Monday, September 23, 2013

My Decision To Self-Publish

I drew this back before skinny jeans were in.
Now poor Tosh and Amy look terribly out of fashion.
A couple weeks ago I revealed in a fairly embarrassing video that I have decided to self-publish my novel that didn't sell to a traditional publisher, RELAX, I'M A NINJA.

I've been meaning to post something longer about why, but as usual life tends to get in the way of being online, lately. But here I am! I even went to the effort to upload an old old old scene I drew from the novel! You know, to make the post fancy.

Okay, so years ago I wrote a rather lengthy post about why I was choosing not to self-publish. After I revealed my 15-month struggle on sub, I had a lot of people encouraging me to self-pub. At the time I had lots of good reasons not to, and some of those still scare me but I'm trying to get over it.

Looking back on it, I think I was ultimately looking for validation. And I believed I could get that through a traditional publisher saying my book was good enough to publish.

So there it is: I'm admitting validation was something I desperately craved as an aspiring author. I'm not sure why—maybe because I'd been through so much rejection that I believed the only way to negate that mountain of NO was to get a YES at some point. But more than that, I think I still believed that outside validation would fix all the bad feelings I had inside.

Well, it didn't. Obviously the story goes that I sold a book, two, actually. And now another one, bringing it to three. Yet still, even as my debut approached, I didn't feel legit. I didn't feel like my work was of worth or that I'd been validated the way I hoped. That's when I realized no amount of accomplishment would fill that hole inside. No amount of outside praise would make me feel better about myself. The only person who could fix me inside, change my thought process, was myself.

When, after debuting and achieving the goals I so long held, I was still feeling like a crap writer and that my stories sucked and I'll never sell as much as I'm expected to sell—that's when I realized that I had to do something about my confidence issues. I couldn't continue to tell myself these things, to berate myself and my work.

So this summer I did a lot of soul searching. I tried to identify when these negative patterns in my life began, and I discovered most of them could be traced back to my nervous breakdown over the RELAX, I'M A NINJA submission. Even though that happened in 2010, so long ago, I still hadn't fully healed from it emotionally. I have been better, of course, but not healed. I realized I've been reopening that wound, picking at the scab, you could say, instead of letting it go.

I came to the conclusion that the rejections for that book never really sat well with me. That I never felt like it wasn't "fair" that the book didn't get published. Now that I had more experience with the market, I realized NINJA was indeed a hard fit. It's essentially a male-centered romance, which I thought was totally normal at the time because I watch anime. You see, male-centered/targeted romance IS a genre in anime—you see it in shows like Tenchi Muyo, Ah! My Goddess, My Bride Is A Mermaid, etc. It features a somewhat awkward boy navigating his first romantic experiences while also showcasing more significant action and humor or both. Lots of times a supernatural element is present.

For the most part, this genre does not exist in mainstream American media.

My little anime-loving self had no clue.

This is when the first seeds of self-pubbing NINJA were planted. Because maybe the book wasn't bad—maybe it really was purely a marketing issue. So I got up the courage to open the document after like 4 years in the vault. I started reading it, and when I still smiled at my own jokes I knew this was something I wanted to go back to. I knew it was something I could share without being embarrassed of it.

I knew the only way to share a manuscript that was already rejected by every major publishing house (by several imprints each, even) was to self-publish it.

And that's when I kinda freaked out.

Because as I said years ago, I have a ton of respect for self-pubbers and how hard they work. I knew if I really wanted NINJA out there, I'd have to push through the fear and learn how to self-publish. But I was shocked to find I was ready to do that.

I don't entirely know why. Maybe because I've been through so much editing with three published novels that I feel more confident in my capabilities. And I also know what it takes to get a book to a quality level, when I honestly didn't know that before. Maybe I didn't feel like I could self-pub the right way, and now I feel like I am capable of learning and putting out a quality project. I think part of me also sees this move as a way to "close the door" on the event that entirely wrecked me mentally. Because I really want to put that part of my life firmly behind me, so that I can move forward more confidently.

There are still a lot of things that scare me about self-publishing. I still don't really have the money to do it, but I have hopes to at least make back what I put in. I still feel like a noob about almost everything, but it's also been fun to learn something new, to expand my knowledge in ways that could help me share my less commercial stories.

But there are so many things that also excite me. After having relinquished almost all control for the last several years, I'm looking forward to a project in which I get to do what I want. Not that I want that for all my projects, but it feels like a stimulating creative endeavor for me. I also look forward to being able to share a book that played a huge role in where I am today—RELAX, I'M A NINJA was the book that got my first agent, the book I learned how to truly edit on, the book I believed more than any before would be published.

