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Bismillah

All praises and thanks are due to Allah SWT. Abundant salutations be upon His beloved Nabi Muhammad SAW.

I attended the Muslimah Writer’s Journey Online Summit – virtually, of course! I gained exposure to inspirational authors I’ve never heard of before. I came out of it with rejuvenated resolve that we can achieve so much more than we aspire to – our only limit is ourselves. Truly. 

Naima B Roberts

In this opening talk, host Na’ima B. Robert encourages us to delve deeper inside to find that story we were born to share with one another, and with the world!

You are a unique, precious creation of Allah!

Nobody gives us permission to tell [our] story. We don’t need anyone’s permission to tell our story. We just start telling it. And those who are supposed to hear it will hear it. Those who are supposed to benefit from it will benefit from it… And those who need to hear your story… will appreciate it, [and] they will know it because it speaks to who they are.

 …There is a story only you can tell, because you’re unique and the way you see it, the way you process it, the way you will express it will be absolutely uniquely you… And that’s the reason it’s beautiful. That’s the reason you do not need permission.

 3 Steps to Telling Your Story:

  1. Start writing!​

TODAY

Without fear, without judgment

Silence your internal editor

Not even a project! Just write a daily journal entry if you can!​

Make a commitment to yourself that you will write regularly from now on.

Just ten minutes a day, 500 words a day, maybe, anything, but write!

Twice a week, every week, whatever you can commit to, but stick to it!

Write down your promise to yourself, stick it where you’ll see it

Set a reminder on your phone​

Sign up for a writing challenge

Will give you a sense of community

Will keep you to your promise to write regularly.

​Start a blog

​2. Start learning​

Read books and articles on writing

Attend classes and webinars on writing

Sign up for email lessons, like Learn with Naima

Many of them are free, but come to a point of Investing in yourself and in your learning

  1. Start connecting

Writing can be lonely

​Your family may not understand why you need to write

​Follow your favorite writers on social media

​They often share tips, ideas, and wisdom from their own journey​

​Attend local sessions and writer meet-ups, if possible

Sign up for NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month

​Be part of a community. Because… just as we’re stronger together as Muslimahs, we are stronger together as Muslimah writers.

LaYinka Sanni

In this talk, sister LaYinka Sanni explores the importance of correcting your mindset about writing, and gives tips on how to move from a shaky mindset to an empowering one!

What is a mindset?

Attitude, disposition, and mood

The combination of assumptions you hold that impact your behaviour and ultimately act as a filter for how you see the world.

Reality may be very different from the way you see the world. Likewise, the reality of your writing world can be very different than the way you see it.

Your mindset can empower you, fuel your writing or…

It can disempower you, lead to you feeling stuck, not writing at all, and lacking productivity

Either way, it’s a choice.

It’s influenced by your cultural upbringing and your environment, but it can be changed! It’s not set in stone.

Signs of a shaky mindset

Procrastination masked by learning

Learning everything about writing, but doing no writing. Reading lots of books on writing, but not writing. All in the guise of learning “how to write”

“There’s nothing new to share”

There are countless versions of your favorite fairy tales! Things are always written and rewritten.

Your perspective is unique.

Being unable to take criticism

Seeing it as a personal attack

Dismissing feedback completely

Refusing to even consider it

Refusing support from peers

Writing can be lonely. We flourish together!

“I dream of being a writer”  and then you don’t write!

Contributing factors of a shaky mindset

Limiting beliefs

“I can’t do it” I’m not good enough” “I don’t have a writing background” “It’ll take too long” “Writing is for those people, not me” “Someone will steal it”

Limiting decisions

Based on beliefs

You decide not to write, not to share, not to publish

Fear

Of failure

Of being made fun of

Of not reaching your goals

Makes you not write, or write but never share with anyone, never publish

Going from shaky to optimal mindset

Decide what’s important to you

Having put in your best effort… or what people have to say about it?

Realizing your potential… or giving up because of this notion of what a successful writer should be.

What’s important to you is what you value, and what you value is what you’re going to give your focus. So if you find that you’re giving something focus that isn’t productive… empowering… or leading to… your writing goals, ask yourself, ‘Is that important to me?’ If the answer is ‘No,’ then ask yourself what is. Does this thing that you’re giving attention and focus… and a high value, does it support your writing goal? If it doesn’t you know what to do. (20:07-20:51)

Align your heart with your ultimate purpose

Why do you want to write?

Elevate your purpose so that it serves your akhirah.

So that Allah puts baraka in it.

​​All the excuses will fall away.

Ask yourself some powerful questions to navigate your mindset

​​When did I decide that?

