An avid reader and lover of all things mystery, Crystal Swain-Bates decided to take action when she saw the lack of black characters in children’s books.

In fact, taking matters into her own hands was a second nature decision for Atlanta bred author, who said she wanted to fill a gap she saw in the industry.

“I wanted the freedom to make my characters look as dark brown or as light brown as I wanted them to be,” she said. “I wanted them to have names like Makayla, with full lips, noses, braids, and afro puffs. I didn’t want a watered-down version of my book on the market.”

In 2013, Swain-Bates began to do what many new children’s book authors wouldn’t dare to do; she decided to self-publish.

“I wanted to have the freedom of publishing a book under my own terms,” she said.

Like her favorite fictional character Nancy Drew, Swain-Bates said she used her skills to discover Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)—a publishing company under Amazon that helps writers publish their content step-by-step.

According to its website, KDP gives writers the freedom to create what they want and meet publication standards.

First-time authors don’t have to worry about formatting or illustrating because KDP provides easy to use software that walks them throughout the publishing process.

“You can’t tell that books on the Kindle Publishing Platform are self-published,” Swain-Bates explained. “KDP helps to remove the barriers often associated with self-publishing.”

Despite popular belief, Swain-Bates stresses to aspiring authors, “there’s money in self-publishing.”

“I’ve been able to write 12 books so far and that’s just not enough,” she added. “I told my mother before she died that I would publish 100 books, and I’m still working on that. It doesn’t even  make a dent in terms of filling that diversity gap.”

In the first edition of her hard book series, Swain-Bates sheds lights and pays homage to single mothers by telling the story of her mother.

“I always recognized the work she did and I know in communities, not just the black community that there are a lot of single mothers,” she said. “So, I wrote that book as an ode to single mothers.”

On a quest to fulfill a promise she made to her late mother, Swain-Bates’s work has received recognition on a national scale from being featured on BET’s popular television series,“The Game” and “Being Mary Jane.”

She said she makes a conscious effort to write books she never had the chance to read growing up.

“Children develop a sense of self at a really young age, so it is imperative to see themselves in books and film.

Swain-Bates’ next book, “Fro with the bow,” features as its protagonist a girl searching the world to find the perfect bow for her fro.

One of Swain-Bates’s most quoted affirmations comes from a line her book, “I’m a Pretty Princess.”

“It’s not that you’re a princess, your wand, or the clothes that you wear,” she said. “What makes you a princess is what lies within.”

In the future, Swain-Bates said she plans to release a collection of dolls that correspond with her characters.

To enhance every child’s reading experience and to show children there is a successful author right in their backyard, Swain-Bates hosts and participates in a number of read-a-longs throughout Metro Atlanta.

Purchase one of Swain-Bates’s book by visiting Amazon, Hallmark, The Listening Tree Bookstore, and Nubian Book Club.

(Photo: Crystal Swain-Bates)

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