Why I Unpublished My Self-Published Novel

19 Nov

A couple of months ago, I quietly unpublished the only novel I’ve self-published to date, Results Not Typical.

Maybe you noticed. Maybe you didn’t. You probably didn’t, and that’s a good thing, as I’ll explain in a minute. But I know it seems like a weird thing to do, so let me explain my reasons behind it.

The Story of Results Not Typical

Results Not Typical was the first full novel I ever wrote, typing “THE END” back in January 2010—two months before I’d self-publish Mousetrapped. My description of it was The Devil Wears Prada meets Weight Watchers and chick-lit meets corporate satire, and I still think that’s pretty apt. I got the idea for it after a visit to a brain-washing “behavioral modification clinic” that specialized in weight loss (or so they claimed), and it was an opportunity for me to make fun of the craziness that is the slimming industry who, I’m sorry, are just asking for it.

The first Results Not Typical cover.

A literary scout here in Ireland who has great contacts in the publishing world read it and loved it, and we spent two or three months tweaking and re-writing and improving, until Results was really finished in May 2010. Then it went out on submission to editors in the Irish offices of major publishing houses—household name publishing houses—and one editor in the UK. The general consensus was that I could write (well, thank fudge for that!) but that this wasn’t the right kind of book for them. Could they see something else?

I was devastated, because I was in love with this book. I had followed the advice to write the kind of book you want to read but can’t find on the shelves. Results was exactly the kind of book I wanted to read. And while I knew that the best it could do to fit into a genre was to teeter precariously on tip-toes between two, I really believed that it would find a place for itself, that a place would be created for it. When that didn’t happen—and when the criticism seemed to fit right in with the rejections Mousetrapped had got—I was frustrated. Why couldn’t I just write the “right” kind of book?

Publishing Just Because

I self-published Mousetrapped in March 2010. Then the first edition of Self-Printed in May 2011, and Backpacked a few months after that, in September. Self-publishing had really taken off for me, but it was a sideline, a distraction, a way to afford coffee while I pursued my real dream of getting a novel published. Anyone who has so much as glanced at this blog knows how I feel about self-publishing, and while I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and am delighted that the world now offers more than one route to writerly success (and better yet, multiple routes to having a writerly income), self-publishing was never going to “do”. It was never going to satisfy my childhood dreams of seeing my books on the shelves in my local Waterstones, or make me feel the way I imagine I would were I ever offered a book deal. But it was a wondrous thing to have readers, and to sell books, and to get lovely reviews. So I figured I could have the best of both worlds, but keep them separate: self-publishing non-fiction, continue to pursue publication with fiction.

Then, a moment of weakness. In the summer of 2011 I looked around and saw nothing but self-published authors selling thousands upon thousands of self-published books—far more than I was selling. But theirs were all fiction. It seemed so much easier to sell a Kindle novel than it did what I was writing, humorous (she hopes) travel adventures. And guess what? I had a novel. Ready to go. Results Not Typical had been sitting in my drawer for the last twelve months. Maybe I was sitting on a wasted opportunity. Maybe I’d do even better with fiction than I had with my existing books. Maybe I was just being too cautious not wanting to blur the lines between my work, and where would that leave me anyway if I never got published? How long was I going to wait around?

Not for much longer, I decided. And I self-published the book.

Out Here, All Alone

Results Not Typical was, sales-wise, a complete disaster. Despite a 21—21!—stop blog tour to herald its arrival, excellent reviews from influential book blogger sites and my existing readership, it sold in 8 months what Mousetrapped sells in the month of January: about 1,000 copies. This doesn’t sound so bad until you consider that I gave away over 25,000 copies of it through free promotions and that when I unpublished it, it only had 18 Amazon reviews. I even changed the cover mid-way through, but after an initial bump it had little to no effect.

The second one.

Now in fairness, it took Mousetrapped a year to sell its first 1,000 copies. And I advise authors to wait at least a year themselves. But I couldn’t hold on. I didn’t want to. Because having Results out there suddenly felt like an overwhelming exposure, and I didn’t want to be out there, exposed, by myself. I felt like I’d taken this huge risk—self-publishing fiction; turning self-publishing from a sideline into my focus—and that it’d all been for nothing.

I suspected that I didn’t know how to market a book like this. I didn’t have enough experience. The publishers of Max Barry’s books had managed to get them into my hands—Max Barry’s Company being the closest thing to a book like Results that I know of, except of course, his is much better!—so there must be a way to convince people to read books like this one. I just didn’t know what it was.

And when people criticized the book, I couldn’t deal with it. I don’t know why, exactly. I’m fine (most of the time…) whenever Mousetrapped or Backpacked gets a bad review. It’s like I know, deep down, that those books are okay. They’re not as bad as those horrible reviewers are making them out to be. (Although, they’re probably not as good as the five-starrers believe they are either, to be fair…!)  But with Results, it was like I had no confidence. The tiniest criticism would have me convinced that, yes, the book was actually terrible. Which would lead me to believe that all my fiction would be terrible, which would have me thinking my dream of publication would never happen,which would lead me by the hand into a dark abyss where I’d have to go get a proper job…

It was just too much. If I’d been selling thousands of copies, I’d probably have learned to deal with it. At the very least, I’d have been able to afford the therapy. But with Results limping along in terms of my Kindle sales, it just didn’t feel worth it. So I unpublished the paperback through CreateSpace, and a few weeks later, the Kindle edition disappeared too.

Back to the Plan

I instantly felt better, like a weight (ha! No pun intended…) had been lifted from my self-publisher’s shoulders. I’d just never been comfortable with self-published fiction, much like European DVDs have no place on my shelf because their spine text is printed in the opposite (wrong!) direction and they don’t match my other ones. The European DVDs belong in a box under my bed, and my fiction belongs to the world of as yet unrealized dreams.