“I’m going to fail” “I can’t write” “Everyone’s going to laugh at me”

Consciously or unconsciously, every single thing you do is a decision. Every single day is made up of decisions that we make… You decide you’re not going to write, that’s a decision. You decide that you’re not good enough, that is a decision, my lovely. So ask yourself, ‘When did I decide that?’  (24:19-25:08)

What if I can?

​Unlocks that part of your mind of possibility

​Who says I need formal education in writing to be a success?

​There are plenty out there who had no training or experience at all and who are universally seen as “successful”.

Why do I think I will fail? What evidence do I have?​

You created that assumption in your mind

You can create a successful assumption in there too!

What will happen if I continue to procrastinate?

How satisfied will I be with that result?​​

What can I do differently?​​​

How can I improve my writing?

​Rather than telling yourself you can’t write, it’s awful, you’re no good at it, etc… ask yourself where you can improve.

Allow yourself to grow.

Adopt powerful beliefs

​It’s a matter of how

Flexibility leads to success

In your approach

When, where, with these conditions, in this way

Be flexible!

Couldn’t in the morning? Fit it in later

Can’t write 1,000 words? Write 300

Can’t make it to your favorite cafe? Write elsewhere!

There’s no such thing as failure​

So I fell down… and I learned!

There’s room to grow, and now I know how to do that.​​

Nothing means anything except the meaning you give it

​Feedback comes.

​You decide whether it’s their perspective of your writing, or whether it’s a personal attack

​Your beliefs about that determine your actions

If it’s possible in the world, then it’s possible for you

If anyone at all can become a best-selling writer, YOU CAN DO IT.

Examining the behaviours you currently exhibit will give you an indication as to what beliefs you have, and what you value.

Adopt a mindset that will serve you.

Is the woman you’re being right now aligned with the woman you want to be?

Change is easier than you think. It’s as easy as making the decision to change!

Aishah Adams

In this talk, Aishah Adams opens up about her own experience overcoming self-doubt and shares the tried-and-true methods her clients have used to break out of the limiting beliefs that have kept them from reaching their potential, both as writers and as people.

On what held her back from writing

I never got to write a book until 2016. Is it because I never wanted to write it before then? No. It was on my bucket list list for years now. I also went through that phase of self-doubt, of telling myself that nobody wanted to hear what I had to write, of telling myself that ‘Who said you can be a writer? Who told you you’re good enough’ and stuff like that.

On what creates self-doubt in writers

Being raised without parental validation:

Perhaps the problem is… our backgrounds… We’re brought up to always feel like we needed an outside validation. And when a child is not brought up to have self-confidence, it affects a lot of things in their life in later years, because they constantly wait for people to validate them and tell them that they are good enough.

Excuses:

We think, ‘Oh, she must have had it good-going’… or… ‘She lives in the West…’ and other lies we tell ourselves… ‘Oh, it’s ok for you to play the mediocre card rather than aim to do things with ihsan.

Lack of self-awareness:

With self-awareness comes this confidence. When you know yourself, there’s this confidence that you start to embody… You do not wait for people to tell you anything.

The first thing that helped me combat that [self-doubt] was the fact that I was a very self-aware person… Over the years, I had to work hard to build my self-confidence… I was a very timid girl, back then in school, because of the constant criticism we got from teachers, from parents… But it got to a time in my life that I was like, ‘No, I am not going to be this person again… I’m not going to seek for validation from nobody no more… And it took me a while.

Perhaps it’s about time you said to yourself, ‘Who am I? And why do I need anyone to validate that I’m enough?’ Because you are enough… Allah has created us in different shapes and forms, and in each form and each shape is this beautiful uniqueness. If you understand this, it will make it easier for you to tell your story.

On her journey breaking out of self-doubt

… The wakeup call for me was a traumatic childbirth and pregnancy, and I thought I was going to lose my life, and on that sickbed, I kept thinking to myself, ‘If I died now, I would die with my story.’

On why we must tell our stories

Perhaps because you did not tell your story, someone else will fall into the same pit. Or perhaps because you tell your story, someone will be saved from committing suicide… or from doing horrible things… That is what telling your story does for people: it inspires them, it helps them to take charge of their lives. It could even help them grow closer to Allah (swt). And what is our purpose in life if it is not to help ourselves grow and help other people grow?

“Knowledge that is beneficial is not limited to knowledge of the deen. As Muslims, everything that we do is an act of worship, so long as we do it with the intention of pleasing Allah (swt), and when you teach someone anything that is beneficial…that is sadaqa jaariyyah.

