Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Publishing Secrets with John Herrick, Author of 'Between these Walls'

A self-described "broken Christian," John Herrick battled depression since childhood. In that context, however, he developed intuition for themes of spiritual journey and the human heart.

Herrick graduated from the University of Missouri—Columbia. Rejected for every writing position he sought, he turned to information technology and fund development, where he cultivated analytical and project management skills that helped shape his novel-writing process. He seized unpaid opportunities writing radio commercial copy and ghostwriting for two nationally syndicated radio preachers.

The Akron Beacon Journal hailed Herrick's From the Dead as "a solid debut novel." Published in 2010, it became an Amazon bestseller. The Landing, a semifinalist in the inaugural Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, followed.

Herrick's nonfiction book 8 Reasons Your Life Matters introduced him to new readers worldwide. The free e-book surpassed 100,000 downloads and hit #1 on Amazon's Motivational Self-Help and Christian Inspiration bestseller lists. Reader response prompted a trade paperback.

His latest novel, Between These Walls, returns readers to Hudson, Ohio, to which he introduced them in From the Dead.

Herrick admits his journey felt disconnected. "It was a challenge but also a growth process," he acknowledges. "But in retrospect, I can see God's fingerprints all over it."

Visit John Herrick at or at his blog, Connect with him on Facebook or @JohnHerrick. 

Find out more on Amazon.

Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published.  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
I love people, and characters give me the opportunity to explore them in a way that encourages readers. I fell in love with writing as a kid, and at 10 years old, I decided I wanted to become a novelist. It took another 25 years of practice, tangents, experimentation and endurance before I saw my first book on the shelf!
Regarding why I penned Between These Walls, we tend to see a gay man’s experience at the surface. We seldom hear about the emotional, spiritual or social aspects that churn inside him. Between These Walls offers readers a rare glimpse into the internal, psychological struggle of Hunter Carlisle, a gay main character, from his youth to adulthood, and walks with him as he reconciles his feelings in light of his faith.
The book includes an Author’s Note, which tells the story behind the novel. I’ve also posted it at my website here:
Is this your first book?
It’s my third novel to hit the shelves. My nonfiction book, 8 Reasons Your Life Matters, is also available. Meanwhile, a fourth novel is in the revision phase—I’ve relegated that poor victim to the back burner so many times over the last decade!
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
It’s a small indie press and was the avenue that opened to me. It’s proven a perfect fit for the early stage in my career. It offers the flexibility to take risks and explore characters in less conventional ways, which has helped me learn what resonates with readers.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?
Every writer’s journey is different. I consider myself one of the least-qualified writers out there. I never took a creative writing course. Nowadays, I read reference books on writing to improve my skills, but when I sat down to create my first novel, I hadn’t researched how to do it. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. If you read the first-draft pages of the first novel I attempted, The Landing, which are posted on my website, you’ll find a sample of that raw content and my first attempt to fix it. But it gave me the chance to test my creative instincts. As I reached the end of that first draft, I studied facets of how to construct a novel, then built them into my revision processes, one by one, as I acquired each skill.
I held on to my dream for a couple of decades. The key factor that enabled me to complete a novel was the years I spent doing IT work—computer programming, project management, analysis. My biggest obstacles to completing a long-term project, such as a novel, were my lack of self-discipline and my aversion to creative planning. IT work knocked that out of me, because you’re thrown into a situation where you can’t give up until the computer program works. And computers don’t compromise! Since my passions don’t reside with computer work, I wouldn’t want to repeat the experience, but I also wouldn’t trade it for anything. I learned so much during those years. And the lessons I learned—the specific lessons I needed for my journey—wouldn’t have occurred in a creative writing course. Obviously, God is much smarter than I am!
Regarding pros and cons, I’ll start with the con, because it leads up to the pro. The biggest downside is the abundance of rejection you’ll face. Some will think you’re not a strong writer, but most will reject you for subjective reasons—they have a limited number of “yes” cards they can use. Rejection hurts, and early on, it hurts badly. But once you grow accustomed to it, it becomes part of the background noise and doesn’t disturb you like it used to. So if you see an author with a book on the shelf, chances are they’ve developed thick skin and had to fight for years to see that book on the shelf. It’s critical to decide in advance that you refuse to give up, because you’ll feel like giving up often! Remember those multiple-choice tests in school, where it was a no-brainer to eliminate Choice D, because you knew it was the wrong answer? I considered quitting my Choice D, eliminated it outright.
That leads to the biggest pro along the journey: You have the opportunity to overcome rejection and grow stronger. You’ll discover you can endure things that would have knocked you out 10 years ago. And that strength will spill over into other areas of your life. Because you’ll understand rejection, you’ll have the opportunity to encourage others.
Listen to your heart. I’m convinced you’ll end up in the right place at the right time if you’re in tune with the true, honest desires of your heart.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
I treasure my situation much more than I would have 10 years ago. Every time a book hits the shelf, I value that accomplishment because I know the time investment it required, and I recall the years waiting to see that happen. I treasure the relationships God has brought into my life—readers I’ve talked to, industry people who offered words of encouragement at the right times, bloggers I’ve had the privilege to know, friends who have cheered me on. In the end, the final book and the process behind it boils down to the people you encounter along the way. For every book you see, you can find relationships behind it.
As a writer, you don’t always fit in. You’re an artist—and let’s face it, artists are just odd! Novel writing is an unconventional career choice and an uphill climb. Companies post a lot of job openings, but I’ve never seen one that said, “Wanted: Novel Writer”. So you’re on your own. You don’t think the way others do or perceive your workday the same way. While the people around you find fulfillment and a career track at their day jobs, getting paid to build their career step by step, you’re still sacrificing your leisure time, walking by faith, betting everything on an unseen reality. That leaves you feeling isolated and foolish. But as early breakthroughs unfold, you start to surround yourself with more people who think along similar lines, and you realize you’re not alone; you’re simply in a very small minority.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Absolutely. Every author harbors stories, motivations and goals in his/her heart. Some avenues in publishing are better suited than others for your particular vision and level of preparation. It’s a matter of finding the best fit for you, keeping an eye on both the present and the future, with a willingness to adapt and be patient along the way. You can always grow, so don’t despise the day of small things.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
“Never give up!” It’s the advice I’d give to anyone who has a dream. Decide in advance that quitting isn’t an option for you.

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