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On self-publishing and the importance of drafting

February 10, 2014

Recently on WordPress, I came across a post announcing a new book release. It was immediately apparent that the book was self-published – itself no bad thing.  However, a bit of digging revealed something very bad indeed: about three weeks had passed, tops, between completion of the first draft and announcement of the final product.

I will not name the blog or specific work here, but suffice it to say that this is not the first such case I’ve come across. So today, a message, as an aspiring writer to other aspiring writers:

DO. NOT. DO THIS.

Seriously. I mean it. Don’t. There is no way – I repeat, NO WAY – that your project will reach its potential if you rush like this. No way at all.

The problem with this is that it wastes the time of everyone involved. Most obvious is that it wastes the time (and money!) of readers, who are essentially being sold an unfinished product. Such readers, assuming there are any, are unlikely to stick around for later books – a true disaster for any fledgling writer.

What must be emphasised, however, is that such writers also waste their own time. In their haste to publish, they cheapen the time already spent on their books: they gut the quality of their work and cheat themselves out of valuable experience, all for the sake of speed. Such books are virtually guaranteed to fade quickly into obscurity, perhaps leaving some truly wonderful ideas to go to waste.

Good fiction takes time; it is not something to be rushed. It takes time to detach yourself from a project and look at it with a truly critical eye. It takes even more time to draft that project out and get it as good as it can be. And if you’re not willing to take that time? Then, really, what was the point of that project to begin with?

Don’t rush. Give your story the time it deserves. Otherwise, you’ll be doing yourself and your work a massive disservice.

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From → Writing

39 Comments
  1. Sadly, even taking time and going the traditional route isn’t a guarantee. I’ve recently been burned by a book published by an indie publisher that clearly did not want to waste money on proper editing (copy or line). Midway through chapter 3 I just gave up. That’s $8 I’ll never see again (and at the current exchange rate with the South African rand that’s quite a bit of money).

    • Well, that sucks :(. Can’t see the publisher lasting long if that’s how all their books are.

      • What’s even more puzzling is that the book keeps getting four and five star reviews, complimenting the excellent story and the superb writing. I’m starting to think I’m reading it wrong.

  2. Hear hear. Whilst I appreciate many first time authors don’t necessarily have the money to pay for expensive editing and the like, there is no excuse for sloppiness that inevitable rushing will bring into play. It’s as simple as taking pride in your work. Whilst it might not be at quite the level the huge publishing houses can go to (and even in their works you can find mistakes), you should still do everything within your means (beta readers, line editing, simply. Taking. Your. Time) to make it the best damn book you can do. Otherwise it just makes it harder for the rest of us.

    Just to check though, wasn’t one of mine was it? 😉

    • Agreed 100%. I understand that a lot of indie writers are on a tight budget, but that doesn’t excuse poor workmanship or failure to seek feedback. If more people realised this, then I’m sure self-pubbing would have a far better rep than it does now.

      And nah, wasn’t one of yours 😉

  3. Therin Knite permalink

    Good post. I made one specifically on editing and indie books the other day, but I didn’t address this particular problem — giving yourself the time to write and polish your work properly. I suppose some people see how indie publication schedules tend to be faster, and I guess that makes some people think they have to churn stuff out quick…but people need to remember that yes, good work takes time, and you can’t rush through everything. If you do, you’re just going to yourself in the end. 😦

    • Thanks! I’m guessing that indie publishing has a smaller gap between the final draft and publication, which would at least partially explain the quicker schedules. I DID recently read a newspaper about an indie writer who published a book every month and did well out of it, but people like that are the exception rather than the rule.

  4. HEAR HEAR!!!!!!!! (Sadly, I have to confess that I have read only one self-published book that was truly worth my time, and I wish that author had taken it to publishers, because he would have been accepted.)

  5. I took a decent amount of time between the completion of my first draft and publishing Mercury, Sulfur, & Salt. I had as many friends as I could muster beta read it. I read it probably 10 or 12 times myself. And it still wasn’t enough. I think the biggest mistake I made was not allowing myself to grow apart from the writing. It was constantly in my life so I glossed over little mistakes and missed a few spots I could tweak this or that to truly make the story shine.

    Being able to distance yourself from your work and look at it objectively, reading it as if you aren’t the writer (or if you can go this far, reading it as if you’re an enemy of the author.) really makes a tremendous difference.

    • Distance is definitely a good thing when it comes to writing. I wish I’d known that back when I started; would have saved myself a lot of pointless heartbreak.

      How goes Transmuted, by the way? Seems to be coming along nicely, if the wordcount on your blog is anything to go by.

      • I hit a really big road block around the holidays (they generally stress me out). But I got to watch someone read Mercury, Sulfur, & Salt and the creative block got smashed to bit. Since then the books been coming along nicely.

        I’ve been going back and adding in / taking out parts in what I’ve previously written more than I’d like. But I feel like the story is still rapidly growing and I’m still getting to know the characters as they come to live.

        Overall though I’m really pleased with the characters, world, and story that I’m producing.

