Our 8th author interview is with Jacqui Shepherd, who has traditionally published 40 books AND self published two books, and she has even more on the way! She has a lot of experience in publishing, and she was kind enough to share all her great knowledge, insights and experience with us. I hope you enjoy reading all about her!
Hi Jacqui, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
J: Hi, my name is Jacqueline but I prefer Jacqui. I love being a mom and a grandmother. I am passionate about children, reading and writing. Being a children’s author allows me to combine these 3 great loves of mine.
I publish all my books under my maiden name, Shepherd, in loving memory of my father who I accredit my storytelling talent to. I am a big fan of stories with morals but believe the story should carry the moral and not the other way round. When done correctly children enjoy the story without feeling they have been preached to, and they find themselves adopting values and attitudes that will help them in their daily lives. I aim to produce books that entertain, encourage and empower children.
What inspired and motivated you to write your first book and how long did it take from the initial idea to publishing?
J: My children were born very close together in age, which meant I never had a free hand to hold a book. Needing to keep my children’s little minds stimulated and entertained I started making up my own stories. I then wrote a special story for each of my four children.
Almost 20 years later, a severe case of empty nest syndrome motivated me to submit the stories I had written for my children to publishers. I signed my first publishing contract, for a 10 book series, with Awareness Publishing shortly thereafter. It took 2 years to produce my first children’s book series, “Animal Adventures”.
I have since had another 3 book series (10 books each) traditionally published by Awareness Publishing and have self-published 2 books through Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).
Wow! That's a lot of books!
You're the first author I've interviewed who has also traditionally published. Do you mind sharing a bit more about your experience with traditional publishing - how it's different from self-publishing, and why did you decide to try self-publishing also? What are your plans for future books?
J: Traditional publishing has a lot to offer. The publisher covered all the costs and I had an entire team of very talented people working with me to produce the books. In addition to that the publisher has a marketing team that generates very good sales. Unfortunately the books are sold at a price that doesn't make them affordable for everyone.
I decided to give self-publishing a try so that I could create stories at a more affordable price.
I found self-publishing very challenging. There is so much to learn, things such as a well-worded book description, coding of the book description, selecting book categories, choosing key words etc. In addition to that I had to cover the cost of editing, illustrations and book formatting on my own. Marketing is really difficult and very time consuming. I have been working non-stop, but it hasn't generated sales as yet.
I am currently working on self-publishing a children's book series and I definitely plan to have more books traditionally published. For me, a good balance between the two (self-publishing and traditional publishing) is the way to go. It gives me the best of both worlds.
That does sound like the best of both worlds! I'm sure many authors would like to try getting a book traditionally published, too!
So, what are some of the challenges you have encountered on your author and publishing journey? How did you overcome them?
J: The editing process was definitely a challenge for me in the beginning. I thought my stories were perfect and it was a bit of a rude awakening to find out they weren’t. I came to realise that an editor takes “good” and turns it into “great”. I have learnt to be flexible.
What has been the most rewarding experience since publishing your first book?
J: Undoubtedly my most rewarding experience was when I was able to give each of my children their special story in a beautifully illustrated and printed book.
What is something you wish someone had told you about self-publishing before you started?
J: I wish someone could have told me what the secret is to successfully marketing my self-published books. I still don’t know what the secret is...?
Neither do I! It's a mystery!
Have you had any negative experiences or disappointing moments throughout your publishing journey? How did you handle them?
J: People either love or hate my “Superpower: IMAGINATION: A Book with Pictures Only You Can See” book. Those who understand the concept, which is to develop the imagination, love it but those who don’t quite grasp the concept are not fans. It’s disappointing to get negative feedback and know, “they don’t get it!” and rewarding to receive positive feedback and know they do. You just have to roll with the punches.
What’s the best thing someone has said about your book? Or something they said that made you really happy.
J: It makes me really happy when parents, teachers and children’s book clubs tell me how much children enjoy my books. Some even say that it’s their favourite! That’s so rewarding to hear.
What advice would you give to other aspiring writers or authors?
J: Never give up! Be flexible but don’t compromise your vision. Always use a professional editor and illustrator.
Let's try a quick game: Finish the following statements with the first thought that comes to mind: If I had never published my books, I would not ... be complete. If I could only read one book for the rest of my life, it would be … Winnie the Pooh. I would love it if (someone famous) could read my book ... Roald Dahl If I could only write one more book, it would be about … Chocolate!
What does ‘a day in the life of an author’ look like? Describe your typical day.
J: I honestly don’t have typical days. Some days I wake up with an idea for a story and can’t wait to get started. Some days I read a bit first, to get my creative juices flowing. And some days, I chisel away at stories I have already written, to work out the kinks and really get them to shine. I don’t like routine. For me, monotony stifles my creativity.
Can you share a bit about your books with us?
J: All of my books are stand-alone stories and can be bought separately.
My traditionally published books in the “Animal Adventures”, “Sea Stories”, “Bug stories” and “Farm-tastic stories” series are available in paperback format only from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository and all other leading online retailers.