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Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Opening up this platform to share talented authors and their masterpieces is one of my greatest joys. In fact, it is the very reason Say What?? Book Club exists. Today, I am pleased to present to you author, media personality, and photographer Yolanda M. Johnson-Bryant. As if her literary offerings weren't gift enough, I'm sure her plethora of creative services are sure to please! Join me in getting to know this wonderful person. Happy reading! ~Tumika
Yolanda M. Johnson Bryant
Tell us about your newest work and what inspired you to write it.
My newest novel, The View From the Window. It was released in April 2017. The inspiration for this particular title came from years of observing my neighbors. The rented the house they lived in and I had the best view of their antics from my dining room window. The things that these people did could not be made up, so I decided I’d fictionalize what I could and put it all in a book. However, the book doesn’t cover nearly half of what they did.
Tell us about yourself. Be sure to include facts about yourself when you are not writing.
I retired, or at least I’m supposed to be retired, in January 2016. I am the owner of Bryant Consulting, Literary Wonders! And LW Media Group. For nearly 25 years, I helped authors become the best writers they could be by coaching, ghostwriting, editing and marketing. I also spotlighted their work on my websites, blogs and radio show. In 2014, my granddaughter came to live with me, at the time she was 3, and I realized I had to hang up my superwoman cape. As a serial entrepreneur, I had over six business ventures going at one time, and that didn’t even include writing my own work. So I decided to slowly start weaning off certain businesses and projects. I started with Literary Wonders, which was the main platform that I used to showcase authors and provide them with resources to help them succeed. After that, I began shutting down my consulting business. I stopped editing, ghostwriting and coaching authors. I followed by shutting down my radio show. I’m still praying on whether or not I should bring it back or not. Ironically, I picked up another entreprenurial venture, I became a full-time photographer. So, right now, I’m raising a rambunctious, can’t sit still, high maintenance six-year-old. I’m a volunteer at her school and part of the PTA. In addition to full-time photography, I am writing full-time and still maintenance my marketing clients. Occasionally, I may take on a publishing project, but it seems like even though I have retired, I really haven’t. Outside of all this madness, I am working on building my granddaughter’s brand. We’ve created the persona “Glamma and Lil Bit.” We have a YouTube channel, a website and we’re on social media. In addition, Lil Bit is working on modeling. So I stay busy.
Is there a general theme present in your work? If so, what is it?
Being that I write in many genres I’d have to say that the general themes in my work revolve around women. In anything I write, with the exception of maybe my children’s books, (and maybe even there) you will find a woman as the lead character. So whether I write fiction, non-fiction, or self-help, you’ll find that it was written for women, but can be enjoyed by men.
Who would you say is your target audience?
Again, I write for women. But the fluctuation of my audience will vary on what I’m writing. If I’m writing crime, then my target audience will be women and men who love a good crime story. If I’m writing general women’s fiction, then I’m aiming for women who have been hurt in some way or another emotionally or physically. If I’m writing non-fiction, my target audience can be professional speakers, marketers and branders, writers, and the list goes on.
What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?
I’ve said this from day one, if I can help just one person, then my job is done. I’ve had several people tell me how I’ve helped them. One instance that I’ll never forget—I had hired a PR Agent when I wrote my first book, My Daughter’s Keeper back in 2000. With this agent came much drama and I only write about drama I don’t want it in real life. I fired my agent and she told me that she would make sure I never sold another book. My response to her was that she could not control what God had called me to do. About a year later, a woman sent me an email. She told me that she was contemplating suicide, but after reading my book, she decided not to. She said that she thought she was the only person going through what she was going through and she felt alone. That’s what I want to accomplish. And, along the way, if I can entertain and teach, then that’s what I’ll do.
What is one thing you wish you had known about this industry that would have made your journey easier?