Every single one of us can ensure that we leave something behind, and you know the best way to preserve something? It’s by writing it down… So by embracing the writer inside of you, you are inadvertently trying to ensure that you have left your footsteps in the sands of time.

Reduce the volume of that loud voice telling you not to write, telling you you’re not enough, telling you [that] you don’t have a story to tell… By sharing our stories, and by sharing insights into the things that we learned, we give other people the permission to lead better lives… and to embrace growth.

Fatima Omar Khamissa

In this talk, Fatima shares 10 fool-proof steps to writing and publishing the book you’ve always wanted to write, all in 90 days or less!

 

  1. Know your why!

You want to make a difference?

Do you want to be the specialist or the general doctor?

Specialist: more money, smaller circle of influence

Doctor: less money, wider circle of influence

You want to change your business?

You want 10x, 20x, 50x the influence and earnings?

You have a legacy to leave behind?

Saddaqa Jaariyah

You have had an experience that gave you wisdom to share?

You want to tell your story in your way using your voice?

You are an expert in something.

Fatima’s why:

Wanted children to see mom as more than just a woman who experienced violence

Survived domestic abuse for 21 years

Had no idea what abuse even looked like

Thought good girls don’t complain. They are patient with abuse.

First book: What is Verbal Abuse?

A deep urge to share that wisdom with younger selves and other young women

Allah will ask why we didn’t share that wisdom

2nd book: Fearless Faith

Ways to deep contentment and faith, regardless of one’s present circumstances

Went from riches to rags, only had Allah

Knowing, beyond a doubt that Allah will not forsake us.

You probably don’t have one book in you; You probably have multiple books in you, and the only way we’re going to get to the good stuff is for you to start writing. Start getting it out… Get the juices going where you find the golden nuggets inside of you so you get to share that with people.

  1. Who are you trying to reach?

What does she need? What does she like?

What does she need right now that I can give her? Who is that woman that is going to pick up your book and read it? Where is she? How old is she?… Find her… Get into the mind of what she wakes up in the morning worrying about and what she sleeps worrying about. There’s something on her mind constantly.

  1. Solve Her/his/their Problem

Take what you learned about her to decide what you have that she needs

I was a ‘life coach,’ and I was just barely making enough money. But I always had more month at the end of my money.

TIP: Microniche

Narrow your focus, go smaller, focus on your niche, become their expert

Fatima focused in on divorced Muslim women

First book in that year: How To Be a Muslim Woman, Divorced, and Totally CONFIDENT”

Within 48 hours, book was #1!!!

Second book, From Ex to Extraordinary

In less than a week, book was #1!!!

  1. The Journey

Plot out every step your prospect needs to take to get from point A to point B

Write it down, step-by-step

Giant stickie notes!!!

You’re stuck because of what you say to yourself. ‘I can’t do this. It’s too good to be true. It’s too easy.’ Well challenge me! Prove me wrong! Do everything as designed and then send me an email… but if you don’t do it, how are you ever going to know?

Consider her pain when giving her steps. Be empathetic. Be understanding.

Share your story, your own journey, your pain, your fear, your anxiety, your restlessness… because people want to get related. If your book doesn’t have any relatedness and you’re just sending out information, then you might as well write an acadamia or textbook. But people don’t want that. People want stories.

  1. Record

Go somewhere beautiful and relaxing

Take out a recording device

Talk, based on your chapter notes from last step, as if the woman is sitting with you, right in front of you.

Be vulnerable, convey that compassion, convey your pain

Include your story, and the action steps she needs to take

Label it!

Repeat with each chapter.

  1. Hire a transcriptionist & a graphic artist

Upwork.com or Fiver, for example

Send transcriptionist all your recordings

So much easier than sitting down in front of a page and trying to write things from scratch.

Send ideas to graphic design artist for book cover

TIP: Maybe hire a different transcriptionist for each chapter to get things done faster!

  1. In the meantime, write amazing intro and conclusion chapters

Make intro all about what makes you an expert

The K.L.T. Factor

K: They know you

L: They like you

T: They trust you

Make conclusion all about next steps

Make sure to direct them to where they can get more!

  1. You have a book!! Now Fine-Tooth Edit and Proofread transcripts

TIP: Before anything, make sure you hunt for and fix any transliteration issues that may have happened based on Arabic words like Insha’Allah, MashaAllah, etc.

Do not trust yourself to edit! Hire an editor & a proofreader, again from places like Upwork

They’ll see things you won’t

Typos, grammar, strange-sounding bits.

Even after all this time, I don’t consider myself a writer. I am a terrible writer! I consider myself a trainer… a contributor… I still don’t have those eyes to see what a proofreader and an editor can see.

