Today we’d like to introduce you to Kathleen J. Shields.
Hi Kathleen, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today.
I was an only child of a working single mom. I spent a lot of time by myself, home alone, with very little to do. We didn’t have cable TV, a computer, or a video game box. Plus, I wasn’t allowed to go outside and play when she was away. That left books and my imagination. I played with my toys. I read my books. And when I got tired of the books I had, I wrote my own stories. It never occurred to me that writing my own story ideas would turn me into a published author, but with time, talent, encouragement from teachers, friends, and family, I sought to make that dream a reality.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Having my first book of a trilogy published started me down a dusty gravel road that was riddled with potholes. The company that published me did so in a way that led to many roadblocks. Marketing of my book took on a life of its own. Little did I realize at the time, that I was not just giving birth to my book ‘baby’; I was also starting a small business with very little know-how under my belt. By the time my trilogy (which had been published in two books) had seen a couple of years’ worth of life, it died, and I was not at all thrilled with the industry.
Nearly a decade later, the writing bug bit again. This time I was considering a children’s book. I had a great story, had met a talented illustrator, and had the graphic design capabilities to format the interior myself. I knew then, that if I was going to traverse this road again, I would need to do it differently. Self-publishing was fairly new to the scene and yet had quite a stigma to it. The capabilities of other authors and the final products lacked a professionalism I was desiring, so I took a fork in the road. I taught myself how to become a publisher.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
The children’s book I published was an adaptation from a poem I wrote when I was 14 years old. It was twenty years later that the book came out. I hit the ground running as I had already gained the experience and knowledge to market the book from my previous endeavors, and I did very well with it. So well that I had fans wondering “when the next book was coming out.” I hadn’t planned a ‘next book,’ but the character, Hamilton Troll, wanted adventure. He wanted a series, and so, with the desire to entertain and educate, I wrote another four books. By the time the editing and illustrations were done on the second, I was already working on the 6th book. By the time the 12th storybook came out, I had already created a coloring and activity book, curriculum and was working on a children’s cookbook. The Hamilton Troll Adventures had won multiple awards and gained a fair amount of recognition.
Additionally, while I awaited illustrations, which took many, many months, I continued writing for my slightly older readers, tweens. I came out with 4- or 5-chapter books in that time frame. I also started meeting quite a few aspiring authors who began requesting my assistance in helping them publish their books. The publishing company I named for my own personal use was now publishing other great authors. It was truly a blessing.
Jump ahead 11 years from the start of my publishing company and 23 years from my first book being published; I now have 36 books, 3 short stories with one more on the way. Erin Go Bragh Publishing, my company (yes, that is Gaelic, which stands for Ireland Forever), has helped and published more than a dozen authors and over 85 books. I have helped to develop stories, ghostwritten, edited, critiqued, and marketed those authors. I even run the children’s division with another hybrid publisher out of Houston.
I think what really sets me apart from much of the rest is that I care. If I take on a new author, I not only believe in the promise of their story, I believe in them as a future author. I spend a huge amount of time with them, one-on-one, offering my talents, experience, and suggestions. I also don’t want to take advantage of them by over-charging them for my services, selling them on things they don’t need, or simply scamming them out of their hard-earned money. I was and have met many authors in this industry that have just been scammed every which way. They have spent way more than they ever should have, or worse, was sold a bill of goods. It breaks my heart when a fellow creative can’t push forward with their dreams because they have five thousand books consuming their garage, and they’ve spent their life savings and have nothing left for marketing. Or, that fellow creative spent $10k on a New York Times ad that ran only one day and they saw nothing from it. Or, I have even seen people get scammed out of $250-500 for a copyright that renews every single year – yes, that is definitely a scam!
Do you have recommendations for books, apps, blogs, etc.?
Not really… I am self-taught, meaning if I want to learn about something, I google it, find a book, watch a video, or read an article. I utilize Microsoft Word to write. Adobe Photoshop to create graphics. In-Design for book interior and text flow. I have found some success with freelancers on Fiverr for video creation, illustration, and even some marketing, but I utilize what I need to when I need it.
Final thoughts, my story spans two and a half decades published with a ton of knowledge earned through experience, and while I may not know all of the answers, I know enough that I feel the need to share when I can. I’ve seen etiquette faux-paus at book festivals that enticed me to write a self-help book to authors hoping to make better first impressions and future sales, “The Etiquette of Book Selling.” I’ve started a new children’s series of ‘Firsts’ that include Unibears and soon, Unicorns. I’ve written a blog spanning over a decade of ideas, thoughts, suggestions and of course marketing pitches, and I look forward to answering authors questions when I can. I am even happy to critique a children’s book imparting the knowledge that I have gained to advance the story in a way that would give it the best opportunity at success. And I pray that anyone considering writing a book, get an education before taking that leap as the road is not paved with good intentions. Thank you for your time. Thank you for reading. And thank you for being a creative person with the desire to share some inspiration in a world that truly needs it.