Author Interview: Sierra Wilson, The Atonement of Jesus Christ is For Me
How many times have you wanted to just give up? Sierra Wilson had received stacks of rejections and was starting to rethink her dream of becoming an author. She was close to giving up. And then came a "yes" from Cedar Fort Publishing. Check out her full Author Interview.
1. List the titles of your published books (include publisher and year published) and your author website/Facebook page links.
The Atonement of Jesus Christ is for Me
(Cedar Fort, 2018)
2. When did you start writing your first book? Where did the idea come from?
I started my first book in third grade. I remember writing and rewriting the first chapter because I wanted it to be perfect. It was basically a fan fiction modeled after Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three. I never finished it, but I remember that being the first time I knew I wanted to be an author.
As for my first published book, I started writing The Atonement of Jesus Christ is for Me in 2017. I was inspired to write it while serving in my ward’s primary presidency. I noticed that many of the children seemed to struggle with understanding the Atonement. I wanted to write a book to help children understand all of the ways the Atonement touches their lives. My hope is that the book will spark great conversations in the home.
3. What was the hardest part about writing your first book? What hurdles did you have to overcome?
When I wrote The Atonement of Jesus Christ is for Me, I had already been regularly writing children’s books and sending them to publishers for two years. I’d collected a good stack of rejections and was getting pretty discouraged. I actually told my husband that I was thinking of giving up. But then I had the idea for this story and felt so inspired and excited about it. I decided to try just one more time, and I’m so thankful I did!
4. Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?
I sent it to my critique group for feedback. I’m grateful to have wonderful writing friends in my life!
5. What did you expect from the editing process? How was the experience?
I knew that every story goes through many rounds of editing and refining, so that wasn’t a surprise. What did surprise me was how long that process continued. I sent in a few final edits just two or three months before my book’s release date!
6. Describe what re-writing involves and how it makes you feel. How is it different than the initial writing?
For me, starting a new story is so exciting and I often write the first parts of my stories or even entire stories quickly. Rewriting involves taking a step back and trying to see the story in a new light. I often have to wait a week or more before I’m ready to look at my story critically and find ways to change and improve it. Getting feedback from others helps quite a bit and I often get excited about ways to change my story after talking with one of my critique groups. I’m a very verbal person, so talking out ideas with my husband or one of my writing friends helps get my ideas flowing and takes the dread out of revision. It’s a great feeling when you uncover a way to make your story even better than before!
7. Did you have non-editors read your book for feedback (Alpha Readers)? What did you get out of that?
Yes, I always seek out alpha readers so that I can get several readers’ perspectives on my work. To me, it’s essential to see the story through a reader’s eyes because I am not writing just for myself. Doing this helps me understand what’s working and what needs to be clearer in my stories.
8. Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?
My illustrator designed the cover. I didn’t have any input, but I absolutely love the way it turned out. I believe people do judge books by their covers—I know I do! So I’m very thankful with how beautifully it turned out.
9. How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?
Because my book is written for a specific religious audience, I sent it into smaller publishers who cater to that audience. I had already submitted to these publishers many times, so the experience was pretty routine. What wasn’t routine was getting a “yes” reply only a week after submitting! Typically, a wait for a reply is a few months. I was doing a happy dance for days after getting that special email.
10. How have you marketed your first book?
So far, the majority of my marketing has been done through social media. After the book is released, I am also planning some story time and author signing events. Recently, my illustrator, Corey Egbert, and I ran a facebook giveaway with a beautiful print of our books’ cover art. And right now, of course, I’m working on my blog tour, which includes a book giveaway.
11. How was the initial feedback from readers?
The feedback was really positive, which gave me a lot of encouragement. I hope that this book will go out and do some good in the world.
12. How have sales been on your first book? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?
I don’t know yet, but I’m hoping they go well!
13. Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?
I’m not sure, but from my understanding, print is still much more popular than ebooks in the picture book market.
14. Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?
This was handled by my publisher.
15. What made you decide to write more books? How were those experiences (writing/editing) compared with your first book? Did you do anything differently?
I’m an “idea” person and am constantly coming up with more story ideas. I just wish I had the time to write them all! I have another book coming out with my publisher in 2020 that I was also inspired to write based on my experiences working with children at church.
As to how things have been different, I think as time goes on my writing process and writing are improving. A big part of that is thanks to wonderful resources such as my critique groups, my editor, and attending writing conferences.
16. Anything different in the publishing process for your other books?
So far, things have been similar. However, I’m hoping to also start publishing novels soon, and I’m sure the process will be fairly different.
17. When did you consider yourself a "writer"?
In some ways I feel like I’ve always been a writer. Writing and reading have always been so dear to me. But I don’t think I started feeling like a professional writer until I started regularly writing and submitting to publishers, making an effort to develop a writing career.
18. When do you write? What motivates you to write?
I write when my little ones are sleeping, so that means nap times, late nights, or early mornings. Several things motivate me to write. One is a desire to contribute something good to the world and to be of service with my books. Another motivation is the joy of creating. The creative process brings me so much happiness and it helps me have a more balanced life. Although writing can definitely be hard, it is also so much fun!
19. What do aspiring authors ask you?
Usually I get questions about the business side of writing such as questions about submitting to publishers, understanding the industry, and marketing. I think that is something that surprises most people—the fact that being a professional writer involves learning so much about business and marketing.
20. What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?
Be persistent! I only got a publishing contract when I was on the verge of giving up. If I had given up, I wouldn’t be where I am now. You have to have a thick skin to be a professional writer. You’ve got to be able to take and use feedback, stomach a lot of rejection, and maintain hope all the while. Along with that, my advice would be to hold onto the joy and fun of writing. Sometimes it can be easy to get swept up with worries about publishing, marketing, sales, etc, and these can start to drag you down. When they do, write something new, just for you. Allow yourself to play as a writer and don’t let things become too serious!