What It Means to Be a Self-Published, Indie Author in 2018

A lot of writers who do not have book deals classify themselves as self-published or indie authors. They take on that title and expect instant success. Most of the time, if their first book does not do well, these “authors” drop out of the race to being America’s next great writer.

Over the last two years, I have complete several writing projects, including my upcoming novella “Operation Soul Cast” and my collection of short stories “The Book of All Things Beautiful.” And, let me tell you something: being an indie author is not easy. You effectively become:

  1. Writer
  2. Publicist
  3. Editor
  4. Promoter
  5. Finance Guy
  6. And so on and so forth

There is a lot that goes into releasing a book. First you have to write the book. Then you have to edit and proofread it and revise it yourself if you don’t have money to pay a professional. You have to format it for different versions, like audio, hardcopy and ebook. You have to constantly promote yourself. At times, it will seem overwhelming. It is not impossible.

Although I have been writing for years, I am still a novice in many aspects. I do not want to be an indie author forever. I want to be traditionally published, even though I would probably get to keep a lesser percentage of my royalties. So, why am I self-publishing at all?

Big publishing houses want novels, meaning greater than 60,000 words, but usually in the 90,000-word range. So, I self-publish my novellas, very short books, just to get my name out there.  But I have written novels and I am trying to get them published by a big publishing company. I’m not saying you should do the same.

What I am saying is, keep writing. No matter what. Put words on the page. Plan out your steps to write and release your books.

I hope this helps you pen the next great American novel.

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Becoming Writer: Formal Education as an Author Versus None as a Writer

Yesterday, a fellow blogger asked me a good question about formal education as a writer versus no formal education as a writer. A lot of writers struggle with this. Some see education as the end all, be all that will make them a best-seller. Others who don’t have this education sometimes feel inadequate.

It took me four and a half years to get my bachelor’s degree which is in the field of Professional Technical Writing. Unlike beginning authors without training, I have a pretty good grasp on grammar and the technical parts of writing. I learned much of this in high school though and a small amount of it in college.

You don’t have to go to school to be a writer. Writing is a craft. Reading and writing will undoubtedly make you better. You just have to read books on the craft of writing and study hard on your own. Don’t just throw something together and think it will sell. You must edit and proofread meticulously.

Being in the Creative Writing MFA has put me in contact with some great influential writers. You can build similar contacts by going to writing workshops or joining groups.

Publishing houses and literary agents tend to take formally educated writers more seriously. If you can get some of your work published in magazines or anthologies, this will open doors for you.

You don’t need a degree or two like I have. You just need to write good stories, and send them to publishing houses and agents who will read them. If your work is good, the book deals will come.

A Newborn

Nearly three months ago, my third beautiful daughter was born. Her eyes are a color I have never seen before and I cannot name. I was hoping for my first son, but I’m blessed either way. The question is, where do I go from here?

How to Write a Book

Recently, I have been working my ass off, writing, finishing my MFA and going to school while also helping to raise my three daughters. The question I am constantly asked is, “How do you find time to write?”

I don’t find time. I make time. That’s the difference. Life will give you a million reasons why you have to put off writing. You’re busy. You’re eating. You’re working. Something came up. The list is endless. At some point, you have to find the resolve to say, fuck this. Today, at this time, for the rest of this month or year, I will write.

The one thing that all successful writers have in common is they write. They put words on thr page. Whenever someone declares, “This is the book that will make me rich,” they’re most likely wrong. And to the classics, the best sellers, we have all read them and thought, “Why this book? It is nothing spectacular.”

Most up and coming writers are too critical of themselves. They write and think, “This is trash.” Newsflash, all first drafts are trash. However, they are the foundation on which you build. In this way, think of your manuscript as the bones of a house. Editing and proofreading are the paint and construction that makes the house beautiful. It is not done with one draft. It’s done with many.

Anyways, my new book “The Book of All Things Beautiful” is temporarily available for free download on Amazon. Hurry. The offer expires soon. You can search my name, Jermaine Reed, on Amazon and the book will come up. Or follow the link below.

Thank you.

The Cop Who Nothing Except Everything

About two weeks ago, I had the unfortunate opportunity of being pulled over by a twenty-something cop who thought he knew it all about traffic law. It was nearly 11 pm on a busy street when a girl on her cellphone zipped into the street. I pressed my brakes so hard, the tires squealed. As she landed across the street, I heard sirens and saw blue and white lights.

