Sally Shields, author of The Daughter-in-Law Rules, is a speaker, radio personality, and free publicity specialist. She is currently working on a speaker anthology with the owner of Blooming Twig Books, as well as writing Naturally Thin or Discipline: Insider Secrets of the Super-Slim.

Shields shares some of the “DIL rules” with Write On! Plus, she explains why she went the self-publishing route, her journey to becoming an #1 Amazon.com bestseller, and what she has learned along the way. Check out the DIL Rules Website for giveaways, bonus gifts, free music, to subscribe to the newsletter, and more.

Why did you write The Daughter-in-Law Rules?
Like most women, I got married and got a mother-in-law. But after a couple of years, I was left scratching my head, thinking, “where is the manual for this?” I wrote to the ladies that wrote the bestselling book The Rules, and told them that since they helped all these women meet and marry the men of their dreams, they then needed to provide some advice on how to get along with the other woman in their man’s life—his mom! These two authors told me it was the best idea they’d ever heard. I honestly just wanted some advice on the topic! “You should write it,” they said.

At first I thought they were crazy since the last thing I’d written was a term paper in high school English class! But the gears started turning in my mind. So I started to jot down all the troublesome incidents that would pop into my head in regards to my MIL, and came up with a rule and a solution to deal with each and every one. When I put a few of these rules into practice (and saw that they actually worked) I thought maybe I could help save other young wives years of needless contention!

What are the top 3 rules for DILs?
There are some deceptively simple ways to help daughters-in-law to gain the trust and build the foundation of friendship with a very deliberate, proactive set of strategies to use with one’s husband’s mother. It is based on one of the 7 spiritual laws of success—The quickest way to get what you want is to help others get what they want: be an openhearted, kind, loving, sensitive person and the world will reflect that back to you–even in the form of your mother- in-law. She may just surprise you and turn out to be an ally and a friend!

Here are the top 3 rules for DIL’s:

1. Call Your MIL Regularly
This seems like something that would be best left to your sense of spontaneity, but do not take this lightly. Mark it in your calendar such as Sunday to call your new Mom once a week. If you are super busy, you can aim for getting her machine like when you know she’s at Bingo, but leave a message saying that you just called to say hi and to…

2. Ask Your MIL How She is Feeling
This is a simple strategy not to leave solely for the times where she is truly under the weather. You must ask Mom how she is feeling each and every time you speak to her! Otherwise, she may have to initiate the topic (which may then brand you as an uncaring person). So, beat Mom to the punch and make sure you do not forget!

3. Send Your MIL Cards and Flowers
Pick out a Hallmark with a heartfelt sentiment but make sure that you have your husband pen it from the both of you so that she doesn’t get the mistaken impression that her son has forgotten her special day! And be sure to call 1-800-flowers well in advance so that those roses are sure to arrive on time—not 3 days after the fact!

What was your process for writing your book? Getting it published? Why did you choose the self-publishing route?
Originally I went the traditional route, and contacted over 100 literary agents. As the process evolved, I realized just how hard it really was. I eventually garnered the interest of a NY literary agent through a well-crafted query letter, and within a few weeks, I was signed. But soon I learned that a proposal was required, which, I found out, was even more difficult than writing a book in the first place! I had to do market research and statistical comparisons. I was jumping through hoops, and it was a process that I never want to repeat! However, I got over that hurdle and finally, after several round of editing said proposal, the agent began to submit my manuscript.

Months went by. 15 rejection letters later, I slowly realized that even if I was lucky enough to get a publishing deal, it would require signing over my rights and editorial control, and allowing the agency and publisher to decide on my book cover, interior layout, formatting, pricing, release dates, all which could take between one to two years, maybe more.

One day, I walked into a Barnes and Noble, and found some information on the subject of self-publishing. Upon further investigation, it seemed that I could not only be in charge of my own pricing, interior, be involved in book design, set my own distribution discount, order authors copies at a deep discount, get a free website, but also be published within 12-16 weeks, all for under $1000. And so, that is what I did.

