Oh my hell… You’ve got to be friggin’ kidding me. Here I am, with just a few days between cons trying to get the edits done on a book, and bestselling author Chris Nuttall had to go and post a link a HuffPo article on his Facebook page with the comment “This needs fisking.” That’s like Correia bait. How could I not look?
So I read it, and like most everything else writing related that comes out of HuffPo, Salon, Slate, the Guardian, or other pretentious, snooty, wannabe literati pages the advice is a great way to kill your writing career.
As somebody who makes a good living off of writing books, I’m going to be a little more pragmatic in my take. I don’t write to appease snoots or impress critics. I write to GET PAID. All authors who want to quit their day jobs and make a living as writers need to put GET PAID in their mission statements.
This one got long, but there was just a lot of really bad advice in there. Basically I had to write this because looking back on my career, the single best piece of advice I ever got was be prolific.
As usual, the original article is in italics and my comments are in bold.
Dear Self-Published Author: Do NOT Write Four Books a Year
By Lorraine Devon Wilke
No matter what experts tell you, no matter what trends, conventional wisdom, social media chatter or your friends in the Facebook writers group insist upon, do NOT write four books a year. I mean it. Don’t.
No. Seriously. She means it.
Unless they’re four gorgeously written, painstakingly molded, amazingly rendered and undeniably memorable books.
Remember that. I’ll be coming back to it. The literati have this odd belief that quantity can never equal quality.
If you can pull off four of those a year, more power to you.
I started in 2008. I’m working on novel 15 and 16 right now. I averaged 2 a year until I quit my day job. This year I’ll have finished 3. I’m considered fairly prolific and even I don’t write 4. I must need to write shorter books. However in my defense during that time I’ve published 29 (paying) pieces of short fiction (oh, and I had a stressful, demanding full time job for 5 of those years).
But most can’t.
John Ringo wrote a book while you were typing this blog post. Kevin J. Anderson wrote two.
I’d go so far as to say no one can, the qualifier being good books.
The thing is “good” is a relatively meaningless measurement. Ringo’s fans think they’re good enough to give him mid six figure royalty checks twice a year. Kevin lives in a castle. I’m pretty sure the average HuffPo writer considers me a hack, but then again, I get paid, and HuffPo writers don’t (no, really, I was shocked to learn that HuffPo only pays in “exposure”).
Good is subjective. What is good for my fans would probably be despised by the average HuffPo reader, and if I started pleasing the average HuffPo reader, my regular fans would hate it. JK Rowling and Stephen King are both “good” but write to entirely different audiences. There might be some overlap on a Venn diagram, but what’s good for some won’t be good for others. Ultimately good is whatever the fans say it is. You fail your audience, it isn’t good. You make your audience happy, congratulations. Cash your check.
Beyond the fact that the marketplace is glutted with an overwhelming number of books already (many of dubious quality),
Yep. That’s why you need to not suck. Markets mean competition. Competition is a good thing.
writing good books simply takes time, lots of it.
Not really. It depends entirely upon the author. Work habits matter a lot more than number of hours expended. My comfy pace is about 4 months to write a book, a month off to step away to work on other stuff, so I can come back with a fresh perspective to edit for a month. But I’m a grinder. 10k words a week, treat it like a real job. Butt in seat, hands on keyboard. Other writers work in creative bursts. It really doesn’t matter, as long as you produce and make your fans happy.
There’s no getting around that time.
Sure there is. It is called practice. How long does it take you to do your taxes? How long does it take a CPA to do your taxes? See? The CPA did it faster and better than an amateur could. Why? Because the CPA does A LOT OF FRIGGIN’ TAXES. The CPA knows all the tricks and has developed a routine that helps them maximize their productivity.
It is the same with any career. How fast can you install a tile floor? My wife tiled our basement bathroom. She did a great job, but it took her several days. After that we paid a professional to tile our upstairs bathroom. He did it in one afternoon and it was perfect.
Writing is just another career. Writers like to put on these airs, like what we do is somehow magical, and mystical, and muses, and moved by art and blah blah blah, but at the end of the day it is a job, not that much different than any other job. Treat your job like a career, and you’ll get better at it.
It involves learned skills,
Yep. You know how you learn those skills? Writing books.
