Be willing to promote you and your book. Even with a traditionally published book, the author is expected to do the majority of the promotion. Which means you have to step out of your comfort zone and get your platform going on social media. Ask people for reviews. Ask people to help promote your book. Try out swag. Try videos and different ways to get the word out. Be willing to do what it takes to spread the reach of your book. All my promotions so far have been organic and it’s been amazing. I only did a month of promotion for the second book in my trilogy, Raven, all on social media. and I hit #5 in one of my Amazon categories.
As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracey Shearer.
Tracey Shearer is a published author of Entwine and Raven along with being a regular podcast contributor of “Your Writing Does Not Suck.” As an Intuitive Storytelling Coach, she uses her over fifteen years of writing experience to help other writers craft, edit and publish their own dreams. Having survived cancer four times, she understands the importance of not waiting to pursue your passion.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
I grew up creating stories and sweeping my friends away with fantastic tales. I knew I’d be a published author someday, but that “someday” kept stretching further and further away. Until I lost my job. Until my mom died. Until I got cancer. Given only a 50% chance to live, it was a wake-up call to finally pursue writing seriously.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
I volunteered regularly at a local Writer’s Conference and during one of the sessions I volunteered for, I started chatting with my former agent. I told her I planned to pitch to her in a later session. To set the stage, she is an extremely formidable presence. And someone that everyone wanted to pitch to. She stared at me and asked, “What are you doing in fifteen minutes?” I swallowed and replied. “What am I doing in fifteen minutes?” She told me I was coming on break with her — she needed a smoke. When we left on break, we made our way through the conference hotel towards the ultimate goal of the parking lot. Every few steps, a writer stopped her to pitch. She listened patiently and then always said “no”. Watching the crushed faces of my fellow writers, I knew my chances were slim. We made it outside, sat on a curb and she told me to pitch. My pitch was all over the place. She took a drag off her cigarette and stared out across the parking lot to where a group of writers huddled together, no doubt preparing to approach us. Turning back to me, she asked for the entire manuscript and a 3 month exclusive. I told her I had other agents interested. This was true. I did. She promised to give me feedback to make my manuscript shine after that 3 month timeframe even if she didn’t represent me. It was a no brainer. I agreed. A few months later, she got snowed in with a bad storm on the East coast and managed to read my manuscript ahead of time. She called me to discuss. She had one minor change and then casually told me she wanted to represent me. I jumped up and down a few times before calmly accepting and asking her to send the contract. To get an agent without a query, and have them ask for a full manuscript within an hour of meeting them, is extremely unusual. It was definitely meant to be.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
I’ve had a few big challenges, but I’ll talk about a more recent one. After going through years of my agent not being able to sell my first book, a vampire story set in Seattle and Russia, and my second book, Entwine, I began to feel disheartened. With my first book, I was still learning and developing, but my second book was incredible. I knew it in my bones. When my agent had to suddenly retire to take care of her ailing hubby, I was adrift. No agent. No representation. A local writers conference was happening just a few days later. I pitched my book and everyone wanted to see it. I secured a publishing contract with a small press. And…turned down the contract. The contract was too restrictive. If I had received it as a newbie, I would have jumped on it, excited to have someone who wanted to publish me. But I know more now. And I knew that I could publish Entwine successfully on my own. Over 65 five star reviews later and I was right. So, my advice is to really consider any contracts and do your research. Once you sign a contract, things can change for you. You don’t always control the cover, the title, when your book will be released, or even if they’ll continue to print your book if it’s not doing well. Be certain of what you’re signing. Also, ask if it’s negotiable before you have an attorney rip it apart for changes. You should still have an attorney review it for you if you’re interested in signing, but if you can’t change anything, then the attorney won’t have to spend time (and charge you) for proposed changes.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of the major mistakes I made, and one which a lot of beginning writers make, was thinking I had to include everything I thought was interesting in my book. Tangents, subplots, backstories that didn’t move the plot forward. But they were so Interesting. I didn’t want to cut them. Thankfully through my writing classes and my writing group, I saw all the excess in my story hid its beauty. I cut over 30,000 words and that’s the manuscript that snagged my first agent. It was the beginning of my love for editing and why I can now cut pieces of my books more easily because I know it’s to bring out their magic.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m working on Book 3 of my trilogy which is really exciting. The trilogy is about three strong women trying to repair a childhood friendship. They each have special gifts of their own which also further complicates things. Each book is centered on one woman, though the story continues with all the characters throughout. This third book is about the most damaged woman, Beth. It’s going to be epic as I not only tie up her storyline that I’ve built throughout, but also in bringing all three women together as a powerful unit. One of the themes is sisterhood and how we’re stronger together. I predict tears from my readers. They cry at some point in each of my books because they get hit emotionally, which is what writers love to have happen. It means we’re really connecting them to our work.
