I am not a fast writer. It can takes me weeks, if not months to finish even a 10,000 word story. My plan of writing on the train and Saturday mornings has certainly got me writing again, but it has not got me churning out the hits. I am anxious. I wonder if such slow progress is even worth it.
Why Speed Matters
Have you heard of Amanda Hocking yet? You will. She’s the poster child for self-publishing at the moment; a runaway success story that most of us can only dream of. After going down a storm as an indie author, she has just signed a two million dollar (count ‘em) four-book deal with St. Martin’s Press. There’s a lot of buzz about that and her reasons why, but that’s another story.
Now, there are many reasons why Amanda Hocking has been a success (and no doubt I will examine a few more in the future), but a big contributed has to be the speed at which she can put out new books.
Here’s the thing, to be a success you need volume. Okay, there are different kinds of success, and I guess you could luck out and get one stellar hit. Sigh, I’ll rephrase: to be a commercial success, what the vast majority of us need is volume.
Having one book out there won’t do it. Having many books out means two things:
- There is more chance of someone picking up one of your books if you appear more than once in the book list (the chance of this is increased if you put out books quickly).
- If a reader likes your book, they will likely pick up your others. You get to sell to the same customer more than once.
That last one is important. Suddenly, each sale is not worth £6.99 (or whatever. Amanda Hocking sells her digital books for $2.99), but £13.98, £20.97, or £34.95.
There are other opportunities as well, such as being able to offer bundles or BOGOF offers, but the two above are the main ones.
So it’s easy to see the advantage in being able to get the work out fast and accumulate a body of work.
How fast is fast? I had a quick look around and Miss Hocking has ten books out, all published in 2010/2011. Is that right? That can’t be right, can someone check that please? Oh God, tell me that’s not right!
The argument against speed
There is an opposing view (isn’t there always), that favours continued polishing over publishing. The assumption is that by taking your time over a piece of working and continually refining it, you will produce fewer, but much higher quality books.
Does that make for more sales? I can see a couple of circumstances where it might.
- You release one absolutely amazing piece of work – seminal in fact, that took you years, but is revered as a classic.
- You release a trilogy over many years (let’s say, over ten). The quality is such that the popularity of each book is enduring, and in addition you get the added bonus of multiple sales per customer. Hell, you can even sell your books at a higher price than most.
Actually that last one wouldn’t necessarily have to be a trilogy, just three books of any description, I guess. Anyhew, that’s my off-the-cuff-not-very-analytical-sweeping-statements bit out of the way. Seriously though if you know of any relevant data on this feel free to link to it in the comments.
The point is, I think for vast majority of us, having more books out there wins every time. Of course, if it’s not sales you’re after, none of this applies. If your ambition is to make this book the best (maybe only, in which case the former goal is easy) book you could ever ever write, then you don’t care about the money and that’s fine.
There is of course an exception to the “volume wins” rule, which I will title “crap-heaping”. You still have to write great stories, even if you do it quicker than others. If you’re just piling crap upon crap, it doesn’t matter how much you make, people still aren’t gonna wanna buy it.
I’m not taking my sweet time on purpose!
Or, so what’s your damn problem, loser?
How rude. But seriously, I should just write quicker, yes?
Yes, I know I should write more, and I know I should try and set more time aside than train journeys and Saturday mornings, but… but… I’m so tired!
I am not a full time writer, like Amanda Hocking. I have to work and stuff. Eating and keeping my home are important things to me. I actually did what I consider to be a fairly good about of writing last week, on top of a busy work week. But I was knackered.
On the other hand, this week I’ve been more lax, and I feel pooey. I would rather feel knackered than pooey.
But even if all my weeks were like the last, it would still be a terrifically slow pace. This is a marathon of ‘ickle mouse-steps, and it makes me anxious. I worry that should I ever finish something, it will go unnoticed; I worry that by the time I’ve put enough work out there to make a difference, the market will have changed so much that it won’t make a difference; I worry that at this pace, in not improving very fast either; I worry that I can’t do anything about any of this. I worry, basically.
But I see no way out of this at the moment. I will have to plough on in obscurity for a good while yet, trying to convince myself that any progress is still progress, and worth my time, and trying to ignore the voice that says it will never, ever be enough.
- Amanda Hocking on Wikipedia
- Amanda Hocking’s blog (not necessarily about writing)