Set up Kindle Publishing & Amazon author accounts

100% free, easy, painless

The best way to get through fear is… action. Fear paralyzes us because of all the… things we’ve been told as children. And as soon as you take action, you’ll see the fear will dissipate.

  1. Come Up with Tags and Keywords

In Kindle account, update book details

Amazon has thousands of subcategories under their main categories

Make sure your book is found!

  1. Test your book!

Ask friends, family to check out your book link, buy two or three copies, see how they actually look on Kindle app.

24 hours after some purchases have been made, Amazon will assess and inform you if you’re in the exact categories and keywords you’ve chosen.

Assuming everything is ok, NOW GO TELL EVERYONE!!

Now, the marketing journey begins!

Umm Zakiyyah

In this inspiring talk, Umm Zakiyyah tells us about her journey to becoming on of the first African-American Muslim authors to publish Muslim Fiction, and opens up about the importance of allowing yourself to be vulnerable in your writing.

On what it was like to enter the Islamic publishing world

My idea at that time was ‘Let me go and find a publisher… and I found a very major Islamic publisher… and I gave that to them and their response was ‘…We think that your writing is for black people.’ And so I thought to myself, ‘Ok, I’m done.’ That was it for me… But when I went and looked through their publications… and they had absolutely no African American characters. I just thought, ‘I don’t know what’s going on here, but I’m just gonna leave this alone.

On what kept her driven to write

I call If I Should Speak my ‘tahajjud book,’ because what I would do is get up and pray two rakaat, and then write, and then pray, and then write, for several hours throughout the night, and I would do that throughout the entire process… I made this du’a over and over again in the last third of the night: ‘Oh Allah, make this book a guide for those who would be guided and a proof against those who won’t be guided.’

On her journey writing and publishing If I Should Speak

I didn’t think of it as ‘self-publishing’… I actually registered with a company… I didn’t have any idea what I was doing! I was researching as I went along.

On the importance of publishing something beneficial, beyond ego

I did not want to have a book that I’m just putting out because people are reading… Every book that I write has to have a purpose… I did not want to put something out there that was purely about me and that was not necessarily beneficial to anyone, except to add more entertainment literature out there.

On Her Writing Process and Habits

I’m always writing different projects at the same time… So what I would so is just say, ‘Ok, every single day, write something, even if it was one sentence… And there would be a particular book each time that I’m focusing on the most, and then I’ll be writing other ones at the same time, which is why today I have over 20 books… when I get tired with one writing project, I’m going to another writing project, because I just love writing.

On Dealing with Self-Doubt

For every single book that I’ve written… I’ve always reached a point where I feel like, ‘This is silly. Why am I writing this? No one’s gonna read it.’ And I would feel that, I would be like ‘That’s fine, but we’re gonna finish it, no matter how it sounds. And if it’s not good, no problem! You just write something else.’ So there is this internal battle.

On Writing Islamic Fiction

When you’re writing about spiritual matters, it’s a very scary process. To be honest, at that time I was less worried about finishing the book or getting it out there, vs. ‘This is going to be on my record for youm al qiyyamah.’… And so I would make so much du’a… We’re not perfect. We believe Allah is Al-Ghafoor, Ar-Raheem, forgiving and merciful, but we need to do our part. So I just tried to make sure that I’m doing the best that I can in my very, very flawed, human way to make sure that what I put out there, that truth is clear from falsehood, by the end.

I believe that… anytime you put the label ‘Islamic’ on anything, you have a greater responsibility… But I wasn’t intentionally putting the Islamic label on it. It was moreso… that I believed I was doing what I was supposed to.

Everything you write has an amaanah… Even if you don’t put the ‘Islamic’ label on it, but you have Muslim characters… it does has a higher level of responsibility, and we do need to be careful, because we can’t just portray our emotions and feelings only.

An Islamic portrayal, Muslim lifestyles… book is not the platform to get out all your personal frustrations, unless you portray it through a character and it comes back around to what Allah would want… We need to make sure that when that book is closed, people are not… [confused] about what is right, in terms of in front of Allah.

On Her Childhood And Her First Inclination Writing Was Her Gift

My father used to read to us from the translation of the Qur’an… and I remember one day… he was reading some of the translation of Surat Al-Baqarah, how Allah described the believers as ‘those who spend out of what We have provided for them.’ [2:254] … I was very young, but it hit my heart really hard… And I said, ‘Allah provided you with the gift of writing, and you have to spend it in his cause.’

On Being Real and Vulnerable as an Author

When I’m writing a fiction story… I try to be very careful that I don’t blur the emotional feelings with the spirituality… Everything is not for public consumption.

