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Meet Susan M. Heim, a writer and editor who specializes in multiples, parenting and women’s issues
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Interview Transcript

Today, Norm Goldman Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com is excited to have as our guest Susan M. Heim. Susan is a writer and editor who specializes in multiples, parenting and women's issues. She is also the author of Twice the Love: Stories of Inspiration for Families...with Twins, Multiples and Singletons, It's Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence, and Oh, Baby! 7 Ways a Baby Will Change Your Life the First Year.

In addition, she is a former Senior Editor for the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Her articles and essays on parenting have appeared in many books, magazines and Web sites. In addition to her own projects, Susan enjoys developing proposals and manuscripts with many high-profile authors.

 

Good day Susan and thanks for participating in our interview.

Norm:

When did your passion for writing begin? What kept you going?

Susan:

Like many writers, I loved to write from a very early age. I was always a voracious reader and experimented with writing various types of books, even as a young child. In fact, I joke that I had my first book published in second grade when, as a school project, I wrote a story called "The Girl Who Pooped Her Pants," and it was the most checked-out book in our classroom library!

Hopefully, my writing has matured a bit since then, but this early "success" definitely gave me the drive to continue writing. Over the years, I kept journals and did a lot of writing for various jobs, but never really found the time to write professionally until after I'd given birth to twins, my third and fourth sons, and finally left the corporate world to stay home with my family and establish a freelance career.

Once that regular paycheck stopped coming, I became highly motivated to kick my writing into high gear! Now I'm thrilled to be able to do what I love as a profession.

 

Norm:

How do you approach the work of writing?

Susan:

Since I have young children, my writing schedule really depends on my children's schedule. I get 3-5 hours of work time each day while they're in preschool, and then another hour or so after their bedtime.

Unfortunately, I'm not a morning person, so I'm not one of those writers who can get up at 5:00 AM before the rest of the house and start to write. Thus, late nights tend to be more the norm for me. But when I do have time to write, I try to be as productive as possible. Each day, I vow to tackle at least one big item on my to-do list, whether it's writing a press release, submitting an article, working on a book chapter, or Internet marketing.

 

Norm:

What attracted you to write about multiples, parenting and women's issues?

 

Susan:

Many non-fiction authors will tell you that they started writing a book when they saw a real need in their own lives. When I was expecting twins more than four years ago, I found there were scarce resources for families expecting and raising multiples. And I wrote my first book, Oh, Baby! 7 Ways a Baby Will Change Your Life the First Year, because I couldn't find many books that addressed the emotional journey that new parents go on during that first year.

Most books for new and expectant parents address the baby's needs, not those of the parents. I wanted to write books that give realistic pictures of what parenting is like, both the joys and the challenges, whether you're raising singletons or multiples. And I wanted to provide concrete and practical solutions for dealing with the problems that parents face, particularly from other parents.

 

Norm:

How do you come up with ideas for what you write? What methods do you use to flesh out your idea to determine if it's salable?

Susan:

Thank God for the rise of the Internet! With all of the forums, blogs and websites, it makes it easier for writers to see what people are talking about and what their needs are. This type of feedback is very important for the non-fiction writer.

A topic that appeals to me may not necessarily appeal to someone else, so I'm constantly asking other parents about their concerns and ideas. In terms of determining if an idea is salable, publishers and their sales staffs are never shy about answering that question! However, it's every writer's job to convince a publisher that their book will sell, and then to follow through with plenty of efforts to market and promote their books.

Norm:

Do you recommend other writers find a niche or specialty? What have been the rewards for you?

Susan:

It's important to find a niche because that sets you up as an "expert" on a particular subject. A person who's published five books on cooking is much more likely to be consulted as an expert than someone who wrote one cooking book, one book about cars, another about parenting, and so on.

If you have enough material on a particular subject to fill several books, it shows you have a lot of expertise in that area, which can increase your visibility in the market. Having a specialty also allows you to get to know your market better. Feedback from the first book can be used in the second book, and so on. Building up an audience has really helped in selling my books about twins. If people read one of my books and like it, they're more likely to pick up another I've written.

 

Norm:

Please briefly tell our readers about the three books above mentioned? As a follow up, whom do you believe will benefit from reading your books and why?

 

Susan:

It's Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence recognizes that only parents of twins and multiples can truly understand the joys, challenges, and unexpected moments that multiples bring. It's Twins is loaded with plenty of tips, tales, trivia, and more that tackle the important questions on raising twins of any age. With lots of common sense, humor, and encouragement, It's Twins puts the fun and love back into the ever-challenging role of raising multiples.

Published in conjunction with TWINS magazine, Twice the Love: Stories of Inspiration for Families with Twins, Multiples and Singletons is a compilation of inspirational stories written by parents and other family members about the joys and challenges of raising multiples. Stories reflect a variety of topics, such as the special bond between multiples, typical crazy days in the life of a family with twins, challenges encountered in pregnancy or childhood, humorous situations created by multiples, adopting twins, and much more.

