WOMEN’S NATIONAL BOOK ASSOC. INTERVIEW

Burnita Bluitt’s debut novel, Quiver of the Pure Heart was not only a labor of love, but one of, well, labor.

Her road to publication is one many of us have traveled, and if you have not, Burnita’s experience may help with your own publishing decisions.

“I decided to self-publish my novel and being a novice, I thought hiring a vanity press publisher was the only way to go. After spending what I felt was an adequate amount of time making an informed decision, doing a cross comparative analysis, and seeking Oprah’s advice, my mind was made up.

“Around the time of my decision, O Magazine published an article on self-publishing and recommended four subsidy publishers (where authors pay to have their book printed and distributed). I was so excited when I saw that one of the subsidy publishers I’d been considering was on that short list. It was as if an oracle had spoken directly to me, because if you can’t trust Oprah . . . well, you know.

“Unfortunately, my relationship with the publisher was a disaster and I should have abandoned ship at the first hint of trouble. I was lucky that my contract allowed me to cancel at will because:

  • Publisher would not provide ARCs
  • No pre-order option (so I could promote the book)
  • First release date passed by—with no book
  • Second release day came, but the book was listed as Out of Print on Amazon
  • When I called the company’s offices to speak directly with the CEO, the operator told me that no one worked there by that name.
  • When copies were made available, it was a version that had inconsistent formatting, typos etc. I almost needed medication when I realized my book’s condition.
  • When I finally did talk with someone in charge—I fired him.

“While wrestling with all this, I created the marketing campaign: I had a press release distributed by fax, email, and enclosed with direct mail. It was through one of these methods that the NAACP became aware of my novel.

burnitaThe same day I fired the publisher, I was invited by the NAACP to submit fifteen copies of my book to their Los Angeles office within ten days. Great!  Except I didn’t have any way to order fifteen copies of my book. I called Ingram with hopes to order books, but they said they would only talk to a publisher. That’s when I jumped up from my fetal position and decided the publisher would need to be me.

“It took a couple days of intense work, including learning how to upload my book and cover to CreateSpace, but I made the deadline. I was not nominated for the award, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I know now that self-publishing is not rocket-science, and at the end of the day had control over the process and control over my product.

“I have been very happy with my decision to self-publish. I love the control factor, and the timeliness of self-publishing, plus the higher royalty rates. However, I can also see the benefits of traditional publishing. It is difficult trying to match the marketing machine of a traditional publisher, and that is probably the biggest drawback to self-publishing.

“Attracting a national audience creates a lot of heavy lifting for the writer. You have to be very eager and energetic to get the novel into bookstores and libraries. One bookstore refused to carry my book because I also offered it on Amazon. The bookseller told me that ‘Amazon is trying to destroy the independent bookstore and she had to draw the line.’

Self-published authors have a lot to do. For her own promotions schedule, Burnita calls Microsoft Excel her best friend. “When it comes to promotion and plans for my book, Excel brings organization into my life. I track my promotion schedule spreadsheet to see what is working and what isn’t. Since this is my debut novel, I’m throwing it all against the wall, and my spreadsheet tells me what is sticking. Columns include: planned promotion, beginning / end dates, projected versus actual costs, and effectiveness.

“After the Quiver of the Pure Heart release, I found it very difficult to balance marketing and writing diligently. I’m better at it now and I am very excited about the new novel I am working on.”

Quiver of the Pure Heart is a romantic suspense novel set in San Francisco, 1989 that looks back at the displacement of the “Harlem of the West” during the ’50s & ‘60s urban redevelopment. To learn more, visit Burnita’s website: http://burzonline.com/

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BE TRANSPORTED

Quiver at the beach

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AFRICAN-AMERICAN AUTHORS

I was browsing Huffington Post when I stumbled on my first New Year’s Resolution: To read this list of books. We get so caught up in new releases and bestsellers, but the classics have so much to offer.  Sadly I can only claim reading about 15 of this list of 50 books. I hope I can say differently this time next year. Check them out . . .

