Dream, Rekindled

Shelly Closeup

Welcome Shelly Thacker to the convertible today, folks.  Shelly is the talented, traditionally published author of numerous best-selling romance novels who has taken the plunge into the growing pool of self-published writers.  She’s here to tell us how that’s working for her.  Heeere’s Shelly…

I took a little maternity leave from writing a few years ago, when my husband and I were blessed with a beautiful baby girl after years of struggling with infertility. By the time our first was a toddler, our second bundle of joy came along–and my “little maternity leave” stretched into eight years of lullabies and playgroups and preschool field trips. After such a long wait for motherhood, I savored every minute of it.

As our youngest approached Kindergarten age, I applauded my mom-friends who were re-inventing themselves. One started a children’s clothing business, another turned her talent with a camera into a successful photography career, a third became a certified yoga instructor. As for me, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: return to writing romance novels.

But it had been a decade since my last book was published. Would anyone even remember me? The idea of starting all over again–finding a new agent, looking for a publisher–was daunting to say the least.

Then one evening in March 2011, my husband came home with a newspaper article about a local Minnesota author I had never heard of … a young woman named Amanda Hocking.

According to the article, Amanda was e-publishing her own books–and had earned enough in her first year to pay cash for a new house. I was dubious, then astonished after I went online and discovered how many authors–including names I recognized–had left traditional publishing to “go indie.”

It was a stunning moment, and an exciting idea: maybe I didn’t need an agent or a publisher to re-launch my career. I joined an e-mail loop for indie authors, reclaimed the rights to all of my out-of-print books, and decided to take a chance on the brave new world of e-publishing.

My husband acted as my “venture capitalist,” giving me the startup money I needed for what he calls “Shelly Thacker 2.0.” I hired a cover artist, a web designer, and a professional formatter to transform my nine published books into digital editions. Then I sat down to revise and edit, determined to make each book as good as I possibly could before offering it to a new audience.

Finally, on 11-11-11, I clicked the “publish” button at Amazon and Barnes & Noble for the first time, feeling just as nervous as I did the morning I put my youngest child on her first school bus. I hoped I would sell a few copies, at least enough to reimburse my hubby for those startup costs … but I had no idea if I would sell even one.

FH Cover 200 PX

I’m happy to say that I’ve been floored by the results so far.

Just 48 hours after I published Book 1 of my Stolen Brides series, Forever His, it appeared on the Kindle Time-Travel Romance and Historical Fantasy bestseller lists–and it has stayed there ever since. This is the first time in my career that one of my books has ever spent six solid months on a bestseller list! Readers have also embraced Book 2 of the series, His Forbidden Touch, calling it “beautiful” and “absolutely wonderful” and other kind words that have brought tears to my eyes.

HFT Cover 200 PX

The Stolen Brides series is about three regal brides who discover that falling in love with a warrior is the most dangerous adventure of all. One falls through time and finds herself married to a dark stranger … one may never reach her royal wedding if she can’t resist her rugged protector … and one is abducted by a mysterious swordsman and swept away to a secret island paradise.

I only have the first two books up so far, because I’m still revising Book 3 of the series, adding new love scenes that I never had time to write for the original paperback edition. Watch for Timeless in July.

Have I earned enough to pay cash for a new house? No, I’m not making Amanda Hocking money, but I did get to surprise my kids with a trip to Disney World. So far, this indie journey has been filled with unexpected joys, from re-connecting with writing friends, to hearing from past fans, to receiving e-mails from new readers who are discovering my books for the first time.

So I’m here to say: It’s never too late to reinvent yourself! Do you have any dreams you’d like to rekindle?


Contest alert! Shelly has teamed up with Maggie Shayne, Teresa Medeiros, Susan Mallery and Jane Porter for the “Romance Writers’ Blissful Secrets Scavenger Hunt”. Visit Shelly’s Facebook page today and enter to win a Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet.  Hurry! Contest ends June 29.

You can also connect with Shelly on Twitter: @shellythacker. visit her website, and check out her boards on Pinterest.

But now let’s chat with Shelly.


About Kathleen Eagle

Kathleen Eagle is the award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of over forty novels.
This entry was posted in books, e-book, ebook publishing, romance novels, Shelly Thacker. Bookmark the permalink.

49 Responses to Dream, Rekindled

  1. Terry Odell says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. I was (am) a less-than-midlist author who took the plunge when one of my publishers remaindered the first book I’d published with them. I’d also been with e-publishers, so I was kind of familiar with the game, but had never done anything myself. Indie publishing was just getting noticed (mostly due to J.A. Konrath), and I decided to try publishing that book myself. I didn’t have immediate success, but I got control of my other books from my e-publisher as rights reverted, and added them. I’ve now got 9 titles indie-published (two original, the rest back list) and I’m amazed at how much more money I’m making. For someone who hit published when mid list authors were being dropped right and left, and with publishers who were tight-fisted about distribution, the indie route certainly made a tremendous difference.

