Written by A Guest Author January 4th, 2024

Case Study: How Parental Death – The Ultimate Teen Guide Got Published

By Michelle Shreeve

In 1993, I was nine years old and my mother died. There were hardly any books pertaining to the death of a mother to serve as a reference guide for me as a child to try and navigate my difficult loss. I had to try and navigate the death of my mother sort of alone, which embarked me on a journey of diving deep into researching about the topic in ways that worked best for me.

In my early 20s I pitched my own advice column to the local newspaper, as I wanted to try and help my community through the power of the written word. I wrote that column twice weekly for free for eight years. In the middle of that journey, I started writing for free again for a national up and coming website for another six years. People told me I was foolish for all the free writing I was doing, but I knew it was important to build a track record and portfolio and that I had to start at the bottom and work my way up.

I ended up finding a unique niche that flocked people to my page–writing author and publisher interviews to post online which in turn gave publishers and authors free marketing for their works. Authors and publishers started spreading the news about my column to where I never had an issue finding fresh content to write about. Among one of those publishers who reached out to me for a free marketing interview to post online was Scarecrow Publishing. A few of the authors caught wind of what I was doing and word got back to the editors at the publisher that I was marketing their authors. I did an interview for the publisher that was posted online.

While researching Scarecrow, I came across a young adult reference guide section that included helpful topics to guide youth with difficult life situations such as their parents divorcing, getting bullied at school, and more. I learned from other authors that to be successful I should write what I know, and so I pitched to the editor exactly that. I pitched a book to help teens cope with the death of their parent, after I researched their over 50 reference books in the series didn’t include that topic. I wanted to write the book I needed as a kid that wasn’t available.

I networked my way to the series editor who liked my pitch and then set up a long phone call with me to determine what level of passion and commitment I had going into the project. Within the next four years we worked together on perfecting my topic proposal to the committee review board who eventually accepted my proposal, offered me my first ever book contract, to where my book was published. I did all that while I successfully completed two master’s degrees at the same time.

After my first book, I pitched the same topic to a different editor of a different series within the same publishing company and landed a second contract with my second book published shortly after.

I have since signed a third book contract with the same publishing company and have had additional freelance writing opportunities stemming from all of this.

Looking back on this journey I don’t ever regret writing all those columns and articles for free. I feel like doing so led me to these other opportunities.

Bio Michelle Shreeve is the traditionally published author of Parental Death: The Ultimate Teen Guide and Coping with Parental Death: Insights and Tips for Teenagers. She has been a published local and national freelance writer since 2008. She holds two master’s degrees in English and creative writing and two undergraduate degrees in psychology.


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