  6. That is a very good, and definitely important, point. It’s funny to think, I was just wondering if my dream of being able to publish by this summer, is also too soon…. I never would have even thought of publishing within three weeks. Wow.

    • Hehe, what Shim said… and to be honest I wouldn’t even have a whole first draft up by three weeks! *facepalm*

    • I wouldn’t say it’s too soon, depending on how far along you are. What publishing route are you hoping to take, out of interest?

      • Probably self-publishing, though I haven’t decided if I’m going through, say, CreateSpace, or someone else yet…

  7. kingmidget permalink

    Completely agree. I am committed to convincing as many self-published authors as possible that patience is a virtue. Not sure how many will listen to me though.

    • Glad to hear! I know not everyone will listen, but even a few listening is still a gain for both writers and readers.

      Thanks for the reblog, by the way 🙂

  8. kingmidget permalink

    Reblogged this on KingMidget's Ramblings and commented:
    If you’re a self-published author, you need to consider this. Patience is a virtue.

  9. And after you spend the time to make a clean fourth or fifth draft, hire an editor. I know a guy!

    • Too true. Though it’s more likely to be fourteenth or fifteenth draft, the way I’m going right now 😛

      • It’s ok to make many strafing runs over your own manuscript. Have you had a chance to have trusted people read it and provide feedback? Perhaps you have a friend or family member who possesses excellent grammar skills, or someone who reads a lot of books in your genre.

      • Haven’t sent it out yet – I want to make sure it makes sense first – but I’ve a couple of people I trust to provide feedback when the time comes.

        In particular, I’ve a family member who is both very interested in reading it and has exceedingly good grammar knowledge; though, I’ll take their “good” opinions with a pinch of salt, what with them being family and all 😉

  10. It’s really frustrating, isn’t it? I cringe when I think back to the first draft of my book. The idea of publishing that … eek. I think the problem is that these people are inexperienced writers, and once they’ve gotten the first draft out, they read it through once, think “Hey, not bad” and then publish it, apparently unaware that there’s a super necessary step in the middle there called “editing”.

    • I’m cringing at my first draft even as I write this. I already knew it needed a lot of work, but…jeez…

      The core problem, I think, is that new writers tend to get too attached to their words and so become reluctant (consciously or otherwise) to change them. There was a time when I was guilty of this; I probably still am, to a certain degree.

      • Oh, I’m definitely guilty of that. Every time someone tells me to change something, I say “Thank you so much for your advice” and then inwardly I’m like “YOU KNOW NOTHING”. I’ve calmed down on that front slightly, though. Probably a combination of having my ruthlessly editorial mother correct my essays and writing for years, and then also that harrowing summer in which I had to cut down my manuscript by 15%. That hurt my soul, but it was worth!

  11. If they are able to sell it people shouldn’t hate. Don’t read it obviously. Sigh…

    • I get your point, but I wouldn’t say I’m “hating” with this post. I’m just saying that books that are properly drafted out and edited are far more likely to have good runs.

      • Not really you. I see a lot of hate for much of these types of books. They aren’t great reads, and I often say the same as you, but sometimes people see success from knowing how to push them.

        I saw one website where the guy pushes out like 10 ebooks a year. But if he is able to generate 50,000 annually from it… I can’t hate. And to be honest I am a little envious…. as I punch my timecard. =\

      • Ah, right, gotcha 🙂

        How would that work, though? I take it the website had other things on it as well?

      • Nope, you simply build a “fan base” that expects work out quickly. They also might not “demand” a perfect book. That might be looked down upon by some, but some authors forget there is a reader for everyone out there. Even a poor reader and guess what, poor readers have money too. 🙂

      • Ah, right. I understand what you meant now. Originally, I thought you meant he sold 10 copies a year. Blame it on lack of caffeine >_<

      • lol, 😉 I work graveyard and have a 3 and 4 year old. I misread and miss say stuff all day. 🙂

  12. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, TPG. Drafting is so important – too important! – for writers to skip completely. And it boggles my mind that writers would put out “less-than-perfect” products just for the sake of getting something out there quickly. By “less-than-perfect,” I mean pretty much what you just said – books that haven’t been polished for craft, technique, or the story’s sake. I’d like to think that people would do their homework like you did and be sure of what they’re purchasing beforehand. But I bet that’s not always the case… Where’s a red-ink pen when you need it, huh? *lol*

    • To be fair, I think sorta understand why writers do this: it’s either overexcitement at getting their work out, a misplaced belief that they HAVE to be quick, or some combination of the two. Doesn’t make it any more acceptable, but…yeah.

      Thanks for stopping over, as always, I notice you have a new “Chronicling the Craft” out, so I’ll be sure to look at that shortly.

      • I sort of understand it, too. They want to have their “baby” (meant affectionately, not sarcastically, because we writers think of our stories as babies) out in the world as soon as possible. But, like you said… yeah.

        No rush on reading the new Chronicle. I know you’re busy. Whenever you have time is totally fine. 🙂

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