Thursday, May 5, 2011

How Much “Blacker” Can I Be?

I recently put in an entry for a contest for Black Women’s Fiction because I thought I was a black woman, writing for women, including black women like me.

Lo and behold, when I got the score sheet back, one of the judges felt I was confusing Multicultural Women’s Fiction with Black Women’s Fiction. Now, I totally indentify with multicultural, but I also identify with Black Women’s Fiction because I am 100% black, at the risk of sounding condescending, though no harm is intended. I am not mixed with anything. I am just about as black as they come.

I feel like Obama now. Do I have to bring my Birth Certificate to show who my parents are? Though born in the UK, it does list my Nigerian parents, which makes me fully Nigerian. Or do I have to do a DNA to prove my origin or just how black I am? Do I have to go to my local government in Nigeria to prove I’m on some kind of list?

Now, if they really meant African American Women’s Fiction, why didn’t they just say so? Then we African women would know to step to the side. But I take offense with being told I do not belong in Black Women’s Fiction but rather in Multicultural Women's Fiction. So, I go better with Asians and Indians (which I totally have no problem with) than I do with those sisters that have my skin tone? Why can’t I belong in both genres?

Once again, I feel this distancing by African Americans from Africans. This is the exact reason why I am now part of an organization that is spreading the word about unity among African Americans and Africans. It is called Bridging the African Divide (BTAD), a non-profit. Our board consists of the most amazing group of African Americans and Africans I have seen in one place in a long time.

I am already aware that African American readers do not read much of books by Africans, generally speaking. Not the rule, of course. This was actually explained to me by a Nigerian book store owner who caters to the African American crowd but hardly stocks books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie because the few copies he has have gotten old in his store. That has been his experience and I agree with him because generally, I have not seen enough support from the African American community either.

Is that warped or what? Is it just me, or is something wrong with that picture? Is this just another manifestation of the Black people nontogetherness? Like the Tyler Perry syndrome! And yes, I just made up that word because I can.

Will we ever be one?



Folake. :(

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Novel Writing: What Have I Learnt Lately?

And yes, I meant learnt and not learned. I choose not to write the American version today because I can. Lol.

Anyway, still working on my novel and I have finally joined critique groups. I wrote for a year, prior to which I have never written anything fiction, not even a short story. Then I entered 3 contests and of course, I realized shortly after submitting that I could never win. Why? I had some editorial No-nos and in the first chapter too.

Here are four important Editorial No-nos:

1) Do no start your novel with a dream sequence.

2) Do no start your novel with a telephone conversation.

3) Do not start your novel with your protagonist waking up from sleep or a nightmare, startled.

4) Do not have a flashback in the first chapter, or even the first thirty pages.

In addition I also decided this:

5) Never critique a first draft!

And although I never did number 5, when I finally joined a critique group recently, there was still so much to be done in those first 2 chapters that I have struggled with and changed several times over the course of the year that I knew if I had critiqued the first draft, it would have been so disastrous I might have given up. And I did let some facebook friends read what I thought was my first scene about a year ago. That's when I realized I had PLENTY of work to do and I started to buy books on writing/fiction writing. What I couldn't buy/afford, I borrowed from the library. Don't forget your local library is a great resource. I didn't even have a library card till about 6 months ago but now I wonder why not. Lol.

I have also joined a physical critique group where you have to read your work out loud. We'll see how that goes but if anyone says I have an accent or corrects how I pronounce certain words differently, I will have my frying pan with me!

As for numbers 1 through 4, that also includes having any of those near the beginning of your novel, even if it doesn't start off with it. I read in several books (by Noah Lukeman, James Scott Bell, Randy Ingermanson, etc), heard in several forums (including the ACFW loop!) and finally heard back from the judges of one of the contests about NOT doing some of those. It creates an impression that you are confused, an amateur, did not start the book in the right place or you're just bad at it, period. It will end you in the slush pile very fast, and nobody would have gotten to the good part yet.

For a list of books I have found helpful either from reading or from someone else teaching the principles from the book at a meeting or workshop, please visit my website. 

