But Catherine was on record as saying she would not self-publish a novel. And now, she has. So I dragged her here to explain herself.
Catherine Ryan Howard is a 29-year-old writer, blogger and enthusiastic coffee-drinker. She currently lives in Cork, Ireland, where she divides her time between her desk and the sofa. She blogs at www.catherineryanhoward.com.
And about her novel, Results Not Typical:
The Devil Wears Prada meets Weightwatchers and chick-lit meets corporate satire. Through their Ultimate Weight Loss Diet Solution Zone System, Slimmit International Global Incorporated claim they’re making the world a more attractive place one fatty at a time. Their slogans “Where You’re Fat and We Know It!” and “Where the Fat IS Your Fault!” are recognised around the globe, the counter in the lobby says five million slimmed and their share price is as high as their energy levels. But today the theft of their latest revolutionary product, Lipid Loser, will threaten to expose the real secret behind Slimmit’s success...The race is on to retrieve Lipid Loser and save Slimmit from total disaster. If their secrets get out, their competitors will put them out of business. If the government finds out, they’ll all go to jail. And if their clients find out… Well, as Slimmit’s Slimming Specialists know all too well, there’s only one thing worse than a hungry, sugar-crazed, carb addict – and that’s an angry one. Will the secret behind Slimmit’s success survive the day, or will their long-suffering slimmers finally discover the truth? Available now in paperback and e-book editions.
NM: You self-published Mousetrapped because you recognised that (and why) a publisher wouldn't take it; you knew that although you could find readers who would like it, there would not be enough for a publisher to recover investment. Is the same true of Results Not Typical?
Essentially, yes. Results was on submission for nearly a year, and even bagged me a meeting with the editorial director of one of the biggest publishers in Ireland/UK. (That was quite the exciting afternoon, let me tell you!) But it was Mousetrapped-scented déjà vu – everyone who read it had positive things to say, but ultimately they felt it wasn’t suitable for the Irish/UK chick-lit market. One editor said that UK/Irish readers wouldn’t warm to the satirical nature of it, another said the humour was too slapstick and yet another said they she loved it, she just didn’t love it enough. (Surely the most infuriating rejection!) They all said there was something there – somewhere – and recommended that I go off and write something more mainstream, more meaty. I was getting that banging-head-off-brick-wall feeling again, so I stopped submitting it so I could take a step back and regroup. I started work on the Something More Mainstream & Meaty, but as I did, an evil idea began to form in my head...NM: You said that you would never self-publish a novel. Why did you say that and why have you changed your mind, you naughty person?
I said it because at the time, I believed non-fiction was the only genre that could really suffer from the “We Like It But There’s No Market For It” rejection. I mean, if your novel was good enough to be published they’d publish it, right? But publishing houses just don’t have as much money as they did before to take a chance on something new (if they ever had it) and if you’ve written something that doesn’t neatly fit into an existing genre, then it’s something new. Publishing is a business at the end of the day, and me and my book were extremely high risk. Too high risk.NM: Anyone who self-publishes has to spend huge amounts of time on marketing, no? And trust me, although published authors have to do stacks, too, you DO have to do more as a self-pubber. I know. So, how do you manage it and can you pass on some tips?
But I’m a business too – a self-publishing business. In March of this year, Mousetrapped had been on sale for a year and I’d managed to offload 4,000 copies of it. Up until that point I’d looked upon my self-publishing adventures as something to keep me in coffee grounds until some Fairy Editor-mother came along with a six-figure deal (hey, a girl can dream...), but I realised then it was time to start treating it like a serious business, like my actual career. I made two decisions: to write and release the sequel to Mousetrapped, a book called Backpacked, and to self-publish Results Not Typical. The editors who rejected it because they felt it wouldn’t do well in the Irish/UK market were undoubtedly right – they are the experts – but I don’t have to sell to any one territory. I can sell worldwide. Plus, I already have an established readership – I’m not starting from scratch – and there’s only a miniscule financial risk involved for me, relatively speaking, because I sell e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks. So for me, doing this is extremely low risk.
