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Adventures in Independent Children’s Book Publishing

How I Became an Independently Published Children’s Author

As a little girl growing up in rural Virginia, I had big dreams of becoming a writer, a teacher, a mother, a princess, and a mermaid. After many years of climbing the corporate ladder and learning the publishing business, I’m finally living my childhood dreams. I feel lucky to have built an entrepreneurial life where I can write books, give inspirational talks, be a mermaid, and make a positive difference in the world.

But I wasn’t always certain that those dreams would come true. Up until about a decade ago, I was a corporate employee who enjoyed her job, but wasn’t feeling passionate and excited about it. Even though I was “successful” and had a fairly comfortable life, I could feel my soul yearning for more. I wanted to feel more fulfilled and that my actions made a bigger impact. At the time, I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d be doing, I just knew that I needed to create massive space for a change in my life. 

While I was going through my soul searching, I received a gift of adversity. Although I was doing well in my career and being consistently promoted, I had an embarrassing secret … I was being bullied by a person in my office. I tried everything I could think of at the time to make it stop, but it just kept becoming worse. I was focusing on my job and doing the best I could while trying to minimize the big emotions I was feeling about the situation. 

The idea for the story of my first book, The Little Rose, came to me while I was driving to work one day. I was bawling because I didn’t want to go to the office. That day in the car, I felt so desperate. I had given up the façade of knowing what to do. I just kept thinking ‘help me, I’ll try anything.’ The story downloaded to me so quickly. It was as if I wasn’t even writing it, I was just writing it down. I scrambled in the car to find any bits of paper I could to capture it. At stoplights, I wrote down as much as I could. It was a beautiful and surreal experience. 

When I got home that night, I typed up the story, printed it out, and put it in a drawer. I didn’t let anyone read it. I learned a lot through my experience and realized that everyone has the right to shine brightly. It’s senseless to dim your light to blend in with the rest of the dim bulbs. 

It wasn’t until after a random conversation over a year later that I unearthed it, read it again, and decided to share it with the world. A woman at a conference persistently asked me what else I had written and I reluctantly revealed that I had written a story about a little rose growing up in a weed bed who thinks that she’s the weed. She learns to embrace her differences as gifts and to appreciate herself for the beautiful rose that she is. The woman said that she got goose bumps and that I HAD to do something with the story because her grandchildren needed that message. That’s when the light bulb went on for me and I thought “maybe this can be a children’s book.” 

The idea of publishing a children’s book was simultaneously tantalizing and terrifying for me. I had never done it before. I didn’t even know anyone who had. I thought about the dreams I had as a little girl and how amazing it would feel if I could write books that helped kids move through difficult seasons in life. Despite the fear, I felt so compelled to do it that I took action daily to make it a reality. My passion for the story and its message kids really enabled me to go for it. 

Initially, I was scared to tell my story. I worried what others would think of me. I’ve learned that the most important thing is to be your authentic self. Trust that others will get what they’re meant to get from their interactions with you. By telling my story, I enable others to be brave and share theirs. And, I’ve found that almost everyone can relate to the experience. When I was honest about it, things really started happening for me and my book. 

I like to say that everything good that’s in my life right now is as a result of courageously pulling that story out of the drawer and taking action toward my dreams. When I stepped forward in faith, vision, and determination, I independently published The Little Rose. Two weeks later it became a #1 best-seller on Amazon and then stayed at #1 for over 60 weeks. It changed everything in my life by showing me that words and actions can truly make a positive difference in the world. 

Since then, I’ve been following my inspiration to write and publish 13 books in 3 genres. I even met my husband, beloved children’s author Derek Taylor Kent, several years ago while doing an author visit at an elementary school. After we got married, we combined our two children’s brands to create Whimsical World, an innovative brand with the mission of inspiring, delighting, and educating children while planting seeds of self-esteem and high achievement. We now have books for all ages and whimsical merchandise like enamel pins and lunchboxes. Getting to do what I love with the man I love is one of the greatest gifts of my life. 

Why I Chose Independent Children’s Book Publishing

One of the biggest decisions today’s aspiring authors make is whether to go the traditional route with a publisher (whether large or small) or to explore the independent publishing path. I chose to go independent and many writers have asked me about my decision. So, here’s the scoop:  when I made a commitment to myself eleven years ago to bring The Little Rose children’s book to life, I had limited experience with self-publishing and was beginning to understand the advantages and disadvantages of the variety of publishing options available. 

I attended writers’ conferences and networking events with writers. I asked both traditionally published and independently published authors about their experiences. I learned so much and decided to independently publish The Little Rose for several reasons: 

  1. Passion and Speed – I felt a burning need to get the uplifting message of The Little Rose to children quickly. I didn’t have the time or patience to woo an agent, find a publisher, go through the whole process, and then wait for a slot on their release calendar several years later.
  2. Control – I wanted to be 100% happy with the final result of all of my hard work. I wanted to choose the right illustrator to bring my story to life and to influence the ultimate look and feel of my book. Even though I published independently, having a high-quality product was really important to me and I knew I could find the right partners to make that goal a reality.
  3. Entrepreneurial Spirit – I’ve always been very entrepreneurial and I was excited about the possibility of building a business around doing something that I absolutely loved. I also learned from other authors about the value of the rights tied in with a book and felt like I would be able to make those decisions for my brand better than a big publisher could. And, my background was in marketing. I believed that I could leverage my knowledge and skills to be successful.
  4. Happiness – When I talked with other authors, the happiest ones tended to be the self-published authors. They had control over their destiny, their schedules, their agreements, their rights licensing, etc. That really appealed to me. 