I am so glad I am finally letting other eyes look at my work and help me fine-tune it. I am grateful to the ladies of SheWrites who have hammered it into a pulp. I actually got my first comment on Authonomy and it's not from someone who wanted me to back their work or anything:

"The toilet paper made me laugh. Well written. will definitely get back to this one will try and make room on Wl in the near future Good luck."

I have also joined a critique group on Authonomy. I've sent a request anyway. We'll see how my first reading goes at the physical critique group, an AWC group (Atlanta Writers Club) in my area. I am trying to join their online critique group as well. I can't figure out how Absolute Write Water Cooler works so I am not active in a critique group on there yet, though a member.

Why several critique groups? There's always something new to offer in each group. Also, it will take years to get your work critiqued in my estimation if you belong to only one group. And I've read articles by seasoned authors saying they belong to several groups as well. We'll see how it pans out. And I'll keep you updated.

Enough yapping for now. I'm just excited.



My WIP! And that's my other name you didn't know about. Cover courtesy of my brother Temi, AKA Antigravity.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Italics: To be or not to be?

This seems to be a big question or bone of contention in writing circles recently, to use italics in deep POV or not.

Personally, I have no problem with the use of italics. I have great eyesight and I don’t find it distracting or annoying. But since my writing will be for other people and not for myself, I have done a lot of online research on the issue of the use of italics in writing.

My published work to date is non-fiction and I didn’t know many rules then so that doesn’t count! In that regard that is. However, my present WIP is women’s fiction and I will know all the rules by the time I’m done. Believe me.

Here’s my resolve about italics. I also was of the opinion that one had to write deep POV in italics but recent research has caused me to change my mind. It appears to me that the emerging convention is that it is not necessary to do that and the readers are smart enough to know when you are in the character’s head. I have decided not to use it in that way for these two reasons:

1) Some readers and critics are very annoyed by italics and find it distracting

2) Nobody has ever complained about a paucity of italics in any writing

That tells me I can do without it. I have written my novel in 1st person POV past tense. I found out that I can either just write the deep thought as is or add a qualifier such as “I thought” or so as opposed to writing it in italics. It seems to me that it is the way the italics is interspersed between normal fonts that some find highly annoying and distracting.

Here are some cases where I however still use italics, simply because it flows better and is more continuous:

1) In a dream sequence. In this case I also switch to 1st person POV present and not the past, to really draw the reader in.

2) When I am writing something that is written in the story such as a note, a letter, an article or a journal entry.

In both of these examples, the italics runs for a few lines or more and then switches back. It is a paragraph and not one sentence or three words in a sea of regular font. I believe it appears different.

Now, I am not an authority on anything and I cannot even remember the sites I have visited to arrive at this current convention of mine. Neither do I have an MFA in creative writing or any such qualifications. I just love the Google search tool on my laptop. But I do know that in books where I have seen these done such as Wendy Wax’s Magnolia Wednesdays, it looked neat. Wendy Wax’s main character was a journalist so each time she wrote an article, we read it in italics.

However, the jury is still out even on these scenarios in my novel and I might just end up scraping all of those in italics as well. At the end of the day, my protagonist’s journal entries start with “note to self” so you know what it is. In the case of the dream, the reader will also realize soon enough that it is a dream and thankfully, they’re not long and I only have two dreams in the book, one in which the protagonist wakes up momentarily in the middle and then goes back to sleep and continues the nightmare with weird variations that don’t make sense! I really don’t know that I want my book to start with italics though and it does start with a short dream. But it may be a good idea to leave it that way because the dream is in Victorian times and the novel is not so it may be good for the reader to immediately know it’s a dream.

I have read a host of novels with almost no italics at all except for the occasional emphasis, the name of a magazine or name of a book. I simply have not missed the use of it. That makes me feel like the less of it, the better. Probably.

Just as I thought I was done with this post, I did come across an old blog post by Brandilyn Collins that says everything I have come to believe about writing dreams in italics or not in which she also talks about the exceptions. I wasn’t crazy after all. And I still love Google.

I hope this helps someone. Your comments are welcome.


Folake Taylor.

I have since scrapped any chunks of italics from my manuscript.