Imagine faster. Ideas are the easy part. The actual production is the hard part. Ideas are everywhere. I get crap from fans whenever I post about me painting, or shooting guns, or going on a trip, and they say I should be writing, but in truth all writers need to do something to uncork their brains. Do it. Then get your ass back to work.
My next novel, Son of the Black Sword, is coming out at the end of next month, October 2015. Mike Kupari reminded me that I first told him about the idea for it on a road trip back in 2010! I wrote like ten other books before I got around to it, still pondering on the idea that would eventually turn into SotBS the whole time. Authors have ideas constantly. We’re always imagining things. Great.
The part I take issue with is the “unhurried” part. You want to be a writer, then you can loaf and imagine all you want, as long as you still sit your happy ass down in front of the keyboard and produce the rest of the time.
Nope. That works for some people, doesn’t work for others, and I’m saying that as an outliner. I’m not a discovery writer at all. But an outline shouldn’t take you that long. If you are spending months on your outline, then you are procrastinating doing the hard part. When somebody tells me they’ve been working on world building, outlining, or research for years, it usually comes down to that’s the stuff they love, and they’re scared of the actual writing part.
Editing is work. It’s just part of the gig. Suck it up.
even the time to step away, then step back, to go over it all again.
Yes, yes, but even when I step back between finishing a rough draft and doing the edits, I write a couple of short stories or start the next book. Because it is my job.
And, unless you’re a hack (and we know there are plenty of those out there),
I’ve been called a hack a lot. Usually by somebody who makes a lot less money off of royalties than I do. 🙂
isn’t the whole point of this exercise to write good books?
No. The point is to GET PAID. The thing is when you write good books, the fans like them more, and want to give you more money for your stuff. When you write crappy books, fans don’t want to give you money anymore.
Our most highly esteemed, widely applauded, prodigiously awarded, read and revered authors know this to be true.
I don’t see Well Paid in that list.
Donna Tartt, last year’ s Pulitzer Prize winner for The Goldfinch, took eleven years to deliver that masterpiece.
Eleven years? Well, it had better be friggin’ amazing. Hopefully it also sold millions of copies, because otherwise for all that writing time she made like $3 an hour.
This year’s winner, Anthony Doerr, had written only four books in his entire career before penning All The Light We Cannot See, wisely taking years to craft his stunning tale.
I’m sure it is fantastic. But for every Pulitzer Prize winner there are thousands of excellent books that don’t get that kind of attention.
The cultishly-beloved Harper Lee had only To Kill A Mockingbird in her catalogue before this year’s controversial release of Go Set A Watchman (which some are convinced was not of her doing).
A sequel to a book that is mandatory reading in high school, which had a super famous classic movie made about it, is not average.
Okay, nuts and bolts, practical writing career advice time. All that above? Those examples are bullshit. Those are cherry picked items which ended up with unbelievable publicity. Your book isn’t going to get that.
The average midlist traditionally published book in America only sells like 15,000 copies. Some of those suck. Some of those are amazing. You don’t really rise out of that midlist mush pile unless that book gets some attention.
If it takes you ten years to write a book—which doesn’t win the biggest most famous award in all of literature—and you make $15,000 (I’m being generous), that means you made $1,500 for each YEAR of labor. Let’s say all that diligent proofing, unhurried imagining, and turd polishing only took up 500 hours a year. Congratulations. You would have made more money waiting tables at Applebees… before tips.
I don’t know about you guys, but A. I can’t bank on getting a major motion picture staring Gregory Peck and become mandatory reading for all high school students. B. I’m probably not ever going to win a Pulitzer Prize. And C. I like making a hundred bucks an hour a lot more than I like making $3 an hour.
Even others amongst our best, who do put out work on a more regular basis, do so with focus appropriately attuned to the quality of the book, not the depth of their catalogue or the flash-speed with which they crank out product.
Loaded language alert “Crank out product” my ass. For actual professional writers trying to make a living, the goal is to make the fans happy so they give you money for your stuff. Very few of us set out to write bad books on purpose. Sure, some authors get big and cash in on their names, and sometimes good writers just screw up and let out a dud book, but overall we’re trying to make each book as good as possible… And then get them out the door at a speed which enables us to do things like live in a house and purchase food.
But, you say, I’m not interested in writing Pulitzer Prize winners;
The last time I got interested in winning an award, hilarity ensued.
