Posted On January 11, 2016 by Print This Post

Part One: Reflections on My First Year as an Indie Author – by Heatherly Bell

Are you thinking about self-publishing? After one year as a self-published author, Heatherly Bell tells us what she’s learned so far. 

Welcome back, Heatherly!

I’ve learned a great deal in my first year of self-publishing but if I had to pick one word to explain it all in a nutshell it would be the word commit. I committed to the process, understanding that the publishing world was changing daily. I published my first book, All of Me, on November 4, 2014 (my own independence day) and the second one, Somebody like You, on December 21, 2014. That part was easy because those two books were already written and edited. But then I was out of books and I had to hit the ground running!

My books weren’t immediate bestsellers, but I decided to give the process some time. Besides that, I began receiving emails from readers who were touched by my books. There’s probably little more thrilling than that for an author. I made enough money in the first year to significantly supplement our family income, which felt simply amazing.

From time to time I hear stories about authors who self-published one book and when it didn’t become an overnight sensation, Heatherly Bellthey decided “this doesn’t work” and gave up. One book is usually (of course, there are exceptions) not enough to make anyone a bestselling author. Some Indie experts say you need at least five books out, preferably in a connected series. Take a look at some of the traditionally published authors that are now hitting lists. Some of them have forty books out in several different series and have been writing for twenty years or more. Why would it be any different for Indie authors?

Here are a few of the things I learned in my first year.

Have a written set of goals

Early in 2014, I took an online class in self-publishing with YA author Sarra Cannon. One of the first things she had us do was write down our set of goals. Some of the things on that list might include:

Tell the type of stories I am passionate about

Make a gazillion dollars

See my books in a bookstore

Gain the respect of publishing professionals and other authors

Reach readers and change their lives in some way

Make enough money to write full-time

Hit a bestseller list

You get the idea. I had ‘seeing my books in a bookstore’ down at the bottom of my list, not that it wouldn’t be lovely. Also low? Hitting a bestseller list and gaining the respect of publishing professionals. Also would be terribly nice, but my main goals included being able to write the stories I love (whether or not it’s a currently unpopular trope among editors) and reaching readers. Whenever I’d hear about a friend winning a contest, or see a photo of an author friend holding her book in a local bookstore, I could go back and consult my list. It is low on the radar at this point. Someday, that could change.

Make a list and consult it often during your first year, especially during award season.

It’s not about ‘us’ versus ‘them’

Unfortunately not everyone is going to love you for self-publishing. The same thing happens on the other side. Some authors who are traditionally published are asked why on earth they won’t self-publish instead and make a gazillion dollars. There is a lot wrong with that statement but I’ll start with the most obvious. Self-publishing definitely isn’t for everyone, just as traditional publishing is not for everyone. So let’s not make it about ‘us’ versus ‘them’ any longer. We all have choices to make and we should support each other.

There are no shortcuts

Self-publishing is a business. You are the publisher and the author. You’ll wear a lot of hats: administration, promotion, marketing, hiring (and firing) help. Oh yes, and writing! If you skimp anywhere on quality, don’t be surprised if your books don’t sell. Hire a great cover designer (I use Kim Killion with the Killion Group) and an efficient editor (I use Lesley McDaniels, who is also an author). Get recommendations from friends. There are just no shortcuts I’m sorry to say, and you’re going to have to spend some money to self-publish and do it well. This is yet another reason why some authors might choose not to do so and there’s nothing wrong with that. The other reason might be that they don’t want to be a small business owner, because essentially that’s what you are when you self-publish.

So if you’re thinking about self-publishing, do a lot of reading on the subject, talk to authors who are doing it successfully, make your own decision and … commit to it!

Are you self published? Any advice you can share with us?


Unforgettable YouUnforgettable You – December 2015

After being dumped by her fiancée, Diana wants a life do-over. What she needs is a change of scenery and she just might find that in Starlight Hill. But when Diana is the victim of a fire and rescued by her teenage crush, she’ll be forced to remind her heart frequently that she’s sworn off men. Tough and wild Scott has changed from his days as a love ‘em and leave ‘em type, making it difficult for Diana to remember why she gave up on love in the first place …

Scott is an adrenaline-junkie firefighter with a wild past until a painful mistake changes his life forever. When Diana’s rescue is filmed and goes viral, his first instincts are to protect and fix. There’s something about being around Diana that makes him feel human again, and like he can be the man she believes he is. The kind of man she deserves. But first he’ll have to forgive himself …

Can these two trust each other enough to leave the past behind and find happily ever after in the small town of Starlight Hill?


