” in 2012. A short film Never Alone that I won Best Short Film for at the GA Entertainment Gala for a short I wrote as part of the 11Eleven11 Project with Studio 11 Films. My two books mentioned earlier and a list of passion projects for my advocacy to spread positive Down syndrome awareness.
My point is you can do this! Writing takes you to vulnerable places. Don’t be afraid to go there. It is that place where you’re going to get your best work. In order to get your readers to “feel” what you’re saying, you have to “feel” it, too. This journey has defiantly introduced me to myself. And I’m still learning and still growing.
If God gave it to you, it’s part of your purpose to write it! Enjoy and embrace the journey. Happy writing!