Do I hope Results sells a gazillion copies and that all the editors who rejected it burst into tears of regret while emitting wails of despair? Yes, of course. Obviously. But even if it does sell a gazillion copies, those editors will still be right. A book can be wholly unsuitable for traditional publication, yet do well when the author self-publishes it. That doesn’t mean either side was wrong. What matters is that both sides agree the book has merit, and that there’s people out there, somewhere, who’ll be interested in reading it. I just need less of those people than publishers do to say, “Okay. Let’s go.”
I barely manage it, to be honest. [NM adds: thank you, thank you, thank you!] My computer is on almost as much as I’m awake. In the last few months I took a step back from Twitter, etc. so I could write Backpacked, and that is reflected in my sales. If you stop working, the books stop selling. I feel like I have some momentum now but still, I have to keep working at it.NM: What have you learnt about writing since writing your first book?
My advice would be to concentrate first on having a great “hub”. For me, that’s my blog. That’s always my number one priority and I put more time into it than anything else. If I have time, I’ll do things like Facebook, Twitter, etc. but I always make sure my blog is up to date and offering new, valuable content, no matter what my writing schedule is. I think if you do that, the whole online platform/book promotion/tweeting incessantly thing becomes infinitely more manageable. Blogging brings people to you, and that’s a whole lot easier than trying to go out there and find them.
Having said that, I have absolutely no time for the whingers and moaners who are all, “I just want to write. I just want to concentrate on my craft. It’s all about the art for me, darhling. I don’t have time for Twitter...” etc. etc. Even if you sign a deal with a major publisher, you are going to have to promote your book – and rightly so. It’s like a certain young Hollywood actress who claims to hate publicity and only wants to make indie movies. How many movies no one goes to see because they don’t know they exist does she think she’s going to get to make, eh?
My favourite piece of writing advice has always been “Write the book you want to read” but what I’ve learned is that while doing that’s all well and good, you need to write the book you want to read that someone else might one day want to read too. Otherwise, there’s no point. With Mousetrapped, I definitely strayed into self-indulgence in places. I was enjoying writing about a certain thing or place, and I thought, Well, I like this and this is my book, so... but you have to re-write with the end reader in mind. If you don’t, you won’t have any.NM: What have you learnt about publishing since publishing your first book?
I’m more convinced than ever that luck plays a huge part in success, whether it be traditional or self-publication. You can certainly “prime” yourself to receive luck by doing things like writing a good book, acting professionally at all times, doing a lot of online promotion, etc. etc., but there’s no sure-fire way to sell books. You can promote a book 24/7/365 and sell 50 copies, and you can sit back and do nothing and yet sell 5,000. All you can do is strive to make luck your only variable. Do everything you can and then wait as long as you can. As I type this I’ve sold around 8,500 self-published books, but I sold less than half of them – about 3,000 – in the first year (March 2010-March 2011) and only 500 of them in the first six months (March-September 2010). The first month I sold 62 copies. But I hung on, and I kept plugging away. Then, luck came. If I’d given up a few months in, I wouldn’t have be around to receive it.NM: What do you wish I'd asked you? Answer it...
Oh, you’re good. You’re very good. I’m going to use that one myself in future!
Well, I suppose since this is a blog tour to promote my new novel, Results Not Typical, any opportunity to plug Results Not Typical, subtly or otherwise, is fine by me, I’m going to pretend that I wished you’d asked me why I chose to write Results Not Typical, a book about an evil weight loss company.
*cough*Results Not Typical!*cough* Well, Nicola, I’m glad you asked why I wrote Results Not Typical. (!)
It’s because a) I’m still annoyed about a certain bestselling chick-lit title that had the protagonist banging on and on about “ballooning up to 10 stone”, b) I think the weight loss industry has been asking to be satirised for years and years and c) I, fortunately or unfortunately, have plenty of experience in that area, most recently with a scary cult-like organisation that forbade me from eating 99.9% of all foods and tried to convince me that decaf coffee was a worthwhile thing. I’m still overweight but, hey, I got a novel out of it, didn’t I?
Results Not Typical on Amazon US is here.
Would you like a chance to win one? If you visit Goodreads here you can enter a giveaway to win one of five paperback copies of Results Not Typical. Open for entries from September 30th-October 31st. Open to all countries.
People, if you plan to self-publish, please do read Self-Printed. And if you just want to curl up with a good piece of fiction, think Results Not Typical.
Thank you, Catherine, and good luck with all your books.