Sankofa Literary Society Conversation with Anita Ballard-Jones

Anita Ballard-Jones Interview
Recently Ella Curry, CEO of EDC Creations (www.edc-creations.com) and founder of the Sankofa Literary Society had the opportunity to talk with the author of book The Dancing Willow Tree, Anita Ballard-Jones.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Answer: I guess I am one of those authors who broke the mold. From my youth until my early fifties, I never though of becoming a writer, except that I wanted to write a memoir about life with my brother who was developmentally disabled. Then, I believe it was the Lord’s will that I write Rehoboth Road . Suddenly I was hooked on writing.

How long does it take you to write a book?
Answer: I wrote the first 100 pages of Rehoboth Road in one night. Then, I completed the remainder of the novel over several years. I was not a serious writer and only worked on the manuscript sporadically. When I retired, I competed the manuscript in a few months. I completed the first draft of The Dancing Willow Tree in six months, but I worked on it at least eight hours a day. My third unpublished manuscript, Ring Around The Roses, was written in one year.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
Answer: I’m retired, so I can write anytime I want. Most of the time I write in the evening, but I only write new material when I’m inspired. There are two parts to my work schedule, the creative and the corrective (editing). If I’m not inspired to be creative, I never write. I use this time to review what I have already written and do as much editing as I can.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Answer: Working in a noisy environment. I like having the television or radio on. I really don’t like to be interrupted by family, but I like the family to go about their normal business around me. I don’t like to isolate myself in my office either. My family seems to understand when I’m working and they just move around me. I’ll work at the kitchen table or with my laptop in then living room or sunroom. I can tune out all the noise, but can spike to alertness if I’m needed. My creativity is stifled when I’m in a quiet place.

How do books get published?
Answer: I could write a book on ‘How to Get Published’. So let’s just speak about getting published. There are two ways to get published. You are lucky or unlucky 🙂 to be picked up by a mainstream publishing company. Unless you are a well known personality, your chances of being offered a lucrative contract are almost non existent. Most likely, if you are offered a contract, your advance will be under $2,000 and your royalty on the retail price of your book will be between 6 to 10 %. Your marketing budget will be zero or close to it, but worst of all, you will have signed the rights to your baby away for X period of years. If you think writing your novel was difficult, then get prepared to give up the next year of your life to market your book at your expense, and don’t quit your day job. Unless you are a best selling author, you will cry when you see your royalty check, because you know your book sold in the thousands; those low royalty percentages really hurt your pocket

The other way to get published is self publishing. You, the author can do for yourself what the mainstream publishing houses will do for you. Until you make that name for yourself and are willing to sign away the rights to your work, that lucrative contract will not come your way. After the cost of the book production and distribution, you will at lease have 25 to 30% profit on the retail price of each book. You will finance your own distribution and marketing expenses, but you will reap the benefits of your promotions and everything is tax deductible. Except for professional editing, you can cut the cost of producing you novel by learning to do some things for yourself:

-Becoming a license publisher. (Select a name for your company and go down to your local town hall and pay a small fee for a license and you are in business. Open a small business bank account.)

-Obtain ISBN numbers

-Obtain a barcode for each ISBN number when you need to use one.

-Obtaining a copyright

-Register your novel with the Library of Congress and obtain a Library of Congress Control Number

-Design your book cover

-Design your book interior and typeset your novel.

-Once your book is published register it with Bowker’s ‘Books In Print’

There are many books on the market, but I’ve found “SELF-PUBLISHING by Tom & Marilyn Ross to be the most informative.

I have been mainstream published and self-published, and I prefer to be a self-published author. I would not have been so eager to take this position a few years ago, but the Internet has made it possible for self-published authors to have great success, and book stores are more willing to carry self-published books in their stores.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Answer: From life and observation. Sometimes I hear or see a situation and I will make a note. I don’t use outlines. I only write when I’m inspired around a particular theme. Once my characters are developed they seem to take on a life of their own; this is more likely when my novel is inspired by a true life incidents.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Answer: Early fifties. I wrote a memoir titled, BROKEN BOND. I have not published it yet. It’s a personal look into my life and I’m not ready to share it with my reader.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Answer: I love to fish; play the computer game, NEED FOR SPEED; go to the movies, and read, but I don’t like to read as much as I did before I became an author. It seems I do more book editing and that slows down my reading.

What does your family think of your writing?
Answer: They are very supportive and are always telling me about things I should write about.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Answer: When I was in high school (back in the late 60s), I remember telling myself there were two things I never wanted to be in life, a doctor and a writer. I was never a doctor, but I was a Treatment Team Leader, whereas I supervised doctors as a hospital administrator, and then I became an author. So I would say the most surprising thing I learned was that I could write. When my fans wrote to tell me how much they enjoyed my novel, I felt authenticated as an author.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
Answer: I have five published books. I also have three completed manuscripts, BROKEN BOND (my memoir), RING AROUND THE ROSES ( a novel inspired by a true story about six inner city children who raised themselves because their parents were drug addicts), and a series of short stories based on my personal experiences and observations.

REHOBOTH ROAD and THE DANCING WILLOW TREE are currently my favorite, however, as soon as I publish my manuscript, RING AROUND THE ROSES I plan to submit it for consideration for a PULITZER PRIZE. I was more inspired to write this novel than I was when I wrote REHOBOTH ROAD . Ignorance prevented me from submitting REHOBOTH ROAD to the Pulitzer Foundation.

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Answer: Be inspired when writing. Be your best critic. Write, re-write, re-write, re-write, re-write, etc. When you are inspired to write, then write. Don’t stop to correct your writing because you will loose your trend of thought. When your inspiration is gone, then correct what you have written.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Answer: Yes. My readers write me all the time and I love it. Most of the time I receive letters of praise, and there are a few who point out issues. Some of the issues are helpful and constructive. I try to respond to everyone within twenty-four hours

Thank you Anita for taking time to visit with the Sankofa Literary Society. As always it was a pleasure speaking with you. We look forward to seeing you at the top!

Warmest regards,
Ella Curry,
President/CEO EDC Creations
Black Author Network Radio-Founder
Sankofa Literary Society-Founder

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