We had the good fortune of connecting with Nikesha Elise Williams and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nikesha Elise, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I always say that I started my business, NEW Reads Publications, out of vanity. However, I’ve realized going on four years in that it was truly a necessity. I am an author. After working for years on my debut novel, Four Women, on my own and with literary agents, I had come to a place where my agents couldn’t sell my novel to a publishing house and they dropped me. But I still had this book that was done and so I decided to release it on my own. After finding an editor and setting everything up for independent publishing through various distribution channels I made the decision that I didn’t want another company’s name on my work as the publisher. So, that’s when I formed my company, filing with the IRS, the state, and most recently trademarking the name which will soon be followed by trademarking my accompanying logo. In forming my company, it initially was just a way for me to publish my own books. However, I’ve gone on to not only publish my work but also that of other authors as well. With three authors, so far, with books out, and two more on my roster with forthcoming projects.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a literary artist. I use that term because I’m more than just a writer. Yes, I write for various publications, I have books (novels, poetry, and a forthcoming non-fiction project), but I’m also a spoken word artist and performed my work in my debut one woman show, Lessons We Were Never Taught, in 2020 just before the pandemic began. I think what sets me apart from others is how much I throw myself into my work and am willing to sacrifice for it–sometimes even to the detriment of other equally important areas in my life. That’s not a brag, but it is who I am. I think I am most proud of the reception of my debut novel, Four Women, which came out in 2017 and my most recent novel, Beyond Bourbon Street, which came out in August of 2020. Those moments stand out for me because of how important the stories were/are to me. As far as, how did I get to where I am professionally, a lot of different twists and turns. I am a journalist by trade. I spent 11 years as a news producer in various markets and was very successful, winning two Emmy awards before leaving the industry. However, I’ve known for years that I always wanted to work from home as a writer and so that was always something I did. Every book I’ve written and published was completed while I worked a full time job as a producer. It definitely was not easy, especially as a wife, a mother, and for a long time working the 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. shift as a morning news producer. However, I kept going, got in trouble at work, and kept going still because I believed then and still believe now in the power of a story, and the stories that I have to tell. One lesson I’ve learned along the way is that I need to create better balance and boundaries between writing/working/ and family life. I’m actively working on it now, and my son kind of makes me, but I still have to be intentional about establishing and sticking to certain routines and knowing when it’s work time, I work. And when it’s family time, I focus on family. Working for yourself and working from home it’s easy to get consumed in work because you’re so close to it–physically and mentally. But it’s also good and productive to take a break and turn it off. Shut the computer down! I want the world to know that rejection doesn’t stop me. No one can tell me “no” if God has said “yes.” This has kept me going as an author and publisher and led me to continue to establish my company and brand as one that sees the benefit in diverse stories and points of view instead of pandering through tokenism or in a knee jerk response to the dismal racial climate. NEW Reads Publications will always champion stories that spark conversation and incite dialogue from a multiplicity of voices, especially BIPOC voices.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If my bestie was visiting for the week we would definitely be eating well, drinking, shopping and relaxing. So, definitely a beach day, at American Beach in Nassau County for the history and sereneness of if. While there we’d go over to Fernandina and walk through their quaint shopping area and probably eat in one of the restaurants there. If we’re balling out then definitely a spa day at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club. I love eating out in Riverside so Black Sheep, or River & Post are definite go to places. And though I don’t love shopping, we’d probably make a day of Town Center during the week, and then on the weekend head to River Side Arts market and check out the local vendors their and food trucks where I sometimes sell my books. Granted this is all if COVID was not a thing. In the evenings, I know a lot of artists so probably a gallery opening or something artsy either in the CORK Arts District, or downtown area.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My mom and my husband deserve credit in my story. My mom for always encouraging me. My husband for so many reasons. There was a point in the writing of my debut novel that I lost my manuscript. My husband said to me, “Either you’re going to finish and you’re going to do it, or you’re not.” That was a make or break moment for me. I could have either wallowed in my heartbreak over losing something I had worked so hard on, or I could use the incident as a learning lesson and motivation to go after my dreams. Since then, I haven’t stopped with five novels, a poetry collection, and a fully functioning independent publishing company. My husband has also taught me a lot about how to run a small business as he has a small business of his own.
Blue Franswa Stephanie Jones