Writers Questions: Sally Eberhardt

Did you always want to be a writer or did you kind of fall into it? Tell us the story of how you came to identify yourself as a writer. 

Writing was one of my favourite things to do at school – I relished the challenge of being given a topic, prompt or opening line from which to create a story.

Choosing the most obvious path never appealed to me. Putting a twist in the tale or an unexpected spin on the familiar was my goal. I wanted to raise eyebrows, show insight, tell a story that revealed feelings I otherwise kept hidden.

Yet even then I rarely wrote just for fun. Writing was for assignments. Then school was finished. I stopped writing. There was no need.

But there was still a twinkle of desire….

A few years later a brief foray into studying journalism sucked the life out of writing for me — so many rules, so suffocating, so boring! This was not what I had signed up for so I quit.

In following decades there was the occasional letter home from abroad, a travel diary, a poem or song that refused to leave me in peace until I gave it voice… but no true compulsion.

I doubt I wrote anything of consequence more than once a year … and that’s if I count Christmas cards.

Yet something was simmering away.

Thirty years after that false start in journalism, at the age of 52, I decided to write a book. Not fiction, not a memoir; something that helps people, that makes a difference, that makes this journey we call ‘life’ easier for others.

Conception was easy, the eighteen-month incubation more difficult and giving birth was glorious. By the time my book baby arrived, I was in love with the process.

I am a WRITER and now I am paid to write 😊

As a writer, are you a reader? What genres do you read and do you read more frequently in the genre you write in, or avoid it completely? 

I’m very much a reader. I’ve always voraciously devoured whatever words were put in front of me.

I love reading novels set in places I’ve lived or visited whether they be historical fiction, women’s fiction, romance, humour, even crime fiction. Stories that immerse me in another time and place yet are relatable through our shared humanity really appeal to me. I like to learn something from everything I read so I really appreciate all the research that goes into works by authors such as James Michener, Colleen McCullough, Judy Nunn etc.

I do read business/personal development books (the genre of my book) sometimes and try to implement what I learn into my own business…. But mostly I prefer fiction for escapism and biographies for inspiration.

Tell us about your first writing experience. How does that compare to where you are now? 

I jumped straight in and wrote a book! I wanted to write a book but it took a little while to work out what I had done in my life that was actually book worthy. After some thought I realised that I had learnt many skills and life lessons on my networking journey from terrified novice to consummate connector of people.

Discovering I was an introvert was a key moment in understanding myself and why networking had initially been so hard for me. Discovering that some of the characteristics of an introvert were networking superpowers was a revelation. Friendships, collaborations and many opportunities that enrichen my life come from networking so I wanted to share what I know so others don’t miss out.

I built the structure based on other books in my genre and then filled in the content. Writing came easily – disciplining myself to write regularly was the biggest challenge.

Where I am now is writing a broad spectrum of genres.

I’ve found I really enjoy writing flash fiction and using my imagination to put that twist in the tale. A friend referred me some work as a writer for a couple of local publications, and ironically, though they are written journo-stlye, I enjoy the challenge of making them captivate the reader.

Networking sees me offered work as a copywriter, guest blogger, ghost blogger, a speaker and trainer. I continue to write uplifting articles, business articles, web content, bios…anything where I have the chance to play with the power of words.

There is also a second book in the wings.

Writing has become a much bigger part of my life than I ever imagined … and I love it.

We all know the ‘just write’ memes if you are following any writers page, so apart from that, what’s the best advice you can give to someone new? 

Do your due diligence before parting with big bucks to writing mentors, publishers etc. There are some good people out there who genuinely help and give value but some of my friends paid way too much for way too little. Ask other authors about their experiences and see who they recommend.

Find your own voice and style.

Be brave enough to be vulnerable.

Always be willing to learn.

Edit, edit, edit.

Join writer’s groups – they are enormously supportive and helpful.

Writing a book is easier than selling a book. Learn book marketing.

What’s your biggest obstacle to writing and how do you overcome it? Most of us know that it is time, so try and let us know when you are best at your writing, and why that doesn’t work, and what you do to counter or overcome that problem. 

Ahh yes …. the tyranny of time. I find deadlines very motivating… if they are set by someone else. I happily ignore deadlines set by myself and can be easily distracted by things deemed more urgent like the washing, cooking or the latest binge-watch on Netflix.

My solution is to have a writing accountability buddy. We swap a piece of writing every Friday, and critique and edit each other’s work. This has helped both my productivity and quality of work. That second set of eyes and a different viewpoint are invaluable.

Self-published or traditionally published?  Tell us why that works for you? 

My first book was self-published through a publisher. The content is completely my own but the publisher helped with details such as ISBNs, formatting, the cover and blurb, and high quality printing.

I’ve learnt enough to tackle the next book on our own (it’s co-authored).