There’s one thing I’m always telling my clients, research, research, research. I was burned in the very beginning of this literary journey, because I didn’t do my homework. I soon found out that not everyone wants you to succeed, unless they are making money off you, and even then, they want you to fail in some kind of way. There are lots of people that are out there who are willing to help someone new to the game, but this can be a very cliquish industry, and you’re reminded of it every day. Its’ easy to lose who you are while taking this journey and trying to get to your destination, but you’ve got to be true to you. I see people write in genres they are not comfortable in or know nothing about because it’s the latest trend and that trend seems to be selling books. The think about trends is they come and they go, but classical remains timeless.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Research, research, research. Use the Internet. I see so many people spend hours on social media and when they come to me for an initial consultation, they tell me they know nothing about the industry. Why not? Use the Internet to learn more about the industry. Or if you must be on social media, follow and listen to what other authors are doing or saying or NOT doing or saying. I’ll admit that I have had silent mentors, meaning I’ve watched from the sidelines and the person doesn’t even know that they’ve mentored me.
a. I’d also say go into this venture with realistic expectations. Just because this person is a best selling author doesn’t mean you will or should be. Or maybe you want something right now that you didn’t work for. Some authors have been in this game for ages, I know I have. Don’t think because you’ve written a book, you’re going to become an instant rock star.
b. Understand that you are going to have to put money towards honing your craft. You’re also going to have to market your work. I had a client ask me why his books weren’t selling two weeks after it was published. I asked him if he broadcasted it on social media, where he spent a lot of time. I also asked him had he told anyone, if he had a website, etc. His answer was no. Look, you can publish books all day long, if no one knows about it, no one will buy it. Especially is the self-publishing world. You have to market your own work. If you speak to many of the best selling authors, James Patterson, Stephen King, and some of our very own AA like Victoria Christopher Murray, Eric Jerome Dickey and the like, they will tell you that even though they are traditionally published, they still have to market their own work. Now many of them may hire a marketing team, but someone is still talking about their work.
c. There is so much advice I’d give an aspiring author but the last thing I’ll give here is you can catch more bees than honey. Many would be authors appear to think the world owes them something. They will approach an established author, with an attitude, asking for help, in all the wrong ways, and then when they are turned down, say that either the author is a hater or that they don’t want to help others. Look, I get told this all time, but I’m willing to bet that if you take a survey amongst the literary elite, especially the AA community, there are more that will tell you I’m willing to help than not. Many would be authors want things for free. I’d give things free to an extent, but just like anything else, being an author is a business. I allotted a certain amount of what I called pro-bono cases each year, in various categories. When they were gone, that was it. No, it’s not that I don’t help anyone, I just couldn’t help you and now you’re bitter about it. It’s not cute and it will get you blackballed, blacklisted, or whatever the proper jargon is for it, in a heartbeat.
If there was one message you could get across to your readers from your most recent book, what would it be?
How well do you really know your neighbors? How many people do you let inside your world, your home, your family without knowing who they really are? Sometimes, the way things look on the outside are not what they really are on the inside. In The View From the Window, one of the main characters is a pastor, but he doesn’t have pastorly ways. For me personally, I won’t even let many people in my house. I don’t want you leaving your evil spirit when you leave. I invited someone to my house before and when they left, I had Orkin at my house every week for at least three months. Then there are those people who will open the door every time the doorbell rings. A woman here was shot and killed when she opened her door to a stranger. If you don’t call me to let me know you’re calling, you’re not getting in. And if you keep the pressure on my doorbell, I’m calling the police. We live in a time, unlike the ones we used to live in. Back in the day we could leave our door unlocked, open even. We could sleep with the windows open. Those days are long gone. I’m hoping this book will cause people to think twice.
What are your hobbies or interests outside of writing?
I really love photography. I can find the beauty in just about anything. I also love working with my granddaughter building our “Glamma and Lil Bit” brand, as well as spending time with my family.
What is your writing background?
I’m not quite sure what you mean by background, but English was my favorite subject in school. However, in college I majored in technology. I wrote my first book in 2000 and have been writing and helping others ever since. In addition to writing novels, I am a freelance writer. I was a writer and editor for AMAG Magazine, which was headquartered in New York. I’ve been a columnist Christian Fiction Online Magazine, Women Entrepreneurial and Learning, Examiner.com, Ezine.com, the Gatekeepers Post and RAW Sisters Online. If I had to pick the communication style that best describes me, it would be the written word.
