Where did the idea for this book come from?
I attended a program put on by the Clinic for Special Children in Strasburg, PA, where I learned about hereditary diseases that affect only Amish and Mennonite children at birth. That might not seem like a very romantic start for a love story, but once I pictured an Amish midwife delivering a baby at home and added an Englisch (non-Amish) doctor who opposes home births and natural medicine, the story took off.
How long did it take you to write this book?
The Amish Midwife’s Secret is book 2 in the Love & Promises series, so my due dates were 6 months apart. I didn’t have the full time to write it because I took off on a 3-week mission trip to Africa in October and also had Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday travel during that time. Then in March, I spent two weeks in England and Scotland on a children’s literature tour. I tried to get some writing in, but with so many scheduled activities, I could only write late at night.
Tell us about your revisions…
I have to confess that I basically turned in a first draft to my editor after a quick read-through and making the corrections my Amish beta reader suggested.
When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
Actually, my agent sold this 3-book series on a proposal. I came up with three blurbs and wrote three sample chapters. My agent read it and made a few suggestions for changes.
Obviously, this isn’t the usual process for fiction when you’re starting out. When I sold my first series to a different publisher, it was a more involved process, so I’ll detail that below.
What happened along the way in your submission process?
Before I got my first fiction contract, I wrote several inspirational novels in what I hoped would be a series. I took the first 10 pages to the Oregon Christian Writers conference and signed up for editor appointments. Unfortunately, all three agents said the book I’d written was too dark and angsty for the inspirational market (I think that’s changed now).
One agent, Mary Sue Seymour said she really liked my voice, and we chatted about my life and goals as a writer. When she found out I lived near Lancaster, PA, and had spent time with the Amish, she asked if I’d ever considered writing Amish romances. She said if I ever decided to, I could send her a query and synopsis. Now most people who get an offer like that would jump on it right away, but I didn’t. I was busy writing educational books, mostly work for hire, and I had tight deadlines. Yet I still dreamed of writing fiction.
Five years later (Yes, 5!! So, if you get an opportunity or a revise/resubmit, don’t panic and rush through it.), I sent her the synopsis. She not only remembered me, she wrote back and gave me detailed suggestions for making the synopsis stronger.
Once again, she warned me that my ideas were too dark and had me cut out a death I thought was central to the story. I really struggled with that, but I followed her instructions. Now I’m glad I did, because that character became the heroine in the second book in the Sisters & Friends series (Buried Secrets), and many people have told me that’s their favorite story.
When I finally finished the synopsis to her satisfaction, she told me to go ahead and write the book. This is a rather backward process, but it worked. I’d send her several chapters, and she’d tell me if I was heading in the right direction. It took about 8 months until I turned in the 85,000 words she’d requested.
I sent it to her right before Christmas, and she asked for extra time to read it. In January, she sent it back with edits – 2 words changes and a 1-paragraph addition – BUT she thought it would work better for the category market. Would I be willing to cut it to around 60,000-65,000 words?
Gulp! Cutting 20,000 words was torture, but I did it and sent it back. A few days later, she emailed to say she’d sent it out on sub. I didn’t even have time to get nervous, but waiting was difficult.
When and how did you get the offer on your book?
The book went out in February, and we had our first interest in March. The book needed to go to committee, etc. and while that long process played out over almost two months, we got another offer. The advance was good for a first novel, and they wanted a 3-book deal, so I had to come up with two more book ideas right away. There was only one hitch.
They wanted the books to be 75,000 words. Acckk! You’d think I could just go back to the original manuscript and add some words back in, but no, I’d changed the story so much none of that would fit. And I couldn’t just shoehorn in extra description and pad the manuscript. I had to go back and write it again from the beginning. They also had a few things they wanted me to take out or change, so I worked on the story for a few months (along with attending grad school and working full time).
I turned it in to my agent in July and was thrilled when she emailed a deal memo for the Sisters & Friends series in early August. After we hammered out some details, I finally signed the contract in October.