“Annie Allen” by Gwendolyn Brooks (1949)
“Assata: An Autobiography”  by Assata Shakur (1987)
“Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self” by Danielle Evans (2010)
“Breath, Eyes, Memory” by Edwidge Danticat (1999)
“Coffee Will Make You Black” by April Sinclair (1995)
“Coconut” by Kopano Matlwa (2008)
“Dreams of My Father” by Barack Obama (2004)
“Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” by ZZ Packer (2004)
“The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano” by Olaudah Equiano (1789)
“Flight To Canada” by Ishmael Reed (1989)
“For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” by Ntozake Shange (1975)
“Half Of A Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Adichie (2008)
“Head Off & Split” by Nikky Finney (2011)
“Decoded” by Jay-Z (2011)
“Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison (1952)
“I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou (1969)
“The Known World” by Edward P. Jones (2003)
“Kindred” by Octavia Butler (1979)
“What Looks like Crazy on an Ordinary Day” by Pearl Cleage (2009)
“The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Alex Haley (1987)
“Nervous Conditions” by Tsitsi Dangarembga (1989)
“The New Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander (2010)
“I Am Not Sidney Poitier” by Percival Everett (2012)
“Go Tell It On The Mountain” by James Baldwin (1953)
“The Other Side of Paradise” by Staceyann Chin (2009)
“Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class” by Lawrence Otis Graham (1999)
“Roots: The Saga of an American Family” by Alex Haley (1976)
“Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison (1977)
“The Intuitionist” by Colson Whitehead (1999)
“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker (1982)
“The Value in the Valley: A Black Woman’s Guide Through Life’s Dilemmas” by Iyanla Vanzant (1996)
“The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes (1925)
“The White Boy Shuffle” by Paul Beatty (1996)
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
“White Teeth” by Zadie Smith (2000)
“The Women of Brewster Place” by Gloria Naylor (1983)
“Zami: A New Spelling of My Name” by Audre Lorde (1982)
“The Warmth Of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson (2010)
“Sula” by Toni Morrison (1973)
“King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell Jr.” by Wil Haygood (2006)
“The Souls of Black Folks” by W.E.B Dubois (1903)
“The Wretched of the Earth” by Frantz Fanon (1961)
“Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe (1958)
“Black Boy” by Richard Wright (1945)
“Blood In My Eye” by George Jackson (1996)
“Devil In A Blue Dress” by Walter Mosley (1990)
“A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest Gaines (1993)
“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison (1970)
“Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward (2011)
“Native Son” by Richard Wright (1940)
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IT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENS . . .

…to you, it’s how you handle what happens, I believe.

Last time we talked, the publishing of my novel seemed so bleak. I suppose it was the anti-climatic event of a launch day and the buy link said “Out of Stock.” I’m sure people all over the planet were as deflated as I was, right? At least I have to think that way, right? If I don’t, who’s gonna.

There are blessings everywhere. Sometimes you just have to stop cursing long enough to see them. I quit my publisher one morning. Told him to cease and desist working on my book. That same night, I got an invitation from the NAACP Image Awards to submit my novel. What a lovely surprise. Reading further, discovered the deadline was in 10 days and they need 15 books. Yikes! I got no publisher, and I’ve got no books, and my launch had happened two weeks prior.

Maybe it comes from being raised by a mom who at times faced incredible odds, because I thought, “this situation is workable.” What? I felt great, because I decided to call Ingram and have my book printed directly by them. I had to call them the next morning, so now I would only have nine days. Soooo happy when they answered right away and I could tell the rep. my story. She abruptly cut me off and said, “sorry, we can only deal with the publisher.”

That’s right, I decided I had to be the publisher. People have been doing this for years, but I thought it was going to be too great of a learning curve. I happened to have one formatted doc. version of the manuscript by a fluke, but it was what I needed to get going. I talked to CreateSpace and uploaded the book. They approved it in no time. Then the cherry on top was not only could they print 15 books for  me, but they got them to Los Angeles two days before the Image Award deadline. Wow!

 

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GOODREADS BOOK GIVEAWAY

Quiver of the Pure Heart by Burnita Bluitt

Quiver of the Pure Heart by Burnita Bluitt

10 signed paperback copies available  Giveaway ends Nov. 2
https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/110362-quiver-of-the-pure-heart?page=3
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DIED AND GONE TO PUBLISHING HELL

Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but I need to vent. Obviously I’m writing to you so I’m alive and kicking, but I’m still in publishing hell. My wonderful baby, my debut novel, was launched eight days ago. No, bluebirds did not descend and whistle on my shoulder. No, I didn’t dance on the arc of a rainbow. And no, my book didn’t actually go on sale.

That’s right, on launch day there were no books!

The last conversation I had with my publisher ended with:

Me: So, on October 1, it will be available for purchase.

Him: Yes, October 1, it will be available for purchase.

What I forgot to add was, “it will be available for purchase and people will actually get to read it?”

Since launch day this link, http://www.amazon.com/Quiver-Pure-Heart-Burnita-Bluitt/dp/1618639374/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1412714087&sr=1-1&keywords=quiver+of+the+pure+heart, has told me in big red letters: TEMPORARILY OUT OF STOCK.

People have tried to comfort me and say, “Hey, it looks like you’ve sold a ton of books already.” Well, I’m setting the record straight. No one has read one book, because it’s TEMPORARILY OUT OF STOCK.

I was also unable to get ARC’s (advanced reader copies) for pre-release promotion, creating an honest review or two. No pre-orders, but now I understand that since I can’t even get post-ordering. I agreed to a delayed launch date to give us a little wiggle room for corrections and such, but still, no book.

I know everything can smooth out in time, but . . . what’s a girl to do?

I need a glass of wine to go with my whine.

