Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Are We Selling Books or Selling Out?

Sherri Shackelford here, fresh from conquering The Big Apple. And by ‘conquering’ I mean I didn't die.

Because my good friend wrote a fabulous book, I had the opportunity to attend the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City a few weeks ago. (You may recognize the book by Cheryl St.John – Writing with Emotion, Tension and Conflict.)

Several attendees mentioned how many classes were offered on ‘selling your book’ or ‘how to get your book published quickly’ rather than ‘how to write a great book’. The sentiment was something I heard echoed throughout social media from the Romance Writers of America Conference. (Full disclosure-I didn’t actually attend RWA this year. Maybe they were lying.)

Curious, I thumbed through my RWA conference booklet from 2008 in San Francisco. I was a starry-eyed young writer back then. I was still green and hungry for knowledge with less than a year of learning under my belt. Thankfully, there were plenty of sessions about craft for a newbie.

Which left me wondering: Are we selling books, or selling out?

I’ve just sent off the proposal for my fifth book to my editor at Harlequin this week. So you’d think I’d know what I was doing by now, right? Wrong. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.

Which brings me back to the question: Are we selling books, or selling out?

I came into the business at a great time. Indie publishing was still in its infancy and I didn’t have any other choice but to learn the hard way through a series of rejections and re-writes.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not here to champion traditional publishing. Unless, of course, you’re a big fan of dying poor beneath a leaky garret. (Just kidding. I’m not kidding. I am. Mostly kidding.)

I am, however, a fan of learning. When my first book was published, I received a small burst of interest from other authors curious about ‘how I did it.’ (Not in a scary OJ Simpson kind of way, I’m sure.) These fresh new authors wanted me to give them an honest opinion of their work.


These authors wanted me to tell them they were great and ‘here’s my agent’s home email’ and ‘here’s my editor’s private line to the red ‘publish-this-person-now’ phone’. They wanted me to dress up in old-timey clothing and write A++++++++ on the chalkboard.

Don’t be that person.

Why sell books before their time simply because we can?!

A lot of what I learned in New York is old news for most people, but it’s a good refresher.

About self-promotion:

1. Take advantage of Goodreads. That’s where the readers hang out. But don’t be creepy and try and sell your books all the time. Engage people in discussions about other books you both love. Join groups and learn what people are reading and enjoying. Never, Never, NEVER engage a reviewer. EVER. Not unless you want cyber pitchforks lobbed at you. Read all the rules of the groups you join and FOLLOW them. Don’t be like your brother-in-law, the Amway salesman, and make people hide behind potted plants to avoid you.

2. Gather a mailing list. People read 1% of their twitter feed and see about 10% of their facebook posts. Everyone reads email.

3. Don’t bug people on facebook. They want to see pictures of your cat wearing a sailor hat. Really. Or maybe a nice meme of Tom Hiddleston ordering you to relax and take a bath. People do not want to hear ‘buy my book’ blah blah blah ‘buy my book.’ Sure, they like to hear about new releases and they enjoy cover reveals. They also like to hear how you dictate all your books to a male-model-turned-secretary while wearing your pink silk mules and a diaphanous peignoir. (C’mon, we’re all selling a dream, right?)

4. Have a nice website. It doesn’t have to be Potterville, but don’t have something that looks like your brother-in-law, the Amway salesman, designed it. Update your website. If your biography has your 2008 release listed as ‘new’, update the information. People are looking for an easy way to discover your backlist. Help them.

5. Stop worrying so much about selling your books and building a platform, and spend more time writing new books. More content drives more sales than a Tom Hiddleston meme.

6. It’s okay to be traditionally published. The galaxy will not be cloaked in evil if you sign with a Big Five Publisher. It’s also okay to be a hybrid author. It’s okay to be Indie published. There’s no need for ‘Team Indie’ and ‘Team Traditional’ T-shirts.

7. The guy from Amazon doesn’t differentiate between small-press and self-publishing. It’s Big Five or Indie. I don’t know what that means, but I thought it was interesting.