Who are your favorite writers? What are your favorite books?
This question is so cliché, so I’ll pass. But I will say although I love reading fiction titles, my favorites are non-fiction, self-help and instructional.
Who or what is your writing influence?
I hate to sound braggadocios, but my influence is myself. I have lived a pretty interesting life during my 48 years and I feel like I have lots of stories to tell. Along the way, there may be a character that I picked up in my family, friendships or just by observing.
When did you first know you wanted to become a writer?
In high school, I was part of a girl group and I used to write the songs. That coupled with my love for English and writing book reports just blossomed.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a published author.
Initially, it was a painful one, but as I began to research and because I never gave up, it became a rewarding one. In the beginning, I went through a lot of growing pains. I lost some friends along the way and gained others. Nonetheless, I remained true to what I write, and it may not be popular with everyone, but I’m okay with that.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? Tell us about it.
The first story I wrote that revealed that I would be an actual author was a short story that I wrote for Playboy magazine. It was in 1998, I was going back to college, University of Phoenix to be exact, and I needed all the funding I could get. Fastweb.com which is a site that helps students get and earn money for college, whether it be grants, scholarships or other means—they had advertised a short story contest for Playboy. The top prize was $1500. It wasn’t a lot, but it would pay for at least one class. And of course, since it was Playboy, it had to be an erotic story. I entered, I wrote, I won. I can say that I’ve evolved in my journey, and let’s just say it’s not a story I’d want my granddaughter reading.
Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a set routine?
Ha! Did I mention that I’m raising a “needy” granddaughter? Not special needs, but needy, as in high maintenance. I’m a full-time wife. I don’t have a routine. When the feeling hits, I try to write, but it doesn’t always work out. I used to try to write when she was sleep, but by the time it was time for bed, she had worn me out, I’d sleep too. Now, I get up early, take her to school, then come back and write. That works sometime, but did I mention that I also have a “needy” husband. LOL. Before my granddaughter came to live with us, I had my own office and I’d go in, shut and lock the door and my husband knew not to bother me. Now, the extra bedroom is my granddaughter’s room, so we have an everything room. And you can best believe that it’s hard to get any writing done, but I manage it. What I do is set deadlines. I work better with deadlines—because I have a goal to work towards. I do participate in NaNoWriMo every year and dare my family to say a word to me.
What do you find easiest about writing? Hardest?
My mind is so full, so I’m always leaking story ideas, that’s the easy part. Trying to get them down and stick with one story is the hardest part. I can start on one book and attempt to finish, but it will trigger another story line, which causes me to start yet another manuscript and the cycle continues.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Once I birth that baby and see it print and when someone who reads it and then calls me and says, “Girl, why did so-and-so do this? I can’t believe you did that. I couldn’t put it down.”
What books have you written?
My initial book was My Daughter’s Keep in 2000. This is the one I got burned on and then set out to learn everything I could about the publishing industry. My second book was Circumstances. It was a re-write of the first one. I published it in 2004. I refused to let anyone take away my story and my experiences. In 2006, my company Literary Wonders presented an anthology of which I also had a story in. My third solo book was Revelations, I did not publish that book until 2011. So much had gone on in my life, then I was so busy helping others reach their writing goals that I had set mine to the side. I had gotten remarried and my husband encouraged me to get back out there, and I did. After that was 27 Flagship Cove. I’ve always been a crime show enthusiast, and after watching so much in the news, in addition to being a private investigator, I decided I’d write crime novels. I decided to make 27 Flagship Cove the beginning of a crime series where the main characters is, you’ve guessed it, a woman. After that I appeared in a couple of anthologies, “She Has a Big 'But'! Get Past Your Excuses & Realize Your Dreams” and “When Women Become Business Owners.” Last year, on my birthday, I released 3737 Grim Avenue, which is the second installment of the Tommie Lane Detective Series. And that leads us to my most recent piece of work, the View From the Window. And although it is not part of the crime series, it is a mystery. I have been asked to write a second book, because let’s face it, I have some very interesting neighbors.
How has your life changed the most since becoming an author?