But imagining for a second that those dreams are, one day, realized— it brings up another good reason to unpublish Results Not Typical: I’ll never write anything like it again. Yes, there was a sequel planned, but after that I think I would have flushed out all my angry rants about the slimming industry and I would’ve been out of ideas for more satirical weight-loss company romps. So let’s say that then, one dreamy day, I was offered a book deal. The book in question would be something very un-Results like—let’s say a crime novel, for demonstration purposes. What then of Results? If you heard I had a book coming out and you wanted to see what I write like, you’d sensibly download Results. If you liked it and read the new book wanting more of the same, you’d be disappointed. And if you didn’t like it, you’d just be disappointed—and you wouldn’t give the new book a chance.

Results just didn’t fit in with the overall plan, which is—and has always been—to earn a living doing something fulfilling that doesn’t require the leaving of the house. (And to achieve childhood writer dreams too, of course.) And while it was out there, I felt off the plan and getting further away from it day by day. So I decided to take a hit, sooner rather than later, and unpublished the book.

And then I got back to the plan.

Why It’s Good You Didn’t Notice

In all the time it’s been unpublished, maybe 4 or 5 people have mentioned its unpublication to me. And this is a good thing. Great, even.

I think as self-publishers we assume that everything we do is out in the open, noticed by all. For instance, let’s say you have a novel that’s $2.99 and you want to charge 99c for it for a while. You might feel obliged to inform your blog readers, or your newsletter subscribers or your Facebook fans, explaining why you’re doing this, hoping they won’t be upset if they’ve already paid full price for it. When you put the price back up, you might feel obliged to do the same.

BUT NO ONE NOTICES. There is only one moment when people absorb the details of a book, and that’s when they’re buying it. If I buy your book for $2.99, when am I ever going to notice that it’s now 99c? I’m not watching your book listings like you are. I don’t care; my relationship with the book is over now. And this is a good thing.

Feel free to experiment as much as you want. Up the price. Drop the price. Bundle. Separate. Unpublish. Re-publish, with new material. Do whatever you like. No one’s watching until you tell them to.

So that’s that, then. Results Not Typical is no more.

Thoughts?

[UPDATE 20/11: I’ve added a lengthy comment below, clarifying some points.]

71 Responses to “Why I Unpublished My Self-Published Novel”

  1. melissajhaynes2012 November 19, 2012 at 07:10 #

    I really enjoy your blog and I can relate to so many things you say. But I have to wonder…did you give up on Results too early? Did you approach literary agents in the USA? I only ask because I gave up on my first ‘baby’ and then kicked myself in the buttsky and knocked on a few more doors then did many re-writes until finally, voila, I found a publisher who believed in it, and it will be released in 2013. I may consider knocking on a few more doors…

  2. Melanie Hudson November 19, 2012 at 07:25 #

    Catherine. I just read this following the Twitter link. I didn’t buy Results Not Typical, but only because it didn’t seem to be my kind of read – but that doesn’t mean to say it wasn’t the kind of story lots and lots of other people would buy (I read little modern stuff so it has no reflection on your work).

    Rather than resigning your novel to the waste bin though , have you thought about having a professional tear it apart – limb by limb? You may have a brilliant novel in there, but it needs building on. I wrote my book two years ago. I sent it of to the Alan Titchmarsh/HarperCollins Peoples’ Novelist Competition and I ended up on the telly. Two of the panelists said wonderful things about the book, but one of them stuck the boot in to me because of spelling errors. Although I would rather not have been humiliated on national telly, to be fair the woman who stuck the boot in did me a massive favour in terms of ‘getting other people in’ to help. The reason for saying this is – we all take knocks, and for some reason, when it comes to writing, they are more difficult to recover from.

    I’m about to publish my book. It may well be a disaster but if it is, it is. Perhaps because I have already had a long career in the armed forces, I’m not too fussed about being a Waterstones star, but my little book was written from the heart, and if ten people buy it, and half of them enjoy it, then I’ll be pleased. I think the bottom line is that you weren’t proud of your novel – you didn’t believe in it. If this was the case then you were probably right to remove it. Hold onto to the fact that your other books do well. Your free guidance has helped a lot of people self-publish their work…something to be proud of. Take care.

  3. Karen Prince November 19, 2012 at 07:26 #

    Catherine, this post is brilliant! I was worried about changing the price of my book — and the synopsis, as some marketing guru suggested — but it makes perfect sense that no one else is scrutinizing this stuff.

    Okay, but now that you have withdrawn ‘Results not Typical’ I am dying to read it. Human nature, I guess. I was worried about the fact that you had given away 25,000 copies of it through free promotions. Is that what it takes? So far I have had more fuss made of my cover, which I knocked up in a couple of hours in Adobe Illustrator, than the actual book which took a year to research, write, edit, edit . . .

  4. Lizzy Daw November 19, 2012 at 08:06 #

    Hi Catherine, Firstly, I bought, read and enjoyed ‘Results Not Typical’. But with regard to people not noticing whether a book is still available – why would you (i.e the reader) look? I don’t search for a title once I have read it so I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t seen your blog. Don’t give up on your novel. You have a tremendous skill – keep using it!

  5. Marc C November 19, 2012 at 08:10 #

    Would that, then, be a crime novel based in some aspect of the slimming industry? BTW, I totally agree with your logic and decision.

  6. claudenougat November 19, 2012 at 08:15 #

    As always, your blog posts, Catherine, are fascinating! Yes, I’ve unpublished books as well because I didn’t like the covers (even though I’d made them myself using my own paintings – I’m a painter too!) and I felt the text could be revised and improved. But then I’ve re-published them, in a new form: re-edited, new cover etc. The original was called Fear of the Past (a blah title really), the new one is called The Phoenix Heritage (since it’s a family saga, collapse of the family and revival it seemed to fit better the story).

