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  • aleeraceres

Let's talk about... How I became an (indie) author

Updated: Mar 8

As I sit and write this blog post, my demon baby is screaming in the background, so let’s just jump into it, yeah?

How did I become an indie author?

I’ve always wanted to be an author. However, I didn’t always want to be an INDIE author. I will admit, I was in the category of people that judged indie authors harshly, probably too harshly, and I will own up to that mistake and apologize firsthand for what I thought of indies before I became one.

Indies get a bad rep for being the kind of authors that failed with major publishing houses, for not having books that are up to par with traditionally published work, and whatever else fucked up shit I used to think, and that people still think about indies to this day.

I’m not proud of those thoughts younger me had. But as I get older and learn more as well as go on a journey of self discovery (culture-wise) and publishing discovery, I know a huge reason why people go indie.

They are reasons I maybe wouldn’t have thought of before, until I actually lived it.

(Note, this blog post will discuss topics like racism and white washing, so proceed with caution)

So let’s rewind a bit.

When I first started my publishing journey, I had written The Blood Novel series. I had five books in that series written and I was around 20/21 years old and decided it was finally time to take the plunge and send my book out.

My best friend had suggested I get an agent first, but I am impatient and even then suffered from HELLA IMPOSTER SYNDROME so I was like, let me just send this to some small romance presses that I like.

Granted, remember how I said I could write a whole book on WHAT NOT TO DO AS AN AUTHOR? Yeah, well this is where that comes in.

I looked up any small press/publishing house online, even those I hadn’t ever heard of before, and was like “something has to land” and I blurb-ed my book and sent it EVERYWHERE.

Literally, EVERYWHERE.

It didn’t matter to me.

It probably should’ve, and that was probably my FIRST MISTAKE. Just not giving a shit where I sent my book. Because I was young, dumb, and fucking eager to just have something out in the world that I didn’t care what I was doing. (Note to aspiring authors, don’t be like young Aleera. Research where you’re sending your book to!)

Anyway, I got a WHOLE BUNCH of rejection letters. One of them from AVON books, which was a huge disappointment to me, because it was one of my favorites. I felt like my books were up to par with other authors under Avon like Lynsay Sands and other paranormal romance authors publishing there.

Of course, that was my mistake, because looking back, I feel my books are more of a Urban Fantasy Romance vs straight Paranormal Romance, but also the writing was not very good for those books at the time, so that could’ve contributed to the rejection. I had A LOT TO LEARN.

Anyway, I ended up getting an acceptance email from one small press. I signed the contract, and things were in motion. But then a month later they emailed and said hey, we are going under, here are the rights back.

It was so fucking aggravating because I’d been so close, only to have that happen. I probably wasn’t as professional in my response as I should’ve been. No, scratch that, I know I wasn’t. I was young, irritated, and fucking stupid. (NOTE TO ASPIRING AUTHORS, SILENCE IS BETTER THAN ANSWERING SOMETIMES)

Anyway, at the end, I ended up getting signed on to another small press. Things were in motion again, and my book got published!

My experience with a small press wasn’t… very good. My editor was amazing. I think a huge mistake for me was not doing my proper research though about the in’s and out’s of being an author. I had no idea what a newsletter was, and I was constantly asking the press and my editor about shit that I should’ve just googled (NOTE TO ASPIRING AUTHORS, GOOGLE SHIT SO YOU DON’T LOOK FUCKING DUMB, BECAUSE I LOOKED DUMB AS FUCK)

By the time my book: My Master, the second book in The Blood Novel series was going to come out, I filled out the cover form and when I got the cover back… (pay attention, because THIS is what made me switch to indie)...


If you haven’t read My Master, Isis, my FMC, is a thousand year old Egyptian/Black vampire woman. I created her character to mirror one of my best friend’s from highschool. This best friend read every chapter as I wrote the books, helped me craft the characters, was so supportive, and was my number one fan from the get-go. Without her, I probably wouldn’t even be an author. And this friend, yes you guessed it, was a Black woman and like a sister to me.

So imagine my surprise when they sent me the cover back and there was a white woman on it.

I was NOT happy.

And another mistake I made? I didn’t fucking speak up. Yeah, I’m as guilty as them for not saying anything. I made a comment in passing about how she had dark skin, but they… didn’t care. And me, being eager, young, and stupid, felt like I couldn’t say anything. Because I felt like this small press was essentially “my boss”, that they “controlled my career”. Again, all of these things could have been avoided had I actually studied, googled, and done my fucking research before just being an enthusiastic dumb piece of shit and tried to get my book out there quickly. So, I didn’t say anything.

(Note to aspiring authors, DEFEND YOUR BOOK! DEFEND YOUR CHARACTERS, DEFEND YOUR FUCKING COVER! No one else is going to, so you have to do it. Be your books biggest advocate and be true to your fucking characters)

In the end, I barely fucking promoted that book at all, and barely promoted the rest either because I was soured from that press in general. Then when they took for-fucking-ever to pay me my royalties even after many emails, I asked for the rights back. They gave the rights back to me, and one of my editors (who I had a decent relationship with) asked if I wanted to publish under her and a new press she was creating. I was skeptical, obviously. I asked if they’d help promote and change the shitty ass white washed covers. She said yes, so I said okay.

