From Traditionally Published to Indie Author

indie author

I am about to publish my novel, THE WITCH OF BELLE FLEUR, as an indie author. However, last year I received a book offer for this book. It was my third book offer which I ended up turning down. And I’m so happy.

You may wonder why I’m happy. It’s because I realized after walking away from three book offers, that I was on the wrong track.

I wasn’t satisfied with any of the offers. I wanted to control more of the publishing process, but I didn’t know what was missing. Or rather, who was missing—I was missing. I decided to finally show up to my own party!

I had given up my voice and I should have told myself a while back, “Hold on, woman. That path to publication is wonderful, but not for you.” 

Once I finally listened to that inner indie author voice, I was so relieved. I’m an A type personality—guilty as charged. Not knowing where to focus my energy, I poured it in the wrong direction for me, but it worked! I got both a publisher and agent. If you’re on the path to secure a small publisher and then an agent, I will share what I did. There is no one path to publishing, so it’s wonderful when we share what works, and doesn’t work. 

Wonderful writers, please know yourself. I didn’t, and it was a lesson that I finally learned. It’s okay to admit that you want to take control of your career as a writer, including the publishing aspect.

Steps I took to Get a Small Publisher

Here’s what I did. And it’s something that almost all of you can do. No matter where you live, there’s probably some convention nearby that publishers attend. In my case, it was Dragon Con. My husband and I attend every year. Actually, I missed a year when my little one was only three months. I couldn’t bear leaving him yet. 

The following year, I was ready! I didn’t know what would happen, but I knew that if I had the chance, I would take it. 

I attended a panel at Dragon Con. A publisher was present. As they spoke, I planned my elevator pitch—over and over again in my head. Lucky for the person near me, I did this all internally. I established eye contact with the person as they spoke, and as my nerve wavered, I told myself to put on my big girl underwear and do it.  

I almost missed my chance to approach the publisher as they were swamped with other people from the panel. They had walked out of the room and I took my chance and thanked them for a wonderful panel and introduced myself. I explained that I was a writer and gave my elevator pitch. They seemed interested and gave me a card with the scribbled email of the editor. 

Ahh. I did it. 

My elevator pitch was short and interesting. I said, “A recent high school grad who is also a telenovela actress chooses magic to save her sick aunt. Once she does, she unleashes evil.”

I delivered my pitch with enthusiasm and confidence. 

I went home, so elated. I polished my manuscript once more, kissed my laptop screen, sprinkled magical book dust over my keyboard and submitted my manuscript in early September.

An email from the publisher said they would get back to me by November. Fall was around the corner and I looked out of my window, hopeful that soon I could finally say, “I’m a published author!” My Plan B was to self-publish my book if I heard nothing back from them. I promised myself that I would self-publish my book. I didn’t want my manuscript to be stuck in my laptop gathering cyber dust. 

A few weeks later, my husband and I decided to move to Seattle in January 2020. As anyone who has moved cross-country knows, I was busy. My son was about 15 months so I was very busy. Oh, yeah, I had a full-time job as an art teacher, too.

Time rolled on and I realized November had come and gone. It was now December. Our house sold. We were packing, and I remembered the promise I made to myself. So, with the heart and focus of an indie author, I carved out time, and paid for a cover, and began the process of self-publishing my book. I put my book on Amazon Kindle as a Pre-Order to guarantee I wouldn’t back out—no matter what. 

I was excited. My story would finally get to readers. Ahh.

In the middle of preparing for a realtor to show my home, I got an email from the editor. She apologized that it had taken so long to get back to me. She asked if I was self-publishing my book.  I told her I was. She said they were still considering it. I did not take my book down from Kindle yet—that should have let me know where my heart was. But it didn’t—I ignored my indie author voice.

My husband, son, and I had Christmas in Atlanta with family and before I knew it, we had moved to Seattle. We landed on a Thursday and by the following Monday, January 7, 2019, I received an email from the publisher! I had a book offer. 

