In the process of self-publishing, but now I hate my book...

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Spinner316

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So, I will try to keep this brief as possible. Long story short, I wrote a novel, managed to get an agent for it, but after a year of trying (and failing) to find a publisher, I decided to self-publish instead. I ran a Kickstarter campaign and managed to raise the necessary funds to cover the cost. During the campaign, I went through the book and did a lot of major edits. Then, as soon as I received the funding from the Kickstarter, my faith in the project plummeted. Now, every time I look at my manuscript, I cringe. I no longer like the writing, the characters, the dialogue. Everything just comes across as so juvenile, which is really bad, as the story deals with some really serious subject matter (grooming, sexual assault, indentured servitude, etc). I keep reading blogs about what to do when you suddenly hate your own writing or hate a book you're publishing, but all of them say something along the lines of "think of the whole team behind you who have faith in your book and thinks it's great! (agents, publishers, editors, etc.)." I don't have that. I have a handful of people (non-friends and family members) who have read the book and liked it, but that's it.

I don't know what to do. Part of me just wants to refund all of the Kickstarter money, and lock it away from the light of day, but part of me also feels like I've made a commitment and can't go back on it now. I have an editor scheduled to look at it in September, and my wife says I should just wait to see what she says, but if I still hate it after the professional edits, I won't be able to refund money.

Has anyone else gone through something like this? How did you cope? Should I just refund the money or should I see how things go with the editor?
 

ChaseJxyz

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What % of your reasoning is "this writing is crappy and bad" and what % is "this content is Problematic and potentially hurtful" ?
 
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AstronautMikeDexter

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Do you think you might be scared that you're actually going to be releasing the book into the world? I feel that way now. I'm planning to self-publish in September and it's so scary and every day I think I should just not do it. But, I also think that's a reason why I should do it!

So, I've no idea if that might be why you're looking at your book differently now - it's just a thought.
 
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Spinner316

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What % of your reasoning is "this writing is crappy and bad" and what % is "this content is Problematic and potentially hurtful" ?
I think it's a combination of both, but more so the "potentially problematic content" part. SA is the kind of thing that some people are ok with reading about, but puts others off completely (understandably so). I already planned on putting a content warning at the beginning so it isn't a surprise, but I still worry about it. I had a couple beta readers look at it before I began working towards publication, and they said they thought it was handled well. My other readers didn't comment on it, neither did my agent, nor did the editors say anything about it in their rejection letters. But part of the reason why I dropped the agent was because he started trying to sell it as YA, and I didn't think the content was appropriate for teenagers. But when I look at it again, I can see how some aspects of it might come across as YA.

The writing is good in some places, bad in other places. I'm pretty good with narration, but dialogue kills me. There are certain scenes that I feel need to be changed, but I'm not sure how.
 

Spinner316

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Do you think you might be scared that you're actually going to be releasing the book into the world? I feel that way now. I'm planning to self-publish in September and it's so scary and every day I think I should just not do it. But, I also think that's a reason why I should do it!

So, I've no idea if that might be why you're looking at your book differently now - it's just a thought.
It could very well be. I was pretty confident about everything up until the Kickstarter went through, and that's when the panic started. I just don't know if I'm seeing it clearly for the first time without rose-tinted glasses, or if I'm being hyper-critical because I'm about to put it out into the world.
 

Woollybear

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It's hard to know what to suggest, but the feelings you describe aren't unusual. For what it's worth, you will have the option to unpublish it, if you decide that publishing it was a mistake. Part of the decision will depend on where you want your writing to go next.

Many people who trunk their early novels discover on their fourth of fifth novel that they've improved and are glad their trunked novel never saw the light of day. I am glad to have self published my first novel in 2019 regardless of its reception with readers... or regardless of whether, one day, I decide it was poorly written.

Writing is very highly subjective. But I'd say if you are able to find areas in the novel that you can improve (you said there are good and bad areas), then go ahead and fix the weak areas now. If you don't, those areas will bug you after you publish.
 

ChaseJxyz

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I think it's a combination of both, but more so the "potentially problematic content" part. SA is the kind of thing that some people are ok with reading about, but puts others off completely (understandably so). I already planned on putting a content warning at the beginning so it isn't a surprise, but I still worry about it. I had a couple beta readers look at it before I began working towards publication, and they said they thought it was handled well. My other readers didn't comment on it, neither did my agent, nor did the editors say anything about it in their rejection letters.
So there's always going to be triggering content in media. I have a friend who's triggered by drug abuse and he went to college for screenwriting. They had to watch the episode of Breaking Bad where Jesse's girlfriend . He had a really bad time! And since this was in class it wasn't like he could just turn off the TV or walk away. Your readers are not being forced to read your book, so if they run into something triggering, they can put it down and walk away. Having a content warning is nice, though, not everyone does that.

