When Emmy-winning television host, marketing executive, and bestselling author Markette Sheppard returned to SBC in support of her new children’s book Ninja Nate (Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, September 26, 2023) illustrated by Robert Paul Jr., we asked if it starts with an idea or confidence.

It was during this topic that Sheppard revealed the success story of a book idea of hers that had gotten rejected. She had penned an ABC book, in which she was told was oversaturated in the market. 

“I didn’t say ‘This is good, why won’t you publish it? Please give it a second thought!’ To me, that’s aggressive. That’s not confidence. I said ‘Okay, I’m going to take your note.’ There’re too many ABC books on the market, but there’s not a lot of multicultural ABC flash cards on the market.”

So Sheppard got to work. She heeded her editor’s feedback and instead of abandoning the idea altogether, she revitalized it. She gave herself six months and for the first time independently published story-themed alphabet flashcards. Today, they are a star seller on Etsy.

“Those ABC flashcards have sold around the world,” the Ninja Nate author says. “I have made more money on the ABC flash cards than any of my books (What Is Light?; My Rainy Day Rocket Ship) by just having confidence.”

Regardless, like many authors and other professionals in publishing, Sheppard is in it for the love of the art. Akin to her previous releases, the mission of Nate is to entertain and inspire children. With this third book, she wanted to push herself beyond her comfort zone and tell a story about a child whose experience was foreign to her.

Check out the full conversation to learn more about the book including its disability angle and how she approached it as well as Paul Jr.’s connection to the story; R.J. Palacio’s Wonder; whether her writing process changed; why she thinks entrepreneurship is the new Civil Rights movement; the short film she’s been working on with Queen Latifah’s Queen Collective; and more! For more information, visit Sheppard’s official website.

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