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.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

All Day Q&A!

It's that time again! I'm answering all your burning questions (even those that aren't on fire)—just ask away here, on Facebook, or on Twitter. You may ask multiple questions, and I'll answer everything sent to me before midnight Mountain Time. The questions don't have to be about writing. They can be embarrassing. Basically, today I am yours.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dreaming The Dream

On Saturday I had a signing, which even after a few events still kinda feels surreal. Sometimes I don't feel like this is actually my job—that I got the dream I wanted for so long. Part of this might be due to the fact that I'm afraid it'll all slip out of my hands, and another part may have to do with how different "the dream" matches up to "the reality."

But at my signing, I was flung back to before I had written my first full novel. Back to when being an author was a big fat dream and I had no idea how long it would take to achieve it—or if I ever would.

You see, a girl came up to me that night. I'm not sure how old she was, but I'm guessing young 20s. She didn't buy a book. She seemed really nervous to even talk to me, but also curious and hopeful and excited at the same time.

She asked me how long it took me to write my book, and of course I told her a little about my publishing journey. I tried to be honest while also being encouraging—I hope I didn't scare her off with my almost 8-year-long road to publication. It's such a hard balance to strike, between giving real information and not being too "this is ridiculously hard."

She smiled and nodded at me, saying, "It's my dream to publish just one book. Just one. To accomplish that would be amazing."

Those words. They flung me back to over a decade ago when I was in college and dreaming of the exact same thing. Just one book. I remember feeling like if I could just write one novel, if I could get one single book published, if I could see my name on a cover—then I will have accomplished a lifelong dream. I didn't need fame or fortune, awards or book tours. All I wanted was my name on a novel. To see that novel on a shelf. It felt like a huge and lofty undertaking.

As I sat there, looking at this sweet young woman with hope and big dreams, I realized I was looking at my past self. Though I don't know her name, though she wasn't really my fan or anything, I'm not sure I'll ever forget that moment.

How greedy I've now become. That's what I've been thinking about the last few days. Somewhere along the way, that one book on a shelf with my name on it has morphed into wanting more. More books. More attention. More money. More success. I'd forgotten just how "simple" my dream used to be. How pure, you might say. I forget that I've already achieved the thing that felt so impossible just a decade ago.

I have come a long way. It's crazy to think I'm now the author on the other side of the table. The person with a book out there and more to come.

Thank you, young aspiring writer girl at my signing, for reminding me to be more grateful. Sometimes I forget how far away publishing a novel felt when I was on your side of the table. When I hadn't even started that first serious novel. I don't know where you are or if you'll ever see this, but I hope you reach for your goal, hard as it may be. I wish you all the luck in the world, and I pray you don't ever forget how awesome your dream is.

And if you do, I hope you meet a hopeful young writer who reminds you, just like you did to me.

Friday, September 6, 2013

I Have A Secret To Tell You.

And there are ninjas in it. If you want to know more, please check out this video I did for Friday The Thirteeners! I cry, but if you're patient I'll tell you what I've been up to this summer when I haven't been working on BLINDSIDED:)