I think as long as it's handled respectfully then you should be okay. If no one has called you out on it yet, then you're probably okay. That editor you're paying will be able to give you good feedback on that, too.
 

TrinaM

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Here's something important: you got the Kickstarter money. That means that there are a number of people who have faith in you and faith in your work.

You've booked an appointment with an editor and that you're going to be paying this person a regular editorial wage - I'm assuming this because you DID need to raise the money to cover it. Your editor is going to become a part of your team. A good editor will FIND those places that need to be made better and will help you through fixing them.

It is not uncommon to hate your writing. It is not uncommon to be afraid when a project like this gets close to seeing the light of day. It is not uncommon to self-sabotage at this stage. How much of that is true? None of us can tell, because we haven't read it.

But I can say that it sounds like you're doing the right thing to make it a quality book.

Worst case - absolutely WORST case - you edit this, you release it to your Kickstarter folks, and then you decide to take it down or redo it.

The day after you publish, you'll probably have the writing equivalent of buyer's remorse. Let that go. That isn't a good measure of the quality of the work. Give it some time and see what people say.

You may find out that you've done something amazing AND cleared your creative space for creating something even better. And...you may find that people love it!

We can not be trusted to judge our own work. And...fwiw, the authors that I've met who ALWAYS love their work...? Some of those tend to be much worse writers. I think questioning our quality over and over may just be part of the profession.
 

lorna_w

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If you had an agent, it must be a good book. All I can tell you is the first 2 books I uploaded, I came close to puking from nervousness. And I have a cast iron stomach. It was terrifying. I had "uploader's remorse" for sure. And yet they've sold, and people have liked them and still buy them, so it all worked out fine. And this year, when I uploaded the new books, I probably was yawning, it was such a minor emotional event for me. Thank heavens it eventually goes away!
 

Fuchsia Groan

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I have a book coming out from a publisher that involves underage sexual abuse and grooming. It’s in the character’s backstory, so mostly off-page, but it’s thematically central. And this is YA! Anyway, I just want to say that I understand your fear. I feel good about my book and how I handled it, but it’s still scary to put that stuff out there. In my case there’s the fear that people will ask, or even demand to know, whether similar things happened to me. (Similar, yes. Identical, no.)

So I think some of that trepidation comes with the territory. But if what concerns you is the quality of the book, and you’re not sure your agent did enough editing on it, I would work with a developmental editor. Someone who can do more than copyediting for you. Is that the kind of editor you have lined up?
 

Spinner316

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Here's something important: you got the Kickstarter money. That means that there are a number of people who have faith in you and faith in your work.

You've booked an appointment with an editor and that you're going to be paying this person a regular editorial wage - I'm assuming this because you DID need to raise the money to cover it. Your editor is going to become a part of your team. A good editor will FIND those places that need to be made better and will help you through fixing them.

It is not uncommon to hate your writing. It is not uncommon to be afraid when a project like this gets close to seeing the light of day. It is not uncommon to self-sabotage at this stage. How much of that is true? None of us can tell, because we haven't read it.

But I can say that it sounds like you're doing the right thing to make it a quality book.

Worst case - absolutely WORST case - you edit this, you release it to your Kickstarter folks, and then you decide to take it down or redo it.

The day after you publish, you'll probably have the writing equivalent of buyer's remorse. Let that go. That isn't a good measure of the quality of the work. Give it some time and see what people say.

You may find out that you've done something amazing AND cleared your creative space for creating something even better. And...you may find that people love it!

We can not be trusted to judge our own work. And...fwiw, the authors that I've met who ALWAYS love their work...? Some of those tend to be much worse writers. I think questioning our quality over and over may just be part of the profession.
Thank you. I hope you're right. I have decided to stop reading my manuscript until the editor's looked at it because I damn near have a panic attack every time I do. Part of me suspects that it's self-sabotage, which would not be out of character for me. I think part of it is also that I'm reading a lot more now that I'm not working on any big projects, and I just keep comparing myself to these other published writers. I have to keep reminding myself that they have already had editors comb over their work, so I'm essentially comparing an unfinished product to a finished one. But it just feels so much like Sisyphus: every time I think I've reached the top of my game, my standards get even higher and the quality of my work seems to plummet.
 