Honestly, I wasn’t really holding my breath with these people, and during this time I’d met author AK Koonce via twitter, you may know her as my coauthor of the Origins of the Six series. She had been indie right off the bat, and was convincing me to do the same. She made a lot of good points about how no one would care more about your business and your income than yourself, and honestly in the end, that’s what convinced me.

So without a fucking cent to my name and with amazing fucking author friends who helped me along the way, I decided to publish a trilogy of novellas, the Hybrid Trilogy, that were essentially BRAVE retellings set in a post-apocolyptic world where people had been turned into hybrid-bear experiments and destroyed the world. My FMC was a princess who was arranged to marry a prince from a different city. It was a why choose story that was fast paced and spicy. I didn’t have an editor, I didn’t have shit except for my enthusiasm.

So I published it.

Imagine my surprise when IT DID WELL. At least better than my small press books (The Blood Novels).

Circling back to that real quick, I ended up signing on with the small press again. I filled out the cover forms. I included links to beautiful Black women for the cover this time, so there could be no room to white wash, and guess what they did? YEAH, the fucking WHITE WASHED AGAIN. They used THE EXACT SAME MODEL from the previous cover and just changed the background a bit. After they’d promised me they weren’t going to white wash.

At this point I was done.

I asked for the rights back, to which I received, and just held the books in my back pocket until I could afford to cover them and indie publish on my own.

Now, a huge reason people shit on indie publishing I know is because of “poor editing”. I reread the Hybrid Trilogy, my first indie published books that had zero editing to speak of, and probably understand that they don’t like the poor editing in it. Fine.

But don’t shit on indie authors.

A lot of people go indie because of situations like I faced. Because small press/trad publishing white wash BIPOC characters. Because they might read an ethnic sounding last name (like my real name) and reject their book right off the bat because publishing is predominantly WHITE. They do not give the same chances and opportunities to BIPOC authors and books the same way they do to whites. It’s why we could see a bunch of white authors get good marketing, physical ARCs, billboards, etc of their books everywhere, but hardly any for BIPOC authors. Because BIPOC characters are fucking white washed on covers.

I think we need to deconstruct the prejudice we have against indie authors and books. The truth is, indie DOES do well, and sometimes people NEED to go indie. Because you can control your own covers, edits, timeline, whatever! You are in complete control! And it helps so many diverse communities of authors, not only that but readers as well. They can finally see themselves in books and lit like we actually deserve to see ourselves. Outside of certain narratives (example, I can see Mexican stories told outside of the “immigrant” narrative).

Now, I promise I’m not shitting on Trad Publishing as a whole. Trad is actually getting better at including diversity these days. I also won’t mention the name of the press I was published under, because it doesn’t matter. I am just sharing my experience, what happened to me, and why I decided to take the route I did. This is not meant to slander anyone. I’m just saying, this is an incredibly difficult business to get into. It’s cutthroat, it can be racist–something I still experience even now–and it is just so, SOOOOO hard.

(That’s what she said HAHAAHH).

And I’m not saying that the reason I didn’t do well was because of the press, per se. I acknowledge that my books were probably shitty at the time. I acknowledge that I was TOO enthusiastic and made way too many mistakes and was dumb as a bag of rocks and didn’t do proper research before publishing, something I should have done.

(Honestly I’m very hands-on learning, learn as you go, Mexican father throws his young child who doesn’t know how to swim into a swimming pool and you either swim or drown type of learning)

The point is, I also made mistakes. I fucked up BAD. And I won’t put the sole blame on a small press who took a chance on a nobody author. Really the only thing I will shit on them for is white washing my cover. Again, I should’ve spoken out. I didn’t. That’s also on me for not advocating for my book.

But publishing is a fucking JOURNEY. I’ve learned from my mistakes (and there were so fucking many of them), just like I know I will still make mistakes in the future.

Also, do I think I’ll NEVER attempt to publish trad again? I probably will! Maybe just to try it. Will I do it with a small press again? Probably not. I don’t think anyone is wrong for wanting to publish with a small press, but I will definitely recommend you do your research before you go into anything. Curb your enthusiasm, as well. Me being too excited resulted in this shit and me not caring who I went into business with, and I think it was detrimental to me in the long run. Be smarter than I was. You can be excited, but be smart about your book babies, because it IS a business.

I’ve come to terms with my mistakes and I’ve learned so much from them. I’ve learned so much of myself in all these years as well and I am definitely better off for it.

I hope this mess of dumpster thoughts made sense. As always, I am here to take blog post requests, questions, and comments.

Also, here are the small press covers and below you'll find the NEW and ACCURATE covers!

Signing off,

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