I don’t need to be on The New York Times bestseller list;
Been there, done that. It is pretty sweet.
I just wanna see my name up at Amazon and sell a few books to family and friends, and, hey, if I go viral, all the better!
That’s loser talk. Either that, or false humility. All writers want to be read and all writers want to get paid, and if they pretend that they don’t, they’re either lying or they’re dilettantes playing at writing.
They say write to the market, so I gotta write to the market. I mean, look at E.L. James…she’s hardly Chaucer and look what’s happened to her!!
Yes and no. That’s taking a fundamental truth of the writing business and restating it in a stupid manner. Write what you want. Write whatever makes you happy. But if you want to make money at it, you need to take that product (yes, it is a product, suck it up you delicate flowers) and find the market to sell it to.
I originally marketed my stuff to an audience of gun nuts. It did great, and later I went mainstream and now my audience is far bigger. But that’s still my favorite market. Not just because I write for that market, but because I am that market. I write what I enjoy reading, but I still needed to get it in front of the people who would give me money for my stuff. I know if I’m having fun writing it, my fans are going to have fun reading it.
Forget EL James. She’s an outlier as much as the Pulitzer Prize winners. She wrote a few books, they blew up huge and became one of those cultural phenomena things, but that probably isn’t going to happen for you. Don’t base your career on outliers. Look at professionals who consistently turn in work. Laurell K. Hamilton gets bagged on a lot by snooty critics because she writes erotic paranormal romance, but here’s the thing about Laurell. She knows her fans, she knows what they like, she writes what makes them happy, and in exchange they give her millions of dollars. Jim Butcher, same thing, wants to tell big, fun adventure stories, knows his fans, knows what they like, produces constantly, and GETS PAID.
Point taken. Which actually brings us to the point: what is your point?
I’m betting it is going to be a bunch of stuff about art for art’s sake. Which I suppose is fantastic if you want to make your living as a college guest lecturer who writes a book once in a great while so you can talk about it during cocktail parties.
What’s your point as a creative, an artist; an author?
A purveyor of the written word?
Why are you here, what is your purpose, your goal as a writer?
What do you hope to achieve?
Is it fame and fortune at any cost, quality be damned?
Objection! Stupid question your honor. Objection sustained.
Quality and success are not mutually exclusive. In fact, producing memorable quality works create fans, who preorder your next one, and tell their friends about you. And most importantly, a quality work will cause new readers to go back and purchase your existing back list so you GET PAID again. Oh, but you don’t have a backlist, because you only release a book every ten years? Sucks to be you.
Or is it about finely crafted work?
As finely crafted as can be in a time frame that keeps my fans happy. That way they keep giving me money so my children can wear shoes.
It’s important to know, to decide, because those principles will guide and mandate every decision you make from there on out.
It sure is.
I bring all this up because I experienced a snap the other day, one triggered by an article from Self Published Author by Bowker titled, Discovery: Another Buzzword We’re Wrestling to Understand. In it, the writer lists many of the familiar instructions toward procuring success as an indie writer — social media, book reviews, networking, etc. — but her very first suggestion to self-published authors looking to get “discovered” was this:
Publish. A Lot: For those of you who have spent 10 years writing your last book I have news for you. You have ten days to write your next one. Okay, I’m sort of kidding with the ten days but, candidly, the most successful authors are pushing out tons of content: meaning books, not blog posts.
In most categories, readers are hungry for new reads, new books, and willing to discover new authors. You’ll have a better time getting found if you continually push new books out there. How many should you do? At a recent writers conference some authors said they publish four books a year. Yes, that’s right, four. [Emphasis mine.]
Eh… Not really. Just mathematically, that’s not as crazy as it sounds. First question, how fast do they write? Second, how long are the books? I write about 10k words a week average. I travel too much to actually hit half a million words a year, but it is easily theoretically possible. My average book is 150k long. Once I factor in editing time, short fiction, and other related projects, I’m good for about 2 ½ books a year, and I still have time to paint minis, shoot guns, and be a complete badass at World of Tanks.
150k is longer than average. Depending on your genre, 100k is normal, and YA books are usually around 80k. So if you are writing 10k a week, and you’re super hard core about it, then you could do over half a million words a year. If your books are only 80-100k, you could easily hit that. Me personally, that’s not my style, but I know plenty of skilled, successful authors with turn in schedules like that.