Even if you are one of the few who score a traditional publishing deal, there are expectations that you will do a lot of your own marketing. My take is if I have to do my own marketing, I want the profits. There is more profit per book in self-publishing and using Print On Demand services (e.g. Amazon, IngramSpark) helps greatly with cashflow.

Here is your chance to plug a book. Tell us about it and why we need to read it? 

Pain-free Networking for Introverts’ is an easy to follow roadmap for making every networking opportunity not only a success, but a pleasure rather than a pain.

With compassion, warmth and humour, I share stories of my own journey from nervous (meaning terrified!) networker to confident and relaxed connector of people and builder of relationships. I share what I have learnt so you don’t have to go through the same struggles and your networking journey will be smoother.

Each chapter has Action and Reflection sections to encourage you to implement what you are learning so you see results.

Introverts make GREAT networkers – the very traits that make you an introvert are your most valuable assets when it comes to meeting people, building relationships and developing TRUST. Let’s uncover your introvert superpowers so you too can enjoy the friendships, business/career opportunities, collaborations, referrals and connections that come from good networking.

Next project? Where are you in your writing journey and where to next for you?

Networking led me to my next project, of course. A LinkedIn connection and I quickly developed a mutual admiration society and now we are co-authoring a book. This one is about being an introvert in business – maximising your strengths and dealing with the challenges. I’m really enjoying collaborating with someone on the same wavelength but with complementary skills and knowledge.

The platform Medium.com is where I post articles on all sorts of topics, short stories etc and I’m looking at developing a publication within that space.

Writing is much of my life now – I copywrite, create media kits, ghost write blogs….anything to do with harnessing the power of words really.

I’m also a huge fan of writing groups and have recently been given the honour of judging a section of a writing competition.

Next on my Writing To Do List is turning ‘Pain-free Networking for Introverts’ into a course.

What’s your favourite genre? Tell us about one book from that genre that changed your life or outlook in life? 

It’s so hard to choose just one genre, let alone just one book!

The book that changed my life is from the Personal Development genre – ‘Awaken the Giant Within’ by Anthony Robbins. This book shows you how to ‘take control of your mental, emotional, physical and financial destiny’. What I learnt was that wishing and waiting for my life to get better wasn’t going to work, and it sure hadn’t so far. For my life to change, I had to change. I was at a stage where I couldn’t bear the prospect of the rest of my life being like the last five years. I made some major life decisions based on the confidence and courage this book gave me, and I regret none.

The most personal question of all, what does writing give you? Why do you do it, what’s the point, and what does it provide in your life that you can’t fulfil by any other means? 

Writing connects me with others. I can express thoughts, ideas and feelings so much more succinctly and eloquently in written words than verbally. It is a way in which I can fulfil my purpose of making the world a better place.

Writing forces me to be brave. It forces me to have the courage to be vulnerable. It’s when I put fear of judgement aside and share my fears and flaws that others are most able to relate to my story and journey.

Finding that courage in my writing has overflowed into other areas of my life too. Public speaking used to terrify me but now I have an important message to share, I find the confidence and power to speak.

I truly believe that my story can be the key to unlocking someone else’s prison.

I write to make a difference – to make the path easier for others on their own journey. They often feel that I am walking beside them for part of the way – and that brings me much joy.

Writing makes me happy.

Bonus Question

Non fiction writers

What is the hardest thing you had to learn about putting together a factual book? Talk about how you verify facts, or try to display the information, especially if there are a lot of photos or diagrams.  Offer some advice for the audience who might want to try non-fiction. 

While my book is based on my own journey of going from scared of networking to a confident advocate of networking because of all the good things it brings to my life, I still researched. My own personal anecdotes are used as examples of both the problems and solutions of being an introvert when networking however to ensure I was giving comprehensive advice I read the works of others and incorporated anything helpful.

Google is your friend – research, read articles that resonate, then put them away and write what you have learnt (or supports your own experience) in your own words. Don’t copy and paste thinking you will rewrite it later – just in case you never do.

Acknowledge all your sources in your Bibliography – it’s the polite and ethical thing to do and shows you have researched your topic. Do the Bibliography as you go – it’s so much easier than trying to do it at the end.

The hardest thing for me was not the writing, but the marketing…. And I have some experience in business and marketing. Book marketing is a whole different animal. That was my steepest learning curve.

My advice is to start marketing your book way before it is ready to publish. Set up your profile as a writer and author on the social media platforms that your target audience use most. You don’t have to bombard people – just turn up once a week with a gem of wisdom you are writing about, a comment on your writing journey, gratitude for any help or insight that has come to you – the idea is to stay visible and be seen as giving service to others.

Learn about lead magnets and list building so that you can pre-sell your book (this helps enormously with cashflow) and have a successful book launch.

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