When Sherrie Clark and her husband decided to become foster parents so they could eventually adopt they expected a few challenges, but they never anticipated the deceit, manipulation, corruption, secrecy, and conflict they would encounter. This Floridian couple found themselves entangled in a true-life horror story battling a powerful secret society where, on a daily basis, children end up victims of personal agendas, a financial bottom line, and apathy. “My family’s desire to adopt a child led us down a path into an underground world that very few know exist,” Clark reveals.
The heart-wrenching journey that Clark and her family experienced inspired her to write. “I wanted to tell my story and blow the whistle on what this ‘secret society’ is doing to victimize children,” Clark explains. In her award-winning memoir Small Voices Silenced: The Secret Society of Sacrificed Children, Clark exposes some of the most horrid practices among foster-care agencies. While the book includes all the components of a juicy fiction novel, that this is a true story delivers an extra emotional punch that can shake readers to their core.
Clark decided to self-publish Small Voices Silenced instead of seeking an agent and publishing contract. “I believe that my book has an important message that needs to get out to the public without any more delays,” she explains. “I worked on this book for so long, and I knew that it would add more time to write the query and book proposal, submit it to publishers/agents, and have them evaluate it. And if it was picked up by a traditional publisher, it probably wouldn’t hit the marketplace for at least another year after that.” Self-publishing allowed Clark to get her message out faster.
Additionally, Clark felt her personal story was too special to hand over to a publisher. “I put so much time, effort, and sacrifice into writing it…sending it to publishers felt like giving birth to a baby and then signing away my rights to someone else. Being a surrogate was not for me, so self-publishing was the best way to go.”
Self-publishing brings its own challenges, but Clark spent a lot of time researching her options. Having studied just about every aspect of the publishing industry, she knew she needed a strong editor to help her effectively craft her story in a way that would appeal to readers. “My writing experience is as a journalist, and I realized I was writing a memoir without changing my “journalistic” mind-set and writing habits,” she describes. “Hiring Ambitious Enterprises for a developmental edit of my manuscript was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I credit Ally for helping me transition and cross over from the journalistic to the creative.”
From Rough Draft to Award-Winning Book
“When I first brought my book to Ally, my manuscript was very raw,” Clark says. “Ally showed me my weaknesses and my strengths, what to do to improve my story and how to do it, and she did so in a way that clicked in my journalistic brain. I realized I do have a creative part inside of me, and I needed to tap into it and connect to it when writing this story. Without Ally, I truly believe it wouldn’t be the book it is today.”
Since rewriting her manuscript, Clark has received some very notable feedback. Small Voices Silenced has won the iUniverse Editor’s Choice Award, which honors excellence in writing, and the prestigious Rising Star Award. “Only those who have won the Editor’s Choice Award are invited to apply for the Rising Star Award, and only a few applicants are selected, so I am honored to receive this award,” Clark says. Beyond the awards, Clark already sees her book taking on a life of its own. “I have received some strong feedback from those who have read my book, even strangers outside of my family and friends who read it from a critiquing perspective. All of it is encouraging and surreal and very motivating to keep moving forward with writing more books.”
As Clark pursues future writing projects, she will be able to apply what she’s learned about the self-publishing process while promoting Small Voices Silenced. “I wish I’d known that there would be much more time, effort, and sacrifice needed to bring the book into the marketplace after writing the words ‘The End’,” she says. “And it doesn’t stop there. You can write the best book in the world, but if no one knows about it, then you’re just going to have a book that you’ve written. Marketing your book is an ongoing process, and you have to believe in what you wrote. If you don’t, the process can be quite daunting, especially if you’re not a salesperson.”
The challenges, though, make the rewards worth that much more. “This is an endless road, but that also means the possibilities are endless,” she says. For authors currently entrenched in the writing and publication process, Clark urges persistence. “Be determined. Keep going despite the obstacles and challenges that can and will crop up to keep you from writing that book inside of you. Push past them and keep going. And keep learning about your craft. The results will be well worth the time invested.”