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
Since my books are fiction, I think one of the most interesting aspects is of the realm of Entwine, the realm between the living and the dead. Does everyone move on? What about those with unfinished business? Who runs the realm? I’ve set up different archways to different resting places so it’s really up for interesting interpretations by the reader.
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
The main lesson would be where there is love, there’s hope. Many times we give up on relationships with family, friends, or romantic relationships too. They’re either too hard, or things were said that aren’t forgotten. Many times it’s our memory of what happened that stops us. When you look at the past with older eyes, you may see things differently. So, if there is still love there, still a yearning to connect with that person again, you should reach out. No one can guarantee an outcome, but to not try is the real tragedy. I’ve had several readers tell me they’ve called old friends and connected once more after reading my books.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Persistence is Key. Writing is a long haul. You can’t write a book in a day. It takes time and dedication. Even after not getting my first book sold, after losing my agent, after turning down a contract, I kept going. I formed my own publishing co. LLC and published my own book. And now I have an agent who wants to work with me on another book. Never give up.
- Understand not everything goes as planned. I learned a ton along my publishing journey by making mistakes, but they all led me to where I am today. A funny example of things not going as planned is when I published Entwine and used the POD service, IngramSpark. I didn’t realize IngramSpark distributed to Amazon. Right after my NY book launch, I’m getting pinged with messages that people have bought my book on Amazon. And then it sold out! It was crazy and unexpected. But I learned how things worked and discovered I had to upload my book separately to Amazon in order to have it readily available without being sold out. And I had to complete re-do the trim size because Amazon didn’t have the same options as IngramSpark. But in the end, I got it fixed and it all worked out. You need to learn how to jump over those unexpected obstacle in the road.
- Be willing to promote you and your book. Even with a traditionally published book, the author is expected to do the majority of the promotion. Which means you have to step out of your comfort zone and get your platform going on social media. Ask people for reviews. Ask people to help promote your book. Try out swag. Try videos and different ways to get the word out. Be willing to do what it takes to spread the reach of your book. All my promotions so far have been organic and it’s been amazing. I only did a month of promotion for the second book in my trilogy, Raven, all on social media. and I hit #5 in one of my Amazon categories.
- Write what you love. If you don’t, your readers can tell. How many series have we all read where you sense the author fell out of love with his characters? Or personal development books where it feels like rote — — no energy or emotion? If you don’t love it, don’t write it. Even if you know it will sell or that it’s a trend. Write what excites you and the rest will follow. My former agent told me this early on when I began writing Entwine. She’d seen too many authors write what they thought would be a big seller and you could tell their heart wasn’t in it. And as a result, their sales went down.
- Be vulnerable. No matter whether you’re writing a memoir, personal development, or fiction, vulnerability creates a bond with your reader. When you make them feel and care, you’ve made that critical connection. And there’s an authenticity that speaks loudly when you’re vulnerable. You’re letting the reader inside and giving them a glimpse of who you are. They will buy everything you write because they feel they know you. My experiences with cancer along with the loss of my parents gave me the opportunity to truly connect with my characters and the readers. When my characters face death or have lost someone, I know exactly what they feel.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
I believe perseverance was one of the biggest contributors to my becoming a great writer. When my cancer came back two years after my first diagnosis, I worried that I might not be alive to see my book published — I was still writing and learning at this point. Then when it came again, a year later, I knew I really might be on borrowed time. It was frightening to keep facing death. But I kept going. I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from achieving my goal. I couldn’t control my rare cancer, but I could control my actions. I never gave up and I’m so happy I didn’t.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
I found the early Stephen King novels my mom let me read (when I was too young!) were some of the greatest inspiration. King manages to build characters so complex and layered, that you instantly form a connection to them. You get attached and worry how they’re going to survive. I’ve been told by my readers that they love my characters and keep thinking of them long after they close my books. And they want more of them. I’d like to think I honed that skill from reading Stephen King when I was growing up.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to be able to create a way that everyone could get a short story or personal essay published and out into the world. So many have truths to speak but they don’t know how to go about writing effectively, let alone how to get anything published for others to read. After going through what we did in 2020, we know the importance of not waiting — to seize the moment. So perhaps it could be a banding together of publishing houses or creating an online portal to help people publish for free. And a collective of authors who can put together videos and trainings to teach others how to craft their stories. It would be a wonderful thing to have an easy way for people to learn to write and then be able to publish their work — to spread their light to the world.
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Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!