8. Figure out metadata. And when you do, explain metadata to me. That class was really overwhelming.

Here’s what I learned about craft from the Writer’s Digest Conference:

1. Never stop learning. (Actually, that’s not from the conference – that’s from me.)

2. Good stories will trump good writing. (I know we’re all thinking about the-book-that-shall-not-be-named with the numbers ‘5’ and ‘0’ in the title.) Read Lisa Cron’s ‘Wired for Story’ and search the Seekerville blog for further explanation. (I once had an admired friend tell me she enjoyed THAT book. She sunk in my estimation faster than an Italian cruise ship. Then, she said, "It drew me in." You can't argue with that.)

3. A story is emotion. Read Cheryl St.John’s, ‘Writing with Emotion, Tension and Conflict.’ Take special note of the excerpt from Sherri Shackelford. (Just kidding. I’m not kidding. I am. Mostly kidding.)

4. Writing books is hard work. If it’s not hard work, you’re doing it wrong. The fun is in the beginning when everything is fresh and wonderful. The fun is at the end when all that work is behind you. The fun usually dies somewhere in the middle when you realize you’ve just spent three months writing THE WORST BOOK EVER WRITTEN. Real authors suck it up and push on. Hobby authors start a new project.

Here’s the thing—I don’t know how to tell when your work is good enough for publication. There’s always some point in the process where I’m pulling out my hair and having serious discussions with my husband about how I’m planning on hitchhiking around the country to pull my current books from Wal-mart shelves one by one because they’re awful. To which my husband inevitably replies. “Keep the crazy at home, and you already spent the advance.”

(Joke’s on him—I let the crazy go public a LONG time ago!)

I DO know it’s a good idea to keep learning, to ask for and accept criticism -- hire a professional editor. (Not your brother-in-law, the Amway salesman.) Attend lots of conference and share what you’ve learned. Especially about metadata. Because metadata is really confusing for some people.

Bad books do not a good career make. Discoverability is getting more and difficult. Earning money is a good thing. Self-promotion is important. (For example: If everyone reading this blog could buy a copy of The Cattleman Meets His Match and then pop on over to Goodreads and/or Amazon and leave a review, that would be great!)

But please don’t annoy people all day long with blah, blah, blah ‘buy my book.’ And don’t just sell books. Sell GREAT books! That’s what I learned at Writer’s Digest. 

Now, my question to you, Seekerville is this: What is the new apprenticeship/polishing process in this brave new world of publishing? 


I’ll give away two copies of The Cattleman Meets His Match to people who comment!

The Cattleman Meets His Match


Cowboy John Elder needs a replacement crew of cattle hands to drive his longhorns to Kansas—he just never figured they'd be wearing petticoats. Traveling with Moira O'Mara and the orphan girls in her care is a mutually beneficial arrangement. Yet despite Moira's declaration of independence, the feisty beauty evokes John's every masculine instinct to protect, defend…marry?

Moira is grateful for John's help when he rescues her—and she can't deny that his calm, in-control manner proves comforting. But she is determined not to let anything get in the way of her plans to search for her long-lost brother at journey's end. However, can John show her a new future—one perfect for them to share?

A wife and mother of three, Sherri Shackelford's hobbies include collecting mismatched socks, discovering new ways to avoid cleaning, and standing in the middle of the room while thinking, “Why did I just come in here?” A reformed pessimist and recent hopeful romantic, Sherri has a passion for writing. Her books are fun and fast-paced, with plenty of heart and soul.

Sherri is currently working on three more books for her Cimarron Springs series. Her current books include Winning the Widow’s Heart and The Marshal’s Ready-Made Family, and The Cattleman Meets His Match. The Engagement Bargain releases in February of 2015. Visit her website at sherrishackelford.com or contact her sherri@sherrishackelford.com


Marianne Barkman said...

If you write a book, they will buy it? Yes, and no. Some might think about it, some might even buy it. But first wrIte that over the top novel, and not only will they buy it, but they will talk about it, which sells your novel. Thanks Sherrie. You rock!

Kara Isaac said...

I love love love #4.

Every single manuscript, in the torrid pit of doom between 50-75k, that is me. I am the WORST writer in the world. WHY would I think I could do this? Let's just have them die in a fiery inferno and finish this unsaveable train wreck of a story right now.

Then I break through 75k and it's all angelic choirs bursting forth in song :)

Melissa Jagears said...

The answer to Metadata....pay someone to do it for you???

And loved how you differentiated between Real authors and hobby author: It's awful, yep, press on.