So, her first piece of advice to self-publishing authors wasn’t to put more focus on fine-tuning one’s craft, it wasn’t about taking time to mull and ponder what stories, what narratives, most inspire you to put “pen to paper”; it wasn’t even a suggestion to be relentless about working with professional content/copy editors and cover designers to create the best possible version of your work. No, it was the insanely insane advice to pump out at least four books a year.
That’s all bullshit. She cherry picked one quote from one person from an unknown context and wrote an entire article condemning it. (That’s why I like Fisking. I like to condemn the whole thing in depth). This is also one of the only people I’ve seen to suggest shooting for 4 books a year. Even in indy I’d say 2-3 is a lot more common advice, and I’m friends with a lot of successful indy authors.
And this HuffPo author got one thing incredibly wrong from that excerpt, but I know exactly what the original author was talking about. The bit about you had ten years to write the first, ten days to write the second? Yeah… We’ve all seen that. An author writes their first book. They spent years and years and years polishing it. It comes out, blows up huge. The publisher comes back and says the fans are going wild. There’s going to be a movie. We need book 2 in ten months. But since the author spent years writing the first book, they never learned how to reliably produce. They rush. They freak out. They’ve not trained themselves to be professionals. Book 2 comes out, it sucks. But it still sells. You’ve got six months to finish the trilogy. Book 3 comes out, it sucks worse. The one hit wonder author fades away, never to be heard from again.
And the funny thing is, as I told that story, each of you thought of a different trilogy, and you were all correct. That happens so often it is a joke.
And people wonder why there are stigmas attached to self-publishing.
Well obviously. Lots of it sucks balls. I could say the same thing for traditional publishing, only tradpub does have a better ratio just because any piece of garbage can be self-published, and you’ve got to jump through more hoops in traditional. The problem there is that you can make a gatekeeper happy because you wrote a piece of crap that appealed to them, and then it can flop in the market, because gatekeepers can be just as biased and screwed up as the rest of us.
But the fact there is so much crap out there in indy is exactly why you still have to write something good. That’s how you separate yourself from the herd. Note that advice she quoted above said write a lot, it didn’t say write a lot of crap.
Thus we inevitably return to the snooty, quantity can never equal quality argument that the literati always make. Leonardo DaVinci and William Shakespeare could not be reached for comment.
In everything else in life, how do you get good at stuff? Practice. You want to shoot free throws better? You go shoot lots of free throws. You want to learn to draw? You draw lots of pictures. You want to learn how to write books? OH NO! DON’T WRITE LOTS OF BOOKS. YOU MUST POLISH ONE BOOK UNTIL PERFECTION!
Here is the problem. Oftentimes when somebody writes a book, and spends six years working on it, it isn’t because they’re trying to get the book perfect. It is because they wrote a shitty book, and they’re wasting their time trying to fix it. Hence my use of the term “turd polishing”.
For most authors our first book is crap that probably doesn’t deserve to see the light of day. I’ve seen them referred to as books with training wheels. Pragmatic professional types stick that piece of crap in a drawer, move on with life, and write more books. Maybe they’ll come back to it and pick out all the good bits to use in other projects later, or they’ll try to edit it again once they have more experience (or your heirs will wait until you are dead and then publish it to cash in on your name), but the important thing is they move on.
Idealistic, literati artistic types will waste six years polishing that turd. At the end of it, the turd might even be so shiny it no longer looks like a turd, and they’ll publish it to rave critical reviews, and rejoice in their whopping $1.75 an hour they made from writing before going to work their shift at Starbucks. Meanwhile, the “hack” will chuckle, cash their royalty check that pays all their bills, and get back to work on book #15.
Plus, let’s look at this another way. Say an author, even an established one, takes five years to write a book. Is that a guarantee that the book will be superior? No. Of course not. We can all name books that we waited a long time for that turned out to be utter crap. Five years is a significant time investment, but time alone does not ensure a quality product. “Taking your time” doesn’t necessarily mean quality. It can also be a euphemism for lost your way, ran out of enthusiasm, or wrote yourself into a corner.
First of all, in looking at her point of reference, I suppose it depends on what you define as a “successful author.”
