Gatekeeper Press Author Q&A
1. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
To be totally honest, I would spend many years with story ideas and creative concepts in my head but in reality, I never considered creative writing as a career. The most writing I would find myself doing on a daily basis was during my stint as a broadcast news reporter, writing news copy and producing news stories. It was not very creative or imaginative work writing about fires, car chases and the random nefarious top story of the day.
2. How long have you been writing? How many books have you written?
I have always been interested in creative writing since elementary school. In school I would always create short stories that would get recognized in creative writing contests and in high school I even produced a play I had written. I Am Dance is my first published book. I was looking for a creative outlet and this project took my passion for dance photography and merged it with my love for creative storytelling. It was a pretty high concept idea and took a few years to pull it all together but given the great response and accolades I have received from the book, it was certainly worth the sweat and toil.
- What made you want to self-publish?
When I looked around trying to find a way to get I Am Dance from an idea and out into the marketplace, I quickly hit a lot of walls trying to make a connection in the traditional publishing track. As I dug deeper, I soon discovered that there were a number of benefits to self-publishing from the standpoint of maintaining complete creative control and ownership of my project, and most importantly, how I can leverage my book to maximize my brand as a creative storyteller.
- Would you recommend new authors self-publish, and would you recommend Gatekeeper Press?
Everyone’s motivation for publishing a book is different. For me, I wanted to share my creative work in a unique way that would elevate my brand and open doors to greater opportunities. If new authors have the ability to really commit themselves to birthing a book from concept, outlines, countless revisions, edits and final drafts, distribution, marketing and sales tracking, then I say go for it! My book was very unique because it highlights photography and is considered an art book, with that, I was very involved and concerned with every minor detail including paper stock and ink quality. Gatekeeper Press has been beneficial in their assistance with online as well as brick-and-mortar distribution channels.
- What do you do marketing-wise to help announce and sell your books?
Marketing is forever on-going. Once you realize that every product is not for everybody, you can be way more intentional with your marketing efforts and whom you target…it’s also way more economical. I Am Dance is an art book (photography), also, I Am Dance exclusively features African-American dancers. My audience focus is niche targeted and aimed at those with an appreciation for performing arts, dance, and stories from an African-American perspective. Since its launch, I Am Dance has been spotlighted at book fairs, dance conferences and competitions, community and trade papers and outlets as well as other media like radio and podcasts that is specific to dance. The book also has a dedicated Instagram account that is daily connecting (several times a day) with the dance community engaging in inspirational narrative and motivational messaging that speaks directly to dancers whilst soft-selling the book.
- What advice do you have for a new or fledgling author?
Write from a place that is most honest. If you come from a place that is honest and sincere, people will pick up on that and gravitate organically towards your work. It seems that everyone these days is writing a book and everyone is calling themselves an author. Many celebrities write books by having ghostwriters penning for them while they simply slap their names on the cover. They are using the idea of writing the book to amplify their voices and elevate their current platforms. My advice to a new and fledgling author is to ask yourself, why do you want to do this? As a self-publisher, to do it right and be successful, it is going to take a lot of hard and serious work. If you can go the distance, then you will be unstoppable.
- What social media platforms are you on?
You can find my work on Instagram and Facebook @halbanphotography. My book, I Am Dance is also on Instagram and Facebook @Iamdancebook.
- What is the one piece of advice you wish you had known when you first started out?
I wish I was able to seek out a mentor who had already done it. I think it would have saved me a lot of anguish in the onset of not knowing all that was actually needed to make this idea of a book come to fruition, especially in the self-publishing arena.
- What do you feel is the biggest challenge authors are facing going into 2020 (and beyond)?
We are all facing challenges in 2020, not just authors. As I write this, we are in the thick of a global pandemic with scary times for our humanity and the world as we once knew it. In this moment, the foreseeable future is uncertain for all of us. Whether a writer, a photographer, a playwright or a musician, we creatives can tap into our gifts and reflect on the world as it currently is or create the world as we would like to see it. A cathartic way to work through the uncertainty of the times we’re in.
- Have you won any awards or contests that you would like to mention?
I am proud to say that my first ever book, I Am Dance has just won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Debut Author.