    Why don’t you consider doing the same? You’re so right, nobody notices! So you’re free to do a total rewrite (if you feel like it). I know, I know, now you hate your book. Just let it sit there a little bit and things will come back to you. Because the premise sounds very promising, it’s just the kind of book I’d love to read!

    Of course, if you republish it later with a new title, new inside etc be prepared to start all over the marketing. Very tiring, I know.

    But the worst thing in your story really is something else: I take away the notion that you gave it your all, my God, a BIG blog tour, a decent number of reviews (I never got that many!) and 25,000 copies given away. In principle, that should have assured you good sales, yet it didn’t. Why? This I think is something you need to review and ponder over. I’m beginning to believe that many marketing techniques that are touted as wonderfully effective actually do NOT work…But of course, that’s the subject of another post!

  7. Jennifer Mosher November 19, 2012 at 08:26 #

    Hi Catherine,

    Just have to say that it is so nice to see a writer thinking like a small business person – and that’s what writers are operating: small businesses. If you’d been a senior manager in some monolithic organisation, that decision would have taken weeks, been passed through many hands, and maybe not even been made!

    In small business you can come to a conclusion, feel it in your gut, know it in your brain, then execute it. Congratulations! It takes guts to do something like that, but you’ve done it. And should you wake up tomorrow, next week, next year, or even next decade, you can reverse that decision, should you choose. The way we are publishing these days, this does not have to be a permanent decision. There is no stock to destroy or sell off. All you need to do is keep your digital files backed up and it can go back out there in a jiff.

    But I think simply the fact that you ‘instantly felt better’ is more telling than anything else. Not everything we write is perfect. Not everything we write is meant to sell. Being in business is about trying things. Some things won’t work, but that’s okay – sometimes we have to find out what doesn’t work to find out what does work!

    The point is, you haven’t given up writing. You’re still writing, but as a business owner you’ve been smart about one of the product lines which isn’t as profitable as the others and so you’ve axed it to focus on your core business until such time as you’re ready to diversify again.

    That other business owners should be so smart … :)

    • chicken wings for the soul November 19, 2012 at 10:23 #

      Here, here. Jennifer is so right. And how many uber-successful authors do we hear about who’s first book tanked? John Boyne said (in person) that his first novel was so bad, it never made it out from under his bed. That was the one he wrote BEFORE Boy in the Striped Pajamas. On a more selfish note, I am secretly thrilled because my copy of RNT will be worth millions now….Sheena x

  8. Dinah Lee Küng November 19, 2012 at 08:35 #

    Love your blog. Did you consider taking the route of modifying your pen name to brand your books/signal to readers that you’re doing fiction versus non fiction? e.g. Mousetrapped, etc. is by Catherine Ryan Howard and the comic fiction by Cathy Howard? The crime novels by Ryan Howard? That has worked for me.
    Dinah Lee Küng, author of “A Visit From Voltaire” and

  9. alltentoes November 19, 2012 at 09:19 #

    I’m sad for you Catherine. There’s no justice in the SP world. I haven’t read it but I’m sure it’s worth reading. But I can’t help thinking it was just waiting for the right market opportunity to come along. I would keep it in the back of my mind if I were you and be prepared to launch it with a new cover in a blaze of publicity when, for example, some famous fat person is harpooned whilst swimming off Greenland.

  10. Frankie Valente November 19, 2012 at 09:51 #

    I had noticed – but I had already bought a copy, which I really liked. I assumed you were just tweaking it and it would reappear sometime.

    However, I do get your point about if it is not in keeping with the type of stuff you want to write then it might put some people off. It would have been a tough novel to push – genre wise, it wasn’t chick lit as such but wasn’t quite literary either. But don’t be disheartened, it was very well written and had great style and humour. The reason I noticed it had gone was because I was hoping you had produced another novel and checked your name on Amazon. I bet I am not the only one to have done so.

    Don’t give up – you are a huge inspiration to me.

  11. maggisummerhill November 19, 2012 at 10:09 #

    Catherine,
    I like your style and have subscribed to your post for quite a while.
    I am wondering if you have tried Caffeine Nights publishers? They published Alison Taft’s ‘Our father who art out there……. somewhere.’
    I second the advice from Dinah Lee King and Marc C.

    • Dinah Lee Küng November 19, 2012 at 13:26 #

      Thanks, Maggi, I’d also refer Catherine to the blog of Kristine Kathryn Rusch at http://kriswrites.com/who has a very successful career built on many genres and pen names and who has been able to mix indie with trad publishing for some time now. The good news, it’s not “either or,” anymore.
      XX
      (Küng, not King.)

  12. denise deegan November 19, 2012 at 10:30 #

    Hello missus,

    I’m feeling a little philosophical – so beware.

    My first novel was published eleven years ago. I’ve had seven published in total. My writing has been very popular with those who have read it. Just not that many people have. Over the years, I have met writers struggling to get published. Many envied me my status as a published author – then went on to be published themselves to huge international success. What I’ve learned is that we all have a path. Some people hit success quickly. Most don’t. But along the way if we are learning and if we keep trying and do what we feel is right for us, then we are ‘living our best life’ – as Oprah would say. What you have done feels right for you. Then it is right.

    Onward.

  13. Deb November 19, 2012 at 11:14 #

    How lovely that we have the choice! I think your book could have done really well- it’s hard for something that straddles genres to find an audience at first- but there is nothing worse than having something out there with your name that irks you in some way. And how I envy you the possibility of being in a local Waterstones- ours has been gone for over 15 years.

  14. Thanks for putting yourself out there for those of us who aspire to writing books. I find your blog especially helpful because you have self-published nonfiction which is what I plan to do. A lot of websites and information out there are geared toward fiction writers.

