Today we’re lucky enough to be interviewing Heatherly Bell about stepping out of her comfort zone and her journey in Self-Publishing:
Tricia: Heatherly, you traditionally published your first book, Harte’s Peak as Maria Michaels with White Rose publishing, what made you decide to change the course of your writing career and make the leap into Indie publishing as Heatherly Bell?
Heatherly: That’s a long story, but the short version is that I wanted the freedom to write contemporary romance without offending readers of inspirational fiction. It was also a good way to separate Indie versus Traditional. The jury is still out as to whether or not I will use the Heatherly Bell pen name in any future traditional publishing. Lots of factors will weigh into that decision, I’m sure.
In addition, a traditional publisher will often ask for a non-compete clause in your Indie publishing while you’re under contract. Having two pen names and differing genres seemed like a good way to get around being able to continue Indie publishing with a traditional contract as well. I’ll let you know, anyway, if this work for me!
As to having two pen names, I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who doesn’t have a lot of extra time on their hands. I haven’t been able to keep up with Maria Michaels, but she’s still alive and kicking! Maybe 2016 is her year, who knows?
Tricia: If you had to do it all over again, would you still make the decision to go the indie route, and what if anything would you change about your journey?
Heatherly: If I had to do it all over again, I would still go Indie. You might wonder if I’d do it sooner, but the answer would be no. I had to get here in my own time and when I was ready as an author. Having said that, I’m sure every author looks back on earlier work at a time when they were still at least somewhat “honing their craft” and I might say that in a few years about these first books. But at this point, I felt these books were about as ready as they would ever be for publication. Hopefully we’re always learning and growing as authors.
The only thing I might change about my journey would be getting more organized as a business and much earlier. It’s been tough playing catch-up.
Tricia: What have you found to be the biggest advantage for you with Indie publishing? And what would you say the biggest drawback, or hardest thing has been to overcome?
Heatherly: The biggest advantage of Indie publishing is that you are the most important author in your stable – as in the only one! Publishers will add you to their “list” and you need to get in line. There are lots of authors ahead of you, and unfortunately, far less resources for “low woman on the totem pole”. It’s called paying your dues and it makes sense. Just don’t expect that you’ll hit the ground running because you’re with a big 5 publisher. Also, often it takes one year from contract to publication release – a very long time in the current climate of the publishing world. When you are competing with Indies who publish every 1-3 months, you can imagine what that’s like.
For me, the biggest drawback has been lack of support. You’re the only one so you must do it all! Second to that is the fact is at times a lack of respect. I think the industry has a long way to go in recognizing that some authors choose to go Indie and not because they couldn’t get a traditional contract. Once the realization hits that this is a choice, maybe Indies will get a little more respect. I have to say that the RWA has come a long way and I’m proud to be a part of the organization.
Tricia: I’ve heard there is a strong learning curve in going Indie. Would you say that’s true? Where would you recommend a writer who wants to go the indie route start?
Heatherly: There’s a much bigger learning curve in learning to write compelling fiction. You do want to educate yourself and to that extent I can’t recommend the KDP Boards enough. There are a lot of successful Indie authors in all genres who give advice as to what is going on since it seems to change daily in this brave new world. I could write several blog posts on this topic, but to start off: to any author thinking of going Indie, I would also recommend to expect that you will likely not be an overnight success. But this is also quite true in traditional publishing at the moment. There’s no substitute for the hard work of writing good romance.
I’d also recommend that you think of yourself as a small business owner and not just a creative person if you want to go Indie. Some authors are not all that business oriented, but you need to change that mindset in today’s publishing world. This actually now applies to both traditional and Indie publishing.
Lastly, I write a set of goals early on because what you do will completely depend on your goals. Is it more important to be an Award winning author or a bestselling author? Sure, we all want both but decide which is most important to you and consult your list when you’re frustrated that your sales are lagging. Is that number one on your list? No? Okay, then get over it.
Tricia: As an Indie author you have chosen to write a series called the Starlight Hill series, Would you say it is more beneficial to write a series if a writer decides to go with Indie publishing over traditional and can you tell us a little about you’re the Starlight Hill series?
Heatherly: It’s absolutely ESSENTIAL to write a series if you’re Indie. Now, some authors don’t and are still successful but the majority of those who are extremely successful have not one, but two or three different series out.
The Starlight Hill series is based on a little fictional town in wine country. I used elements from my own town (which does have the word Hill in it) which although not in Napa valley is technically wine country as well (quite further south of Napa). I love small town series and wanted to create one in which the secondary characters feel like familiar people you’d love to actually meet. Three of the books center around the Turlock brothers – the others are about the wide circle of friends in this small town. Everybody is connected in one way or another.
My latest release is the box set of the first three books:
If you enjoy reading books filled with warmth and humor, check out Heatherly’s newest release!
Coming next month is Unforgettable You, the long awaited romance of the third and last Turlock brother, firefighter Scott.
Here’s the blurb:
Recently jilted 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, but a painful mistake changed 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?
And here’s the cover:
I want to thank Heatherly for joining us today and sharing her Journey.