In the middle of downward turn, a spiral out of control, or the dashing of one’s hopes and dreams, no one, and I repeat, no one likes to hear the same tired sayings like, “When one door closes; another door opens” or “You will look back and laugh”. It’s just too painful even if the intent is to instill optimism.

In this week’s Killer Nashville Guest Blog, K.C. Tansley shares her roller-coaster ride to publishing, which despite the turmoil turned out to be the best thing to ever happen.

This is a lesson for all of us: Never give up!
Clay Stafford




Clay Stafford
Founder Killer Nashville
Publisher / Editorial Director Killer Nashville Magazine


How Small, Independent Publishing Saved My Novel

By K.C. Tansley

You know the first manuscript that most writers leave under their bed? After seven years of revising and querying, I sold mine to Harlequin in the spring of 2013.
Within a month, I had an agent at ICM Partners and the deal memo from Harlequin. This was really happening. My YA time travel murder mystery, The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts, was going to be traditionally published! My craziest dream was coming true.

The contract negotiations went on for a while. By early 2014, Harlequin had assigned my editor, and I received my editorial letter. My editor had a way of focusing and tightening the story while staying true to the heart of it. I was happy with where we were going and so excited to share what I knew would be the best version of this book with the world.

In the fall of 2014, I waited for line edits that didn’t come. I emailed my editor and she apologized for the delay, but she was really good at being on time. Something felt off. I couldn’t shake the feeling. I emailed my agent and asked her to look into it.

I’ll never forget what happened on October 4, 2014. I was sitting at a restaurant, waiting for my friend, when my agent’s reply came in. I knew I shouldn’t have read it, but I couldn’t help it. I clicked on it. And everything changed.

It was the worst-case scenario. My imprint was shutting down. My book wouldn’t be published and the rights

Find The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts on Amazon
Find The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts

were reverting back to me. Eventually.

My mind raced with all the things that I had to do. Questions I needed answered. Emails I’d have to send. That kept me busy for a few days.

The worst part came next—weeks of waiting and uncertainty. Finally, my rights reverted back to me, and my agency and I parted ways.

That was when it all hit me. It felt like my world imploded. Everything I’d worked for over the past eight years was gone. Wiped out in one fell swoop. I was back to square one. Again.

It was the first time a dream nearly broke me. I didn’t see a reason to keep trying. It hurt too much. My book deal was dead and my dream had become a nightmare.

Mentally and physically, I was defeated. All I wanted to do was curl up and binge watch “The Vampire Diaries” for a few weeks. Hide in my bed and pretend this wasn’t happening to me.

But I still had this novel that was line-edited and almost ready for publication. This story that I had lived with for nine years. These characters that I had poured my soul into. I couldn’t abandon them. I wouldn’t abandon them.

But querying? No, I wasn’t ready to face that kind of rejection again.

A friend of mine stepped up and passed the revised version of my manuscript around to her industry friends. It ended up with a small press. They shared the vision that my editor and I had for the book, and they wanted to publish it. They even hired my editor to freelance it to completion.

I was still emotionally torn up from what had happened, but I believed in my book. I put aside my personal stuff and gave the book the best chance I could.

This time around, I wasn’t a tiny cog in a massive publishing machine. My publisher wanted my input, and they communicated regularly with me. I felt like I was a partner in the publication process.

We still faced an uphill battle: a small press doesn’t have the distribution network or the publicity machine of a major traditional publisher. We needed a promo push for this book so I hired a publicist for the book launch.

My book may be a product that is being brought to market, but it’s a unique product, a way to escape life and go on an adventure. It’s an emotional enterprise, so it is very important that everyone involved is emotionally invested in my book’s success. From the publisher to the editor to the cover designer to the formatter to publicist, everyone is doing his or her best work. And it shows. I feel supported and nurtured. That’s how indie publishing turned my worst nightmare back into my greatest dream. Going indie didn’t just save my book, it saved me.

K.C. Tansley lives with her warrior lapdog, Emerson and three quirky golden retrievers on a hill somewhere in Connecticut. She tends to believe in the unbelievables—spells, ghosts, time travel—and writes about them. Never one to say no to a road trip, she’s climbed the Great Wall twice, hopped on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, and danced the night away in the dunes of Cape Hatteras. She loves the ocean and hates the sun, which makes for interesting beach days. As Kourtney Heintz, she writes award winning cross genre fiction for adults.

(To be a part of the Killer Nashville Guest Blog, send a query to We’d love to hear from you. Thanks to Tom Wood, Maria Giordano, Will Chessor, Clay Janeway, and publisher/editorial director Clay Stafford for their assistance in putting together this week’s blog. And for more writer resources, visit us at,, and