Natalie Monk said...

Hi, Sherri! It's nearly midnight in my neck o' the woods, so I'm going to have to reread this when I'm coherent.

I did comprehend two things in your post, though: Excellent advice, which I want to let sink in...and Tom Hiddleston. lol.

I have a slight addiction--er...affinity for Mr. Hiddleston. And I love getting on Pinterest, now, since I've followed some Hiddles fangirls. Talk about the perfect blend of class and sass. ;)

Thanks for sharing with us what you learned from the WD conference! And with that, I'm saying nighty-night.

Iola Goulton said...

I've just come back from the Romance Writers of New Zealand, which had several of the same speakers as RWA (and RWAustralia), including a full day from James Scott Bell (yes, be jealous, and check my Facebook feed for the fangirl photo).

The big message I got from all the speakers was that the best marketing technique is to write a good story. Then write another. As a reader, I have to agree. And the writing has to be good enough to support that story and allow your characters to shine through.

Heidi Robbins said...

This article cracks me up! I love your 'just kidding, not really' inserts :) As a reader, I think you totally hit the nail on the head. I like to follow authors' Facebook and Pinterest feeds, but when it's too much *repetitive* promotion, that's a turn-off. I do love learning about new books and lots of fun tidbits about how they came to be, backstory, extras, giveaways, etc. Speaking of... please include me in your drawing! :)

Liz Flaherty said...

What a great post. I so enjoyed it. And agreed with it.

Jackie said...

Thanks for the reminder to wait until our stories are the best they can be. Don't rush the process.

Metadata...no clue.

Thanks for stopping by and for sharing your wisdom. Have a great day!

Mary Hicks said...

Sherri, I enjoyed your post! Although I've not been published, it all sounds like good advice.

Writing one good book after another has got to be the best way to success. :-)

Thanks for sharing with us.:-)

DebH said...

Learning through humor... love it! Lots of great stuff to think about, like, am I a real writer or hobby writer? (Just kidding. I’m not kidding. I am. Mostly kidding.)*heh*

IMHO the new apprenticeship/polishing process in this brave new world of publishing is hanging out at Seekerville and absorbing the wisdom that is freely given. I know I personally would not be even pursuing this "author thing" (as my hubby terms it) if Seekerville did not exist. I've learned so much and been freshly inspired to follow the dream the Lord has given me. And that's NO kidding.

oh, and I'd love to have my name in the draw for your book. the blurb certainly draws my interest.

lizzie starr said...

Excellent words, Sherri. Of course, how can you lose referencing the Hiddleston? :)

Too many authors are spending too much time worrying over Indie or traditional or hybrid and not writing that next great book. With or without numbers...

Hooray for readers! They're the most important ingredient in all this!

DebH said...

thanks for sharing with us. you do know that the wisdom of Seekerville includes the peeps they bring in... right?

Rose said...

Hi Sherri,

Great advice. I loved the pictures that you and Cheryl shared on Face Book. It looked like you had a GREAT time in the Big Apple.

Best of luck with your book.

Sherri Shackelford said...

Marianne - I know even good books sometimes languish, but you're right- I'd rather have them talking about my 'good' book than my 'awful' book!

Kara - I know that 'oh dear, this is a mess' feeling well!

Melissa - I think paying someone to figure out metadata is my best option :)

Sherri Shackelford said...

Natalie - I won't name names, but there are people who don't know about Tom Hiddleston!

Iola - I am most definitely jealous!! It's good to know the advice is the same across the board.

Heidi - even though I'm a writer and I should be understanding, I get annoyed and hide people if too many of their posts are self-promotion.

Sherri Shackelford said...

Liz, Thanks for stopping by!

Jackie, I'm sure someone knows about metadata...we just have to find them...and kidnap them. (I'm kidding. I'm not kidding. I am. Mostly kidding.)

Mary, now I just have to figure out how to write that great book! Baby steps...baby steps...

kaybee said...

Who is Tom Hiddleston?

Sherri Shackelford said...

DebH - hobby writers don't know they're hobby writers, so you're safe! I love that you pointed out Seekerville is part of the apprenticeship process :)

*lizzie has said it best, "Hooray for readers!!"

Rose, speaking of learning...Cheryl and I kind of felt the conference was cutting into our 'fun' time. So we're not great examples...