I definitely have become more vulnerable. I think the turning point for me was going through a period where I felt like I could not be Muslim anymore. That changed my entire perspective on what I am willing to share, what is helpful for other people. Because… at that time, we were feeling forced to wear masks in the name of religion… If you didn’t fit a certain mold, you weren’t Muslim enough… Going through that, I was looking and searching for literature to help me… and I found nothing… and I was left thinking that maybe I’m just a bad person… I said ‘I am just gonna be very honest, very open, because… if I can help it… I would not want someone to go through that.

I feel like when Muslims are asking for advice, we have like a computer program where we input the problem, print out this answer, and that’s what you get.

We’re all struggling, and if we can’t be able to be human, if we can’t be broken at moments, if we can’t just say, ‘You know what? I don’t know where to turn,’ and put that in a book and feel comfortable with that—I don’t understand what’s the point of writing anyway… Who are you helping?!

On Creating Realistic Characters

One of the rules that I have for myself… is that I cannot write any perspective of any character until I put myself in their shoes… whether they’re Muslim or non-Muslim.

I didn’t want to portray the typical villain… I have graduated from this need to portray on the outside what we assume is going on on the inside, because I think even that is being dishonest with how this world works… What we find is that 99% of people are on a personal path that involved some trauma that ultimately overtook them, and then it led them on another path, and that’s a hard thing for people to accept.

When we’re away from the Qur’an, we begin to believe in spiritual fairy tales, about ourselves and about other people.

One of the problems that many of us have, as Muslims, is that we view ourselves as saviours to other people, and that’s a very dangerous, and this happens a lot with writing… We need to be honest with where we are and who we are, and what we know and don’t know… Our responsibility as a Muslim is the invitation, and this is where a lot of Islamic literature [fails]… We make life very difficult for people because we wanna have answers for everything. But at the end of the day, we have to understand that Allah doesn’t need our help.

On Writing Non-fiction vs. Fiction

The non-fiction is easier to express and to put out because it’s not as many layers and nuances… But the problem with non-fiction is that, because it’s true, I have to be more careful when it comes to things that may involve other people, but it’s also easier to put out… Fiction is much more difficult.

On Planning vs. Pantsing

Even for the ones I thought I had planned out, it ends up taking on a whole new life of its own. I’ve never written a novel where what I planned it how it ended up being—never. So… I generally have a pretty good idea of where the story is going, but I don’t know every step of the way… There’s a lot of exploration, a lot of just kind of trying to figure it out… but as a general rule, I do plot out major things in the timeline, and for the most part I stick to that.

Fatima Barkatulla

In this talk, Fatima Barkatulla tells the story of how she wrote her book Khadijah, what it was like to write such an important book about our mother Khadijah, and the highs and lows of trying to retell a story with such powerful ramifications.

On her passion for writing

I got this buzz from feeling that the words that I had written could have an impact, and I think that’s where it really started.

On Receiving Her First Rejection Letter

When I got a rejection letter… I remember that feeling, that ‘Ugh! All the effort that I’d put, and the book had been rejected!’ And instead of feeling kind of like, ‘This is not for me,’ I realized that perhaps there was something that I needed to learn; Perhaps it was a case of ‘I need to get better at this.’

On The False Belief that Writing a Children’s Book is Easy

It just wasn’t creative and compelling enough. Of course it was a compelling story, but I wasn’t telling it in a compelling way for a modern-day audience.

10:35: Fatima and Na’ima struggle to remember the name of a beloved children’s book, by Jill Murphy. It’s “Peace at Last”, and you can find out more about it here!

On Why She Wrote Khadijah

Muslim authors have tended not to really think about the experience of the reader, the emotions of the reader. It’s very much about imparting facts, imparting information… As a child, when you’re reading a book, you’re actually building your whole identity. You’re reading these books and you’re looking for things that actually help form who you are and who you end up being.

On How She Wrote Khadijah, and her writing habits

Probably the hardest thing was actually sitting down and saying ‘I’m gonna finish this part,’ and just getting on with it and doing it. And literally, scheduling time in and protecting that time…

On Coping with Editor Criticism

I think as a writer, when you’re so immersed in a project, you can’t see the wood for the trees… You’re so immersed in looking at the finer details, that sometimes you need somebody sitting back and reading it, to tell you what is the experience like of reading it, rather than the mechanics of it.

On The Importance of Studying the Works of Other Authors

People think you’re gonna say, ‘Oh, I had this magical talent and I just summoned up my creative skills and it all came together!’ No. It wasn’t like that. You’re literally looking at the best and saying ‘I can do that.’”

