I am HBCU proud.
In 1992, I graduated with a Business Administration degree from Florida A&M University’s School of Business and Industry. (Go Rattlers!) While my oldest daughter did not attend an HBCU, she is more in love with her Hillman paraphernalia than the stuff from her actual alma mater and may (from time to time) wonder if she should have. I think she wonders if the life-affirming experience described by Whitley Gilbert in the following video clip would’ve been true for her, too:
It was for me. And it was for author Yvette Manns, who graduated with a degree in Early Childhood Education from Clark Atlanta University. Manns’ college experience was such a significant part of her life, she penned a children’s book about Historically Black Colleges and Universities to inform kids about the many positives of attending them. She published the book independently and is excited about the response it has received. Today we welcome author Yvette Manns to tell us about HBCU Proud and the process of “making her own market”.
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“HBCU Proud” was inspired by my personal experience as a first generation college graduate. HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) are very popular in the mainstream media and I wanted children to learn about HBCUs from a child’s perspective. I got the inspiration from my work as an educator for over a decade. I’ve seen so many of my children struggle with reading. Some of the reading struggles were due to deficits in decoding skills, some were due to lack of exposure to language skills, but most of it was because Black and Brown children were not interested in texts with images that didn’t look like them.
“HBCU Proud” is special to me because it allows the main character, Q, to just be a normal Black boy. The “Black Boy Joy” is evident in this story as he learns to find his own passion for Historically Black Colleges & Universities. Of course, this story was inspired from my own experience at Clark Atlanta University, but some of the topics in the story are issues that impact ALL HBCUs. My wish is that the younger generation be more exposed to HBCUs, which I consider to be incubators of Black excellence.
As a millennial, utilizing social media platforms comes naturally to me. I decided to announce my debut as an author on Facebook and Instagram, and the traffic to my site has gone “semi-viral”. The popularity of my posts have lead to radio/podcast interviews, print magazine features and speaking events. I’ve used video technology, such as Zoom Conferences and YouTube to connect with readers across the nation to do virtual read alouds. I think that when authors tell an authentic story, people will support you and share their testimonials and pictures with your book, which you can then share (with their consent) on your social media pages.
My social media marketing campaign consisted of utilizing Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn. When deciding what platforms to use, I analyzed my own usage of those sites and made sure to include at least one long form platform and one short form platform. In a nutshell, a long form platform—like Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn—is a place where people tend to read longer posts and engage with content that way. A short form platform—like Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter—is easy to grab people’s attention quickly and give them a call to action. Sometimes, shorter platforms can be used in a long platform method; for example, having a series of threads on Twitter that you can “roll-up” and tell a story in an unfolding way. I’ve found that my audience on Instagram enjoys simple pictures with VERY long captions and emojis. They tend to like, share, repost, comment and save these posts more than pictures with a one-line caption. Using hashtags has been instrumental in helping my page to get discovered as well. I would recommend using 10 – 15 hashtags related to your book and leave them in the first comment under a post. That way, people who are following that hashtag will stumble across your page and follow along your author journey. Also, utilizing the Instagram stories feature lets people know you’re active on your page, even if you haven’t posted any new pictures in a while.
The campaign of people holding the book at different HBCU campuses has been a game changer. It started when my friends’ daughter, Savannah, was the first to take a picture with the book on Thanksgiving. That one picture encouraged other people to send in their pictures to be featured on the social media pages and it became a “trendy” thing to do. The funniest thing is I never initially asked people to take a picture with the book and email it to me. Once it began, I think people were so supportive, they just naturally sent me pictures with their books. Some of my friends would carry copies of the book around Atlanta and share them with people they met.
I’ve managed to keep my book top of mind by actively sharing my progress with my audience. It was a big deal when we hit 500 book sales in March and people celebrated this accomplishment with me. When I held my book signing, I held it in the very same library that I visit frequently and we had so much fun that we went three hours over time and no one wanted to leave. Every milestone was like a collective win! I think sharing the process of writing a book and being vulnerable along your journey inspires others to support a good initiative.
My next campaign will be the “Don’t Rush Challenge” on Instagram and Facebook where authors will show their book covers and do a transformation after covering the camera with their book. This will allow for cross-promotion with other authors and utilizing the hashtag that comes with it for discoverability. My advice would be to get creative, to get out of your comfort zone, to try new things and use apps like Planoly & Later to schedule out social media posts in advance for the week. I use a method called “batch posting” where I write out all my social media posts for the week and schedule them automatically so if you don’t feel like posting, the job is already done for you!
The reception from readers has been really positive! People of all ages and backgrounds have enjoyed the story and the messages in my book. I’ve learned through the challenges of self-publishing about editing, formatting and word count. Some young readers have provided honest feedback that is helpful. I’ll keep those tips in mind as I continue to venture on my journey as an author and begin my next book. Overall, the support from friends and family and people who stumble across my work has been monumental and inspires me to keep writing stories for people who look like me.