    On a sidenote, maybe I’m atypical, but if you had posted a book at $2.99, then offered it for $.99, I wouldn’t think anything was weird about that. I would think you were behaving like any other retailer that lowered the price of their merchandise for a period time for whatever reasons retailers do that.

  15. pixelshima November 19, 2012 at 13:18 #

    Hey, I would have enjoyed reading your Results on Kindle, too bad I didn’t know about it then… Now, I’ll keep an eye out :-)

  16. Michelle Ann King November 19, 2012 at 13:36 #

    If having Results out there was causing distress, then you’ve made the right decision. Although, I can’t help thinking…

    You say you’ll never write anything like it again, but Results is a comedy – have you really decided you’re never going to write another comic novel? If so, why? You’re good at it!

    As for having it available causing reader disappointment — would many people really read someone’s old comedy novel in order to decide whether to read their latest crime novel? I don’t know anyone who would do that. If I’m interested in a book but I want to see what the author writes like before buying, I download the sample or read a chapter in the bookshop – I don’t read one of their old novels first.

    But say a reader did get Results first and liked it, why assume they’ll be disappointed if the next one’s not the same? Most people read across many genres. I bought Results and thoroughly enjoyed it, and while I’d certainly be happy if your next novel was another comedy, I’d be even happier if it was crime, mystery, police procedural, suspense, thriller, SF, fantasy, horror, etc etc.

    You can use pen names to differentiate between genres if need be, or a minor ‘tweak’ – Iain Banks/Iain M. Banks, for example. You could republish Results under a new name and blame it on your evil twin :) Some writers, like Kristine Kathryn Rusch, publish successfully in both mystery/crime and SF/fantasy under the same name. Or take someone like Paul Torday, who’s done something different with every single novel.

    If it’s the criticism that’s the dealbreaker, well. Yeah. That sucks. But it’s always going to. Everything you EVER write, Future You is going to look back on at some point and say, ‘Damn, girl, you did not know what the &*$! you were doing.’ And some readers will, too. Because they’re poopyheads, to paraphrase Chuck Wendig :) But I do think it’s a shame to make the readers who would love Results miss out on a fun book because of mean old Future You and the Poopyheads (wow that sounds like a great band name)

    But, the bottom line is that it’s your boat, your rules. Do what’s right for you. And just carry on writing!

  17. C. M. Barrett November 19, 2012 at 14:43 #

    I’m really sorry you unpubbished Results Not Typical. I loved that book. It was clever, witty, and had the potential to help a lot of dieters stuck on the hamster wheel of non-success through corporate diet plans to break free. Ah, well, maybe you’ll get anough comments like this to boost your confidence. Be sure to let your blog readers know, because if you do republish, I will definitely write a review.

  18. Kerri Wood Thomson November 19, 2012 at 15:04 #

    I’ve been reading, and enjoying, Results Not Typical. I think it is very funny, and there are not enough writers out there who can write humor. I hope you will continue.

  19. Leslie A. Gordon November 19, 2012 at 15:10 #

    I actually hunted down your novel after reading Backpacked and Mousetrapped. It sounded exactly like something I’d want to read. I was confused and disappointed that it wasn’t available. I was hoping that maybe you were just finessing it for re-release. Now I’m really bummed! (But, as a self-published author myself, I understand…)

  20. indypubnews November 19, 2012 at 15:13 #

    Actually, I loved Results Not Typical. It was a really fun read. I’m sorry it didn’t sell better,
    but it is still something you should be proud of.

  21. richardpatrickhughes November 19, 2012 at 15:19 #

    Sounds like your Results Not Typical is typical for the self-published book–obscurity. I think you’ve made a decision that feels right to you, and that’s important. But I also think that if the book is well written, and you love it, then leave it out there. Sells are not the only consideration in life.

  22. Icy Sedgwick November 19, 2012 at 15:32 #

    It’s funny, I was considering unpublishing the self-published affair I put out – mine was the collected and edited version of a web serial I’d posted, and while it’s had good reviews, it’s just not shifting. The plan now is to take it down, polish it up some more, expand it, and release it as a proper novella. I was really nervous about doing so but now you’ve made this argument, I think I might actually do it. So thank you!

  23. Laura Roberts (@originaloflaura) November 19, 2012 at 15:35 #

    You know, my husband and I were just talking about a related topic last night. Do you go ahead and publish all the fictional ideas you have, despite them not having an overall “theme” that pulls them together, or do you specialize in one type of writing to avoid disappointing fans that like that genre? I go back and forth on that a lot, because I have written about sex for a long time and don’t like feeling pigeonholed as a “sex writer.” I have other aspirations and interests. So I’ve published a ninja novel, too. And I’m thinking of doing a sequel, just because it’s fun and different from other stuff I’ve written.

    It seems you are saying that you don’t want to disappoint your fans, because Results is not a “typical” Catherine Ryan Howard book. But isn’t it? It came from you, it has your sense of humor and style, and although it may not fit into an overall “plan” or “theme” you have for writing in certain genres, it is still part of the type of writing you do. Why unpublish it? Just because it doesn’t sell well doesn’t mean it will NEVER sell. After all, don’t they say that as a novelist, the more books you have under your belt, the more ALL of your books will sell? Sure, some people may not like them, but that’s to be expected. I haven’t liked all of Salman Rushdie’s books, either, but I still admire him as a writer and will check out his work when there’s a new book with his name on it.

    I guess what I’m saying is, I think it’s a mistake to unpublish a book, unless it is because you have landed a publishing deal and are giving that manuscript to your publisher to handle. Do you think you would ever reconsider and either rewrite or republish Results?