The only italics I have left are words being emphasize or the occasional phrase being emphasized as well. I used other fonts for journal entries and the same font (Times Roman) for any dream sequence, while just easing in and out of the dream much the same way as a flash back. My internal thoughts are just written in present tense without any attributions such as "I thought" and when warranted, the phrase gets its own line.

It's clear enough to the reader. I think it works and I know the haters of italics will not be offended.

Everybody wins!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Getting Your Self Published Book Into Christian Bookstores

If you thought it was hard getting Borders and Barnes & Noble to carry your book, try getting your self published book into Christian Bookstores. That's the real nightmare.

I explored this a little initially but since The Only Way is Up is not categorized primarily as a Christian book though it has several Christian principles as the backbone of my beliefs, I did not pursue this hard. Nonetheless, I will share with you my experiences, what I can remember of it.

Choice Books. Have you ever walked into your local grocery store like Publix and Kroger and seen these little rotating stands that sell inspirational books? These are mostly owned by Choice Books in my neck of the woods. They rarely do POD books or even books listed by Ingram or Baker and Taylor because they are a distributor themselves. Here is a link to Choice Books so you can see what the process is however. I did send them my book and they didn't feel it was a good fit but who's to say they won't like your book. Laughing. What I also realized by perusing their stands is that they appear to be affiliated with certain publishers and if I were to write a strictly Christian non-fiction or instructional book in the future, I will definitely query these publishers (small presses) and editors that they have provided links to. One thing I can say about them is that they responded within a few weeks and were very courteous. One way around the POD issue is if you are your own publisher and you offer standard industry rates, discounts, returnability, and they deal with you and not the printer, there may still be a way. They are very particular about the book cover and quality of the book. I will suggest that you get professional editing as well to make your product competitive. You will be surprised at how many books I have bought (especially for my little girl) from these stands.

Family Christian Stores. This is the largest chain of any Christian Bookstore that I know, at least in the South East US. Here is a link to their submission guideline, for your product to be considered for their shelves. They have a name for their bookbuyer listed.

CBA, The Association for Christian Retail. Here is their website. They are mentioned by Family Christian Stores as a source of getting to them if you do not have a distributor. Please note the representatives they have mentioned near the end of the page. I have no direct experience with this but it may be worth pursuing. A means to an end, so to speak. A path to the promised land.

Church Bookstores. Each church has their own process and it works in a similar way to small independent bookstores in the area. You basically need to pick up the phone, speak with the manager/book buyer or whoever is in charge and take it from there. Preferably schedule a meeting. Sometimes impromptu face-to-face works better because you can create an impression and get five minutes of their time but it could backfire if you are dealing with a person who is a stickler for appointments. In my church for example, I was given the email address of the deacon that handles such issues and decides what book they carry. I never did follow up but I was interested in the process. It appears to be the same in most churches. It may be quite hard if their pastor writes books as well and you are not a Joyce Meyer or a church elder. But it is always worth the try.

Christian Book Distributors (CBD). They also have a website which I suggest you visit. They have no clearcut information about how to get them to sell your books but you can be a CBD affiliate and the details are available here. If I ever find any direct information, I will add it as an addendum here. They seem more internet based to me.

Regular Bookstores. Of course, there is nothing precluding you from attempting to get your Christian book into Borders or Barnes and Noble. They do have a Christian/Inspirational section as well. You would just have to follow the instructions outlined in a prior post on this blog, Getting Your Self Published Book Into Bookstores: Targeting Createspace Authors.

Internet Based Bookstores. This may be a bigger market for Christian books comparatively, in terms of when other books and the balance between brick and mortar stores and online. is still a winner for any kind of book.

The Christian Writer's Market Guide is said to be invaluable. Once again, don't forget that Google is an amazing tool.

In my opinion, most Indie Published Christian Books are sold to people you know, church members, Christian book clubs, family, friends, through blogs, online and then you call it a day. I will continue to research this and enlighten you guys as I come up with more information. I wish I had more for you but that's it for now.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Getting Your Self Published Book Into Bookstores: Targeting Createspace Authors

I am back. It's been a while, on this blog anyway!

I keep getting asked this question, "How do I get my book into Bookstores?"