Since then, I’ve been blessed to sign several other contracts for Amish novels and series, including a 6-book contract with Kensington.
Tell us about the editorial process…
I detailed the editorial process for my first novel in the previous question. After all that back-and-forth, it seemed strange to send my editor the first draft of The Amish Midwife’s Secret.
My editor emailed listing the changes she wanted:
In addition to sending a detailed email and Track Changes in the manuscript, my editor likes to follow up with phone call. I’m an introvert, so phone calls always make me nervous. I’d be happy to work from the emails and skip the call.
After the first round of big-picture edits, I often get second-pass edits to clean up a few things that need to be clarified. Then the book heads to the copyeditor, who picks up on little details and inconsistencies. Next, the proofreader does a final pass for typos. From there, it goes to galleys. I get a pdf version of the final book and need to read it for errors. Amazingly, I still find some.
Did you get to participate in the cover process? If yes, how?
Yes, I did, which I really appreciated. I was even invited to the photo shoots in New York, but unfortunately, I couldn’t attend any of them. My editor went and took snapshots for me.
For my other books, I just filled out a sheet with some basic information about the hero and heroine’s looks, and I included pictures of the clothing, hairstyles, and other details to be sure they were correct. After that I had no input; they just sent the final cover design. Although I love all my covers, not all the covers have authentic outfits or hairstyles.
With Hachette/Grand Central, though, I provided detailed directions about the clothing, and they followed it exactly. I even sent my Amish friend’s heart-shaped kapp (headcovering) for all 3 book covers in this series. It makes me so happy to see that all the major details are correct, and I think they created gorgeous covers.
How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand or on screen (e-book)?
For this series, Grand Central made the offer in January 2017 (we also had another offer for the series, so my agent negotiated with both, and we went with the best deal). I signed the contract in March 2017, and the first book came out April 2018.
What marketing are you doing for this book?
I have an interview with USA Today, a brief TV appearance, and a radio show. My street team is reading the book and will review and help promote it. I have two blog tours scheduled, as well as quite a few guest blogs set up. I have 6 in-person book events coming up. Unfortunately, with this novel releasing so close to winter, I didn’t set up many book signings. I’ll do more when book 3, The Amish Widow’s Rescue, comes out in March 2019.
Instead, I’m doing a lot of online events. I have shared book parties with other inspirational authors. I’m part of a lot of book giveaways, especially for the holidays. I’m interacting with several online book clubs and will do some in-person and Skype book events.
For me, Facebook is where my target market can be found, so I try to interact a lot on there with my readers. Before each book releases, I hold an Amish Life series in a private Facebook group, Rachel J. Good’s Hitching Post. Anyone who’s interested in learning more about the Amish or wants to hear about the unusual things I discovered while researching for the book is welcome to join. I’ve talking about Amish herbal medicine, Amish pregnancies, babies and midwives, the Special Clinic for Children, and other fun details. The last session was held Monday, November 26 at 8 PM EST, but readers can stop by any time to read the posts.
Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
Persistence is the key in this business. Although I’m mainly talking about my triumphs here, these came after many years of struggle and discouragement. I’ve found over the years that it’s not necessarily the best writers who get published, but the ones who keep picking themselves up and moving on. And even after you get an agent and a book contract, it isn’t all an uphill climb.
Publishers close down lines, books get remaindered, and agents die. All of those have happened to me. At the time it seems all is dark, but I’ve discovered that if I keep plodding ahead and trusting God, I find new publishers (even ones willing to take on orphaned books), and a wonderful new agent. And here I want to give a shout-out to my agent, Nicole Resciniti, who’s done some amazing things for my career.
Where can you be found online?
Newsletter sign-up: http://bit.ly/1qwci4Q
Where can your books be purchased? (Please include links.)
Other retailers: https://books2read.com/u/bWzJoY
*Walmart, Sam’s Club, Meier’s, and Barnes & Noble carry them. If they aren’t there, you can ask them to order them in.
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too. She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.