It really hasn’t. I’m the same old me. I have had more public appearances, but for the most part, I haven’t gotten rich from it…yet.
How do you take the help you’ve received on this journey and pay it forward?
I’m always helping someone. Even though I retired, I pick and choose who I want to help and what projects I want to take on. I recently, last week, finished helping a young girl who has struggled with being single but has counted it a victory as opposed to a curse. I still market for authors. Every now and then people will still call or email asking for advice and if I am able, I help. I post YouTube videos on publishing, marketing and other business issues as they relate to writing and publishing, and non-literary topics as well.
What makes this book special?
When I first began telling certain people about my neighbors and that I wanted to write a book, they have been cheering me on from the sidelines, and it gave me the most encouragement to finish in record time. Every book is more special than the last.
How long did it take you to write this book?
Hmm. This book has been a work in progress for a couple of years. But from the time I actually put pen to paper, it was only a matter of months.
What genres do you currently write? Are there any others you’d like to try?
I write women’s fiction, women’s non-fiction, children’s, self-help, instructional and reference, and cookbooks. At this time, I can’t think of anything else I’d want to try, as I am currently working on some projects that fall in line with the genres I mentioned above.
What is your next book project? When can we expect it?
My granddaughter and I are working on our first children’s book. Ideally, I wanted it done by her birthday, realistically, I think it will be more like September. It will be a series of books, based on the adventures of Lil Bit.
If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
Transparency, cliques and making information easier to find and obtain for new writers than it was for me.
How do you handle writer’s block?
I don’t get writers block. I’ve been asked this before. If I’m working on a manuscript and I feel like I can’t push forward at that time, I move on to one of my other 100 working titles. To would be writers, I’d suggest using that screen that we cannot seem to keep our faces out of. Yes, your cell phone. It has a record feature. When you’re out and something comes to your mind, record it and refer back to it at a later time. If you want to write it down, you can still use your cell phone. Download apps like Evernote and One Note. They allow you to type, write, record and capture and it can all be synced between your phone, tablet, laptop and desktop. Makes my life much easier.
Tell us something random about yourself.
That short story I won with Playboy? Well, a representative called me and asked me if I had ever considered posing nude. I declined after my mother told me she’d disown me if I did.
How important is branding and what steps are you using to brand yourself?
Oh my goodness, this is such a good and relevant question for the times we currently live in. In this day and age of social media, you’d be surprised how many people don’t use it to market their work. Marketing and branding is so important, because folks will forget about you and go on to the next big thing if you don’t give them anything to remember. Social media is currently free, but I’m willing to make a wager that in 10 years, it won’t be. Use it! It’s one of the most least expensive and effective ways to market and brand yourself. Get a Facebook fan page, start and Instagram page, chat with your readers, and interact with them. I used to do all social media, but as I said earlier, I retired my superwoman cape. You don’t have to be on every aspect of social media, although there are platforms that allow you to do so by just logging onto one account. Platforms like HootSuite, Buffer and Tweet Deck allow you do this is. I’d suggest picking about 3-6 platforms, see what works for you, and see what works for your target audience. Just because you love Facebook doesn’t mean that your audience is on Facebook. They may be on Twitter. You have to dry different approaches. The top social media platforms I use are Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, and in that order. Every now and then, I might try something new, but I always go back to my go-tos. Another thing to remember is that people are visual. People are busy. Visual, busy people don’t have time to read a long drawn out post with no photos. Always post a photo and keep the text short. Always use call-to-actions. Tell your audience to visit your webpage, go buy your book, etc. And speaking of webpages, when I hear a potential client or writer say they don’t have a website, I cringe. For what a pizza meal might cost, you can get a domain and annual hosting. Yolandamjohnsonbryant.com sounds so much better than yolandamjohnsonbryat.blogspot.com, not to mention much more professional.
How do you handle negative reviews? Is it ever okay for an author to lash out at readers for an unflattering review?
