In the wake of publishing my second novel, I’ve done some comparing and contrasting of the two experiences. Upon honest review and careful analysis, I’ve realized the experiences are wildly different.
When I wrote my first novel (and I’m not counting the novel I wrote back in 1999 that will never see the light of day) I was focused mostly on determining whether or not I even had the skill to write fiction at all. Then the question became whether or not I could write a novel people would care about. I put significant effort into soliciting and incorporating beta reader feedback. I also put significant effort into writing the best story with the best prose I could muster at the time. I revised it a couple of times before becoming impatient and then I published it.
While it’s admirable that I put so much effort into the story itself, what I failed to do was have the thing properly edited and proofread. Once I discovered this fact the book was already in the hands of readers. I was soon scrambling to correct the astonishing number of errors plauging the manuscript into which I’d put so much effort. It was a black eye on me and there are readers out there who now have a less than stellar impression of my writing. Having been burned once, they’ll probably never buy another book I write.
The problem was that although I was deliberate, I was deliberate only up to a certain point. I underestimated how much effort it takes to get a manuscript clean and in a publish-worthy state. I underestimated the negative impact rushing to publish could have on my reputation.
I did end up putting in the time and effort to correct my errors before hiring an editor to further help me. I did all this after release, after the book was already in the hands of some readers and after the damage had already been done.
This time around with my horror novel, The Desolate, I handled things much differently.
First off, I already had my editor lined up before I started the manuscript. First problem solved.
I revised the crap out of the manuscript. Instead of a revision or two at most, many of the chapters in my latest novel went through seven or eight revisions and a dozen or more reads. I tweaked and massaged the words until they were just the way I wanted, no matter how many revisions it took. It was long and it was tedious, but it was necessary.
I also hired a proofreader to read the manuscript after my editor and I had our way with it. Working as another set of eyes, she caught things we missed. Nobody is perfect, after all. That secondary proofread gave me even more confidence that I’d done my due diligence to ensure the manuscript was as clean as I could make it.
I set realistic due dates. After I finished the final working draft of the manuscript I allowed a month for my editor and a month for my proofreader. While it didn’t take that long for them to do the actual work, my editor had another manuscript in her queue and we all had to wait. My realistic release date had enough leeway to absorb the delays and still allow me to release ten days early.
This time around I was deliberate from start to finish. From outlining, to revising, to editing, to proofreading, to publishing; I planned and executed each task as intended.
Guess what? It worked. I’m very pleased with the quality of the book and the release went off without a hitch.
Despite the success of this process, I can’t help but wonder if there’s more I can do next time around. Maybe I can submit the next book for early review to some book review bloggers. Maybe a blog tour or perhaps a Goodreads promotional event. While I don’t know if any of those things are effective, it’s worth checking out for the next go around. There are almost always ways to improve something.
The point? I learned to be deliberate with not only my writing, but the execution of the publishing process from start to finish. I learned to not publish until I was ready to go all the way and deliver the best product possible.
While rushing to market might provide instant gratification, it’ll cost you reputation. Delaying that gratification will not only make the reward sweeter, it’ll also gain you more credibility.
And if you don’t have credibility, what do you have?