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Five Steps I took to Grow My Author Brand

by | Mar 16, 2023 | Business | 0 comments

If you have been following me on social media, you will know that I have been on quite a journey since self-publishing Zara’s Wash Day in December of 2020. I will never downplay the steps it took to level up as an entrepreneur. I worked hard. I am a divorced mom, who at the time, worked a demanding nine-to-five job, homeschooled my daughter during a global pandemic, juggled a side hustle hair styling business, and struggled to find a glimpse of time to write my first book. However, the path to securing a trade deal with a top five publisher began with five attainable steps.

First, BE INTENTIONAL. I was intentional about my goal of becoming a full-time author and workplace diversity and inclusion consultant. I knew that once I wrote Zara’s Wash Day, I had to commit to investing in the process, becoming a public figure, marketing my book daily, and potentially leaving my full-time job.

Second, CREATE A QUALITY PRODUCT. I wrote a good book. What constitutes a “good book?” Well, I made sure that I took time to research my topic from credible sources. I invested in a developmental editor. The meat of my book was great, but it needed to be refined. Truth be told, my manuscript was full of corrections and feedback notes from my developmental editor. Seeing all those “track changes” initially had me in my feelings. But her feedback made Zara’s Wash Day what it is today. She made sure the versus actually rhymed and had a fun cadence for readers. She also advised me to shorten the book which meant I had to cut out an entire section that I had grown attached to. Additionally I invested in an illustrator, Princess Karibo, and book designer, Anthony Foronda. I sought an illustrator who could respect the beauty of the Black aesthetic and honor the movement of textured hair. I wanted a designer who could put the book together in a way that would stand out on shelf, in print, and online. This team understood the assignment and trusting their expertise freed me up to concentrate on my strength…writing.

Third,THINK BIGGER. I was in this for the long game. I built out a full brand with my book being the tool that established credibility and awareness. Initially, Zara’s Wash Day was going to be a one-and-done project. But by the time I finished the manuscript, I realized that the message was bigger than just one book. I realized that most ethnic communities have a hairitage- hair customs, traditions, beliefs and practices passed down by an ancestor or predessessor. So, I asked myself, ” How can I be more inclusive and set the business up for longevity?” The next step was to change the book title to something that I knew would resonate with my community- Zara’s Wash Day.Then I named the series, Know Your Hairitage.

Fourth, BE PREPARED…TO TALK ABOUT YOURSELF. I mastered my elevator speech. I left my corporate job but held onto the knowledge and relationships I gained as a corporate leader in marketing, communications, sales, and education. I operated in my strengths and applied what I learned from larger corporations. The breakthrough happened when I fully understood the mission of my books and business. Then I poured my creativity and swag into each strategy execution. As a smaller start-up (or shall I say, as a one-woman-show), I experimented with my audience and adjusted with speed and agility. This also meant that every day I was talking about myself and my product. That was difficult because I had to step outside of this notion that being humble and grateful would work better for me as a Black, woman entrepreneur. In fact, being less humble was the fuel I needed to light the fire. Even when I did not want to,  I posted, created content, carried my books everywhere, and networked-I lived a breathed my brand. Every time I left my house or got ready for a call, I had this phrase playing in my head, “Prepare right now to be sick of me!”

And lastly, DO IT SCARED. I was terrified when I uploaded my final book files and hit the go button on the IngramSpark self-publishing website. The fear of regret prevailed. I had to get comfortable with the idea that fear can exist in the same space as courage. I took action (and pause when necessary) while allowing myself to feel all the feels.

I hope that this formula for leveling up will help someone out in the world who is ready to take the leap into entrepreneurship, or who is struggle to breakthrough.


Zenda Walker is CEO of Know Your Hairitage-a business consulting firm.  She is the award-winning author of Zara’s Wash Day, the first book in the Know Your Hairitage series.  Both Zara’s Wash Day and her second book, Zion’s Crown, will globally launch under Running Press Kids in 2024.

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