Friday, October 18, 2013

Heather Day Gilbert: Trailblazing Down The Different Author Path

Everyone's Story has the pleasure to host author Heather Day Gilbert. Although I've known Heather for a while now--as a guest on this blog, visiting her blogs, and sharing support here and there--she is always amazing and inspires me. As a woman who doesn't give up, why shouldn't Heather set a fine example of forging ahead on a publishing route that is best for her and may ultimately suit her readers as well? Do you crave a particular type of inspirational novel that you're not finding on the shelves from traditional publishers? As either a writer or reader, how determined are you to create or find a good read? Both Heather and I look forward to hearing your views.

The Publishing Road Less Taken by Heather Day Gilbert

Following God's leading isn't always easy. I'm finding that, for a writer, you have to be in tune with God's nudges and follow them, no matter how crazy and off-the-wall it might look to others.

I could share several instances when I've done what I knew was the right thing, even if it didn't make sense. But the one I'm going to focus on today is my decision to self-publish my Viking historical novel, God's Daughter.

Most people who know me know I've been pursuing traditional publication in the Christian Book Association for some time. A bit over five years now, to be exact.
To be honest, God had to push me to even consider self-publication. And yet once I did decide to become a hybrid author (meaning I have an agent and a book out on submission with traditional publishers, while in the meantime I am self-pubbing another novel), the responses varied.

Most authors want the best for other authors. We usually try to build each other up, because we know we're all going to get rejected at some point or another. And rejection stinks. But let's admit it—it's easy for jealousy or misunderstanding to cloud our vision, so we make blanket statements that might not apply to every writer. I'm sure I've done that myself. It's good to remind ourselves that not everyone will have the same path to publication we did, or encounter the same obstacles.

So once I announced my hybridization, if you will, I was glad God had made it very clear that was the right route for my historical. Because as comments trickled in from other authors, so did my doubts.

For example, some thought it was the easy way out. I know that's not true, given how long I was out on submission with said historical. I can honestly say I tried every avenue I was willing to go down with this novel before deciding to self-pub.

Some thought I had to hire a professional editor. I totally understand the reasoning on that, but they hadn't been with this novel through its various incarnations, beta reads, and edits (in fact, I did pay for a 50-page edit early in the game, but I've learned so much since that time). They hadn't received the editorial reviews I'd gotten on it. They didn't know the editorial prowess of my crit partner! And finally, the money was not in the budget for an outside editor. What they might not have understood is that I wouldn't have published my novel if I didn't feel it could stand alongside other novels in the CBA and hold its own, from cover to content. It's just my own personal standard.

Some thought I should wait for traditional publication first. I also understand this reasoning—I mean, then you have a built-in reader platform, right? But I knew I had to get this book out while Vikings were trending in the media--various movies and TV shows release around the same time I'm releasing this novel. That was not an accident—I deliberately wanted a media overlap. Nothing like hashtagging #Vikings when it's not a football team people are tweeting about!

In the end, when God tells you to do something, you do it. You can't count the cost. There were so many times I could've said, "This time period isn't marketable because the publishers have said so. I should give up." Or "I can't self-publish because I haven't hired an editor for the entire manuscript." Or "I have no idea how to market this." There are so many excuses...and believe me, I did entertain them. But then I came back to this:

"If God be for us, who can be against us?" 

If God was in this venture, as I knew He was, no doubts could stop me. I had to move in response to His leading.

I don't know yet how God's Daughter will do, though I'm thankful that early reader feedback has been positive. But I can say I gave it 110 percent. I built my platform and marketed and edited and learned more than I ever wanted to know about formatting. I stuck with this dream until God decided how it would come to fruition—and it wasn't anything like what I had planned.

It was, in fact, bigger and better than anything I could've concocted.

Stick with it, author friends. In due time, you will reap if you faint not! Blessings to you all. And thank you so much for having me, Elaine. I always enjoy your blog!

Questions for Heather:

Did a certain inspirational song, Bible passage, or one of those wake-in-in-the-morning-ah-ha moments help you to listen to God more in your decision making about how to publish your Viking novel?