    And…THANKS for not going Amazon exclusive. I have a Nook, and simply see no reason to buy from Amazon. I shall look for your books at the Nook Store right away!

    Terry’s Place

    • Thanks Terry! Your success has been an inspiration! Yes, so far, I haven’t granted any exclusives, figuring it would be best to get the widest possible distribution. But I have to say, more than 75% of my sales have been at Amazon. They do an AMAZING job of helping indie authors find an audience. The other retailers could be making so much more $$ if they stepped up their game.

  2. Julianne MacLean says:

    Love your story, Shelly. And I chuckled when you said “would anyone even remember me?”
    I was a huge fan of your books in the late nineties and was so excited to see the reissues. I can’t help but think htat maybe it was meant to be this way for you, because your children had the benefit and blessing of your undivided attention during your hiatus. Well played, Ms. Thacker. Well played 🙂

    • Aw, thanks Julianne! Getting to “meet” new friends like you online has been one of the best parts of this journey. 🙂 And I really do feel that this is the way my life was meant to be. The years I spent writing for NY were incredibly stressful, with back-to-back deadlines, editors coming and going every few months, and so much chaos that I was physically and emotionally exhausted by the time I walked away. Lo and behold, when I had time to take better care of myself, I became a mom at last. And now I’m so happy and grateful that I get to be an author again. Somebody upstairs was watching out for me. 🙂

  3. I’m with Julianne, laughed over the line “would anyone remember me?” When your email popped up in my inbox asking questions about indie publishing, I gave a little cheer. You were so generous to me when I was a brand-newbie author, right before you took your break to be a mom, it has been a joy to return the favor and cheer you one. Plus — I looooove your books.

    • Julie, I can’t thank you enough. You are truly one of the most talented, generous, and inspiring people I know. Not to mention one of the most innovative and successful indie authors in the business! I’ll never forget the warm welcome you gave me when I sent you that first, tentative email. Everything I know about e-publishing, I learned from you. 🙂 Seriously, authors, if you want to find out about indie publishing, follow Julie’s blog and read her book, The Ebook Revolution Survival Guide for Authors. It’s like getting your indie PhD!

  4. Cindy Gerard says:

    Welcome to the convertible Shelley and welcome back to publishing – indie style! Fantastic that you’re alive and well and thriving in this brave new world!

  5. Good morning, Shelly! Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us. Just the beginning, of course, but what a great start–REstart–you’ve made. I think the big houses are looking to enterprising authors like you to find out how to sell books in this new environment. Today’s Publisher’s Lunch announced that Harper has drastically trimmed its sales dept. As I see it, smaller sales force and marketing dept means more marketing to be done by the writer.

    The thing I worry about most is that marketing isn’t writing. How are writers supposed to keep their focus where it really belongs–on the WIP?

    • Kathleen, thanks so much for inviting me to take a ride in the convertible! Yes, I definitely think the big publishers are shifting more and more of the marketing burden onto authors. And my feeling is, if I’m going to be doing all the work, I deserve to keep most of the profits. 😉 I’m much happier getting 70% royalties compared to the 8% I used to get from NY.

      And you’re absolutely right that marketing isn’t writing. It’s a constant juggling act that we indies struggle with daily. I tend to do my left-brained, business activities first thing in the morning, then write after that until the kiddos come home from school. I also rely on my virtual team of helpers to handle various tasks: my cover designer, website manager, formatter, and a virtual assistant who helps with promotion. Once you have a team in place, everything is much more manageable.

  6. Karen Fenech says:

    Shelly, I’m thrilled that your wonderful books are back in circulation. I’ll echo what Julianne wrote. I, too, was a huge fan and enjoyed your novels back in the late nineties. It’s great to have you back and to know you’re doing so well. All continued success to you!

  7. Shelly, I know one of the biggest boosts for an author’s quest to spread the word about her books is networking with fellow authors. Romance writers are especially great at this–Sisterhood of the Housebound PJs. Do you trade info and ‘atta girls on any writers’ loops?

  8. MLBracho says:

    Hey Shelly – What a GREAT story! Maybe you remember me from MFW–Mary Bracho, once-upon-a-time aka Ana Seymour! I was one of the authors who fell off the mid-list cliff a few years back. Harlequin has put a few of my old books on Kindle, and I understand it’s now tough to get rights back from them, but I did get the rights to my five Berkley-Jove books and have done nothing with them. You may have just inspired me to get goingI So thanks for sharing your experience and continued success!

  9. I am SO THRILLED you’re back and that the books are going so well for you, Shelly! More power to you! Give those kidlets a hug for me.