Sherri Shackelford said...

Kaybee - I think Tom Hiddleston is probably best known for playing Loki in Thor and the Avengers series. He's an awesome villain - the kind of villain you wish you'd written...

Cara Lynn James said...

Fabulous post, Sherry! I've also noticed how the emphasis at conference workshops has changed from craft to self-promotion. A lot of books get published too early. It's another thing we have to come to grips with in this new publishing world.

Cara Lynn James said...

Opps, Sherri, I spelled your name wrong. Sorry.

Tracey Hagwood said...

HI Sherri~
You have me smiling this morning and I love to laugh so thanks for the humorous article, not kidding :) Great way to start the morning.

One of the things I love about Seekerville is the opportunity to hear from authors I haven't read yet. There are so many writers out there to choose from, I hardly know which one to pick next. Your article has me convinced, I want to read your books, so I'm putting you on my TBR list. And on that note, please enter me in the drawing for your book.

I'm adopting your husbands advice about leaving the crazy at home, although I wish more people who went to walmart would do that too. Visits there do make for some hilarious sights. I always feel the height of normal and sane after a trip there. lol

Sherri Shackelford said...

Cara - my grandmother always spelled my name with a 'y'. With a name like, Sherri, you have to get used to imaginative spellings!

I think contests are still a great way to get feedback. Unfortunately, I don't think other genres are as forward thinking and progressive as the romance industry!

Tracey - I need to take my husband's advice about 'leaving the crazy at home' more often as well :)

Jennifer Smith said...

You're right; writing is HARD work! I ask myself on a daily basis why I'm so compelled to do it. :) Thanks for sharing!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Okay, yes, I am late. I slept in. The rain woke me. We are having our annual rain in Arizona.

Forgive me, I brought breakfast and more java.


Did you get a cronut while in NYC?

Tina Radcliffe said...

I Googled metadata and bought a book about it.

Not helpful.

Courtney Milan did talk about it in her self publishing workshop last year. Find that workshop.

Jeanne T said...

What a great post, Sherri! I love your humor and your matter-of-fact points.

Your thought about Goodreads is duly noted. I haven't joined it yet, but it sounds like it's about time I do. Both to learn from other readers and to maybe begin building relationships there for if/when my turn comes to be published. :) Thanks for the nudge!

I hav no clue about metadata. There I said. I'm oblivious on that (and many) topics. :)

Sandy Smith said...

I also have never heard of Tom Hiddleston and I have no idea what metadata is. I am also nowhere near being published, so I don't have much to add to the conversation today, but enjoyed the post. Please enter me in the drawing. The book looks good.

Sherri Shackelford said...

Jennifer - I think there's this odd belief that a writer has the whole book fully formed in their head and it's just a matter of squeaking out a few minutes to put the words on paper.

Tina - I need a metadata intervention. That's all there is to it.

Jeanne - Goodreads is fascinating. I haven't done much, but authors who have mastered the site rave about the readers!

Pam Hillman said...

Sherri, great stuff. You had me nodding my head in agreement and spewing my coffee at the same time. I'm multi-talented like that! Ha!

The part about people wanting to be published instead of wanting to write... Hmmm, maybe that's why authors are such recluses.

When my first print book came out, I had more than one acquaintance stop me in the grocery store, the nursing home, and gas station and ask how to get their stories published. When pressed, they hadn't seriously written much, but were ready to publish it, whatever it is.

I told them to hang out in Seekerville, and gave them the list of various organizations that cater to the type writing they do.

I especially invited them to the local writer's guild meetings that a dear friend holds in her home every month. Haven't seen hide nor hair of any of them.

They're probably visiting with their publisher.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Sherri and welcome to Seekerville. What a great article and so true.

Really it comes down to great writing. And to be great you need to keep writing. Thanks for the fun way of reminding us.

Have fun today.

Missy Tippens said...

Sherri, it's so good to have you back! What a great post!! (And I'm still laughing about the metadata because it's totally confusing to me as well).

Thanks so much for the report on the conference. Sounds like a great one.

I'm right there with you on loving the beginning and the having finished, yet thinking the middle is the stinkiest thing ever. I've found having critique partners is a HUGE help. They can give it a fresh read and provide objectivity. Sometimes that middle DOES truly stink. Other times I'm surprised when they like it. :)

Pam Hillman said...

