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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Just Keep Writing

I confess to breaking all the rules. But that's what self-publishing is about right now, isn't it? Breaking some of the rules, at least. I see some people releasing their first novel, and it is a sight to behold. Beautiful, bold cover art, front and back, blurbs by name authors, website, a marketing campaign. They're doing everything exactly right.

Meanwhile, I formatted, edited and massaged five novels and novellas online at once, with little fanfare. And for the majority of them, the editing continues.

I'm pretty sure this rule is cardinal. "Do not send out a manuscript unless it is 100% complete, etc."

Nonsense. Even when I look at the older versions and cringe. But I continue to edit them because the readers deserve the best experience they can get. If a document can be improved, and we really are talking about documents, here, not just the writing and editing, then it should.

Meanwhile, even though I'm not exactly rolling in cash, I'm getting great, insightful reviews, and I'm already getting lazy. Bah, I have five books out. I'll just work these for a while. Network. Luxuriate in the ego massage of acceptance.

Here's what happens. If you're good, you start acquiring fans. What?

I know. It's crazy. Fans of your reading. People who would sincerely like to read more, if you have anything. That, friends, is a heavy responsibility, suddenly. Even if you're primarily writing for your fiancee, who is quite forgiving of snags and hiccups in the writing process, long term, there are people looking to you for more books.

So, while I'm raising awareness of my current body of work, I have already discovered that there's a market for future novels. That is where the art of speculation lies.

And, ooh, that sentence has a nice double meaning, doesn't it? But when you have copies of your next book presold, it becomes a matter of economics that you write often. But there's some psychology there that goes beyond generating income.

Nothing can make you feel more stale as a writer than to talk to a fan who's read all of your work. You can discuss your current projects, even send partials or excerpts, perhaps engage in some beta reader exchanges, but you are essentially dead in the water as an author to that reader.

When you reach that level, it's a game changer, I assure you. How do you build up anticipation for five novels? The five novels before that.

Ten novels? Really?

Really. That was often the magic number for people who sent out physical manuscripts. In part because of the barbaric practice that was, of course.

But there's really nothing saying that ten novels will earn more income than one novel. A single book has just as much earning potential as ten books, or a hundred books. But they have to be books people want to read, obviously, and they have to become aware of them.

I see potential for indie authors to begin to network on a more personal level, taking their relationships beyond the current blog/interview/review waters we all currently inhabit. Authors themselves can become part of the curators of the slush pile, working with other quality writers to promote each other's work along with their own.

I know this much is certain: uploading your novel is only the first step in a long, wild ride. Just keep writing.