What was your favorite part of the process?
My favorite part was becoming a bestseller on Amazon. I heard about a course that taught authors how to get free publicity on their own through a zero-low cost strategy. This was a very attractive idea since hiring a PR firm can cost up to $8,000/month! What I learned in this class, is that there is nothing that can help you build credibility and increase sales faster than having the distinction of “Bestseller Status,” so, through an online email blast strategy, I brought my book to the #1 spot in Wedding Showers, on Amazon.com. And that, I must say, was a fundamental factor that afforded my book an essential credibility boost.

The greatest challenge?
The biggest hurdle is not writing the book —it’s what you do after the book that is the most significant. See, a book opens doors—it is the biggest and most important calling card you will ever have. The secret that successful authors know is that they understand how to use their book as a tool to build their business. I learned that the secret to creating a business and selling lots and lots of books is none other than knowing how to get massive PUBLICITY! So, rising to the challenge, I set out to get major (and free) publicity for my book.

How do you balance all the elements of your career?
As a mom, we try to do it all. For example, I workshops, co-host a weekly radio show, give online teleclasses, write books, blog, tweet, do a weekly newsletter, prepare corporate sponsorships, and raise money for the NBCF®. I also am a jazz pianist and mother of 2 small children.

Here are some tips as to how to do it all:
1. Do not Procrastinate! When you have 5 minutes to do something on your to do list, do it! I used to let things pile up, but now I realize that 5 minutes is golden and you can accomplish a LOT if you just put your mind to it!

2. When the Kids Are in Bed, GO! As soon as your kids heads hit the pillow, RUN to your computer and start getting things done. I do not waste even a second once my kids are in bed. I know that this is very, very precious time and I utilize it most effectively (as per tip #1)!

3. Juice and Eat Healthy. As you already have a dearth of time on your hands (in other words, NO time…LOL) you really need your body to be functioning at it’s optimum level, so I think of my body as a high-functioning piece of machinery and put only good things in there. For example, while my kids are munching on their breakfast,I take the time to juice, such as a beet, apple, carrot, ginger juice. A HUGE glass that lasts me until mid-morning. This sets up a great precedent for the day and I feel really great, my mind is sharp, and I can get things done more efficiently.

4. Hire a Moms Helper. Don’t try to do it all when your kids are home and awake. I use to try to get work done when my kids were home, but they need us moms to pay them attention, and they deserve it! Plus, I only did things half-way and ended up feeling like I disappointed both my kids and myself. So, I found a ten year old in the neighborhood to come over for a couple of hours twice a week, during after-school hours, so that I could get some things done. The kids LOVE playing with her and I don’t feel guilty!

5. Get a Headset and Multitask! While I am returning phone calls, I am also doing the dishes, the laundry, straightening the house, feeding the cats, and preparing meals. I clip the phone onto my pants and I’m hands free! You will be amazed at how much you can accomplish once you have a headset.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
Having a book doesn’t mean people are going to buy it! I began to understand the reality that, aside from authors such as Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, and the like, very few people get rich from simply selling their book. Rather, it is the back-end products and services that are created from the book that can make the difference between a struggling writer and a million-dollar author.

Additional advice for non-fiction writers?
You are now in the business of marketing. However, you have to have a clear vision and a strong desire to genuinely help people. And never give up on your dreams. You don’t have to know the how, but focus on the why. Don’t set limits and reach for the sky. Do positive affirmations morning and evening, and you will see your thoughts transform into things. You can manifest your desires by focusing on the things that you want. Don’t give up because it takes a while for the universe to prepare the meal that you’ve ordered, but know that it is in the oven back there so make sure you don’t leave the restaurant!

The moral? You CAN re-invent yourself! The only two things you need to become successful in any endeavor is to have a passion for your topic, and a sincere desire to help people. The rest will fall into place.

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