  24. Debbie Young November 19, 2012 at 15:47 #

    Catherine, I’m so glad you’ve published this post today, because I was searching for “Results Not Typical” on Amazon last night and thought I was going mad when I couldn’t find it! I read it ages ago and couldn’t remember whether or not I reviewed it and, if I hadn’t, I was intending to post a review, as I’m trying to catch up on my book reviews.

    I bought “Results Not Typical” as an e-book after enjoying Mousetrapped and Backpacked (or maybe – dare I confess – it might have been one of the free downloads so generously offered) I wasn’t disappointed: it was audacious and funny and compulsive reading, and that you managed to publish it without being sued by anyone in the slimming industry is quite an achievement. In fact, that was the conclusion that I came to last night – that some third party’s lawyer had forced you to withdraw it! So please don’t give up on it, or on fiction – I’m sure the success you seek will be yours in time. In writer’s years, you still are very young so time is on your side!

    I reckon that if you tuck it away in the virtual drawer of unpublishing for a bit, and you come back to it fresh and give it the once-over, you may even decide you want to republish it. Or when the “proper” publisher who in a few years’ time wants a sequel to your first bestselling novel, you’ll produce it with a flourish. (What bestselling novelist doesn’t have a few they prepared earlier tucked away in a drawer?)

    Also, I don’t think you’re being fair to yourself to compare the sales of your different books. That’s why the press print lists of bestsellers by category – otherwise, the topselling book in some genres would never get a look-in.

    I wonder whether you were just too generous with the free downloads – that’s an awful lot to give away, and it’s a credit to your powers of promotion that so many people took advantage of your offers. They wouldn’t have done it if they thought it would be rubbish – and each one of those is a lost paid-for reader.

    By the way, on the subject of genre-hopping – I think if a reader likes spending time in a writer’s company, they’ll buy their books whatever genre they’re writing in. I’ve done that loads of times and I hope it’s true because I’m about to shift genres myself!

    But in the meantime, thank you as ever for sharing an experience that many people would have kept to themselves.Such generosity is raising the standards in self-publishing/self-printing to the benefit of us all.

  25. Keri Peardon November 19, 2012 at 15:59 #

    Why unpublish it? Yeah, it’s not a money-maker right now, but some money is better than none at all, and some books take longer than others to get off the ground. A lot of it has to do with trends, too. I mean, three years ago, who ever thought that erotica would be a trend? Who knows when the diet book backlash wave will start. Can’t ride the wave if you don’t surf.

    I will say this, though: I didn’t realize “Results” was a novel. You’re famous for your real-life stories, so I would have assumed that “Results” would be a real-life book, like “Backpacked” and “Mousetrapped,” only with you dieting instead of traveling.

    If the story is mostly based on your real experiences with the diet industry, then maybe you need to unfictionalize it and repackage it as another “crazy shite Catherine gets herself into” memoir. A. J. Jacobs makes a living from doing crazy stuff and then documenting it in a funny memoir/magazine articles. So why not you, too? You’re good at it.

  26. Kerry Dwyer November 19, 2012 at 16:14 #

    This was a lovely read. I think you shouldn’t give up on it. I relate totally to what you say about reviews for your ‘baby’. I have sleepless nights arguing in my head with the reviewer over points they haven’t seen.

  27. T.K. Marnell November 19, 2012 at 16:44 #

    As I saw one other commenter mention while I was scrolling down here, if you’re worried about how Results could “brand” you, so to speak, you could always publish it under a pen name. I did that with some erotic stories I had originally published under my own name. I took them off sale and came up with a new alter ego, with new covers, so that the teens who read my comedic Bildungsroman won’t expect the same of the sexy stuff. I have a few pen names, actually. One of the great (and a bit scary) things about the digital age is how easy it is to create new personas out of thin air.

    If you’re not comfortable with putting it “out there,” though, you don’t have to. The first author-bashing is always the worst. I was used to getting all sorts of nasty comments as a blogger (you know, “Bitch,” “Snob,” “You look like your mom fucked a ferret”), but it didn’t hurt until people went after my first novel. It’s especially bad if you give out a lot of copies for free, and then people who have no interest in your genre flip through the pages and hop on Amazon to leave withering reviews.

  28. Megan Cashman November 19, 2012 at 17:51 #

    Hi Catherine,

    I admire your honesty in this post. It takes a lot to admit something you believed in so much did not live up to what you hoped for.

    But I think you should give fiction writing another chance – don’t let this one book ruin your lifelong aspirations! Try taking a fiction writing course to further improve your skills, join a writing group if you haven’t already. I’m sure you will have opportunities to regain your confidence in writing fiction. :-)

  29. Jill Homer (@AlaskaJill) November 19, 2012 at 18:32 #

    I”m curious if you have a plan for Results Not Typical. It seems strange to me to unpublish a book that was making some money unless you plan to either continue shopping the book around to other publishers, or edit it until you feel it’s ready to be published again.

  30. Roy McCarthy November 19, 2012 at 19:16 #

    Love ‘Backpacked’ Catherine and have recommended it to many. Looking forward to ‘Mousetrapped’. Love the blog. Couldn’t get on with ‘Results’, but I’m hardly in your target profile for it. I, like the commenters above, hope you have another crack at fiction some time soon and it will be great.

  31. Christopher Wills November 19, 2012 at 21:25 #

    You must do what you must do. But have you ever thought of republishing it under a pen-name? Some authors have several so readers can distinguish between their different styles of work. The most famous I can think of is Fay Weldon but many other authors have pen names.

    Graham Greene divided his novels into literary novels that he believed would be his legacy and ‘entertainments’ that he wrote for fun. But of course many now remember him for his ‘entertainments’ like Brighton Rock and The Third Man.

    And a certain Arthur Conan Doyle got so annoyed with his creation he killed him off only to bring him back again in ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles.’

    So what do writers know about their own work?