Oh, Baby! 7 Ways a Baby Will Change Your Life the First Year provides the "real story" about the many ways a new baby turns our lives upside-down. While this book is realistic in the ways that life is changed post-baby, it offers practical advice and sensitive know-how to help new parents survive-and even thrive!-in the first year. Through the use of fascinating narratives, poignant questions, suggested activities and experienced advice, readers will find solutions that maximize an optimistic view in tackling the challenges that are naturally a part of new parenthood. Oh, Baby is a proud winner of the 2006 Parent to Parent

Adding Wisdom Award, the only award program to ever be honored by Disney.com, as well as the winner of a 2007 iParenting Media Award and a 2007 Moms' Choice Award!

All three books demonstrate that we can learn a lot from others who have been through or are going through similar experiences. Life can be made a lot easier when we share our knowledge with one another. These books also show that preparation is key in parenting, whether you're expecting a single baby or multiple babies.

The more you know what to expect, the better prepared you can be, and the easier the journey. Parents who read my books will acquire the knowledge-and confidence-they need to handle the challenging task of raising children.

 

Norm:

What do you think of the new Internet market for writers?

Susan:

The Internet has been revolutionary for writers, both in providing a forum for them to display their work, as well as a low-cost or no-cost way to promote their books.

We no longer need to panic if our books aren't on the bookstore shelves, which have a limited amount of space. Books now get excellent visibility online at sites such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and elsewhere.

Use of the Internet also saves authors and publishers a lot of time and money. Instead of the costs associated with a nationwide book tour, authors can get to know potential readers from the seat of their office chairs. The Internet also gives a "voice" to those authors who don't feel comfortable in front of live audiences. And, generally, it is much easier to get articles and excerpts printed in cyberspace than in traditional magazines. Granted, the pay is usually nil, but the exposure makes it worthwhile for authors.

 

Norm:

Can you tell us how you found representation for your books? Did you pitch it to an agent, or query publishers who would most likely publish this type of book? Any rejections? Did you self-publish?

Susan:

I had the good fortune of being a senior editor at a publishing company before becoming a freelance writer and editor, so I was knowledgeable about the publishing business already.

I knew what editors look for and how to write a convincing proposal. I was also able to connect with an agent and other publishers through some of the author contacts I had made at my job. But, you know, even with those connections, I still experience rejection all the time.

I've sent out a large number of proposals and articles that have been rejected. It happens to almost all authors. Publishers can only do a certain number of titles each year and have to be very selective in choosing new books. Persistence and a "thick skin" are important. Experienced authors don't let rejections get them down (at least not for long!). Oftentimes, it's not a reflection of their talent or material. Finding the right publisher and/or agent can be a long, drawn-out process. Skill is important, but so is timing and luck.

I haven't self-published yet, but it's something I would consider. I'd like to offer two bits of advice to those who want to self-publish. First, have your manuscript professionally edited. I've read too many self-published books with glaring spelling, grammar and typographical errors. It's hard to praise a book, even with excellent content, if it looks unprofessional. Second, educate yourself about the book business, and marketing and promoting your book. You can't just stick it up on a website and expect it to sell. You need to learn to write and send out press releases, write articles for magazines and the Web, make contacts through blogging and networking sites, and much more.

 

Norm:

In the past few years have you seen any changes in the way publishers publish and/or distribute books? Are there any emerging trends developing?

Susan:

Publishers are becoming much more selective in what they publish. Not only are they looking for good manuscripts, but they are seeking authors who bring a lot more to the table than just good writing. They want to see that potential authors have contacts in their field, can speak well on their topic, have a website and know their way around the Internet.

In many cases, publishers market and promote their authors only during the season in which their book is published. When a new crop of books is published the next season, it's up to the author to pick up the ball and be responsible for keeping the book alive. If they're not able to do that, sales suffer, and publishers won't be interested.

 

Norm:

Are you working on any books/projects that you would like to share with us? (We would love to hear all about them!)

Susan:

I just launched a new website for families with twins and multiples. It's called TwinsTalk, and it's a place where parents can share their best tips, advice and articles about raising twins, as well as find the help they need to meet their own challenges. The site is www.twinstalk.com.

 

Also on the subject of twins, I just put a book together for Debbie LaChusa called Twin Connections: Stories That Celebrate the Mysterious Bond Between Twins. It's a collection of anecdotes from twins that demonstrate the special connection they share with each other. It can be purchased through Barnes & Noble at And I'm always in the process of seeking out a new book project. I'd love to hear your readers' suggestions as to what my next book should be about!

Norm:

How can our readers find out more about you?

 

Susan:

They can visit my website at www.susanheim.com, or read my blog, "Susan Heim on Parenting," at www.susanheim.blogspot.com.

 

Norm:

Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?

 

Susan:

This is really an exciting time for potential authors. Yes, it's getting harder to be published by traditional publishing houses, but authors have other options now, such as self-publishing, that are more affordable and easy than ever before. With the Internet, authors have a place to promote and sell their books to millions of people. Information about writing and publishing is now more accessible so people can educate themselves. It's a revolutionary and hopeful time to be a writer.

 

Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.

 

Source: 
BookPleasures.com
Date: 
Jan.16.2008
Interviewer: 
Norm Goldman