Ooh, very good question! I would say that talking with my crit partner and author friends, as well as my husband, helped open my mind to taking this step. Also, it seemed like something God had been bringing to mind for a little while, but I'd dismissed it because I didn't feel ready. It was just one of those things where you give up your dream (traditional publication) to the Lord, and trust Him to do with it what HE wants and get your book out to the right people. As for a specific verse—not one that really hit me, but quite often what I read in the Bible tends to line up with sermons and things my Christian friends tell me.

Did you receive any helpful advice from any publishing professionals during the process of self-publishing?

Another great question! Actually, mostly I talked to author friends who have gone down this path. One professional resource I love is Joanna Penn's blog, She has self-pubbed and has all sorts of up-to-date resources on self-pubbing.

Have you been devouring self-promotion information? What unique options are you trying?

I have read some excellent posts on it, but what I've done is go with my gut and targeted the media outlets I tend to use as a reader. I figure my target audience probably utilizes those outlets, as well (Pinterest, FB, and Goodreads factor in heavily). I've had some hits and misses, but all in all, you can't get discouraged. You just keep trying and seeing what people respond to.

I loved author Jessica Dotta's idea of an online FB "tea party" with people sending in photos of themselves and teacups. I did another take on that by having people send in photos of themselves and their favorite Bibles. I haven't gotten as many photos as she has, but the ones I have gotten are just stellar. I wanted to increase our appreciation for the abundance of Bibles we have, because my Viking main character didn't have one.

Have you learned any lessons from the self-publishing route that you want to use for your more traditional publications?

I guess I've learned that I'll keep writing what I want to write, whether traditional publishers pick it up or not. I no longer feel the crunch to fit my stories into "what's trending" in the CBA. I can just write for my readers...and that's exactly what I was setting out to do when I started writing!

Also, I feel I can have confidence with traditional publishers on the "platform" front. I will already have a reader base in place for any book they want to pick up. Even if the genre is different, my writing style and my use of married main characters will still be the same. Unless I branch into YA at some point...grin. 

What’s on tap for Heather next?

Wow. Good question—I'm wondering that myself! I have a paranormal novel I've wanted to edit for a while now and get out to readers. However, I figure I'll be working on the second Viking novel next, unless a publisher picks up my mystery—then the mystery would take precedence. But it takes longer to write my historicals—more like six to nine months as opposed to two to three.

Heather's Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Meet author Heather Day Gilbert, hybrid author & thankful about it. (Tweet This)

Author Heather Day Gilbert on Everyone’s Story: following God’s path for her Viking novel.  (Tweet This)

Everyone has a story: Heather Day Gilbert shares her different road to publication. (Tweet This)

Author Bio:
Heather enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Sixteen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as ten years spent homeschooling her three children. Heather is the ACFW West Virginia Area Coordinator.

You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert--Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads. Look for her Viking novel, God's Daughter, coming to Amazon November 1, 2013!


  1. Love it! Plus your front cover is BEAUTIFUL. I'll have to go get it, where is God's Daughter available?
    I'm going to be Hybrid myself - Love Inspired Suspense due out next year, plus selfpublished full length novels and e-book shorts. I'm very excited! And glad to know I'm not the only one in the CBA going hybrid! We should start a team :-)

    1. Welcome to Everyone's Story, Lisa. I *love* your enthusiasm for exploring different possibilities in both reading and writing. Blessings on your publications.

    2. Lisa, thanks so much for loving the cover--I do, too! My brother was amazing when it came to interpreting my vision for the book. And SO glad to meet another hybrid! I think there will be more and more of us in the future in the CBA. Yes, starting our own group sounds like a great idea!

    3. And Lisa--just re-read this! It'll be available on Amazon, Nook, Kobo, etc, on November first. Assuming everything loads up correctly! Ha.

  2. Woo hoo, was very excited to see Heather together with Elaine in my email box this morning.

    Heather, you are an inspiration to many and love the fact you're viewing the GD self-pub experience as simply being obedient. Sometimes the hardest part of obedience is simply the letting go. Giving up your baby to the Lord and saying okay "do what you will."

    Looking forward to walking alongside (from down under) & cheering you on Heather.


    1. Ian, I love it when you visit! You always make me smile with your encouragement, kind words... and now giving me the visual of a friend on the other side of the world reading Everyone's Story during the morning when it's now nearly 9 PM here in New York. I'm sure Heather will be smiling too when she she's you. Take care.