Kara, it's the same on a 20K novella. It happens between 15k-18k.

Yes, train-wreck about sums it up.

But then, if you keep pushing, polishing, writing, thinking, dreaming, chipping away, it does feel like an angelic choir, doesn't it?

Tina Radcliffe said...

"I think there's this odd belief that a writer has the whole book fully formed in their head and it's just a matter of squeaking out a few minutes to put the words on paper."

Ruthy and Mary propagated this stuff.

On the floor laughing.

Chill N said...

Yes about the website! After I read a book I like (by an author I haven't read before), first thing I do is check the website to find the backlist.

Thanks for the smiles this morning, Sherri!

Nancy C

Elaine Manders said...

Hi Sherri

I love your humorous, serious post. Yes, too many authors are publishing before their time. I started two books this summer I couldn't finish, but there are a lot of good stories out there too. Readers just have to be more discriminating.

As writers we have to realize that we're already in love with our characters and story, but to make others love them we have to pour on the emotion, conflict and tension...oh, and motivation. It has to make sense.

I don't know anything about metadata, so I'll have to pay I guess.

Your new book is on my want list, whether I win the draw or not.

Missy Tippens said...

DebH, you're so kind. We're so glad you hang out with us here!

Pam Hillman said...

I bet Tom Hiddleston knows what metadata is.

Chill N said...

P.S. Don't enter me in the drawing. The Cattleman Meets His Match is in my iBooks (in my to-read stack). I peeked at it the other day ... love that town name "Fool's End" :-)

Nancy C

Meghan Carver said...

My mother sold Amway for a brief period of time in my childhood. Eek!

Love your post, Sherri, and especially the kick in the pants to write more books. Good books. :-) So, I'm getting off here and getting back to the wip. Thanks!

Sherri Shackelford said...

Sandy - I thought the Tom Hiddleton might be a little obscure - but at least two people really loved the reference :)

Pam - Those people who simply want to be published never seem to show up for the meetings, do they!?

Sandra, "Keep Writing" is the best advice!

Tina - Ruth & Mary always ruin it for everyone!!!

Sherri Shackelford said...

Missy - I couldn't have written my first book without my wonderful critique partners!

Chill N - I check the website for the backlist as well! I like authors put the books in order and group them by series.

Elaine - I can't wait to read your books - keep us posted on all your successes!! And please let us know if you figure out metadata :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cheering for the collective wisdom of Seekerville!!!! :)

Sherri, this is so sensible and smart and you're so stinkin' attractive that I should go to confession and be forgiven streams of ENVY..... but since you're as nice as you are smart and pretty, I won't be a bit envious! Not a smidge....

I love that we're on the cusp of so many fun things. I love my contracted stories, I love my independent works, I love working with Big Five publishers and being a hybrid author no matter what indie purists might think because I LOVE PLEASING READERS.... and if I can please them across multiple venues, then YAY!!!!!!

Awesome post, Sherri!!!

Myra Johnson said...

Sherri, this post is fun, challenging, and insightful. Thank you for being our guest today!!!

As for metadata . . . when somebody figures it out, please explain it to me in plain, third-grade-level English. Also, please tell me what I'm supposed to do with it once I understand what it is.

. . .

After skimming the comments, I have decided metadata is something some evil person dreamed up to give writers the heebie-jeebies and inflict massive confusion and self-doubt.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sandra and I were critique partners for years, but we got to a place where there wasn't time for that anymore.

I like my stepped up production, and waiting on opinions doesn't fit my time frame. The other side of that is that what pleases a critique partner might not make an editor happy, so then it seemed like I might as well go for the straight and narrow path: Me and editors and they tell me what they want fixed and I fix it.

Of course we know I'm confidant enough to be willing to risk the editor beat-down! :) Mostly they're very, very nice to me!

Helen said...

Great blog, great advice. I love your description of how the book is so great when you first start writing, and how amazing it is to finish it but the middle of it is a nightmare. Been there and done that. Thanks for sharing

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Metadata.... data about data.

(Ruthy muses this as she finishes yet another book....)

I'm a numbers person. I like building readership like you build a house, a room, a castle, a store...


