Interview with Shayla Raquel, author of The 10 Commandments of Author Branding
I discovered Shayla Raquel through this fabulous video interview in which she interviewed publishing guru, Jane Friedman. I was immediately taken with Shayla's positivity and so when I discovered she had a book to help authors with their branding on social media, I bought it immediately. Here's my book review on The 10 Commandments of Author Branding.
It was with gushing enthusiasm that I then approached Shayla for an interview—and her answers don't disappoint!
Your non-fiction book, The 10 Commandments of Author Branding: Embrace Authenticity, Gain Book Ambassadors, and Create Your Tribe, is all about helping authors grow their careers and market themselves. You are no doubt an inspiration to many new authors, me included! So, who helped you get where you are?
Thank you so much! That’s what I try to do: inspire authors and encourage them.
First, God helped me. I’m very blessed to have my dream job and I’m grateful to God for making that happen. Second, my mom has always been super supportive of me and really encouraged me to make my dream of being a writer a reality. Also, in this industry, there are certain people I’ve learned from—and still learn from—and I’d love to recommend for you all to learn from them too:
Your bubbly personality and sense of humour shines through in the video interviews you host and in the tone of The 10 Commandments of Author Branding. Have you recently experienced any hilarious moments about yourself?
My life is a walking comedy show, and that's primarily because of my three dogs. They are hilarious but mischievous. I treat them as if they are my children. Here's a conversation that occurred the other night:
Me — “Mommy needs a break. Grab your toys and go take a nap, okay? Just for thirty minutes so I can have some peace and quiet, and then I’ll wake you up.” Jessa (niece), very concerned — “Umm . . . Shayla? Did you know you talk to your dogs like they’re humans?”
You’re a young writer who is tech savvy. What do you say to older writers who resist using technology to build their author platform?
This is my hot button. I will be honest: It drives me bonkers when anyone, especially older writers, proclaim to be incapable of using social media or technology (aka, the computer) in general. I discuss this topic in my book, so I’ll give you the short-and-sweet version:
The home computer has been around since 1977 and has been a common item in households since the mid-1980s.
Social media started in the late 1990s.
Facebook started in 2004.
Twitter started in 2006.
Instagram started in 2010.
Technology certainly isn’t new. Computers definitely aren’t new. And social media has been around for a long time. It’s not going away. It is a very real part of our lives. I think what really irks me, though, is when older writers say, and I quote, “You’re better at this because you grew up with it. I don’t know how to do any of it.” I grew up with computers, sure. But so did older writers because they’ve been around for forty years. And if you don’t know how to do something, then learn.
I think there’s this mentality with millennials (that’s me) to just say in exasperation, “Here! Just let me do it!” instead of saying, “There’s a how-to guide or video for that. Let me send it to you so you can see how to do it.” Sometimes, I’m guilty of enabling non-techy-savvy writers by just doing it for them instead of providing educational tools to teach them.
Putting yourself out there as an author is fraught with highs and lows. What’s the best part about it for you; and conversely, what’s the worst?
I’m an extrovert, so I love the marketing side of things. I love public speaking. I love social media. It comes naturally to me. I love being able to hold up my book and say to the world, “I made dis!” But the best part? When authors hold up their books and say to me, “I made dis!” When it comes to the bad side of things, I’d say the plethora of notifications, messages, and emails that assault me every day on my phone. I used to respond almost instantly.
In the last year, I stopped doing that. Sometimes I won’t respond to a Facebook thread until two days later. It just gets to be overwhelming at times, so I have to pace myself and say, “Those comments will be there tomorrow. Go rest.”
If I saw you out with your friends, what would you all be up to and what would you be doing in the group?
I love this question! I’m so, so, so fortunate to have a group of close-knit friends who just happen to be writers. It’s the best. My friend Gary writes sci-fi/fantasy. Janey writes children’s books. Melissa is writing a memoir. Natalie writes historical fiction. So we love to meet up at our local coffee shop and write together for a couple of hours. Then, we walk a few doors down to eat lunch or dinner at our favorite restaurant, The Lokal, which specializes in Okie (Oklahoman) cuisine.
If you were to sit down with us, you’d hear all about Natalie’s amazing business as a dog groomer and the cute pooches she had that day. You’d hear about Gary’s work with audio, as he’s currently trying his hand at narrating audiobooks. (He’s currently narrating my short story!) You’d hear about Melissa and the Dragonfly Home, a non-profit organization she heads up that works with human trafficking victims. And you’d definitely hear about the latest hilarious thing Janey’s son Luke did. (I find these things to be hilarious; sometimes a tired mommy does not find these things to be hilarious.)
Oh, and one more thing: If you saw me out with my friends, you’d immediately be asked to come sit with us because we love making new friends.
You write fiction (The Suicide Tree) and non-fiction (The 10 Commandments of Author Branding). Have you ever been given any fan art? If so, what was it? Alternatively, what’s the best compliment you’ve received about your writing?
Holy cow. Fan art would be so cool. I would love to see Knox Kevel come to life. Someone needs to do this! The best compliment: “I read your entire book in one sitting all through the night!” Be still, my heart.
In The 10 Commandments of Author Branding, you take on a leadership role, guiding new or inexperienced authors through the world of social media. What’s your most successful strategy to encourage reluctant social media users?
I like to ask them, “Who are some of your favorite people you follow online?” They’ll give me a few, and I’ll ask, “Why do you like following them?” Inevitably, they’ll tell me it’s because “I relate to her so much!” or “He has the best articles ever!” or “Oh, she totally changed my life!” Then I say, “So why don’t you want someone to say that about you?
Once that clicks, they’ll ask me, “But what do I post about?” And oh, it is so much fun to give them a mile-long list.
You’ve published a couple of books already. What’s your advice about how to handle negative reviews?
You’re gonna love this. Here’s the truthiest truth, Emma: I am dying to get a 1-star review. So far, the lowest I have for The Suicide Tree is 3 stars. For Commandments, it’s 2.5. I want a 1-star review so badly because I have always taught my authors to celebrate their first negative book review. This is a badge of honor! It makes you feel so unbelievably official as an author. I also use the 3-star and 2.5-star reviews in my email newsletter to convince people to buy my book. I know, I know. It’s weird, but it works. I think because I’m so transparent about reviews, it makes my email newsletter subscribers think, “Did she just get excited about a 2.5-star review? This chick is wild. I gotta check out her book.”
Just for fun. Which fictional book character do you most identify with. Why them?
This is an easy one: Alice (from Wonderland, of course). If you come to my house, you will find something Alice-related in nearly every room. I have several copies of the book. Essentially, Alice hates rules and she’s tired of being stuck in a rigid world. She wants to be wild and free and do whatever she wants. So she goes to Wonderland, where everything is topsy-turvy and nothing makes sense. Of course, she realizes that maybe a world of nonsense isn’t the greatest idea. That is what I relate to: I do not like routines or rigidity or rules. But sadly, I know I can’t live without them.
Your portfolio of services includes manuscript review, writing mentorship, book editing, and book publicist, just to mention a few. Describe your ideal client.
My ideal client is the go-getter. The one who says, “Got it! Let’s do it!” This client doesn’t hesitate or hem and haw around. This client is ready to do what it takes to become a best-selling author. I love that!
An expert editor, best-selling author, and book marketer, Shayla Raquel works one-on-one with authors and business owners every day. A lifelong lover of books, she has edited over 400 books and has launched several Amazon best sellers for her clients.
Her award-winning blog teaches new and established authors how to write, publish, and market their books.