Friday, July 3

Happy Independence Day! from Heatherly Bell

The Wranglers are happy to welcome author Heatherly Bell to the round corral today. 

When Liz asked if I’d like to center my post on our nation’s Independence Day, the first thought that came to mind had nothing to do with our country’s birth. Instead I chose to write about my personal independence day. Last year on my own “Fourth,” November 4, 2014 to be exact, I became an Indie published writer and quite proud of it.

That one day was preceded by at least a decade of writing and studying craft, taking classes and workshops, and trying to narrow down what genre I would write. It involved many false starts and stops to finally completing that first book in early 2011. Contrary to some prejudices about Indie writers, we don’t just slap together a first book, learn Photoshop to make our covers and ask our mothers to serve as editor and proofreader.

By the time I self-published, I’d already published one book with a small press and completed a contract for a second. I’d learned a great deal through the entire editorial process and am a better writer for it. I was also regularly receiving requests from editors and agents, had a revise and resubmit from a major publisher and generally received great feedback from both editors and agents.

By this time, Indie publishing had taken the publishing world by storm. Talented formerly traditionally published writers were jumping ship and on to the Indie wagon. Some big houses were closing or merging, and advances were drying up (and as of this date are almost non-existent.) As much as I’d watched from the sidelines and learned about Indie publishing in the past few years, I still felt that I knew and understood too little.

Working with my small press editor, and having several sets of eyes on my book before it released to the public had been comforting. The prospect of doing it all by myself was scary. It was a risk, pure and simple. I would either be successful, or a big flop.

You don’t have to do it alone.

I hired professionals: editor, graphic artist, blog tour companies. I had a budget for advertising. When it comes right down to it, I’m the publisher. It’s a small business I own and operate. It doesn’t mean that I can’t contract out some work. Almost every Indie author I know does not do it all alone. Otherwise, where would you find the time to actually write?

I was also fortunate to meet other Indie authors who were incredibly supportive, as is typical in the romance writer community. One in particular became my CP and good friend and we chatted “shop” about as much as we talked craft. Fellow Small Town Summer author Amy Lamont ‘virtually’ held my hand as I hit ‘publish’ on Amazon Kindle with  All of Me, the first book in my vineyard Starlight Hill series.

Is the Indie route right for you?

I was attracted to Indie publishing for several reasons, the first being that I already had a series in mind. All the reading and research I’d done showed that series do best, especially when it comes to Indies.

In addition to that, I seem to have an author brain that thinks in terms of series.

Secondly, I had a small back list. The first book was ready, and the second one nearly complete. My experience with traditional publishing was that it took about a year from the time of my contract to the actual release.  Frankly, I realized I could do it faster and I wouldn’t sacrifice quality to do so. After all, the only author I publish is me.

Third, by the time I published All of Me it had been revised countless of times and went from a meandering 80k+ novel to a 43K novella. There were not too many options in publishing a novella that size. There are more options now, to be certain.

Are you ready for your independence day?

How can a writer know for certain if they’re ready for their own personal Indie day?

There’s no easy answer to that question. If you haven’t already been picked up my a “traditional” press, you might be wondering if you still have some craft issues to work out or if perhaps your story is being rejected simply because of the constantly fluctuating (and very tough) market conditions. Or maybe you were simply turned down because it came across an editor’s desk when she would have much preferred a box of chocolates.

Sometimes rejection letters are helpful in this regard. If you’re getting compliments about you’re efforts, be aware that editors and agents wouldn’t take their valuable time to throw you a line. This is one of those instances in which “If you don’t have to say something nice, say nothing at all.” 
If you’re still receiving form letters and no input whatsoever, it might be time to re-think whether or not you’re ready. Or maybe not. I did say there was no easy answer.

Try CPs and Beta readers and beg them to be honest with you. Remember that an editor (please hire one!) can only help you so much with craft. If you hire a content editor they will make suggestions, but implementing is still the author’s job. That’s the tough part of writing. Those are the days when I curl up into a fetal position and mutter, “Have mercy.”

Lastly, Indie is definitely not for everyone. Like any business, you need a small amount of starting capital to hire an editor, graphic artist, blog tour coordinators and in order to have a decent marketing budget for promotion. I will say that all this probably costs a whole lot less than you think it does.

As for me, I’m not strictly staying in one swim lane when it comes to my writing career. Last month, I signed on with an agency. I have a full length contemporary romance we will be shopping around. This is because I believe in diversity, and I’m not going to turn my nose up (or down) at traditional publishing. It still has a place in this growing and challenging market.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t always be proud of the day I hit ‘publish’ and gave myself my own Independence Day.

Happy Fourth!

~ Heatherly

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I’m excited to release my first boxed set with eight other awesome authors, including Liz Flaherty and Amy Lamont!
From warm sunny days to long sultry nights, spend your summer falling in love in a small town! These nine contemporary romances featuring sassy heroines, sexy heroes, and lots of heartwarming romance make the perfect beach read. Whether your pleasure is sweet small town romance or smolderingly sexy love stories, there's something in the Small Town Summer box set for everyone!

AWAKENING ANNA, by Wall Street Journal Bestselling author Terri Osburn
ANYWHERE WITH YOU, by Heatherly Bell
MOONSHINE & MAGNOLIAS, by National Bestselling author Jamie Farrell
SUMMER STOCK, by Regina Kyle
A KISS IN KITE HARBOR, by Stefanie London
HER LAST SHOT, by Megan Ryder
SWEET HOME ALASKA, by Rebecca Thomas


  1. Fabulous post, Heatherly!! I just finished Anywhere With You from the box set last night and I loved it :) Although I will almost always have a soft spot for heroine's with pink hair. Thanks for sharing all your wisdom.

  2. Thanks for coming to visit, Heatherly. This was a great post.

  3. Thanks, Stefanie! And thank you for having me here today, Liz. I'm having a little trouble posting under my wordpress account so guess I'm "anonymous" today.

  4. Ok, never mind. It kept telling me I was going to be "anonymous" but I see it worked after all!

  5. You gave a good perspective on indie publishing. It IS like running a small business. I enjoyed the why's of your decisions. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Judith! A great deal of thought went into the decision.

  6. Thanks for coming by, Heatherly! Your advice was great and I can't wait to read your novella in the set. As a diehard Liz fan, I've already preordered it :)

  7. Thank you, Margie! I'm also a diehard Liz fan.