Wednesday, November 8, 2023

An Interview With Judy Penz Sheluk

by Grace Topping 

Members of the mystery writing community are known for their willingness to help other writers—none more so than Judy Penz Sheluk. She has taken her helpfulness a step further and written two step-by-step reference books on publishing, Finding Your Path to Publication and recently: Self-Publishing The Ins & Outs of Going Indie. Judy joined us at Writers Who Kill to talk about the December 1 release of her guide on self-publishing. 


The Ins & Outs of Going Indie: A Step-by-Step Guide 

You’ve thought about self-publishing, but is it the right path for you? Find answers, insights, and pro tips in Self-Publishing: The Ins & Outs of Going Indie. Written by Judy Penz Sheluk, bestselling author of Finding Your Path to Publication and multiple mystery novels, this must-have reference book covers the nuts and bolts of self-publishing from business basics and publishing platforms to post-publication sales and marketing strategies. Whether you’re an aspiring author, a traditionally published author considering a change, or merely curious, “Going Indie” takes an honest, unbiased look at the pros and cons of self-publishing while guiding you through the process—one easy-to-understand step at a time. 


Welcome back, Judy, to Writers Who Kill.


You had books traditionally published. What made you decide to go indie for the next books in your publishing journey?


I’d been with two medium-sized independent publishers. One (an MWA-approved publisher) shuttered its doors in 2018. The other (in business for 14 years) gradually culled its list until they were only publishing their own works. I was “orphaned” by them in 2017 (orphaned being the industry term for a publishing contract being terminated early). 

Fortunately, I regained all rights to my books (that’s not always the case). In any event, I was faced with three choices: give up, try to find another publisher, or self-publish. I’m not the sort of person who gives up. I didn’t think another independent publisher could do more for me than I could for myself (having learned much along the way) and, besides, there was no guarantee that I wouldn’t be in the same spot down the road if the publisher decided to shut down. Self-publishing just made sense.


In addition to going indie, you established your own publishing imprint, Superior Shores Press. That sounds like going far beyond self-publishing. Please tell us about it.


Yes, I set up Superior Shores Press in February 2018. It’s been a great decision for me, personally. But even if all someone wants to do is publish their own books, it’s worth setting up an imprint and it’s not all that difficult. 


In December, you will be launching Self-Publishing The Ins & Outs of Going Indie: A Step-by-Step Guide (available now for preorder). What made you decide to write this guide?


Yes, December 1 ( And to answer your question, I believe there is a need for an honest, unbiased look at self-publishing. I spell out the steps involved in an accessible way so an individual can decide if it’s the right path for them. 

You’ve written that self-publishing may not be for everyone. When considering self-publishing, what is the most important thing a writer needs to take into consideration?


Time, money, and multi-tasking. Time: there’s a definite learning curve, and you need to have a business sense and be ready to learn the technical aspects. Money: every expense, from editing to cover art, is on you. Multi-tasking: You’re running a business. You are CEO, admin, advertising exec, and everything in between. Organization is a must.


The term indie (or being an independent writer) has changed somewhat in recent years. How was it previously used, and how do you define it? 


An independent publisher is a traditional publisher not associated with a large press (like HarperCollins, for example). An indie author is one who independently publishes their own works. There’s a lot of that sort of duplication in the writing world. For example, there are hybrid publishers (you pay for them to do the work) and hybrid authors, like me (indie published, and also published by a traditional publisher). 


Before writing the guide on going indie, you published Finding Your Path to Publication: A Step-by-Step Guide. The reviews have been outstanding. What have you learned from the whole process? Is there anything that you wish you had done differently?


Thank you, I’ve been pleased with the reviews. As for doing anything differently, no, it went exactly as I’d hoped. I worked with an editor (Emily Nakeff) during the writing process (for both books) and then with my go-to editor (Ti Locke) for the final round. My cover art guy (Hunter Martin) was, as always, able to see inside my head. But I came to it after considerable thought as to whether I should do it, and how to approach it. I really planned each step well ahead of time (which, ironically, is completely at odds with my pantser style of writing fiction).

Some of your mysteries have been translated into different languages. Do you plan to have the guides translated?


Not at this time. The guides are geared to U.S. and Canadian authors; the steps can be followed by anyone, in any country, but the resources are all North American-based. 


You’ve published three Superior Shores Anthologies. What prompted you to put together these collections of short stories by various authors? Will you be doing more?


The anthologies are my way of giving back (my first publishing credits were short stories), as well as a means of giving the press “legitimacy.” And yes, there are plans for at least two more. The first of the two, Larceny & Last Chances, is open for submissions as of November 15.


I’ve listened to several of your mysteries in audiobook format and enjoyed them immensely. How involved were you in their production?  


I selected the narrators, listened to each chapter as completed, and published it through ACX (Amazon’s audiobook division). It’s more work for the narrator than the author. I’m not sure if I’ll put the step-by-step books on audio – I’m not sure how well they would translate to audio. It’s something I need to think about. 

You always seem to be juggling a number of projects. Is there anything that you haven’t attempted that you would like to?


Oh my gosh, yes! I really want to write about a true crime and found a cold case that would be perfect. But it’s a lot of digging through old newspaper archives, and I’ve already discovered (by dabbling) that it can be a tedious process. Still…it’s on my to-do list. I’d like to take a course on playwriting and write a simple play for local theatre. I keep bumping that one, so no idea if it will ever happen. But it’s on the back burner. I’m also sort of in the process of writing a standalone, but that took a back seat to the step-by-step books. I’m hoping 2024 is the year to finish at least one of those projects. No idea which one will “win.”


What’s next for you?


Just taking one day at a time, and most grateful for each one.


What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned since you started writing?


The harder you work, the luckier you get.


Thank you, Judy. 



To learn more about Judy and her works, visit

Grace Topping is the author of the Laura Bishop Mystery Series. 




  1. Congratulations on your most recent adventure. Given the rapid changes in Indie publishing, I expect we'll see a 2nd, 3rd and 4th edition in the future!

    1. Too true, Jim -- even as I was writing it, there were changes to implement.

  2. I love both reading Judy's novels and working with her on anthologies. Looking forward to the possibility of submitting to the next anthology.

    Just thinking about all you do makes me tired!

    1. Looking forward to reading your submission!

  3. Excited to see your new book! Debra

  4. Judy, you are a dynamo. I’m looking forward to the latest anthologies. Going indie was the right thing for me. I just wish I’d had your guide as a blueprint! Would have saved a lot of hunt and peck.

    1. Thanks Katie -- Going Indie can be very rewarding -- and yes, I wish I'd had a book like mine too LOL

  5. Thank you, Judy, for the interview. Both of your step-by-step guides are very helpful and a great addition to any writer's reference shelf.

    1. Thank you Grace for all your support -- and thanks to WWK for inviting me back.

  6. Replies
    1. Thank you, Terrie. Judy is such an interesting person to interview.

    2. Thanks so much Terrie! Grace can take much of the credit for the questions.

  7. Congrats to Judy and good interview, Grace.

    1. Thanks so much Margaret!

  8. Congratulations on all you accomplish, Judy. Wonderful interview.