  32. John Hilson November 19, 2012 at 21:51 #

    It’s a real shame you’ve decided to unpublish, but if it feels right to you, then it’s the correct decision. Despite being a massive fan of Mousetrapped and Backpacked, I didn’t read Results. Rightly or wrongly I figured that, being a 50 year old bloke, I wasn’t really the book’s target audience (although I am a Weightwatchers Gold Member – but that’s another story). However, my wife did buy Results and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m sure that if you decide to re-publish you’ll find that you can take advantage of the long tail. From my point of view, I’m waiting patiently for you next non-fiction release……

  33. Mary J. McCoy-Dressel November 19, 2012 at 23:10 #

    As a writer this must have been a tough decision, Catherine. As a marketer, I guess it’s easier to understand. But, maybe you should try using different categories, tags, etc. Maybe just think it over a bit, and if you feel it’s right, leave it unpublished. I have a copy of Results Not Typical, along with a couple other of your books. I’m sure it left a lump in your throat.

  34. boundandgaggedbooks November 20, 2012 at 01:03 #

    I am just preparing to start throwing my book at literary agents and desperately plead for them to love me. Some of my friends from college have gone the self-publishing route, but I have qualms (completely different from yours) about it. I totally understand the confidence issue and worrying that your dream is getting farther and farthet out of reach, but I still don’t see the need to take it down. If you’re worried that people won’t buy future works because of it, then use a pen name. Can’t they still find descriptions of it or those blog posts you mentioned anyway? It seems as though that would cause the same problem.

  35. R.A.Savary November 20, 2012 at 05:52 #

    The biggest thing I have is my respect for you and your determination to someday get published through traditional publishing means.

    I’ve been sitting on “Special” since October of 2011, and am currently working on “Special Times.”

    While it is a great thing for us as writers to introduce new and unique ideas, genres, and other facets in our writing and within the literary community, some things must remain in tact.

    What’s that old saying about about success? “I got it the old-fashioned way; I earned it.”

  36. Sharon November 20, 2012 at 06:59 #

    One of the things I love about self-publishing is that there are no constraints, no limits to the genres you can write in. I’m finishing a meditation book now, have a draft of a children’s fantasy fiction written that needs work, and dreams of doing some local interest history stuff. They are all so different that it is imperative to put each under their own pen name. You can get spread pretty thin like that, and it makes me wonder regarding blogs, like for the meditation books or for your travel books, if it make sense to team up with writers in the genre to co-market through a single website. I might team up with yoga writers or you might team up with other fun travel writers.

  37. Dinah Lee Küng November 20, 2012 at 09:38 #

    It just needs patience and maybe the new world of ebooks can make good (younger?) writers like you unnecessarily anxious. I’m in my sixties.

    One of my books, “A Visit From Voltaire’ enjoyed an advance, a prize nomination and sales as a “traditionally published” book in the UK and after selling through for a year or so, was considered “done,” but it’s now enjoying a whole new life as an e-book for readers outside the UK, a boost for my spirits as I’m an American and I wrote it in an American voice.

    My point is: my Voltaire comedy’s lifecycle stretches from 2003 to the present and it’s finding new readers every day.

    Do what’s right for you, but don’t do anything irrevocable with work you believe in.
    Warmest wishes,
    Dinah Lee Küng

  38. Angie Jardine November 20, 2012 at 10:22 #

    Hey, Catherine … re: ‘Why couldn’t I just write the “right” kind of book?’ You can … it’s just that publishers can only see the same old, same old … and that is their tragedy. I read an awful lot of awful books … predictable but printed. Often I just give up on them as they are deadly dull … but they are still printed.

    Frankly I too think self-printing doesn’t seem like being a real author (I have an ebook out there too) … but at least readers can find something more interesting … and from where I’m sitting you look to be doing great.

  39. alltentoes November 20, 2012 at 10:52 #

    Scrolling through the number of sympathetic replies Catherine, it seems to me that this is a good sales ploy. Reverse psychology! I’m not knocking it (:-). I think you should rebrand it and relaunch just after Christmas to hit the post-festivities weight-gain angst and the multitudes who have being given a Kindle as a Christmas present.

  40. alltentoes November 20, 2012 at 10:54 #

    oops, ‘been given’, I need a good editor.

  41. catherineryanhoward November 20, 2012 at 10:55 #

    Ok, wow everyone, thanks for all the great comments. There’s too many to respond individually and a lot of you seem to be saying the same thing, so I’m just going to address them all here (hopefully).

    First of all, I want to make it very clear that I didn’t withdraw RNT because it wasn’t selling well and/or got bad reviews. (If you think I would take my books down because people don’t like them, then clearly you haven’t seen some of Mousetrapped’s Amazon reviews…!!) I withdrew it because I was never 100% happy with having it out there in the first place AND when it didn’t sell particularly well, there didn’t seem much point in ignoring my unease. I did what I felt was right.

    Secondly, I didn’t feel good about having it out there because self-publishing was never my Plan A (it still isn’t, really) and while it was a wonderful sideline with my non-fiction, I think it got a little too real when I self-published a novel. To me, having a novel out in the world is a very special thing, and I’ve been dreaming of getting published my entire life. I never dreamed about having a non-fiction book published, so it was “okay” to self-publish those. (If that makes ANY sense!) It’s kind of like saving a bottle of champagne for something special, and then opening it the night of the X-Factor final. It feels good at the time but afterwards you wonder if you shouldn’t have waited… ;-D

    Thirdly, I’m a little surprised (if not shocked) that some commenters seem to have the attitude that if you’re a self-published author and you wrote something, that something should be out there in the world. As in, “if it was selling at all, why take it down?” I don’t subscribe to this notion at all. There’s the issue that not everything you write might be good enough, and also as I outlined in the post above, it may not fit into the plan. I want to write different kinds of books during my career, but I don’t want to be a jack of all trades, throwing out a few titles in every genre I can think of it and a few I’m convinced I made up. To me, that’s having your fingers in multiple pies when none of them are properly cooked. I want a focus to what I do, and RNT (for me) was outside of that focus. I just came to that conclusion on the wrong side of publication.

