Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Rule 2: Do Not Publish Everything You Write

Rule 2. Do Not Publish Everything You Write

There is a second part to this rule that's not mentioned previously, however, and it is equally important.
2A. Do Not Sell Everything You Publish
Publishing has taken on a wide and vast new meaning.  It's gone from "Having a book for sale at Barnes and Noble" to being available to readers via a multitude of sources such as blogs, Wattpad, Dropbox, and more.
I'll tell you a secret.  It's not something I think I've ever discussed with anyone.  Certainly not something I've ever written about.  But it is true, and it might be something you can identify with.
I have never written the one thing I yearn to write.  Would KILL to write.  Would absolutely kick ass at writing.  And I likely never will.
What is this great unfulfilled literary fantasy, you ask?  Is it romance?  Is it comic books?  It is a Sumerian text?  No.  It's battle rap lyrics.
Sure, you laugh, but you cannot imagine the overwhelming compulsion I feel at times to just start dissing people I compete with in book sales.  How I wish I could meet them face to face and tell them how I really feel about their grandmothers.  It would be, I imagine, the most fulfilling and soul-affirming writing of my entire life.
But it will never, ever happen.  Why?  Because it's absolutely asinine, and I've built a career on providing people strong literary content about a wide variety of subjects.  If I start sounding like a confused thirteen year old, it might be a bit hard for them to take me seriously.
I think that in the independent writing revolution, the quest to occupy as much virtual bookshelf space as possible has left us vulnerable to a drop in quality.  I know successful authors like Konrath preach having multiple titles as a key ingredient to the vast fortunes they've accumulated, and I'm certainly no slacker in terms of output, but consider this:
Ernest Hemingway published seven novels, six short story collections, and two non-fiction works in his entire lifetime.
Charles Bukowski wrote six novels.
JRR Tolkien wrote four novels.
Harper Lee only wrote one.
With Hemingway, Tolkien, Capote, and a multitude of other authors, huge amounts of material was discovered and published posthumously.  Why did they have so much extra writing sitting around?  Surely they could have published it and made more money.
There are only two answers.  It either wasn't finished, or wasn't good enough.  That, and they had greedy relatives willing to shill whatever they found to the unsuspecting public.  Or in some cases, shudder, find someone else to finish it.
My point is, by only releasing the very best of what they created, these authors scaled Mount Olympus in a way that any of would be damn lucky to come even within shouting distance of.  By holding back until it was the absolute best they could manage, they created art that will last for all time.
That's not to say you shouldn't write it.
Sometimes it helps to blow out the dust in the engine by sitting down and writing that love song, that x-rated short story...those battle rap lyrics.  But that is the writing you do for yourself.  That is the private stuff you hope nobody ever finds and publishes after you're dead.
Part 2A is a lot easier.
In this day and age, we as publishers have much greater control over how we reach our audience.  I mean, Jesus, it wasn't too long ago that Stephen King had to ask people to mail him a dollar so he could send them all copies of The Plant.  Now, it's as simple as sharing a link online.
I've written stories, poems, essays, and an ongoing Star Trek series, all with the intention of giving them away for free.  Why?  Because if someone cares enough about my writing to seek out more of my work, I want them to be rewarded.
It's like loving a really good band.  You buy all their albums, love everything they've ever done, and then discover that there is a whole underground world of free downloadable bootlegs.  It doesn't mean you'll spend less money on them in the future.  It means that you are now a serious fan and have invested something more valuable than your money in that group.  You've invested your time.
That is the kind of connection I'm looking for with my readership.  I want them to believe in me, and I want to give them a reason to do it.

Welcome to The Manifesto of Independent Writing and Publishing: On Writing for Ebook Authors.
After three years in the publishing business and over thirty-five titles in print, I have much to say about this industry.  I've spoken at Comic Con panels, answered countless emails, tweets, and fielded a wide variety of questions from those of you who are interested in how to be a successful author.
The complete Manifesto is now available on Amazon.  It contains tons of extra information not available anywhere else.  Good luck, and enjoy! 

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