Sherri's right, the foundation is/are those great books. But once you're doing that, the only data I use is raw: numbers.

Sales. Percentages. If my sales were to lag, I'd pump them up with ...

More books.

The best way to boost lagging interest is to interest more people with more books. Amazon excels at this. Successful category authors do, too... and then you use those increasing numbers to build the new house/castle/room....

and you keep building.

Myra Johnson said...

I've gotten to the same place as you, RUTHY, when it comes to critiques, beta readers, etc. My only beta reader these days is hubby. I like to get his overall reaction to the story before I say it's "done," and he also occasionally finds a typo I missed.

Sherri Shackelford said...

Pam - I think you're right, Tom Hiddleston holds the key to metadata!!! That's brilliant :)

Ruthy - Ahh, thanks for the complement and thanks also to photoshop for fixing my discolored teeth.

Ruthy & Myra - I use critique mostly as brainstorming these days, but my group was invaluable during the learning process.

Helen Gray said...

I'm here, I'm here!!

Our electricity went out about ten o'clock last night. A tree fell on the line. When power was restored about midnight, I had no internet. So I read late and went to bed.

Now I have internet. Life is good again.

Thanks for the perspective.

Here's fresh coffee.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Helen, thank you!!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

More coffee always welcome, Helen.

I asked Tom Hiddleston to stop by.

He failed to answer. That doesn't necessarily mean no. Remember, writers are professional dreamers.

Julie Lessman said...

SHERRI!!! LOL ... LOVE this post -- practically smiled through the entire thing!!

YOU SAID: "Why sell books before their time simply because we can?!"

For money, I suppose, but I'm definitely not one of those -- I actually wish I was a bit more like that, though, because I am too demanding of myself, too anal, and too much an "artiste," as my husband likes to tease. That doesn't get the books written as quickly, which is what fuels the career. I'm trying to give myself permission to just write what I may see as a "mediocre book" compared to what I want to write just for the sake of getting it down and done. Ususally it's much better than I thought when I get to that point, so all the stress and angst is usually for naught.

LOVED THIS STATEMENT: "There’s always some point in the process where I’m pulling out my hair and having serious discussions with my husband about how I’m planning on hitchhiking around the country to pull my current books from Wal-mart shelves one by one because they’re awful. To which my husband inevitably replies. “Keep the crazy at home, and you already spent the advance.”

LOL ... I may join you, only my books aren't in Walmarts, unfortunately, but it sure is nice to hear other authors go through this same hair-pulling exercise and survive ... with a full head of hair, to boot!

Thanks for a great blog -- I needed this today!


Piper Huguley said...

What a great post, Sherri! A lot of food for thought here. Thank you for sharing your wisdom from the various conferences as well as the idea that the apprenticeship doesn't get any easier. It just seems to be changing shape these days. Flexibility appears to be a key ingredient.

I'm with Pam. Hiddles knows about metadata and we need him on Seekerville to answer these questions....:)

Mary Connealy said...

My parents were actually Amway salesmen for a while.

I totally hid from them.

Mary Connealy said...

I get these emails all the time.
Read my book!

And I rarely do because I just don't have time.

But when I do I sort of hurt for the author because what I read is a good story, poorly told.

And that's the trouble with some much (certainly not all) of indy publishing.

It's a whole nuther thing when an established author publishes extra books indy (RUTHY!) because they've learned the skills they need.

But when I see someone with their very first book...and it's a good story, poorly told...I try and tell them to work on it, revise it.

One lady told me once. "I will and I'm going to spend the next six months revising while I look for a publisher, but if I can't find one by then, I'll publish it indy."

Well it was a really interesting story. A good story, poorly told.

But it's done. It's published. It's not that bad but will some time and effort...like maybe the effort a person puts into graduating from College...she could have had something extraordinary.

It makes me worry for the future of writing. :(

Mary Connealy said...

Isn't Metadata one of the X-Men?

Storm, Wolverine, Rogue and Metadata?

You're welcome, Sherri. Glad I could help.

Sherri Shackelford said...

Mary said what I was trying to say but in a much better way (As usual!)

And, FINALLY! Metadata Man. NOW I understand!!

Thank YOU, Mary :)

Terri said...

Great post! And you are so right about the middle. I always feel like I'm writing the worst book ever! But the end is fun. :-)

Sherri Shackelford said...

