Patience: The modern author’s lost virtue
In our last article, we enumerated the different qualities successful indie authors usually have: they’re great writers, entrepreneurial-minded, good at marketing, etc. But here’s one quality only a select few possess: patience.
The rise of self-publishing has brought with it the decline of this all-important virtue. There always seems to be a rush—to write, to get the next book out, to sell it. We’re in the pre-ordering, pre-promoting, pre-emptive stage of publishing. And if you’re like us, racing against the clock is starting to feel preposterous.
Even established writers are ruled by the clock. Let’s consider Hugh Howey’s website: the first thing you see is this little widget indicating his progress on his upcoming books. I almost want to bet on which bar is going to be filled first, and that’s just one author!
Why is this “race” so characteristic of self-publishing? Well, first, because indie authors are in charge of all the work—including how quickly pages go to print (concretely or digitally). The pace of a book’s release used to be determined by a publishing house; indies don’t face that controlling force.
The second big reason is financial. Self-publishing authors don’t get advances. They are only able to earn money when the book is out and selling. A sense of urgency is a foregone conclusion, until you realize that your first book won’t sell as well as you hoped (gaining market traction is no quick or easy task). So you feel an even greater sense of urgency to churn out book #2…and 3…and so on and so forth.
This can be perfectly fine and even prove advantageous, but can easily ruin all your hard work: with urgency comes precipitation. What’s precipitation? Well, it can be Joanna Penn ordering several thousand print copies of her first non-fiction book before knowing how to market it, for example. Or in most less-extreme cases, releasing a first book that hasn’t been copy edited or proofread—or one full of formatting issues.
When you enter the self-publishing race and start producing content at a fast pace, you can miss out on great opportunities—and I’m not even talking about the opportunity to simply spend more time on each book (before releasing it) to make it better.
I’m talking about marketing opportunities. I’m talking about something that might sound like a sacrilege to many indie authors: sitting on finished work. I first thought of this when reading the excellent blog post by Hugh Howey on “The Liliana Nirvana Technique”, which basically consists of “publishing 5 works at once” and the 6th one shortly after.
If you go through the comments below the post, you can get a sense of how crazy this sounds to many indie authors. However, when you think about it, it makes sense: by “flooding” Amazon all at once with your work, you dramatically increase your exposure; your books get linked to each other, “every sale leading to recommendations for 4 or 5 more of your works”, and readers looking for content see your name everywhere.
Sure, this means your readers have to wait longer for your next book, but if they’re already your readers, the only thing you’re creating is anticipation and suspense (just as you should have done in your narrative)! Case in point: How many of us are chomping at the bit just to pre-order The Winds of Winter?
The good thing is that all this “theoretical thinking” has actually been validated by several of “Liliana’s peers”, as Hugh puts it. It takes guts to sit on a book (let alone 4 or 5), but patience is a virtue even in a digital age.