I was excited. This was my third book offer. The first was from a small publisher that I found while participating in a Twitter pitch contest. I researched the publisher more thoroughly and then I passed. The second was a small publisher that looked great. I LOVED their covers and their books had a lot of Kindle reviews. I searched a bit more… I found that they did not allow for gay main characters. I hit the brakes, “Screeeeeech!” I turned down that book offer, too. 

So here I was, with my third book offer, and you know what they say, “Third time’s a charm!” It was January 7th, 2020, and I had a book offer. Yippee! 

I couldn’t keep my book on Kindle, so I unpublished it. I saw the warning box stating that I wouldn’t be able to have another pre-order on Kindle for a whole year. I gulped and took my book off of Kindle, anyway.  

Steps I Took to Get a Literary Agent

I didn’t want to work with a publisher directly. I really wanted a literary agent to protect me and help with contract negotiations. I was now on the hunt for an agent.  

This was a much easier season of querying literary agents for two reasons. The first reason was because my husband and I were no longer trying to conceive. It was quite disheartening getting a monthly no from the baby fairies and a no from the literary agent fairies. 

The second reason it would be easier querying now was because I could now use the subject line, “Offer on the Table from Publisher for YA Fantasy Novel.” 

It worked! I got a NYC agent that I had previously avoided because they were so big. I remember getting the call from the agent when I was in the library with my toddler son. It was an amazing feeling. 

I basked in this new level of existence. I had a publisher AND agent. My ego loved this! I had my inner indie author voice question a few things, and I ignored that voice. 

Why I Turned Both Down and Embraced Being an Indie Author 

Time rolled on and the contract took a while to come to me. I had time to do more research and reflect on what I truly wanted. I didn’t want to give my rights away and be left wishing I’d never signed with a publisher. I was losing sleep and driving my husband and sisters crazy.  

I realized I wanted more than a publisher and an agent. I wanted the right publisher and agent. 

Someone whom I trust talked with me and listened as I finally described how I really felt. They are an expert in the industry and I felt confident expressing my thoughts. After the talk, I realized that a part of me already knew what I had to do.

My L.A.L.A. Method 

Learn- Give yourself time to learn and RESEARCH.

Analyze- Take stock of what is IMPORTANT to you. 

Listen- Listen to your inner voice, EVEN when you don’t want to.

Accept- Accept yourself and celebrate your truth. Reach your goals YOUR way. Don’t walk someone else’s path.

Why it’s Important to Listen to Your Inner Voice

Ok. Deep breath. 

I sent the email that I needed to send and amicably severed ties with both agent and publisher.

What was I going to do now? 

I love my book, THE WITCH OF BELLE FLEUR, and I really wanted to get it to readers. I promised myself to get my book out there. 

I remembered all the resources I had around me and that I was not alone. The amazing Women in Publishing Summit pass that I had purchased was one of my resources that has helped me as I plan my book launch. Alexa Bigwarfe, host of the summit,  has been so inspirational and helpful to me as an author. This has helped me with time management, creativity and marketing strategies.

Also, I’ve discovered StoryOrigin. It’s worth a visit and the founder, Evan, is very helpful. The site helps authors build email lists, boost sales, and find reviewers. 

At the end of the day, this is your writing career. 

My journey was long. I even had a baby in the middle of this book! Save yourself time by using the L.A.L.A. Method above and reach all the amazing writing goals you have set for yourself!

A big hug!

Isabelle Hardesty is a writer of young adult fantasy. She enjoys writing about characters who are like people you know and people you want to know. She is also an artist and has exhibited her art in Paris. Isabelle has had the pleasure of being an art educator in both Miami and the Metro-Atlanta area. She received her B.F.A. from Pratt Institute in NYC. Seattle is home to Isabelle, her husband, and son. She loves being with her family, eating chocolate, and connecting with fabulous readers. When she is not writing, you can find her either researching for her next book or painting.


Pre-Register for the Women in Publishing Summit Today!