I get six figure royalty checks twice a year and fans tattoo my logo on their body, yet I’m pretty sure the HuffPo wouldn’t describe me as a “successful author”. 🙂
I have a distinct feeling this may be where the disparities lie. Perhaps my own definition is a different one.
Oh, I’m certain of it.
When I self-published my first book, After The Sucker Punch, in April of 2014, I had, by then, put years into it, doing all those many things I itemized above. Because I not only wanted to publish a novel, I wanted that novel to be a work of art, a book of depth and merit, one that would not only tell a compelling story but would meet standards of publishing that authors of the highest regard are held to.
Somebody sold you a bill of goods. Do you know what the highest standard of publishing really is? It is if you sell lots of books. Everything else is just fluff and window dressing.
I was back in New York City a couple of weeks ago for a series of business meetings with publishers, editors, distributors, and sales reps. A few months before that I was in Manhattan for Book Expo, which is the publishing industry’s giant trade show. I had lots of business conversations about marketing, selling, placement, and various ways to make my fans happy.
You know what those people cared about?
That’s it. It is a volatile, dog eat dog, low margin, high competition, entertainment business. If you think big publishing is all about depth and merit, somebody is blowing smoke up your ass.
I wanted it to be a book that would favorably compare with anything put out by a traditional publisher.
That really isn’t that hard.
My choice to self-publish was a result of not having engaged a publisher by the time my book was done and I was ready to market it.
My choice to self-publish was because I had a business background, and though I’d been rejected by traditional publishing, I recognized that there was a market for my product.
It was not based on the notion of joining the “second tier club” where one is unbound from the stricter, more demanding standards of traditional publishing.
“Second tier club”? Yes. As insulting as that sounds, particularly in relation to self-publishing, there is no question that there are two tiers operating in the culture of the book industry.
Two? HA! Newb! There are TWENTY SIX LEVELS! I documented them here: https://monsterhunternation.com/2014/07/24/the-official-alphabetical-list-of-author-success/
Take a moment to think about it: based on what advice is given to self-published writers, some of which I shared above; based on the”free/bargain” pricing paradigms of most book sellers hawking those writers; based on the corner (quality)-cutting measures required to pump out endless product to meet the purportedly endless demand of those sites and their bargain-hunting readers, “second tier club” is no misnomer.
That actually makes a lot less sense than my alphabetical list of success, and I wrote it as a joke.
Where the best of traditional publishers set their sights not only on commercial viability but award-quality work,
That’s not true at all. Commercial viability and award winning are rarely the same product. In reality publishers make money off of their cash cows and the new hotness, so they can afford to experiment on their pet projects. Each house is culturally different, but even the snootiest literati places usually make the vast majority of their money off of the commercial stuff, and throw “award worthy” stuff at the wall spaghetti style to see what sticks.
nurturing authors with enduring skills and profound stories to tell,
Nope. That’s not true either. It depends entirely upon the editor and house, and personal relationship between the author and editor is a lot more important than any sort of quantifiable skillset. It’s more like, hey, I really like Author X and want to push his stuff, but I think Author Y is an asshole, let’s throw some marketing money at X. There have been lots of really talented authors who’ve languished in obscurity at a publishing house while they tossed money and contracts at a talentless golden boy.
in a climate that is selective (perhaps too selective)
So you are all in favor of selectivity until—let me guess—you got rejected?
and based on the notion that that level of quality and commercial appeal is a rare and valued commodity, self-published authors are advised to, “Crank out loads of books. if you have to write little teeny short ones to get your catalogue pumped up, do that! Don’t worry about covers; your readers don’t give a hoot about artwork. It’s all about genre, easy reads, and low, low prices! And speaking of low prices, don’t even think about selling your books for more than a dollar or two, because readers who do bother with self-published books are too accustomed to bargain-basement prices to spend any more than that. This is the 99¢ Bargain Circus Book Store, where we push quantity over quality every day of the week!! CRANK OUT THAT PRODUCT!!”
I’m guessing nobody actually said that, and you’re using Guardian style “scare quotes”. But hey, pile that straw up and set it on fire!
I’ll bet good money Donna Tartt, Anthony Doerr, and other quality writers aren’t getting that same message from their publishers. First tier, baby.