Just the other day, I got this email:

Hi, Can you share any info. with me on how I can get my book in stores like-Books-A-Million, Barnes-N-Noble or Christian Stores, etc? I am searching through Createspace trying to get some info. on how to in the above area.... Any assistance will be greatly appreciated.

So I decided to do a post on it. I realized that because I always refer people to Author K L Brady's blog for help with this, I have never written about my own personal experience. I will today.

I published the first edition of The Only Way is Up with no knowledge of the industry essentially. I knew enough to choose the most inexpensive Print-On-Demand (POD) Publisher out there with total control of every step of the way apparently, which I later found out was a good thing. Because Createspace (CS) is owned by amazon, that earned an automatic and fast listing as well. But the part I missed was with the ISBN. When I started to do book signings, I realized bookstores did not want to order my book from Createspace/Amazon who they considered a competitor. They wanted to order my book from Ingram or Baker and Taylor. Therein was my first problem. Thankfully, after a difficult time for the first store, the others did let me come with my books. Then, I couldn't get my book listed with a Createspace ISBN starting with 978144---. Even though CS has this affiliation with Ingram and they have the Expanded Distribution Program (EDP), it still always came up in the computers at these stores as a POD book. That was a brick wall.

1) In interacting with other POD authors, I realized I had to get my own ISBN. Please click here for my post on the ISBN and Bowker process, links, how much it costs, etc. You do not have to buy a block of ten ISBNs but for me, since I intended to also have my book in ebook formats and some of them need a separate ISBN, paying for ten ISBNs was the same as paying for 2! With your own ISBN, it is now 978???---, in my case, it was 978098---, replacing the 144 which appears to be a POD tag. You become your own publisher instead of CS. I am now Arrabon Publishing.

2) I had to get my print ready files (interior and exterior) over to Lightning Source, a subsidiary of Ingram and publish a second edition of my book through them with some upgrades. I did this in April of 2010. For those who do not have their own full Adobe creator, there is a wonderful pdf creation service by for only $15. LSI does not have the same a la carte services that CS has like the editing, etc. But they will serve your purpose.

3) I sent my kit over to Barnes and Noble, Borders and Booksamillion according to the instructions on K L Brady's blog, Indie Publishing on the Cheap. I found all to be accurate except for the information for Baker and Taylor. I believe there might be an updated link in the comments section if you read all the way down.

4) Because of a hitch on LSI's part in which my book was not showing up on their iPage, I had to follow up with Barnes and Noble with a phone call. That is a good rule of thumb in any situation, except when agents or other such people say expressly, do not contact them! Remember to be sweet and unassuming when you call.

5) Barnes and Noble accepted my book and ordered a trial 25 copies to start with. They also have it listed online, probably related more to the Ingram listing. The ebook listing on Nook is through Smashwords distribution.

With Borders, it was a little tricky because I had done my signings of the first edition with another ISBN. I did send them the info but there is not a contact that I could find to follow up. However, I was involved with a Book Expo America project in which I got an interested party from a Borders stores in FL. A follow up of that contact has my book in at least that one store. I probably could work the Borders link more and set up signings with the new edition. We'll see. Busy, busy. I have realized that Borders and Barnes and Noble in different parts of the country operate differently. As of when I was actively working on this, Barnes and Noble in the Atlanta area were not doing events for Indie authors but I was able to get into many Borders stores all over town. However, it was easier to get Barnes and Noble corporate to accept my book than Borders corporate who I never heard back from. I realized in the MD or DC area, it was easier to get signings at Barnes and Noble stores.

With regards to the smaller bookstores, call each one, make an appointment and follow their lead!

Booksamillion has my book listed even though I never heard back from them. And of course, good old  always has my back for both paperback and Kindle versions of The Only Way is Up.

I still use CS to provide my books ordered from or directly from me because it is the cheapest per unit cost and very convenient. But Barnes and Noble orders from Ingram. So, everybody is happy.

This information is by no means exhaustive authors and do remember that Google is your best friend. There is nothing you cannot find somewhere online if you search hard enough. When I had no author friends or acquaintances, the internet was my sole source.

For more information, please visit the writer resource section of my website. Of course, you can always contact me with any questions.