I welcome all reviews. I always ask for them good, bad or indifferent. I know someone who hates a certain author’s work, but when the author asks for a review, they always give a 5 star review, because they feel that don’t want to down another author. Listen, you can give constructive criticism without being mean, harsh and cruel. I’ve gotten a couple of bad reviews in my lifetime. I’ve taken what I can use and applied it, and other’s I put in File 13—the trash can. If you are thinking about entering into this industry, you have to have thick skin or you will be eaten alive. If you get a bad review, don’t confront the person who didn’t favor your work. If they didn’t like it, they just didn’t like it. And by being combative your next book may be the one they like but because you took their review personal, they may never read a thing from you again. Remember this, this is why we have genres. Everyone likes their preferred genre. Just like I like strawberries, but don’t care for blueberries, everyone is not going to like your work. If you go in remembering that, then you’ve won half the battle.
How do you find the time to write in the midst of a very full and active life?
Simply, I get in where I can fit in. I can sit here and say, do this and do that, but I got things going on. I can’t even begin to tell someone how to do anything if I can’t even do it.
What lessons have you learned since your first book was published?
This publishing game changes so fast, but the basics stay the same. Keep up to date on what’s going on, the changes, and industry news, all the while not forgetting what you already know. I’ve also learned that I’m Yolanda. I’m not any other author. I’m not trying to keep up with anyone else or be as good as anyone else, so in other words, I’m competing with myself, no one else. Once you understand that, the stress of this industry will be light.
What things are you doing outside of social media to expose your works to new readers?
I have book signings, I accept speaking engagements and I go to festivals, conferences and book fairs. I use word of mouth and I post flyers and posters wherever I am allowed to do so. I also have a website and promo material that I give away either for free or in a contest.
How do you encourage yourself to keep going during those times when you are frustrated and want to throw in the towel?
I take a mental break, because I know there is something else, elsewhere in my life that is telling me, not right now. So I back away, take care of business and come back to it. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like throwing in the towel when it comes to writing. Other aspects of the business, maybe, but never the writing part.
Where do you see the state of the industry going in the near future?
Well we’re already seeing it, the downfall of your mom and pop bookstores then big chains like Border’s. It will only be a matter of time before Barnes and Noble announce that they, too, will shut down. With the ease of ordering online and eBooks, the demand is making bookstores become obsolete. I see everything going digital with the advancement of technology. That’s just the way it is.
If you could have a conversation with your younger self, what would you say and why?
Right now, I don’t have an answer to this question as it pertains to the industry.
If you could have a conversation with one of your characters who would it be and what would you say?
Very good question. I don’t think I’ve been asked this before. But I will say, I talk to my characters every day. My husband is one call from committing me to an insane asylum.
Check out Yolanda's newest release: The View Through My Window
George and Michelle Bradley have retired in the quiet suburbs of Greensboro, North Carolina. It’s Thanksgiving and the entire extended family will be together, in one house, for the first time. And as with most family gatherings, drama and uninvited guests are abound. Just when they thought the drama from in-laws, children and grandchildren could not get any worse, new neighbors move in across the street.
On the surface, the Shipmans appear to be annoying, but harmless sanctified, filled with the Holy Ghost Christians, but the view from the window will prove otherwise.
Nine bodies have been found in a wooded area of the Triad area of North Carolina, and no one knows how they got there, not even the police. As the body count rises, Michelle’s intuition kicks into high gear. She is rarely wrong when it comes to predicting a situation, but knowing too much could put the Bradleys six feet under.
Purchase The View From the Window on Amazon at http://amzn.to/2sdLeI6 or get an autographed copy by visiting YolandaMJohnsonBryant.com.
Follow Yolanda on social media:
Book Purchase Link - http://amzn.to/2sdLeI6
Personal Website - http://www.yolandamjohnsonbryant.com/
Photography Website - http://yolandajohnsonbryantphotography.com/
Glamma and Lil Bit - http://glammaandlilbit.com/
Follow Yolanda on social media:
Twitter - https://twitter.com/ymjauthor
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/ymjauthor/
YouTube 1 – ymjauthor - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6e6zqHk_vv-vjjvfWm97-A
YouTube 2 –glammaandlilbit - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUINqNjAa7QN5ZpSYLlVB4A
YouTube 3 – Live, Laugh and Love With Yolanda - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLZaKSJ3fkyHncyEkANy08w
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