Helen - so glad the lights are back on!

Meghan - I remember when it seemed like EVERYONE was selling Amway. That got very awkward at cocktail parties :)

Julie - I can relate to perfectionism. That can really do a number on people.

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Sherri! Loved your post, especially the focus on the importance of good writing. Gotta have a good product, even your annoying Amway salesman would agree. :-)

I love an emotional story. A funny story. They don't have to be perfectly written, though a confusing sentence or wordy description may take me out of the story for a minute, but when I'm hooked on the tale, I'm right back turning pages.

I think all authors have that point when they question their work, question themselves. Wonder if they'll make it through to type The End. Like you, I'd love the travel the country and buy copies of my book that didn't sell. Then I think better of it, sure it would bankrupt me. LOL Well, at least with this attitude, we won't get the "Big Head" as people used to say.

Love your title and hunky cowboy on the cover!


Mark Abel said...

Hi Sherri. Thanks for your post it was very encouraging and confirming of my path as a new writer. Working on my first novel now for two years and giving it my best. If it gets published some day, I wonder what happens next? I hear about publisher deadlines and such and wonder about how that pressure impacts the creative process. Once published, is there a lot of deadline pressure to produce the next book, or, is it possible to control that and not let it destroy ones focus on good writing? Guess I don't yet know if my writing is good but will be getting some feedback soon. I would love your feedback and council on what to do/not to do, once published. Thanks again !

Mary Connealy said...

BTW I followed your Excellent Adventure with Cheryl St. John in NYC. Very cool!

Sherri Shackelford said...

You know, Mark, the Seekers probably have better advice...but the editor will generally ask *you* to set a timetable. That being said, these days, I think a book a year is about the minimum to keep the ball rolling.

For someone like me, who writes category romance, I need a minimum of 2-3 books a year.

What do the rest of you think?

Sherri Shackelford said...

Mary, we had SO much fun. Except the conference did kind of get in the way of our 'fun' time.

We'd go for RWA but skip RWA!

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...


I love your sense of humor! This post was so much fun, and totally reminded me why we are friends (other than geographic closeness). Great tips, too. I believe I'm still on the "this book is awesome" high, since I'm nearing the end of the third draft. Funny, it gets better with each pass through. We'll see about the second one I'm working on...

Hiddleston rules, although I must admit a recent addiction to anything Benedict Cumberbatch. That man's voice! Every hero I ever write might just have to have his beautiful voice. Count me among the Cumber Collective...

Have a wonderful day, from the Mutual Hair Admiration Society :)

Sherri Shackelford said...

My friend Stephanie!!! Woo Hoo!!!! And Stephanie has the BEST hair. Do you know how she styles it? She washes and combs it. That's it. And her hair is GORGEOUS! It's so unfair. That should be a Super Power.

I love me some Benedict Cumberbatch. No doubt.

Isn't it a great feeling when you're manuscript comes together?! That's the best :)

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Great post!

"I came into the business at a great time. Indie publishing was still in its infancy and I didn’t have any other choice but to learn the hard way through a series of rejections and re-writes."

I think this is a common misconception about indie (otherwise known as self publishing, but that's not as cool). I don't know a single person who ahs self published without loads of rejections and rewrites. They self publish after revision after revision after revision, and more beta readers than my traditional books get before the editor gives it the go-ahead.

Example: my contemporary self published book Leaving Liberty went through at least 20 beta readers, two professional edits, and two crit groups.

My last Howard Books/ Simon & Schuster book was read by (wait for it) no one before it went to my editor, who then gave me some light revision notes. And then BAM, off to the presses.

Anyway, great post and who knew Sherri Shackelford was such a riot??

Jamie Adams said...

Love the cover of your new book, Sherri. Thanks for sharing your great advice with us.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Mary said:

One lady told me once. "I will and I'm going to spend the next six months revising while I look for a publisher, but if I can't find one by then, I'll publish it indy."

Well it was a really interesting story. A good story, poorly told.

"But it's done. It's published. It's not that bad but will some time and effort...like maybe the effort a person puts into graduating from College...she could have had something extraordinary.

It makes me worry for the future of writing. :( "

Mary, do you think your first book is as good as or better than your last book?

For me, my first book traditionally published is not as good as my last traditionally published book.

