Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Matter of Time

There was an interesting article in the Los Angeles Times today about a YA writer named John Green and his success in the realm of social media.  Green produces a popular video blog and has over one million followers on Twitter.  That's an awful lot compared to my 14 followers! What really struck me about the article, however, was this quote from Green:

"When you're writing a novel, you spend four years sitting in your basement and a year waiting for the book to come out and then you get the feedback.  When you do work online, the moment you're finished making it, people start responding to it which is really fun and allows for a kind of community development you just can't have in novels."

Now obviously, Green isn't considering the world of online publishing.  When "Indie" novelists like myself finish a book, we design a cover, have the book proofread, and put it up right away.  No year-long wait to get it up or to get feedback

This quote points out another huge difference between the traditional publishing model and "Indie" publishing.  Successful indie novelists don't generally have the luxury of taking four years to work on a book.  They crank out the titles.  All of the big names in online self-publishing these days put out titles at an amazing rate.  This is something they just couldn't do in the traditional system, where writers do have to wait around to be fit into their publisher's schedule.

Amanda Hocking famously wrote many of her 70,000-word novels in just 2-3 weeks each, finishing 17 novels by the time she was 26.  If she'd gone with the four-year model, that would have taken her 68 years just to write them, never mind getting them out!

So one thing that this self-publishing revolution is doing is most definitely speeding up the process.  Successful indie authors are often those who can write and get their books out the fastest, and without a publishing house schedule, they can get them out as fast as they write them.

But what of those writers who need more time to write them?  Those of us who can't just crank them out?  I'm currently working on a draft of my latest novel, and I definitely feel pressure to get it done and out as soon as possible.  Time is money, right?!  But I just can't rush it.  I have to let it develop in my subconscious and mature as the process goes along.  If I want to make a living at this, though, I don't have the luxury of John Green.  I can't take four years to write a book.  I'd starve in the meantime.  So I need to find a balance.

At the moment it has been more than six months since I came out with my last book, Sweet Ophelia.  I'd hoped to have my next done by now, but maybe if I can get a book out every nine months or so that will be enough to get by.  I guess only time will tell!


  1. Hi Kenneth,

    I suppose it depends on what you want. I'd be scared to put something out before it had had a chance to mature (ie for me to suddenly spot the plot holes) but I guess if you've hit the mother lode, why not keep churning them out if you can? Popularity is a fickle beast.

    If I go hell for leather I can write a pocket novel (50K) in less than a month, but it would still benefit from a rest before submission or putting it onto Kindle. In fact, I think that's essentia. I tend to write obsessively, then give it a rest. other people discipline themslevs into x thousand a day.

    Researching a novel takes time. If a novel doesn't need research, the author is able to put them out faster.

    No way could I produce so many books so quickly.
    But I have several in the pipeline written whilst waiting for thee responses on agent then publishers, and boy, don't they take their time.

    So it might be that those who are putting them up quickly are doing so by revamping ones which are already written.

  2. John Green worked for a book review journal while he was working on "Looking for Alaska" (which is an amazing book). Things take time, but I think his success lies largely in his exposure to writing and knowing what was good (publishers and public wanted/ artistic) and what wasn't. Good luck on your draft!

  3. Thanks for the comments, guys! Linda, you're right, I need to let my stories mature, too. I've actually been working on my latest off and on for years, and the same was true for the last two as well. I think you're right, too, that a lot of writers who are putting up so many books now have had drafts of them done for a while. Good luck with your agent and editor responses. They do take their time, don't they!?

    And thanks, Rene. I hadn't actually heard of John Green before this LA Times article came out, but I'll definitely pay attention to his career now and take a look at some of his work, starting with "Looking for Alaska."