  10. I loved every word of your story, Shelly! When I tiptoed into the “brave new world” of indie e-publishing a year ago, you were a bright light from day one. I marveled at your careful preparation… your beautiful covers, stunning website, social networking savvy, and decision not to release a book until you were completely satisfied . What a class act! I’m so glad we’ve become friends. I’m not a bit surprised that your books are doing so well – look who wrote them! Congratulations and hugs!

    • Big hugs & thanks, Cindy! You are just a delight and I’m SO happy that your indie books have been such a success. I”m standing and cheering every time I see your name on the bestseller lists. 🙂 Can’t wait to meet you at NINC this fall!

  11. Hi Shelly! As others have said – you ARE remembered! I, too, loved your books ‘way back when’ and am delighted to see you doing so well again. Great news. I would love to do this, too. So far, I have been unable to get the rights to my oop titles. I’m sure trying. I wish you the very best and much, much success.

    • Thanks Sue-Ellen! I can’t even express how special it is to me when a fellow author says she enjoys my books. (We tend to be the toughest critics around!) I’m really pulling for you to get those OOP books back. Publishers have gotten really tough on this issue, but keep fighting for your rights! It’s so worth it in the end. Looking forward to welcoming you to the wonderful world of indie publishing soon! Best wishes. 🙂

  12. Shelly, your experience is so inspiring. Further proof that the one of best aspects of being a writer (or any creative person) is the constant openness to reinvention and exploration! Way to go, and thanks for sharing.

  13. michelehauf says:

    Welcome, Shelley! Love hearing about the successes indie authors are having. Go you!

  14. Coincidentally, just before Shelly sent me her post I heard from my college roommate–hadn’t talked to her in ages!–and one of the things she said was, “Kathy, we have to reinvent ourselves every 10 years.”

  15. Fran Baker says:

    Great post, Shelly. And boy, do I relate to the “will anyone remember me?” question! But it’s a whole new world of readers out there. They don’t remember us because they’re just now discovering us and our books.

    Wise words from your friend re reinventing ourselves, Kathleen.

    • I agree, Fran. I was so worried about starting from square one again, but it’s been great. Fans from “back in the day” have been so welcoming, and new readers have been so enthusiastic, it’s the best of both worlds. Congrats on your indie success!

  16. Congrats on remaking yourself so successfully, Shelly 2.0! Well done!

  17. debradixon says:

    Shelly– Welcome and thanks for sharing! I so fortunate that I don’t have any dreams to rekindle because I’ve taken the plunge anytime I’ve wanted to try something. So lucky to have the right elements coming together at the right times.

    Congrats on the success!

  18. It’s so good to see you here, and to hear that you are back to writing! Honestly, I have thought of you now and then, and have wondered if you’d be back to writing someday. I still have some workshop handouts (great stuff!) that you provided when giving a “He feels…she feels” workshop on hero/heroine emotional changes at RWA, ages ago, and remember meeting you in Chicago during RWA, while at lunch with a mutual (and former) agent we both once had.

    I’m excited about your new publishing ventures and can’t wait to track down your new books!

    • Glad to be speeding along in the convertible with you today, Roxanne! Thanks so much for hosting me. I’m happy to hear that those workshop handouts were helpful. I used to sell CDs of those sessions on my website, but now I’m going to pull them all together in an ebook, after I get the rest of my backlist novels up (which, at the rate I’m going, probably means in 2013. 🙂

  19. What a wonderfully inspiring story, Shelly! I know that “Will anyone remember me?” feeling all too well. But of course I remembered you and your awesome novels, so I’m not surprised your old readers are flocking back to you again–along with many new readers who will find joy in discovering your books. I also agree that a great part of this journey is reconnecting with old author friends and making new ones. The indie world is amazingly welcoming.

  20. kathrynshay says:

    What a great story. I’m so glad you got to enjoy motherhood and then restart your career. You’re doing fantastically well, and deserve credit for that. I’m reading one of your books now and love it!

  21. Great and inspiring post, Shelly. So glad things have turned out so well for you since you left MN.

  22. Donna Fasano says:

    I loved your story, Shelly! Thank you for sharing it. What you say is so true…it’s never too late!

  23. Lyn Cote says:

    Shelly, so happy for your renewed success!

  24. Shelly, You are an inspiration to so many of us. I rememember meeting you at my first writing conference and hearing about your “thunk in the head” book that helped you become a better writer, which I promptly went out and bought. I also hung on every word of your “He said…She said” workshop. I’ve been a fan of your books and am enjoying “His Forbidden Touch” right now. I’m honored by your friendship and to be making this indie journey with such a savvy writer like you!

  25. Pingback: Guest Blogging Today: Dream, Rekindled | Romance Author Shelly Thacker

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