On Carrying on Khadijah’s Legacy

I am part of Khadijah’s legacy… and it just really brought home for me the fact that she worked so hard all her life for something that, within her lifetime, she didn’t see the full fruits of. That was really powerful.

When sisters who would like to be writers see someone like me who has had their first book published, I hope that instead of feeling that we’ve got some talent that is unreachable, or that we were lucky… I hope that they will look at us and say, ‘If they can do it, I can do it! I can learn that!’… I learned how to be an author in the process.

Theresa Corbin and Kaighla Um Dayo

In this talk, Theresa Corbin and Kaighla Um Dayo share the story of how they co-authored The New Muslim’s Field Guide, share some benefits of co-authoring vs. going it alone, talk about the importance of choosing a co-author wisely and signing a contract, and discuss ways to maintain a strong co-authoring relationship throughout the writing and publishing journey

Melati Lum

In this talk, Melati shares her story with us, gives some great tips for writing children’s literature, and walks us through some of challenges on the path.

On her writing background before Ayesha Dean

“I don’t have much experience in terms of fiction, I do a lot of writing for my profession. Being a criminal lawyer and in front the jury you need to be able to tell a story, you need to be able to take cold hard facts and evidence and put it before people who don’t know anything about the law and what happened.”

On her fiction writing experience

“In terms of fiction writing most of it was done in High School. I used to enjoy writing little bits and pieces here and there and started a novel, whenever I got some ideas I’d put it down on paper but I never actually completed anything.”

On how she got the idea for writing Ayesha Dean

“When my son was in the Middle age group I was struggling to find things for him to read.  That is when I first had the idea that there needs to be more for that age group in particular.”

On the background to Ayesha Dean the story itself

“As a kid I loved the Nancy Drew mysteries.  There was one particular book that stood out to me, when Nancy Drew went to Venice.  It stayed with me until I became an adult and made me want to go to Venice so much. I eventually went there and it was beautiful.  I remembered that feeling of being a Middle Grader and being so so excited reading about a different place. I love travelling and one of my favourite places was Istanbul so I set it there.”

On the writing process on putting together the Middle Grade novel

“I went back and read a few children’s books for that age group.  The language is much more simpler and there’s more of an explanation of things.

On why she chose the main character to be Muslim

“I wanted for my son to be able to read something where the character of a Muslim is normalised, not an outsider or a baddy, but in the forefront and the hero of the story.”

On the reception to the book

“I wrote it particularly for a Muslim audience but the non-Muslims seem to be wanting some diversity too.  I got a good reception from the teachers and librarians but also from the children themselves.

On the publishing process

“Once I’d done the first draft, I edited it myself multiple times before I was brave enough to let a close friend and my sister read it and then I went through it line by line with a friend until we were both happy with it and then I did another round of edits and then looked for an editor.”

“I invested in an expensive self publishing course which in hindsight wasn’t that necessary but it was good for me at the time, walking me through the steps of what needed to be done.”

“I got in touch with a group of other people going through a similar crisis for the moral and publishing support.”

“I advertised a design contest for the cover so I could pick a winner.  I launched the competition on 99 Designs, an Australian company online.”

On her marketing strategy once her book was on Amazon Create Space and Ingram Spark

“I got the website, Facebook page and Instagram ready.  I had a launch party planned at a local multicultural fair where I paid for a stall. I didn’t have to hire a venue.”

On the plan after the book launch

“I had planned in advance some tweets and social media posts to go up.  I had also planned a number of interviews for my area.”

On book events since the initial launch

“At the time of the launch I had contacted a lot of schools and some had contacted me with interest but I was unable to follow upon that. I sent my poster and the book to several local schools and some of the kids showed interest and got in touch. Several months after I had got a view interviews from mainstream media and then took some books into bookstores to sell on commission.”

On what she would do differently the second time round

“I don’t know if I would have paid so much money for a self publishing course.  At the time it helped me because i didn’t have the contacts that I have now and I needed the hand holding for a confidence boost.  There is a lot of helpful information online especially if you are on a tight budget.”

“I did have a marketing plan but I might focus my target a little bit more.”

On what Ayesha Dean – The Istanbul Intrigue is all about

“Ayesha has always wanted to be a detective and is a kickass Muslim teenager.  She is a normal Australian Muslim teenager. She has friends who are not Muslim and her uncle who brought her up is not Muslim.  She practices and loves Islam. It’s a travel story, she goes to Istanbul and picks up a mystery along the way and solves it.”