My best advice for authors who are exploring traditional vs. independent publishing is to talk with successful authors who have already done it. See what their experiences were like and what they would do differently knowing what they know now. Find out who’s happy and why. Writing and publishing my first book was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve ever done. 

Independent publishing is exciting and easier than it’s ever been before (although it’s still not an easy business), but it isn’t the right solution for everyone. Only the individual authors can truly decide what’s right for them, their books, and their careers. 

Insights and Advice for Aspiring Indie Authors

Building my business and the Whimsical World brand is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Here are a few strategies that I employed to accomplish my goal of publishing The Little Rose

  1. Talk with people who’ve accomplished what you want to accomplish. I reached out to people in my network, told them about my book and my mission, and asked if they knew anyone I should talk with. That’s the best way to learn: from people who have already achieved your goal – they have so many great insights on what works, what doesn’t work, and what they’d do differently next time. It’ll greatly accelerate your learning and your success.
  2. Have a healthy author success mindset. Believe that anything is possible and open yourself up to opportunities as they appear. There may be times when you feel like giving up … DON’T. Just reset your mindset to success and keep moving toward your passion. 
  • Hire a first-class mentor/coach. Having a mentor who’s successful in the area that you want to succeed in can be invaluable. They can serve as a guide and hold you accountable for stretching outside of your comfort zone in order to achieve your goal. It’s no coincidence that some of the highest achievers and most powerful people in the world have great coaches. They can dramatically improve your results.
  • Get out into the world in a big way. Don’t hide at home behind your computer. Go out and network, meet fabulous new people, and share your vision with the world. That’s the best and fastest way to spread the word about your books. 

Marketing Strategies That Really Make a Difference for Indie Authors

At the most fundamental level, marketing is about connecting with the people who might be interested in your product, making them aware of what you offer, and compelling them to make the purchase. The best book in the world will never be read if no one knows about it. The goal is to make sure the right people (your target audience) know about your book. Here are a few strategies that will help you spread the word about your books, connect with readers, and attract more media attention:

  1. People – The real secret to my success is people. I love people. I enjoy meeting new people, connecting with readers, and supporting people in achieving their dreams. Be willing to give first. Helping others will eventually translate into people helping you. And, always be authentic in your relationships (just be you). 
  2. Facebook – The best way to attract more Fans is to be a genuine Fan. Facebook is your friend. Create a Facebook Fan Page, learn how to use it, and help others by promoting them and their books. It’s also great to build relationships with writers to offer each other mutual support and celebration. Actively participate and engage your readers/Fans. Make it fun and reveal some behind-the-scenes stuff on being a writer. Always be yourself and you will have a blast! 
  3. HARO – A great way to get you and your book mentioned in the media is to subscribe to the free service, “Help A Reporter Out.” ( These are reporters who are seeking people to interview for their stories. Check the emails each day and see if your book might be a good fit for their needs. Respond promptly, succinctly, and professionally and you may find yourself getting a lot more media coverage. 

Continually up-leveling your writing, your network, your marketing, and your business will have a profoundly positive impact on your life.

Enjoying the Journey

The past ten years have been an amazing journey. For me, the best parts of being an author are hearing that your book has an impact in the lives of children and being able to help others achieve their dreams. I love receiving fan mail and hearing stories from the children and adults who have fallen in love with my books. 

Being an entrepreneurial author is a challenging and fulfilling adventure I’ve undertaken. I’m so grateful that I had the courage to follow my heart to make a positive difference in the world. Becoming an author has truly transformed my life for the better, enabling me to make my childhood dreams a reality. I’m living proof that it can be done. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it. One of the most important things I’ve learned is not to wait on things that really matter in life or business. If I can do it, so can you. Everything is possible. Take action today and let the magic unfold. 

About Sheri Fink

Sheri FinkSheri Fink Children's Author and Inspirational Speaker is an inspirational speaker, a #1 best-selling author, a mermaid who believes in magic, and the president of Whimsical World.

Whimsical World is an empowering brand created by #1 best-selling authors and inspirational speakers, Sheri Fink and Derek Taylor Kent. Whimsical World’s mission is to inspire, delight, and educate children of all ages while planting seeds of self-esteem and high achievement.

Sheri’s newest book, InstaGrateful: Finding Your Bliss in a Social Media World, is an innovative self-help book on how to maximize passion, peace, power, prosperity, and panache in your life in today’s hyper-busy, highly distracted social media world.

Sheri loves to write (thirteen books so far!) and travels the world inspiring audiences of all ages to believe in themselves, dream bigger dreams, and take action to live their best lives. She creates books, products, and experiences that empower kids. All of her children’s books were #1 best-sellers, including The Little Rose which was a #1 Amazon Best-seller for over 60 weeks, became the #1 Top-Rated Children’s eBook on Amazon, and was adapted into a stage play.

CBS Los Angeles selected her as one of the top 3 authors in her local area, a distinction she shares with Dean Koontz. Sheri’s books have been honored with multiple awards, including 3 gold medals in the Readers Favorite International Book Awards. She is a recipient of the prestigious Gold Mom’s Choice Award honoring the best in family friendly entertainment. She was selected as an inspirational beauty by supermodel Cindy Crawford’s “Beauties Give Back” campaign.

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