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Spinner316

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If you had an agent, it must be a good book. All I can tell you is the first 2 books I uploaded, I came close to puking from nervousness. And I have a cast iron stomach. It was terrifying. I had "uploader's remorse" for sure. And yet they've sold, and people have liked them and still buy them, so it all worked out fine. And this year, when I uploaded the new books, I probably was yawning, it was such a minor emotional event for me. Thank heavens it eventually goes away!
I don't know if I can put much stock in the agent. He was very new and seemed obsessed with the fact that I'm gay and therefore, more "marketable."

But thank you. I hope you're right. I hope this becomes less of an ordeal over time.
 

Spinner316

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I have a book coming out from a publisher that involves underage sexual abuse and grooming. It’s in the character’s backstory, so mostly off-page, but it’s thematically central. And this is YA! Anyway, I just want to say that I understand your fear. I feel good about my book and how I handled it, but it’s still scary to put that stuff out there. In my case there’s the fear that people will ask, or even demand to know, whether similar things happened to me. (Similar, yes. Identical, no.)

So I think some of that trepidation comes with the territory. But if what concerns you is the quality of the book, and you’re not sure your agent did enough editing on it, I would work with a developmental editor. Someone who can do more than copyediting for you. Is that the kind of editor you have lined up?
I think I feel nervous about that as well: questions regarding how much of my MCs experiences reflect my own personal experiences. The answer is very much the same: somewhat, but not entirely. Maybe some people won't find that acceptable, but I don't see any point in writing fiction if you can only draw from experiences you have personally lived. Still, people are so quick to rip people apart over the smallest slight these days.

At first I was only going to hire the editor for copyediting and proofreading. But at the last minute, I decided that developmental edits would probably prove beneficial and tacked them on as well. I did some developmental edits with my agent, then I did some of my own, but I think I need a professional's opinion to really feel secure.
 
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TrinaM

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I don't know if I can put much stock in the agent. He was very new and seemed obsessed with the fact that I'm gay and therefore, more "marketable."

But thank you. I hope you're right. I hope this becomes less of an ordeal over time.
FWIW - the agent wasn't wrong about that. I had a friend who was told by a publisher that they'd publish anything he wrote - sight unseen - due to sexual orientation. It isn't as biased as it sounds. There's just a hunger for representation at this time among a very eager group of fans. Now, my friend was a good writer and I'm sure that plays into it. But also consider this: you raised that kickstarter money. So other people think you are good at it, too.

You're putting yourself out there in a vulnerable space. But you've also done everything right, including getting a good editor to help you. Be good to yourself. You have fans and people who want to read your work. Let them.
 
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frimble3

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I think I feel nervous about that as well: questions regarding how much of my MCs experiences reflect my own personal experiences. The answer is very much the same: somewhat, but not entirely. Maybe some people won't find that acceptable, but I don't see any point in writing fiction if you can only draw from experiences you have personally lived. Still, people are so quick to rip people apart over the smallest slight these days.

At first I was only going to hire the editor for copyediting and proofreading. But at the last minute, I decided that developmental edits would probably prove beneficial and tacked them on as well. I did some developmental edits with my agent, then I did some of my own, but I think I need a professional's opinion to really feel secure.
"Still, people are so quick to rip people apart over the smallest slight these days."
Let'em rip. Remember, people laid out money on Kickstarter based solely on your description of your story!
Think that they won't buy a copy of the finished product? If there are a few 'rippers', let them fight it out with your supporters. Just don't listen to anyone who can't prove that they bought and read it. 'Theoretical' complaints are meritless.

And, you're absolutely right about 'fiction'. If it was really solely about your own experiences, it would be an autobiography, not a novel.
I suspect I do not read the type of thing you write, but I don't know of any science fiction writers who have actual experience of outer space. Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, Bradbury: all of them Earth-bound. Agatha Christie never killed anyone. And the closest Edgar Rice Burroughs came to Africa was California.
 

Fuchsia Groan

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The ripping apart of authors does happen, and it’s scary. But it happens mainly on social media (Twitter, in my experience), and I’m seeing more influencers there speaking out in favor of a more nuanced understanding of fiction (i.e., as more than a transcription of the author’s life story!). I find it helpful to remember that I can always just quit social media platforms if they’re hurting me more than helping me.

I hope the developmental editor is helpful. On the one hand, it’s normal to have imposter syndrome and judge your own book unfavorably compared with published/acclaimed ones. On the other hand, you do want to make your book the best it can be. The ideal is to be revising not out of fear, but out of excitement and inspiration as you discover new ways to make it better. A good editor can help with that.

If the book was on sub, did the editors who rejected it have anything useful/constructive to say? That could be a starting place.
 

TrinaM

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I'm also a big fan of blocking / unfollowing people that are toxic. It can be a pain, but if we're going to be on social media, I prefer to have that environment be a pleasant one.
 

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