One of the biggest headaches anyone who self-publishes will find is what next? How do I get my book out there?
I asked Daisy Kizza, whose book, “The Journals of He” was published by Beyond The Vale last year, how she raised her online profile.
My name is Daisy Kizza and I am a Nurse in the Johannesburg area, but on my social media platforms, I go by my pen-name JD Kizza. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram on my handle, @JaneAuthor.
So, before I say anything else, here is the shortest version of my writer journey…
I started writing when I was in grade school, and when I joined Facebook in 2009, I would share my poems with my ‘friends’ under one of their old software features, called ‘Facebook Notes’.
Back then, I didn’t have any real goal in mind with what I was sharing, I just used it as an outlet for my feelings and as a way to cope with all the stress of varsity life.
In 2013, I learnt about blogs, but I found that I didn’t have the capacity to use one in the traditional sense – I wasn’t sharing my views on things, I didn’t travel and document it, I wasn’t reviewing books or movies, I wasn’t even trying to open a dialogue about anything with anyone.
I found a platform called WordPress not long after, and with some digging, I found that I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t particularly interested in creating that kind of content.
And so, that was when I started my first ‘blog’ – which was more of an open journal, really – The Poetry Of A Heavy Heart, by JaneAuthor. I filled it with my poetry, written the way that I wanted to write it, away from the people that knew me on Facebook.
I figured that I could speak freely among strangers, and I could cultivate that image in the presence of those who didn’t know me for anything beyond my writing.
But as the years passed, I got caught up in the new challenge of having a full-time job, and I left my writing behind entirely because I just didn’t have the time or the energy to do anything but work and survive.
Toward the end of 2015, I joined Instagram, under the handle JaneAuthor. I coupled that with a Twitter account, which I later deleted because I just wasn’t feeling it.
Again, I realized that the traditional style used by Instagrammers at the time just didn’t fit me. And so I started posting my poetry, in much the same fashion that I had with the blog.
I quickly learnt about hashtags and following people and slowly, my own following began to climb.
I returned to WordPress and decided that I would share my words on both platforms simultaneously so that I could create a consistent image for the poet profile that I was hoping to build.
I would monitor the stats on both of these platforms, and I was pleased to learn how big of a reach I had despite the modest following – not just here in South Africa, but across all of the continents.
I currently have just over 1800 followers on Instagram, with a reach of over 65000 non-followers – the non-followers are a mashup of accounts that have passed through my page, whether to read without interacting or to drop a comment, or share my words across their socials.
When Facebook did its thing and bought Instagram, I was convinced to link my Instagram author page to a Facebook page. I was reluctant at first, but I eventually did it in 2016, using the same handle, and the same model of sharing practices – one voice, one image.
HISTORY OF THE JOURNALS…
The Journals Of He was launched in 2017 when I decided to throw caution to the wind and just do the thing. I was convinced that I would never get published – that I wasn’t good enough for it, that I had to leave South Africa to go legit. So I pulled all my memories of all the significant things I had experienced from childhood to date and created the world of Dom and Dilia. I created a page for it and began the business of quietly making it known that there was a Facebook page, by including the ‘share with your Facebook friends’ widget at the bottom of the blog.
I ‘created’ my own chapter art and built the aesthetic and mood around the story, using music and creating character-driven poetry.
In the beginning, I wanted to keep JaneAuthor separate from The Journals, and so nobody knew who was behind the story.
I never stated what my gender was, or where I was from. I just flew the two flags that would hint at where I might be from – the Ugandan flag and the South African flag.
This anonymity allowed me to – for lack of a better way to put it – go to town with what I was sharing. I didn’t worry about what anyone would say, because they had no idea who I was.
I published the entire series and managed to go from 35 readers to a little over 1000.
And then I decided to do it all over again, with a second edition.
Because my Facebook page was linked to the blog, any follower on the page would automatically be following the blog.
I got numerous requests for tutorials on how to read The Journals from start to finish on WordPress, and so I launched #Wednesday_Q_and_A.
I would answer random questions that people asked in my DMs, and every couple of weeks, I would recycle the same content because the new readers just kept coming.
It would take around 6 months or so for each book to go from prologue to epilogue, and I would wait another 3 months before I moved on to the next book.
And that was when I learnt about Facebook Ads and Boosting.
I pushed content from Journals I – teaser chapters with chapter art, spending R200 over 12 days, just advertising across Facebook.