Ameenah Muhammad-Diggins

6 Benefits of Self-Publishing

  1. You have full creative control
  • You have full creative control over how the cover looks, pictures and content.
    • Publishers often want you to ‘tweak’ your manuscript
    • Your book might be something you are passionate about or it may be Islamic content that you want to leave as a legacy and a publisher might not necessarily be interested in that.
    • You have complete control over the book rather than waiting for someone to give you the ok on whether they deem your book worthy of publishing
    • This is why I encourage people to self- publish! If you have a specific book in mind or you’ve got reader feedback, you can create your own yes.
  1. You control more of the profits
  • On a self-published book, you control up to 60% of the profits and you own all the publishing rights (including movie, screenplay etc)
  • You own everything!
  1. You control your book’s shelf life
  • Most traditionally published books have a 3 to 6 month promotional window
    • With your own book, you can lengthen the time that it is being promoted
  • You can never go out of print
  • You can re-release your book to reach new markets
  1. You do your own promotion
  • Many people see that as a negative but, if you’re traditionally published, you still have to do your own promotion: speaking gigs, book signings, launches
  • All you have to do is get your book in front of more people – bloggers, influencers etc – and you can get the same amount of exposure
  • As long as you have a marketing plan, you can increase sales and do exactly the same promotion as a traditional publisher
  1. You choose how often you publish
  • If you have a large following, you can publish a book every 3 to 6 months
  • No more waiting to be approved by publishers!
  • You can publish as often as you like unlike with a traditional publisher
  1. You control your audience
  • You can establish a direct connection with your audience
  • If you set up a landing page to capture email addresses as a gate between them and Amazon or your selling platform, you can stay in contact with them

Writing for Niche

I coach people on becoming self-publishing authors and I always advise them:

  • Do your research
  • Write about topics that people are yearning to read about
    • g. with my book, Amirah and the Bean Pie, there were very few children’s books that reflected the African-American Muslim experience.
  • Use Facebook groups to do research: engage and find out what people are yearning to hear about, put out feelers
  • We sell books by listening and writing what people want to read about not what we want to write about
    • What is your audience looking for?
    • We write books that people want to buy, not just books that we feel good about

If there is a void, your book will sell like hot cakes!

S K Ali and Uzma Jalaluddin

LINKS & RESOURCES

Amran Abdi

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Maryam Yousaf

In this talk, Maryam explores the many routes to getting your book published, the pros and cons of each one, and her advice from her own self-publishing journey.

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Hend Hegazi

In this talk, Hend Hegazi breaks open the box of fear that keeps us chasing our writing dreams, gives tips about handling rejections, explains how failure is absolutely necessary for the journey, and opens up about her own failures and successes.

Hend’s Tips:

  • Do researchin advance about font size, book size, etc. so that the final product is pleasing.
  • Have your final copy professionally edited and proofreadbefore publication.
  • Seek out reviews!They are what sell books.
  • Get an agent!They make publicity and marketing so much easier.
  • Don’t rely on friends and relatives to give honest feedback.

On her first book, Normal Calm and rejection

  • Took five years, on and off, to write, between children and other responsibilities
  • Began as a short story
  • Decided to seek out an agent after the writing was finished
  • Needed an agent who would represent multicultural/multiethnic + Muslim women’s fiction
  • Sent out 100 queries to agents in 25-query batches every few months

The thing with querying is that you send a letter to an agent, and then you wait for months and months and months. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, they get back to you; Most of the times they don’t. And I think that’s part of one of the hardest things about querying: you never know… ‘Should I keep waiting or is this a rejection that has… come in the form of ignoring me?’

  • Only got one request for a full manuscript, and that agent rejected it.

But I learned from that [rejection]. I learned that… you just have to be persistent… and keep querying. 

  • Decided to take a break on querying, began writing second novel, Behind Picket Fences​

On writing her second book, Behind Picket Fences and publishing Normal Calm

  • From start to finish, took about two years
    • More concentrated, serious, focused writing
  • Kept careful track of the publishers of books written by Arab-American/minority women
  • Found FB Publishing, publisher for Normal Calm, while still writing Behind Picket Fences
    • Queried them, they accepted, so Normal Calm was published
    • First edition format/style was disappointing

I didn’t know if I had the right to say to them, ‘I’m not happy with this,’ but I thought, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? They’re gonna tell me “No, we’re not gonna make another edition,”…’ So I [decided] to write to them… Alhamdulillah, they agreed on everything I said!