Those Pulitzer prize winners aren’t in the same market position as the thousands of aspiring authors who are reading your asinine advice. You are correct. They are a different tier. And if your life plan is to emulate them, you’re about as naïve as the kid who drops out of school because his plan for the future is to become a rock star. It might happen, but it probably won’t.
But you want to talk first tier versus prolific, I’m sure George RR Martin’s publisher would love for him to hurry his ass up and not take six years to write a Game of Thrones novel. GRRM can get away with that because he’s got an HBO show and millions of people purchasing his backlist. The rest of us still have to write books.
Look, if your point and purpose as a writer is largely related to the numbers — of books sold, of Amazon ranking, of reviews garnered, of Twitter followers and Facebook “likes” — then, certainly; follow the advice of the article quoted about.
You mean all that evil capitalist stuff that lets professional authors make a living? How bourgeoisie.
Sadly, for those of us who aren’t trust fund babies couch surfing our way through life mooching off of our rich friends, we have to actually produce and sell books.
I know many self-published writers who are, and though I have no idea how well that’s working for them, it’s certainly the prevailing trend.
Which brings up another issue… Why does this offend you? You are obviously aiming for that fancy, book of a lifetime, literati, idealized college English class, Oprah Book Club, Great American Novel, New Yorker book club market. Why does somebody turning out 4 indy books a year wound you so? Since you’re polishing your magnum opus so much, shouldn’t you be encouraging them to keep churning out crap, so that you look even better in comparison?
Or does it just really piss you off when some indy schlub wrote a book in three months and has more readers than you do?
But if your point and purpose as a writer is to take someone’s breath away, capture a riveting story, translate an idea — whether fantasy, love story, science fiction, human interaction, tragedy, thriller, family saga, memoir, non-fiction — in a way that raises hairs or gets someone shouting “YES!”; if you’re compelled to tell that story so beautifully, so irreverently, with such power and prose as to make a reader stop to read a line over just to have the opportunity to roll those words around one more time, then don’t listen to that advice.
On the contrary, you want to do all that stuff? Write more. Because the more you create, the more opportunities you have to create something truly magnificent.
Instead, do the opposite: take your time, work your craft; look for the best possible ways to tell your story and allow yourself time to change your mind, sometimes often, until you know it’s right. Allow your editors time to help you mold your narrative into peak condition. Give your formatters and copy editors time to comb through your manuscript, again and again, to make sure everything is perfect. Work carefully with your cover artist to create the most gorgeous, most professional book cover you can. TAKE YOUR TIME.
That’s really naïve, and not how publishing works at all.
Write the book. Make it as good as you can. Get it out the door. Start the next one. Don’t agonize forever for perfection, because you aren’t perfect. You hone your craft by practicing it.
You don’t “allow” your editors enough time. That’s bullshit. In indy, you are paying for a freelance service. Quality professional editors aren’t going to agonize over your book forever either. They’re going to have a schedule, and they’re going to do their job, finish it, and move on to the next job so they can GET PAID. In traditional publishing, your editor is even busier, and again, they’re not going to spend forever on your book. You might wait a long time to hear back from them, but that’s because they are editing twenty other authors at the same time. Either way, if they’re professionals, they’ll tell you what sucks and make suggestions how to make it not suck. Boom. Done. Get your ass back to work.
Copy editing again and again? Same naïve thing. Indy, you pay, they work. Traditional, it goes on the schedule, they copy edit, then send you the proof to go over. There is no again and again because they are collecting an hourly wage. There is no primadonna bullshit. This is their job.
Your cover artist also wants to GET PAID, and most of them are making even less than the authors. They take a commission and they produce a piece of art. If you dick around with them for months and months making them tweak stuff, you are wasting their time. Hire a good artist, they work to spec. In traditional publishing, you have almost zero input on your cover, and by the time you are successful enough to have input on your cover, that means you’ve sold enough books that you trust your marketing staff. So shut up, and get back to writing.
Take your time? What manner of fuckery is that? Do you not understand how publishing works? You are taking this lackadaisical literati wankery method that works in one specific genre (litfic) and extrapolating out this bizarro version of the rest of the publishing industry. The rest of the publishing industry runs on deadlines. In tradepub your book is probably on the distributors calendar months before you’ve finished it, and if you can’t consistently turn in a quality product that hits those deadlines, you’re toast.
