Heidi Shertok learned pretty quickly that there’s a big difference between self-publishing a novel and having a publishing house buy a novel.
“It’s about a 2 to 2 ½ year process starting from getting an agent to being in bookstores because there’s so much editing involved,” Shertok said. “The agents are telling you, ‘we love your story, but you have to change like 50 percent of it.’ And then you go through the acquisition which can sometimes take a long time. And then once you get an editor, there are a lot more edits.”
Despite the arduous process, Shertok’s first mass-market novel, Unorthodox Love, is being released in the United States on July 11. There’s a release party at Semple Mansion that evening. Shertok will be interviewed by WCCO Radio’s Jordana Green, wine, soft drinks, and light appetizers will be served and there is a raffle for everyone in attendance, including jewelry from LeoDaniels! The event is free to attend but registration is required. The book will be available for purchase and to be signed, or bring a previously purchased copy for signing.
Shertok’s book is about a 29-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman who is infertile, and because of that, is struggling to find a husband. However, she falls in love with her secular Jewish boss. Shertok is Orthodox and lives in St. Louis Park – but that’s where the similarities end.
“All of my book ideas come from a question of ‘what if’” she said. “Here, this Orthodox Jewish woman has trouble getting married because [having children] is such an important factor in the observant Jewish community. Adoption is totally possible, but sometimes isn’t as straightforward.”
Throughout the process, Shertok found that the editors and agents worked hard to keep her original story in place.
“They were all super nice, and they all wanted to keep the integrity of the story, which is basically that Orthodox Jewish people can be normal and fun,” she said. “And we can have romcoms, because normally, Orthodox Jews are presented in the media as being very dour, and the women come across as very repressed.”
After her self-published book, And Along Came Layla…, Shertok said her friend and fellow writer Julie Carpenter introduced her to her writing critique group, which she said changed a lot for her. She also has reached out to other authors, like Maple Grove author/bakery owner Abby Jimenez, for advice.
“I reached out to [Abby] during the acquisitions process and I didn’t think she was going to respond because she’s kind of big-time,” said Shertok, who was upset over a publishing house not buying the book. “But she said, ‘Girl, if you’ve got an agent, you’ve got something there. You’re gonna be fine. And you can do this.’ And she was so encouraging.”
The second book – a spinoff from Orthodox Love – is in the works and has been purchased by a UK publisher, although it’s still being shopped around U.S. publishers. She said her American publisher, Alcove Press, part of Penguin Random House, gets the first shot at it.
She said the book also serves an important niche in the book world.
“There is not really any other Orthodox Jewish romcoms in the mass market,” she said. “And I feel like it’s always nice to have Jewish representation of all types.”