By the time Journals II came out in 2019, the readership had grown exponentially – but the drawback was, that Facebook was aware of the kind of content that the story contained, and as a result, my blog site link was flagged and banned for life from Facebook!
By then, I reached upwards of 3000 readers.
I tried to challenge it, but my request was denied, and any and all posts that I had made that contained the link were blocked, even from me.
To this day, the Facebook page has ‘ghost images’ – the picture albums will state that there are more images than there actually are because some of those images are blocked, simply because the blog site link is attached to them.
So I made another way.
I had to repost all my teasers again, but I removed the link completely.
I continued to boost my posts, using hashtags instead.
I would still host my Wednesday Q and A sessions, but with deeper insight and explanations. I had no direct links that I could share because access was blocked within Facebook – BUT there was nothing that stated that I couldn’t use images with the link ON them.
So that was what I did.
I would have some safe, unassuming images made, with the link typed ONTO them, encouraging people to manually enter the details into their search engines.
Not everyone is familiar with the internet and its ways, and so I had to be patient with this.
My reach started to climb again, and I managed to make it to slightly over 4000 by the end of the second run of Journals.
I started the current Journals run in early 2020, and – and this was really dumb of me – I am on the final chapters of Journals III on the BLOG while promoting Journals I as a book.
I only realized in hindsight that I should have waited for Journals III to conclude BEFORE I took Journals I to publication, but it cannot be undone.
By the end of the year, that will be the last that we see of Dom and Dilia in ‘free’ mode.
Everything is already being scaled back to facilitate this, and at some point, I will release new images and teasers to fit the new aesthetic of the book.
The page may have lost its link to the blog, but with the book having gone live, the blog isn’t really the priority at the moment.
Facebook algorithms being what they are, I have had to play around with hashtags so as to avoid the ominous ‘shadowban’. This happens when Facebook restricts your post reach, without banning you outright.
I may have a lot of followers, but not all of them can see my posts because Facebook bumps my content to the bottom of the newsfeed based on which hashtags I use.
Right now, I’m operating through trial and error, making the images pop so that people instead are drawn to the page without the need for hashtags, and it’s working so far.
The page now has 10800 followers.
JANEAUTHOR : THE BUDDING BRAND.
Some very smart people caught on to the fact that JaneAuthor, was in fact JD Kizza.
Some of these smart people follow both Journals and JaneAuthor, very loyally!
I started the JaneAuthor page in 2019, and I believe that it was because of the success of the page, that people took an interest in The Journals.
I have always wanted to be an author of traditional novels and stories, but my power is in my poetry.
JaneAuthor gained its own following in its own right without me having to do much but speak hard on what matters to me, styling it in the form of poetry.
I know that my teachers will look at it and cringe because I am not big on punctuation and I break sentences where they shouldn’t be broken, but this is what sets the pace and tone of the pieces that I write, and it packs a punch.
I use images, mainly from Pinterest, and I make sure to tag that platform every time. I make sure that everyone knows that I am not a visual artist, I am a poet.
What I love about JaneAuthor, is that it isn’t driven by a need to stay relevant, nor does it depend on trends. Feelings are feelings, and even though Pandemicus is destroying the nation, people are still falling in love and getting their hearts broken and dealing with childhood trauma and finding themselves and and and.
And so the poems will speak to everything about the human experience – none of it stops just because something is popular at the moment.
That is what resonates with people.
Most of my poems are genderless, save for the pieces I write on women empowerment, and perhaps the only thing that will give it away is the art I use. But because all the poems are written in the first person, the reader will almost always read them as such.
They will experience it from their POV and not mine. That personal connection is what keeps them engaged, I think.
People’s lives have been changed by the misery of COVID and they need something to remind them that they aren’t alone.
I started JaneAuthor as an outlet for my feelings, and then as a means to grow my name and hold space for my work in the world of the author, but now, I continue it as an outlet for THEIRS.
Strangers who have seen my picture, don’t know me as Daisy. They call me Jane, because of this page.
And that is why JD Kizza exists – Jane (The Writer) Daisy Kizza (The Person).
JaneAuthor currently has 16800 followers, 15900 likes, a reach of upwards of 200000 on the content that I post.
I base my Facebook Ads on what people happen to be drawn to at the time.
If a poem has more than 50 organic interactions, I will boost that post so that I reach a wider audience outside of JaneAuthor, and that draws in new Readers and Poets while engaging the existing pool.
Some of my poems are shared over 100 times because of this model, both by my active followers and by passers-by. Which is brilliant.
Thank you so much, Daisy, an inspiration to everyone self-publishing.