Then take lots more to research marketing options; ask questions, weigh contradicting information, and come up with the best possible strategy for your book.
Contradicting information? I’m happy to oblige.
Do what you choose with professionalism and without the misguided push to the “top of the list,” that pervasive attitude so rife with desperation and panic.
The funny thing is, when you are actually being a professional and making enough money off of writing that you aren’t scrambling to figure out how to pay every bill, and you’re not working two jobs anymore, or having to live off of your spouse’s real job, authors become way less desperate. You want to improve the quality of your writing? Not being stressed out helps immensely.
You’re not in a race, with anyone.
Sure you are. You are in a race against the fans’ impatience and boredom, and every other author and form of entertainment willing to step up to fill that void you left in their heart.
You are a professional author working your book your way. Be an artist, don’t be a carnival barker.
Well, that’s a really idealistic way to look at it. Publishers have marketing departments for a reason. I know you don’t want to sully your artistic sensibilities, but marketing is part of the job. You need to be smart about it, because nobody likes That Guy. Don’t be That Guy. But the vast majority of prolific authors aren’t That Guy. We’re too busy.
Be a wordsmith, not a bean-counter.
As a retired bean-counter, now I’m offended.
Be patient, not hysterical.
Who exactly is being hysterical here?
Transact wisely, but don’t lose your soul in the process.
At this rate, I’m expecting her to warn us against listening to Heavy Metal or playing D&D.
I know I’m bucking the trend, and certainly there are quality issues and dubious motivations floating around both tiers.
Oh, there’s lots of something floating around here.
It’s also certain that, if you follow my lead, you will not be able to write four books a year, at least not four full-length books. You will write, perhaps, one.
One! Oh, but my artistic delicate sensibilities demand that I cannot be rushed! One whole book a year! How uncouth! Barbaric! My poor muse! This Pulitzer prize winner took eleven years!
So why is her suggested number of one okay, but some random indy pub author’s suggestion of four is so offensive? Shit. Just go write, people. This isn’t rocket science.
But if you do it right, taking time and taking care, you will have written one excellent book. One you’ll be proud of years from now.
Yay! A participation trophy! And then it can languish in obscurity because you didn’t keep writing enough to get more fans’ attention.
One your friends and family will keep on their book shelves.
Irrelevant. I should hope your mom keeps a copy. You want to be a professional writer? Then you need thousands of complete strangers to keep your books on their shelves.
One readers across the globe will talk about on social media.
Weren’t you just complaining about carnival barkers? Lady, social media is marketing. I had this conversation with somebody who was Huge On Twitter. Again, irrelevant, unless they purchase copies of your books.
One that tells the world, I am a writer and this book is my legacy.
My legacy is four amazing, well adjusted, loving, intelligent, wonderful children to carry on my name. My books are just how I pay to feed them.
Then you’ll go write another of those…and so on.
Only you spent the entire article harping on somebody who does it faster than you.
The rest of it — sales, rankings, reviews, viralness, likes, tweets, awards, kudos, peer admiration… all that? If you do it right, if/when any of those things come, they will be warranted and well-deserved. You can celebrate them authentically, because you did not sell your creative soul to get them.
Oh fuck me. You’ve got to be kidding. She went full hipster. Those prolific authors are such sell outs, man!
You actually made the far, far better deal.
No. No, you didn’t. You come across as a nose in the air, beret wearing, snoot, telling other artists that they are making art wrong, because their artistic process doesn’t fit your arbitrary definition of art.
Okay, now that we’re past all that pretentious nonsense, you know how most of us working professional authors actually write? Like Wyatt Earp said, take your time fast.
That means write, write, write some more, get it as good as you can, quit freaking out about it, and get it out the door. You’re going to learn and get better with each book. Practice makes perfect. Books are an investment of your time. You want to make a return on your investment. So make the book as fast as you can without fucking it up. If that’s one book a year. Great. If it is four books a year. Fantastic. If it is one book every three or five years, quit screwing around. Unless you’re already really famous or you’ve got some other get out of jail free card, that isn’t going to fly.
All those stupid pretentious coffee shop questions above were a waste of time. The real question is do you want to be a pretentious hobbyist, or do you want to be a professional writer?