    Lastly, I definitely did consider putting a different name on it, and who knows, maybe it will live again sometime in the future under some other version of my name. But for now, I have a lot going on behind the scenes, writing-wise, and I need to keep things as simple as possible for myself. That means self-publishing non-fiction, and not self-publishing anything else, for now.

    Thanks for all your comments (and the nice stuff about RNT!)

    Catherine

    • alltentoes November 20, 2012 at 11:05 #

      Hi Catherine,

      I hope my glib ‘sales ploy’ attempt at humour didn’t offend you.

      I think people took your withdrawal of RNT as a crisis of confidence, which obviously it’s not. I agree with you on the career focus and quality angle. However, despite not having read the book, your summary does tell me there is a demand for a humorous book on this subject and it might annoy you to see someone else succeed with one in a year’s time.

      Sometimes it is our most difficult child who turns out to be the greatest success.

  42. Karen A. Wyle November 20, 2012 at 13:52 #

    What matters is what works for you. That said, if it weren’t for the negative emotional connection you had with your under-appreciated novel, I don’t see any down side to keeping it available. If it isn’t noticed, it isn’t detracting from your other, more easily marketed work.
    And after this reminder of the book, I’m finally ready to buy a copy — and can’t.

  43. Graham Strong November 20, 2012 at 13:54 #

    Hi Catherine,

    After I read “Self-Printed” a couple of months ago, I went back and tried to find RNT, and noticed it was missing. I have read Mousetrapped and Backpacked and love your writing style, and although RNT doesn’t sound like the kind of book I would normally buy, I thought I’d give it a try.

    I searched your website to find out why you delisted it, but couldn’t find any mention of it. I actually thought you had found a publisher for it, and therefore had to take it down…! (That would explain the apparent secrecy too…)

    Sorry to hear that wasn’t the case, though I am very intrigued at the real reason — it makes a lot of sense. I’m also quite shocked at the numbers: ~1,000 sold after 8 months (given you already had three books out); ~25,000 given away but only 18 reviews, etc. I wonder if you’ve just proven your own point: people come to you for non-fiction and won’t — for whatever reason — make the jump to something different? I hope that’s not the case, but I’m not sure how else to read those numbers…?

    Writers since before self-publishing (I mean, in its current incarnation) have complained about being pigeonholed by their publishers. Is it possible that there was a very, very good reason for the pigeonholes?

    Not sure of what you have next up your sleeve, but I’m looking forward to it.

    ~Graham

  44. Lisa J. Yarde November 20, 2012 at 17:18 #

    This is so interesting to me as a self-publisher and begs the question of expectations – what do our instincts tell us before we click “Publish now” at Amazon KDP, Kobo, etc.? I have five titles out and the two that I “expected” to do well have done so – It’s not bragging; I just knew I had tapped into the right characterization, story line, grabbed an audience before I published, etc. The other three – well, they don’t do so well.

    I strongly believe some instinct guides us pre-publication, some foreknowledge of how a title may fare but we ignore those feelings for myriad reasons. Mine is the hope that someday, somewhere, someone will like my three so-so ones. Sometimes, I wish I had the “courage” for lack of a better word to take them down because they don’t represent my best work. Sounds like you made the right move for you, Catherine. wish I had known about RNT before – sounds like a great book.

  45. emmajamesonbooks November 20, 2012 at 22:17 #

    Reblogged this on Emma Jameson's Blog and commented:
    Some great thoughts here. As someone who recently unpublished a novel — and NO ONE NOTICED, thank goodness — I can relate to all the sentiments.

  46. wendyblume November 20, 2012 at 23:15 #

    Fascinating to share your thought processes. Nice to know that I’m not the only one wracked with insecurities about these things. It’s hard to maintain high levels of self confidence and enthusiasm when you’re doing it all alone! Thanks for sharing.

  47. tipm media November 21, 2012 at 01:09 #

    I think you are being unduly hard on yourself, Catherine. 1000 copies in 8 months is nothing to be sniffed at, and traditionally, that’s a lot closer to there norm than you might think. Fiction is a whole different ballgame to non-fiction..

    I know you have given your reasons to unpublished the book, that you rushed to print, that in hindsight it doesn’t fit on with where you are now, but I can’t help feeling deep down that you are playing a numbers/sales game with yourself, based on what you have wonderfully achieved with your non-fiction titles.

    As a non-fiction author, with an established audience, publishing a fiction title, you go back to square one, almost like a throw of the dice in snakes and ladders. It’s line a career move and you can only tame a little of what you learned first time around. The rules change and the goalposts move. You have to detach Catherine non-fiction from Catherine novelist. Maybe, at the time of publication, it was still too early for you to do that.

    Every book we write requires a degree of detachment. With non fiction you can always do a new edition, update – whatever. With fiction, it’s different, because it’s more personal. Sometimes deeply personal, and once you release, publish, you have to let it go and move on. No looking back.

  48. Anne Charnock November 21, 2012 at 10:08 #

    A difficult decision indeed. I’m sure you have a very loyal following for your travel memoirs and it would have been ideal if those readers (or a good proportion of them) had also bought your novel. Thinking about it logically (and I have a full-on cold so this could be tricky), the jump from travel memoir to novel might be too great in terms of subject matter. Did you consider writing a short piece of fiction that involved travel, a journey at its core. This might bridge the gap, especially if it were a free short story.
    The other alternative, I guess, is to publish your fiction under another name so that your successful travel memoirs and self-publishing books do not swamp your fiction.
    I bought your self-publishing book recently and it proved extremely helpful.

