I’m pleased to have Cheryl Barker with me for this month’s author interview.
Cheryl is the author of Mother of the Bride—Refreshment and Wisdom for the Mother of the Bride that released last month. She’s also written for compilation books, magazines, other publications, and for Blue Mountain Arts greeting cards, gift books, and calendars. Her heart’s desire is to refresh spirits and nourish souls. Cheryl loves to spend time with her family, enjoy friends, take photos, and indulge in daily doses of chocolate. You can find her online at cherylbarker.net.
Why did you write Mother of the Bride: Refreshment and Wisdom for the Mother of the Bride?
After experiencing the mother of the bride role myself, I realized mothers of the bride need refreshment and help, and that they could benefit from a nurturing voice in their lives. Not only did I want to encourage and help other women taking on this role, but I knew the approach I had in mind would fit in perfectly with my Refreshing Spirits, Nourishing Souls brand.
I’m hoping and praying this book will make its way into the hands of mothers of the bride for years to come. And hopefully as people discover my book, they’ll make it their go-to gift for MOBs they know.
Can you give us a brief synopsis of your journey to publication?
It can best be described as a marathon. Over twenty years ago I started out submitting short creative pieces and articles for publication and then began submitting greeting card poetry to Blue Mountain Arts as well.
After some success amid the rejections, I decided to write a book. However, I was still a lone ranger writer (small town, no serious local writers group) and didn’t know nearly enough about the book publishing industry. After a few years of working on the book and seeking publication as best I knew how and having no luck, I put it on a back burner.
Around that time, I found a writers group to join in Tulsa, OK. For the past ten years, I’ve driven 150 miles round-trip each month to attend, but the instruction, inspiration, and camaraderie I’ve found there have been invaluable. I also learned what it takes to achieve success in book publishing by reading books and agent blogs, participating in an online writers group, attending writers conferences, and growing in the craft of writing.
Let me break in here a moment. 150 miles round trip! That speaks not only to your dedication as a writer, but also to the quality of that writers group. You’re fortunate to have such a group. Many writers don’t. Please continue.
After learning much about growing a platform—which included becoming a blogger—I decided to write another book, one for mothers of the bride. Since the book I had in mind would fill a gap in the market, I hoped to have a better chance with it than I did with my first book, a Christmas devotional book.
After attending several conferences and taking numerous other steps to position myself better for publication, I signed with my agent and eventually landed a book contract with BroadStreet Publishing. Getting to the point of that contract, though, was another marathon experience. A year before I signed with them, I’d been offered a contract by another publisher who had to withdraw the offer due to a financial crisis.
That was when I had to put feet to my trust in God and dig deep as my agent and I regrouped and started over. But God is indeed trustworthy. He blessed and brought about the very best in his time. BroadStreet has done a beautiful job of fulfilling my vision for the book, and I am ever so grateful.
I congratulate for your perseverance. Perseverance is such a large part of what authors are called to do. Did you work with a critique group or an editor to fine-tune your manuscript prior to submitting to publishers?
Yes, I worked with an online critique group hosted by Fellowship of Christian Writers, (my Tulsa writers group.) I also asked my daughter Kristin to critique each chapter. She provided valuable insight from a general reader’s point of view. Also, since I’d worked with an editor at the publishing house who had to withdraw their offer, I’d also made some changes and additions to the manuscript at her request. And those changes made the book better when it was time to submit it to BroadStreet.
What does your marketing strategy include?
I’ll actively promote the book through tried and true methods like social media channels, my newsletter list, and blogs like yours (thanks!), but to most effectively reach the niche audience for my book, I’m also pursuing methods targeted more directly to mothers of the bride.
When financially feasible, I hope to sell books at bridal fairs or have flyers included in the goodie bags for brides. I’ll also travel regionally to bridal shops, florist shops, and gift shops to personally introduce my book, and I’ve asked BroadStreet to cultivate nationwide customers like these who they might not typically approach.
In addition, I researched and contacted megachurches and major universities who have wedding coordinators/event planners and/or bookstores to see if they’d like to receive information and a sample copy. We’re hoping they’ll order in bulk and give the book as a gift to the mothers of the bride they work with—or to the brides so they can gift their moms with the book. If not that, perhaps they’ll place it in their bookstores.
Bridal fairs and shops, florists, megachurch & university wedding coordinators, certainly creative venues, but perfect your book. I encourage the writers I work with to find topics/connections, even with fiction, that are outside the realm of normal marketing. These ideas can open ideal market segments that contain your target audience.
For example, the setting for Melody Balthaser’s book, Seeking Sophie is a Maine lighthouse. She’s connected with lighthouses along the coast with success, and Catherine Brakefield connected with historical sites along the Oregon Trail because that’s the journey her characters take in her book Wilted Dandelions.
What advice do you have for writers concerning finding and gaining a publisher?
First make sure you have a quality product. Spend time—most often years—growing in the craft of writing. You do this by writing a lot, reading, getting instruction, and having your work critiqued. Learn how to write a dynamite query letter and book proposal and make them shine so you can present your very best work to agents and publishers.
You also need to build a platform that will attract an agent or publisher. Develop an online presence and grow your list of followers, gain published clips in magazines and other publications, schedule speaking engagements if you’re a speaker, and network to widen your sphere of influence.
Attending writers conferences is a must because this is where you can pitch your book in person. You have a much better chance of capturing an agent’s or editor’s interest and getting the go-ahead to send them your material than when just sending a query.
Perseverance is also key. It takes time and a lot of work to reach the point of being considered by agents and traditional publishers. Even after signing with an agent, you’ll need to work with him or her diligently to find a publisher.
Above all, ask God to guide your efforts and choices and to open the right doors at the right times. Give your book to him entirely and ask him to bring about only what’s best for you and the book. And then trust him come what may. His will and ways are always best!
Prayer is so important, not just as you seek a publisher, but from the very beginning of your project. Do you have another project in the works? What about that first book?
I have an idea for a companion product for Mother of the Bride so will probably be working on that before thinking about that first book project again.
Good luck. Thank you, Cheryl, for being here today to share your experience and wisdom with us. Congratulations on Mother of the Bride.
About Mother of the Bride: Refreshment and Wisdom for the Mother of the Bride
When women become mothers of the bride, they take on a delightful but demanding new role. While trying to maintain life as they knew it before their daughters’ big announcements, mothers of the bride are also called upon to magically morph into wedding planners, help their daughters navigate the journey to the altar, and establish new and loving relationships with their prospective sons-in-law and their families. With all focus and finances dedicated to the brides and the weddings themselves, the needs of mothers of the bride are often overlooked.
Mother of the Bride helps these special women step away from the hurried pace of daily life complicated by their challenging new role. It offers them the refreshment found in discovering community as they take time for themselves—time to be encouraged, to gain helpful insight and practical tips, and to enjoy the feminine beauty of a book designed just for them.