The officer asked for my insurance card which I provided.

“This is not valid for presentation,” said the cop, pushing his glasses over the bridge of his nose.

“It is,” I said, pointing to the card.

“It isn’t. And you failed to yield to a pedestrian and you improperly used your horn.”

“She ran into traffic.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

When he came back to the car, he handed me a ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Of course, my blood boiled, but there was nothing I could do.

Last week, I heard the ticket. I thought I would catch a break when the officers in the other defendants’ cases failed to show and so they were dismissed. Nope. Glasses Cop showed up in a White Sox hoodie.

“If you plead guilty,” said the judge to me, “You’ll have to pay just $214 in court fees, no traffic fine and this will not be reported on your driving record.”

“What if I want a trial?” I asked.

“If you lose, the conviction will go on your driving record, you will have to pay court fees and I could fine you an additional $500.”

I contemplated pleading out. But my ego would not let me. I felt I was right.

“I will take the trial,” I said.

After Glasses Cop gave his side, I gave mine. I argued that the girl abruptly entered the street, endangering not just her life and mine but others as well.

“And Illinois traffic law section b says no pedestrian shall suddenly run or walk into oncoming traffic,” I ended.

The judge was stern-faced. I could not tell what she was thinking.

“After hearing both sides, I find the officer to be credible. I find the defendant credible as well. Since the State has failed to meet its burden of proof, I find the defendant not guilty,” said the judge.

As she read her verdict, I was a plethora of emotions from anxious to nervous. Then, I was elated. As I left the courtroom, I thanked the judge and the officer. But Glasses Cop was highly upset. If looks could turn people to stone, I would have been one.

Someone once told me, “You can’t beat the system, but you can trick it.” I agree.

I Am a Drug Dealer, Not So Much

One of my most vivid memories of my life in Chicago’s Robert Taylor Projects is my friend Travis and me walking through a grassy field and finding a huge ZipLoc bag of crack cocaine. There had to be at least 300 rocks in there. 

Up until this point, I had seen plenty of crack transactions. I was only nine or ten, but this was a way of life where I lived. But still, seeing crack without a dealer sent a raw fear through me. I felt like I would go to jail just from being around it. If the cops came, they would charge Travis and me with having it. 

“Damn,” said Travis, picking up the bag. “We’re rich.”

“We need to leave that alone,” I said, stepping away. 

“What? You scared? You a punk?”

After a brief argument, we decided to take it to my uncle. I knew he smoked crack and I thought he would know what to do with it. In his bedroom, my uncle interviewed us.

“Did you still this from your brother?” he asked Travis, since his brother was a well-known dealer. 

“No,” Travis said. 

“And don’t nobody know y’all got this?” he asked us.

After my uncle confirmed our story, he promised to sell it and give us some of the profit. Needless to say, we never saw a dime. Travis was mad. I wasn’t. We should have known not to give crack to a crack head. But I did not want anything to do with it anyhow. I realized then that I was not a drug dealer. 

Bullet and a Baby

This is a true story. 

When I was little, my favorite place to explore was my uncle’s bedroom. Although he was a die-hard crack addict who kept bottles of piss in his room, he had a plethora of things: magnifying glasses, telescopes, knives, swords and a host of other things. 

One day, my cousin, sister and me were playing in my uncle’s room. We had with us our infant niece. We came across a bunch of large bullets and a hammer. In our young minds, it was a great idea to bang a bullet with a hammer. 

After dozens of hits, the bullet was damaged but was sturdy. My cousin slammed the hammer so many times and my sister couldn’t get the job done. That’s where I came in. 

“It’s my turn,” I said, handing my niece to my sister and taking the hammer. 

I beat the bullet senseless but nothing happened. When I took my final swing, the bullet exploded. The heavy gun powder choked all of us. The explosion deafened me. I thought I had been shot. 

“What the fuck are y’all doing?” my mother said, rushing into the room. She smelled the gun powder, saw the shell casing and the hammer. She saw my baby niece. 

Needless to say, we all tried to shift the blame and minimize our involvement. My mother was the judge, jury and ass whipper. Who knew years later, a bullet would change my life forever.