Perhaps it's not so much that it was indie published as that she's a debut author. Every author grows and matures. Spending four years revising one book may not be the best answer to "how to write a great novel".

Tanya Agler said...

Dear Sherri,

Hi. Thank you for your post.

I have a question for you from the post (or anyone else nice enough to chime in on my question). In the fourth thing you learned about craft from Writer's Digest, you mention that real authors push on and hobbyists start a new project. Could you clarify this for me? In other words, when you say that hobby authors start a new project, are these new projects started without finishing the first or second book?

Thank you so much for writing about craft and the importance of continuing to learn.

Sherri Shackelford said...

Virginia - I can't speak for anyone else - I'm referring to the new wave of writers: Most of whom (many of whom) would never even consider a traditional publisher.

People who don't know the basics of GMC, POV and XYZ PDQ. People who are looking for the 'easy' path. Because we all know - there's no easy path!

Speaking personally - my last book is definitely better than my first! Luckily, that first book is collecting dust beneath my desk - where it belongs. That book was not Amazon ready. Unfortunately, I don't know if I knew that at the time. At the time I thought I was the cat's meow :)

Sherri Shackelford said...

Tanya - I guess what I'm saying is that eventually - we all have to finish *something.* I have only been in the business 7 years, but I know people who are still revising the same manuscript and never finishing. Or they have 10 started projects and nothing completed.

You have to finish a book to know you CAN finish a book. You know :)

Tanya Agler said...

Dear Sherri,

Thanks for answering my question. I have finished manuscripts and am in the process of editing my latest book. I want to finish revisions before I start my next book although I am starting to think about plot, characters and conflict. The important thing for me right now is to finish this book by layering emotions, tightening the conflict, removing unnecessary introspection or repetitiveness, and strengthening the dialogue (or at least I hope I'm doing this :) ). Thanks so much for your response! Tanya

Sherri Shackelford said...

So I guess that's the difference - I know a lot of people who have Indie published without ever submitting or even taking a class or having a critique partner.

I have had an actual conversation with someone who said, "I don't care what readers think." And "Why should I have to promote my book?"

Well...If you WANT readers to read your book, those things might be important.

Sherri Shackelford said...

Tanya - It sounds like you're way ahead of the curve!

Suzie Johnson said...

I enjoyed your post, Sherri. I think I met you in Anaheim. I read every single comment hoping to learn about metadata. Someone please teach me, I feel so dumb!

Cindy W. said...

I'm a day late but I did enjoy your post Sherri. I appreciate not rushing the process and waiting until our story is all that it can be. Thanks for your inspiring words.

Cindy W.

Mary Preston said...

As a reader I don't mind how a book is published. I just want a great read.

Sherri Shackelford said...

Mary P - Great point! I had someone say they thought readers would return to traditional publishing because the books had been 'vetted'. Which I thought was odd since most people have no idea how a book is published!

What I'm talking about is the new learning process for beginning writers. Because it is different :)

Suzie! I think we did meet in Anaheim. I bet the Seekers put together a night class on metadata!

Holly I. said...

Hey Sherri,
Thanks so much for the great article! My sister and I are always saying we're gonna write a book, so I definitely appreciate all the advice given on the seekerville blog.
I also love Historical Fiction and Seekerville introduces me to many authors. Your books are now all on my TBR list! :)
"The Cattleman Meets His Match" sounds like an awesome read--right up my alley. Would love to win a copy, but if not, I will be buying it!! :)
Thanks! ~Holly I. Morehead, KY

Cheryl St.John said...

Sherri thanks for the morning laughs and the plug for my book. I know enough about Metadata to be dangerous.

Diana Dart said...

Just the words I needed today (and yesterday, and very likely tomorrow). THANK YOU!!!!!!

Words to remember for all time -- "Real authors suck it up and push on. Hobby authors start a new project."

Sherri Shackelford said...

Good news - Cheryl is going to teach us metadata! Yeah.

Diane - thanks for stopping by! Keep pushing through the pain :)

Sherida Stewart said...

I'm late in reading your post, Sherri, but want to thank you for the recap of the WD conference. Great information! And I just ordered Cheryl's book! It's been on my to-buy list for awhile. I especially like the "never stop learning" advice. Yes! Metadata?