Her initial experience with self-publishing

  • Initially self-published an ebook version
  • Self-publishing was a new thing, unknown territory
    • Unsure how to design a professional-looking cover, formatting, marketing, etc.
  • Heads-up: The majority of publishing houses will not publish a book that has already been published
  • Because publishing house didn’t have an editor, there were many typos

On publishing Behind Picket Fences

  • Published by same publisher: FB Publishing
  • Very happy with turn-out
  • Reyhana Sidat: cover designer

On what to do when you get rejections

And the truth is, you need to get those rejections. It builds character, and it gives you a thick skin, and it… gives you strength… But the good thing about being rejected… is you can take that feedback and use it… even if it’s negative feedback… because when they give you feedback like that, it’s only to make your book better… and more intriguing to readers… We don’t get that kind of feedback often enough, but really, it’s the negative feedback that you have to use.

Most people said, ‘Oh, I liked it!’… And you love to hear that, as a writer… but what’s gonna help you is the negative feedback… [from] your writer friends, in writer’s groups… that’s the kind of feedback that you wanna use. That’s the kind of feedback that’s gonna make you a better writer… So use the negative feedback, use those failures. Because it’s the failures that make you better.

LINKS & RESOURCES

Zanib Mian

In this talk, Zanib Mian walks us through her journey from writing, to choosing illustrations, to self-publishing in the pre-Amazon and CreateSpace age, to creating not one but TWO grassroots publishing houses!

On Her Hallmark High-Quality Illustrations

It shouldn’t be something that parents are saying, ‘You have to read this book cuz it’s an Islamic book and I want you to learn,’ because then it becomes a chore. But if you just present them with great books, they’re going to want to keep coming back to them. I have parents saying ‘They won’t put your book down! I’m calling them for dinner and they’re not putting it down!’ So that’s what we want, that’s what we’re going for.

On Her Book, “The Muslims”

With all the negative stereotypes that have been propagated in the news, by the media, I just thought, ‘What can I do to challenge that?’ and this was the best answer I came up with… I created a character that everyone would love, whether they were Muslim or not, and hopefully he challenges all those stereotypes.

On Why She’s Not Into Amazon-style Self-Publishing

Because when you look at print-on-demand books, you can tell it’s a print-on-demand book. There’s a big difference in quality. It’s expensive to do, so they (Amazon, etc.) have to figure that out by just compromising on quality.

On Starting Out as a Publisher, and Her Journey Up Now

There were many moments where I just thought, ‘I can’t survive like this. I’m gonna have to pack it in and go back to teaching,’ because I wasn’t selling enough books to make a profit.

I had a garage full of books. That’s how I started out. If you have to start that way, then do it. Because you have to start somewhere… I was working from my bedroom. Doing the school run, coming home, and working from the bedroom.

Every time I hear somebody complaining about having to go to work on Monday, I just say ‘Alhamdulillah’. I am in such a great place. Allah has blessed me so, so much. It’s all just baraka from Allah. It’s the intention behind it. It’s what’s being propagated by those books. It gives me goosebumps right now just thinking about it.

On Her Writing Process

The writing just finds me. It’s not like I think, ‘I need to write.’ It finds me! It just grabs hold of me and I just do it. And that’s how my ideas come. I’ve never sat down and thought, ‘I need to write about this.’ It just comes to me from somewhere, and then that’s when I write.

On Promotion and Social Media

It comes back to intention. I’m always thinking of ways to help parents… the book sales just come as a consequence of that, and we’ll always just think, ‘Alright, we want to do this whether it sells books or not. Alhamdulillah, people will benefit from it, inshaallah.’ 

Don’t take the self-publishing route if you can’t handle social media. You’re gonna have to be a bit of a marketer, a business lady, and all of that. If you don’t want that headache, then just go through an existing publisher… Self-publishing is not an easy route.

On The Taboo of Admitting You Want Money from your Islamic Writing

At the end of the day, if I wasn’t making enough money to be able to live on this, then I wouldn’t be doing this, and I’d have to go back to work somewhere else. So of course you have to make enough profit to be able to live.

LINKS & RESOURCES

Najiyah Maxfield

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Nabeela Noorani

In this talk, we learn about Nabeela’s journey into publishing, her experiences as an author, and how you can make working with an independent publisher an even better experience!

On what an author can do to help their independent publishing journey:

  • Have their own social media following
  • Be prepared to pay a small amount up-front for editing, proofreading, publishing, printing, and marketing costs.
  • Be prepared to wait. It can take anywhere from 8-12 weeks before we have something to show. Remember that with a traditional publisher, you shouldn’t expect anything for up to 6 months!

On Tosh Publishing’s selection process

I am highly selective… because Tosh Publishing is a sister company of
“Tales of the Sisterhood”, which is my baby… And any book with our logo on it is immediately associated with me.

LINKS & RESOURCES

Rahma Rodaah

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Kathryn Jones

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