Barbara Joe Williams resides in Tallahassee, Florida. However, she was born and raised in Rosston, Arkansas. She spent four years in the U.S. Navy prior to attending college. She holds an A.A. degree in Office Education from Tallahassee Community College. She has a B.S. degree in Business Education and an M.Ed. in Counseling Education from Florida A&M University.
She’s a freelance writer, an independent publisher (Amani Publishing, LLC), and a motivational speaker who spends her spare time traveling and speaking on writing, publishing, marketing, and marriage. She’s also the co-founder of the Local Author’s Network and the annual host of the Local African-American Author’s Day Program in February.
Barbara’s an active member of the Tallahassee Writer’s Association. She’s also married and has a young daughter, Amani.
Please visit her @ Amani Publishing and on MySpace.
Are you aware of these startling facts?
**In 2000, 58 million couples were married, yet separated.
**People between the ages of 25 – 39 make up 60% of all divorces.
**Over 1 million children are affected by divorce a year.
**And 50% of married couples never make it to their fifteenth wedding anniversary.
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When did you know writing would be a part of your life?
Once I finished writing my first novel, Forgive Us This Day, in early 2004, I knew that writing would be a part of my life forever. I felt so good at the thought of just completing that book until I couldn’t wait to start the next one. There was no doubt in my mind that I would continue writing whether I was paid for it or not. Fortunately, I’ve been able to make a profit from my books sales.
If you had to define yourself as a writer, how would you do so?
I would define myself as a passionate writer. In other words, I only write about the things that I feel passionately about whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.
How do the books you’ve written connect to your definition?
All of my books feature strong willed characters who are determined to succeed in life. I write about people falling in love, dealing with hardships, and going through life changing experiences in a positive manner. I show people with a thirst for living and a passion for overcoming whatever obstacles they face.
How have you promoted your works?
I’ve tried many avenues for promoting my work nationally by using the Internet and traveling to different cities. I’ve joined many online book clubs and networking groups. In addition, I conduct writing, publishing, and marketing workshops at various conferences, libraries, and universities. I’ve been interviewed on the radio, newspaper, and television. Recently, I started a local authors network, and I’m the annual host for the Local African-American Authors Day program in February. All of these avenues give me exposure and promote my work.
You run the publishing house Amani Publishing: what is your publishing house’s mission?
The mission of Amani Publishing is to produce quality literature for all age groups. Amani means hope, and I named the business after my daughter because I’m hoping that she’ll take over someday.
What have been some of your best sellers?
All of my books have done well. However, my best selling fiction book is still the first book that I published, Forgive Us This Day. Regardless of what else I publish, I’m consistently selling copies of this book along with the new ones. And my best selling nonfiction book is the self-publishing guidebook, A Writer’s Guide to Self-Publishing and Marketing: Ten Steps to Success. I meet so many people that are interested in writing and self-publishing that I always sell out of this book at conferences or whenever I speak.
What has been a positive of starting your own publishing house?
The most positive aspect of starting my own publishing house is that it has given me the freedom to be the type of writer, wife, and mother that I want to be. I can set my own schedule for writing everyday. And since my husband works different shifts, I’m always home whenever he’s home. And as far as my daughter is concerned, I’m here when she gets off the school bus everyday. So it really brings my personal and professional life together in a very positive way.
What has been a negative of starting your own publishing house?
The only negative aspect was that in the beginning I really didn’t know what I was doing, and I just sort of learned on the job by teaching myself everything. I had to read tons of books on self-publishing and do tons of research on the Internet. But even when I didn’t understand certain things, I kept on going. And every time I reached a road block, God sent me somebody. I mean I literally stepped out on faith. That’s one of the reason’s why I published the guidebook, to show aspiring authors that there is a process to becoming self-published and it doesn’t have to be a negative experience.
What online sources have you found invaluable to the marketing of your company’s books?
I think online book clubs and book review sites have been invaluable in promoting my books. I mean when you go to RAWSISTAZ, APOOO, SORMAG, or Urban Reviews and you see my book cover or book review posted there, that’s meaningful exposure. They each get thousands of hits a week.
What are three pieces of advice you would give to someone interested in starting his/her own publishing house?
1) Make sure that you research the industry and know exactly what you’re getting into. Read at least a couple of books on self-publishing and talk to other publishers.
2) Be financially prepared to start and maintain your growing business for at least a year. You have to keep reinvesting money back into your business to build it.
3) Self-publishing doesn’t mean that you have to do everything yourself. Be prepared to hire other people to help you along the way.
How do you juggle your many hats – writer, publisher, marketer, wife, etc.?
Well, I do certain things at certain times. In other words, I have a set schedule for my day-to-day operations which means that I’m usually in my home office from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. During this time, I write for a few months, then I concentrate on publishing for the next few months, and then I concentrate on promoting for several months after a book is released. I know that January and February are my busiest months so I spend the majority of that time promoting me and my authors at weekly events. Right now, I’m promoting my latest title, Moving the Furniture: 52 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Fresh, which was officially released on January 1st. And I’m scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the local Black Marriage Weekend Conference, which I’m really excited about.
What projects are you currently working on – as author and as publisher?
Well, right now, I’m working on revising the self-publishing guidebook. It’s two years old, and I feel like I’ve learned so much since it was published that I’ve decided to concentrate on updating it this year. I have one fictional title that I’ve signed with an agent to sell, and I’m working on the sequel to it. In addition, I’ve developed a teen series (and completed the first two books) which I’m hoping to also sell to a traditional publisher. And as an independent publisher, I have one author that I’m working with for a Spring release since; we haven’t set a date.
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