 

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I FEEL A QUIVER COMING ON

As Elsa sings in “Frozen,” Let it Go!  Next week, Wednesday, October 1, my novel Quiver of the Pure Heart will be released. After a few false starts, many changes, and finally the courage to see it through, it is going out into the world. I said “world” didn’t I? Well, we can dream, can’t we?

So, what now?

Well, I’ve still got a week, so it’s going to be the same nail-biting, sleepless nights of stressing over what I should have written, instead of what I published, of course. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I’m very pleased with, and proud to announce, my debut novel.

Now it’s time for the judgment, the commentary, and all sorts of personal opinions. Wait, that’s called a Review. Actually folks I’m gonna need lots of those, so feel free to leave an honest opinion on Amazon or Goodreads. Really, don’t think about me sitting in a poorly lit room typing with bleeding blisters on my fingers pouring my heart out, be honest.

No matter who you are, you have experienced love, fear, pain, and the indomitable spirit to overcome it, like Blis Dumas in Quiver of the Pure Heart. It’s a spirited read, and one that I hope you will enjoy.

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TORTURE!

A.K.A., editing! I’m in the throes of editing my debut novel.  So many times I’ve said, “Good enough” only to be ecstatic that I gave it one more overview.  It ain’t over ‘till it’s over. I haven’t quite made the mistake that Guy Kawasaki described in APE (Author, Publisher, and Entrepreneur), “In 2010, Penguin Australia published a book called the Pasta Bible. The recipe for tagliatelle called for ‘salt and freshly ground black people.’” Ouch!

Can I just say that I can recite the book in my sleep since I’ve read it so many times? I’ve exhausted the patience of friends and spent a few dollars as well. It’s so nice to have other eyes you trust. And, thank God for the internet, because there are resources out there that will allow you to stop bugging, and maintain your relationships with, friends and family. For critiques and reviews, here are a few suggestions.

Wattpad https://www.wattpad.com/

Figment http://figment.com/

Writer’s Café http://www.writerscafe.org/

Review Fuse http://www.reviewfuse.com/how/

To anyone who “feels my pain” I wish you good luck, and hang in there!

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SERIOUS BLOGGING!

I’ve decided to start blogging, seriously. It’s time to join the main. Time after time I’ve sat at the keyboard trying to think of what to talk about. Then I had the bright idea of buying a book called, “BLOGGING – genius strategies for Instant Web Content” by Biz Stone. I heard him speak when I worked for Google. He, at the time, was a googler too. Now, he has found greater glory at Twitter. Literally, he co-founded Twitter. His book would be the logical choice to introduce me to the world of blogging, right. Not!

I think it must be great for most folks. However, when I got to something he referred to as “greymatter” I started feeling like my entire Central Nervous System was about to shut down. So, here I am, raw, naïve, fresh out of the egg, blogging in the blind.

My first order of business (I can already tell bloggers shouldn’t say stuff like that) this heat today. It’s about 90 degrees today in San Francisco (what?) and I’m sitting in a café in Oakland with my writing buddy trying to crank out my Novel in a Year. As lovely as my buddy is, shouldn’t I be out on the water somewhere drinking Mojitos? Maybe this is what they mean when they say you have to “suffer for your art.”

Anyway, enough belly-aching. The thing about writing is that I can sit here in this café and feel like I’m having too many Mojitos on the SF Bay, or have my feet planted a world away because I write. Everyone has their favorite cubby hole, desk, or dark place to let your creative juices flow, but could you write in and thrive in a vacation destination with all that disturbing sun?

Just think how many timeless classics have included the beaches of Hawaii, a French countryside, or the ice blue waters of the Caribbean. Don’t you want to go there? Write!

Or, buy a ticket.

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ENJOY THE JOURNEY

Enjoy the Journey

Wayne Dyer, the renowned international author and speaker has said, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” I like that, and until I got my first form rejection letter from “Joe Agent” it really rang true for me.  However, lately my skin has gotten paper thin as I try to get my book published, and expectation has occasionally turned into great disappointment.

So, I thought of the perfect solution.  I would try to write more like some of my favorite authors. If I sounded more like Terry McMillan or Toni Morrison, surely someone would take notice. But, it’s depressing and stressful to think that I needed to write like someone else to have the agents like me. Now, I’d rather walk on all fours and bark at the moon than sound like someone else, because no matter the phase of your life, or the stage of your writing, it’s not the end result that nourishes you, it’s the journey to the goal that matters most.

Releasing expectation has been the key to enjoying the practice of writing. When I feel myself getting low after reading my umpteenth rejection, I know it’s the thoughts I have about the situation. Without narrowly focusing on the when, why, and how to accomplish the goal, I’ve really begun to enjoy the journey. Now, I’m not crazy, a publishing contract would feel great, but it won’t give me sweeter breath, a slimmer body, or more love in my life.

It turns out I’m right where I’m supposed to be. So, just follow the path with heart and don’t have judgments about what you think things should be like. Everything doesn’t have to happen this very minute. This thought makes me feel unbearably light and fulfilled.

 

 

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