I still haven't decided how much I want to talk on my blog about my self-pubbing journeys, but if that's something you guys want to hear about please let me know.


  1. I think it's interesting (both the concept AND the journey). As someone who's also sold three books to a major publisher, I've been thinking a lot about self-publishing, both as a means to work on projects that might not fit well with traditional publishing and as a response to the sad speed with which traditional publishers respond to market conditions.

    If you do decide to post about your journey, I'd certainly be interested in reading about it.

  2. I would love to read more about it! As a traditionally published author, you'll be able to compare and contrast experiences in a unique way. I think ALL authors are thinking about self-pubbing in one way or another, and whether for or against it, it would be nice to learn more :)

  3. Validation is such a minefield for authors. With 10+ years of writing fanfiction under my belt, I find most of mine from reviews--and we all know what a disaster that can be. I've had to really train myself to check the star rating quickly before reading the text of a review.

    I think that was actually part of my motivation for self-publishing. The reader and their opinion was what I wanted most, so I found a way to get it quickly. That's not to say it didn't take an awful lot of work, because it did, but it was still faster than waiting for a slot on a pub cycle.

    I'm glad you've found a way to shut the door on that experience, Natalie. Hopefully once RELAX, I'M A NINJA is out and people like it, you'll be able to believe you're a truly talented author.

  4. Welcome to the hybrid world, Natalie - it's awesome! I'm an indie, but I also have an agent for traditional publishing and I wouldn't have it any other way. I get so much personal satisfaction from indie publishing which really empowers me to become a better writer down the traditional route.

    Good luck!

  5. I completely understand the validation thing - as an author published with two small indie publishers, I still sometimes felt like I need an agent or major publishing house to make me a 'proper' author. But at the same time, it does depend on the market - I knew that one of my books in particular would do better with an indie publisher, or self-published. And that's OK! I've read a lot of articles about the rise of the 'hybrid author', authors who both traditionally and indie publish, like you're doing. It means that you still get to share great projects that might not necessarily have been marketable to traditional publishers, but are still as good as any traditionally published book. Best of luck with it - I'd love to read more about how this works out for you! :)

  6. I look forward to your indie title!

    I have had success in the indie book business and since have learned how to wisely spend every penny. Then again, I am a bit Writer OCD. Hueh.

    I use Ingram as my distributor, let me know if you have any business-side questions. I would be happy to answer them.

  7. I too would love to hear more about your self-pub journey. Good luck with it, and congrats on making the decision to go outside your comfort zone!

  8. It seems you've had some great epiphanies and a definite way to move forward. I know the quest for validation myself. When it comes from outside...its never enough. I feel you. :)
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  9. Natalie wrote: "I still don't really have the money to do it, but..."

    Kickstarter? Seriously, I'd be more than willing to help you out, if that's a route you want to explore.

    I love that you're doing this, personally. For all kinds of reasons, but most especially because you're doing it for you :-)

  10. I loooove the sound of RELAX, I'M A NINJA. I don't care if it technically "doesn't fit" anywhere in the market, it's the kind of book I'd draw to straight away because the title is just downright awesome.
    I watched that video when you first posted it...really, really encouraging. :] For me! Yes. Encouraging! I just think you're publishing journey is. awesome. And I'm so glad you stuck with it and got those books out. You're an awesome writer.

  11. You know I'm always here when you need. :)

  12. That's very cool. Congrats on your decision. :)

  13. I'd love to hear more about your journey, Natalie.

  14. I find this all really interesting, especially considering you have 3 other books coming the traditional route. And I love that premise. I'd pick the book up and read it any day. :)

  15. I am struggling with that decision as well. While I love the validation of a publisher praising my work, I also would like to see my writing in print.

  16. I would love to hear more about your journey! And I'm really glad you've decided to go this route, instead of abandoning the book. Can't wait to read it!

  17. Natalie!

    What a great post. Thank you for your honesty regarding being published and self and life not magically being all better. Coming from the so close I can taste it side, I feel like I need the constant reminder that being published is not the be all end all to finding happiness and contentment.

    For what it's worth, I think it would be an incredible service to so many writers if you chronicled your self-pub experiences.

  18. Natalie, if you haven't yet discovered Kindle Boards, a lot of veteran, successful (Hugh Howey, Michael Wallace, etc..) indies hang out there:,60.0.html

    Also, you should consider reading David Gaughran's two excellent books about self-publishing: Let's Get Digital and Let's Get Visible.

  19. I also highly recommend Let's Get Digital and let's Get Visible, along with adding David's blog to your RSS feed. Very helpful with timely information.

  20. Would love to hear more about your self-publishing journey.