    2. Ack--can you tell I'm tired? :) Should read: when (Heather) she sees you.

    3. Ha--Elaine, I was tired too, as I'm just checking this post this morning! Had a date night last night. Nice to see you this morn at Elaine's blog, Ian! It's neat b/c that's where I "met" you! Yes, this was surely something God took from my clingy hands! And honestly, I felt so free when I gave up this novel to Him. I don't worry nearly as much about it reaching the right readers, because I know He will get it to them. Thank you for all your prayers and encouragement, my friend!

  3. Great job, Heather! Love that you followed God's nudge and kept your dream alive. Wishing you reader success and much joy on your publishing journey.

    1. Nice to see you again, Lisa. What a lovely comment for Heather--from the lovely Lisa :)

    2. Thanks so much, Lisa. I appreciate your good wishes!

  4. Great questions! Really enjoyed this interview ladies. Heather, you are a wonderful example, in so many ways. I love your attitude, and your courage to step outside the traditional publishing boundaries as God has led you. You have a beautiful story to offer, and I know that it will bless and minister to others.

    1. Nice to see you again, Gwendolyn. I appreciate the visit and am glad you enjoyed Heather's segment. Have a great weekend.

    2. Gwen, thank you! You encourage me all the time, as well! I loved having you for an early reader and getting your feedback on GOD'S DAUGHTER. I am definitely praying it will minister to readers, in ways I can't even see coming. In the end, it's just the best feeling to REACH readers...I know for me, that's the primary reason I write novels. Very thankful for this day and age in publishing! Thanks, Gwen!

  5. Thank you, Heather, for you interesting & helpful post. I also just found & read one of your stories on the romance in marriage. I loved it.

    Wanda S.

    1. Wanda, so happy and excited to see you :) Do stop by again to see Heather's response--I know she'll be pleased.

    2. Thanks so much, Wanda! Yes...romance in marriage. Something I wish we could read about more! Definitely something I wanted to work into my novels--many times, it's the deeper, less flashy things our spouses do that show their love for us. As we grow together, we learn to see those things better.

  6. Great interview - am looking forward to getting this book and reading it. I also love the cover and am excited it's about Vikings! I sometimes wonder about self-pubbing since I've been trying for about 8 years to get interest in my fantasy novel. However, God hasn't told me to and so I've been going to conferences and writing and submitting. This very September, I got requests from 3 editors for proposals and signed on with an agent. So, my hopes are high. Still, I have to wait and see what God will do.

    Congrats on your book. I know God will bless it because you were obedient.

    1. Thanks for visiting today, Pam. I had a sneak peek at Heather's opening chapters she offered on her website and marvel at her dynamic voice. I can't wait for its release in a couple of weeks!

      I agree with you that one must follow what He has planted in each of our hearts.

      Hope to see you back for another visit.

    2. Pam, that's so important--following God's voice and no one else's! Sounds like you are moving in the right direction for your book--congrats on signing with an agent! All the best to you. And thanks for the interest in Vikings! And thank you, Elaine, for those kind words on the chapters. I'm so glad you enjoyed them! Here's the link if anyone wants to check those out:

  7. It is a lovely cover. And it's wonderful that you trusted the Lord and obeyed Him, even with the naysayers around you. I'm sure it will touch those whom
    He had in mind for your message.

    1. Thank you, Kathleen! I do hope so!

    2. Kathy, thanks for visiting Heather! I love how you phrased your message: our stories will find who He wants them to.

  8. Heather, heartfelt thanks for guesting this past week on Everyone's Story. It's been an amazing week--not only has there been encouraging comments but I've also received emails sent privately to me expressing how encouraging you've been to continue on with one's writing, whether traditionally published or self-pubbed. You're truly an inspiration! I wish you all the best for a long, blessed career.

    And I thank everyone who visited this week. Hope to see you again.

    1. Oh, thank you so much, Elaine! I really do want to encourage people...back when I started, people said to write your passion, and then I did...but it didn't get picked up! Ha. But these days there are many options out there, if you're willing to put in the time with marketing, editing, etc. You still have a wait time, but at least you know what you're shooting for as far as release date, cover art, etc. I just feel the future is in authors' favor now more than ever. All the best to all of you and I just felt right at home on your blog, Elaine! Blessings!


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