  49. B.D. Knight November 21, 2012 at 12:03 #

    IMO, Reviews on Amazon are getting to the point that their worthless. One star reviews seem to be written by people who seem to love the ability to tear apart someone’s work. They bother me too but I’ve started ignoring them. Five star reviews are many times friends of the author or purchased reviews. More people should start ignoring the reviews and reading the free preview so as authors we need to make certain that preview draws them in.

  50. Gwynneth White November 21, 2012 at 14:38 #

    Thanks for your honest blog post. I am in the same boat and followed the same course you did – to remove my book from Amazon and the other digital platforms. i am so relieved I did (for all the reasons you describe) Now it’s back to working the plan for me too.

  51. elskenewman November 21, 2012 at 18:55 #

    I just finished reading Results a few days ago and I loved it! It’s not my usual genre but I thoroughly enoyed it. I look forward to seeing your next novel in Waterstones :-)

  52. Janie Chang November 23, 2012 at 05:01 #

    Catherine — keep going. You’re smart, you’re funny, you’re very talented. You’re doing so many things right and you share your lessons with anyone who lands on your blog or reads your tweets. The karma points will tip over in your favour one day.

  53. Amy Knapp November 23, 2012 at 15:26 #

    Fascinating. I’ve been wondering what happened there. Your open-hearted account really inspires me, Catherine. It must have been tough to let go of something you that much heart and soul into. Ironically, I want to read it more now that it’s been unpublished. Go figure.

  54. Chaserella November 25, 2012 at 17:31 #

    Sometimes I think that trying to be an author/writer/blogger is a form of self flagellation. You try, try and try again only to find you’re exactly where you started. Or sometimes set back even further!

    I’m probably making an assumption here but if you’re similar to me, sometimes you have to retreat for a while, nurse your bruises, before being able to go back out into the fray and take a few more punches. All in pursuit of one thing, being published.

    Putting on forms next to occupation: Author.

    I think you are so honest and brave. More so than I could be. Sometimes having a piece of work so that it is only for you helps you reassess what you wanted it to be.

    I think really the purpose of this comment is to say. I understand what you are saying and I have some idea of how you feel. :)

  55. DJ Kirkby November 26, 2012 at 10:37 #

    This post is very informative (as are all your others) but didn’t make me laugh this time (thank Gawd as I’ve recently had surgery). I appreciate the tip on waiting at least a year before making a decision about how well a book is actually selling. I am about to launch my first book for children and am freaking out as I now realise that I don’t have a clue how to market it as previously I have only written for adults. But (having already taken all your other advice into account pre-publication), I am going to give it a year before I make a decision about the success or otherwise of it. I am kicking myself for not having bought a copy of Results Not Typical while it was available though :(

  56. Peter November 26, 2012 at 21:41 #

    I for one loved ‘Results’. Loved it. Of all the books I’ve read this year, ‘Results’ was my favourite. It perplexes me that it didn’t do better.

    Most of all though I’m kicking myself that I never bought a hard-copy – a signed one at that – because one day I suspect, those will be worth something.

  57. Fiona Ingram (@FionaRobyn) November 27, 2012 at 09:25 #

    Dear Catherine,
    I have never read any of your books, but Mousetrapped rang a bell. Then I remembered reading about you. I think you should ununpublish your book. Why? How can you drop one of your books from your repertoire of work? Agatha Christie wrote heaven knows how many books, and while many have been made into plays/film/series, not all of them have reached epic levels such as the one we always think of: Death on the Nile. Pardon me for saying this, but you had such good luck/fortune whatever you want to call it with the first book, but things can never realistically be the same with each book. Do yourself a favour and republish it. Maybe the time is not right for people to go crazy for it. Life is unpredictable. Count your blessings and successes and put it back.

    • karenawyle November 27, 2012 at 12:42 #

      Hear, hear! I’d love to buy the book, and if you do re-publish it, I’ll post the fact on Twitter and on my Facebook author page.

  58. magentmama November 28, 2012 at 18:45 #

    Keep on trying…don’t give up. These are difficult times for any kind of artists but one must throw in the towel. I am following you from Trapani, Sicily!

  59. Harold Michael Harvey December 8, 2012 at 04:58 #

    A Great piece that is full of helpful information to help the writer plan and make decision about their writing career. Thanks for putting the time in to explain your journey.

  60. BB June 6, 2013 at 18:05 #

    Thanks for sharing. I understand how you feel. I too self-published my first novel with disappointing results. It has been listed for a year and has sold few copies. I don’t know if the problem is a lack of promotion, being lost in a sea of novels, or what. To make matters worse, Amazon removed all of my reviews–I have no idea why. It’s book one in a series, and I’ve decided to stick with it regardless and see if the next two books lift this one out of the sand. If not, at least I’ll know I tried and will be able to move on to something else. A successful e-published novelist told me that you must publish at least three before anyone will take notice. I’m clinging to that tidbit and hoping it’s true.

    Please don’t give up. Keep trying.

  61. Emily June 8, 2013 at 07:01 #

    Bummer. My book club wanted to read this this month, at the request of one of our members who read it a year or so ago and found it hilarious! I found your blog by searching for the book title. Hopefully our book club member shares her one copy, because the section she read to us (the descriptive foods on the diet) was hilarious!

  62. evie gaughan July 30, 2013 at 17:18 #

    I think we all share your dream of being picked up by a publishing house for a three book deal – that is the ideal outcome. Still, I think it was definitely worth putting it out there and equally worth taking it down again if it made you feel uncomfortable with your decision. You’ve just got to do what’s right for you, in all aspects of life. Still, all of these experiences have made you one of the best aficionados on self-publishing in the whole interweb, so that’s a nice silver lining :)

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