Bio: When early onset stage fright dashed dreams of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame status, Heatherly Bell tackled her first book in 2010, and now the people and voices that occupy her head refuse to leave. She no longer sings unless you count randomly bursting into song to annoy her children (and the dogs).

If she were not an author, Heatherly maintains she would be a detective and a criminal’s worst nightmare. She watches Dateline every Friday night and takes notes.

Heatherly lives in northern California with her family, including two beagles, one who can say ‘hello’ and the other who can feel a pea through several pillows. To learn more about Heatherly, visit her website or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


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24 Responses to “Part One: Reflections on My First Year as an Indie Author – by Heatherly Bell”

  1. Thanks for having me here today!

    Posted by Heatherly Bell | January 11, 2016, 10:13 am
  2. Hi Heatherly,

    I think many authors share the same objectives that are on your list. Have your goals changed now that you’ve got several books published?

    You’ve been successful as an self-published author, but would you ever consider traditional publishing?

    Thanks so much for blogging with us today.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | January 11, 2016, 3:00 pm
    • Hi Jennifer,

      I would absolutely consider traditional publishing and last year I acquired an agent and we’re out on submission with a three book proposal. It’s not an all or nothing proposition for me and I do see advantages to both. Thanks for asking!

      Posted by Heatherly Bell | January 11, 2016, 4:08 pm
    • Ooops, I forgot to answer one of your questions. Have my goals changed now that I have a few books out? Yes and no. My initial goals (ones not on the list) involved branching out to more platforms in 2016 but some of the changes that Amazon made to KU have slowed down that process.

      Posted by Heatherly Bell | January 11, 2016, 4:13 pm
  3. Thanks for the shout-out, Heatherly! I love working with you on your books.

    Posted by Lesley Ann McDaniel | January 11, 2016, 3:18 pm
  4. Great post Maria. You’re so right about it not being an us vs. them. We’re all writer’s and everyone has their own path to follow on their journey. Some love the idea of being in control of everything form when they release to the cover of their book, while others love the idea of handing over those details to someone else. Neither is right or wrong. Good luck on your path.

    Posted by Tricia Tyler | January 11, 2016, 4:06 pm
  5. Hi Hetherly,
    Just want to say I enjoy your characters and books so much. I read for pleasure and I must say I get a lot from your books. I have learned a lot from your comments here too. Let’s face it, we all fancy ourselves as writers, don’t we? Keep writing. We enjoy you.

    Posted by Ramona Font | January 11, 2016, 6:17 pm
  6. Sorry, Heatherly, I do know your name, just got ahead of myself there.

    Posted by Ramona Font | January 11, 2016, 6:18 pm
  7. Evening Heatherly!

    So my big question is, are you enjoying your self publishing career? Is it harder than you thought? More rewarding? Ok, technically that’s 3 questions, but they all tie in together!



    Posted by Carrie Peters | January 11, 2016, 6:56 pm
    • Hi Carrie,

      I’m definitely enjoying the writing, as I’m writing the stories I love with characters I enjoy. Writing is a pleasure most days. The parts I do not enjoy are marketing, choosing covers, writing blurbs, and all the admin stuff involved. There are days when I wish I had more help. It’s probably no more or less rewarding than it is for any author. I’m a bit of a control freak, so it does suit me at times.

      Posted by Heatherly Bell | January 11, 2016, 9:30 pm
  8. You are doing really well with this series. I’m really in awe of how much you have accomplished in a year. Goes to show if you want it, you have to make it happen for you in the way it works for you!

    Posted by Lora Bailey | January 12, 2016, 4:56 am
  9. Great post! I think writing down your goals is the best way to stay on track. It’s so easy to get sidetracked by shiny new projects. Keeping an eye on the goals that are most important to you is really the best way to pick and choose what’s the best direction for your writing.

    Posted by Amy Lamont | January 12, 2016, 10:45 am
  10. Great article! Love the book blurb and your bio too.

    Posted by Nicci Carrera | January 14, 2016, 2:04 am
  11. Congratulations to you, a fellow Silicon Valley RWA member, for realizing your dreams of publishing romance books. I agree with you that every author needs to choose their own path and then give it your best effort! Congrats Heatherly!

    ~ Kate

    Posted by Kate Allure | January 18, 2016, 8:40 pm
  12. nice keep posting such informative articles.

    Posted by Complete Essays | January 20, 2016, 11:59 pm


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