Back when I was on the conference circuit giving speech after speech about how to get published, I'd always preach that the most important thing a writer can do is, "Don't write shit."
It's 2019, and I may be ready to take back those words.
On axiom that I haven't considered taking back (yet) is that I never do anything that doesn't work on me.
That's worth explaining.
More than a decade ago, in the early noughties (so nice to finally have a word for the 2000s), I used to attend a lot of conferences, conventions, and book fairs, and every author seemed to be armed with an endless cache of bookmarks. Naturally, these bookmarks had info about the book they were selling; cover art, description, a blurb or two, links to the author's website.
Some were self-printed and looked cheap. Some were slick and professionally done; either the author shelled out some bucks, or the publisher did.
In any case, these giveaways had a time cost and a monetary cost, and a lot of authors used them to promote. The freebie tables were full of them. They served as a conversation starter and ice-breaker when meeting potential fans, and maybe some readers took them home and used them to remember which books they wanted to buy.
Maybe. But I doubt it.
I say this because I've been the recipient of hundreds of bookmarks, pressed into my hands by eager authors, and they never made me buy a book. I never even used a bookmark in my life; I dog-ear paperbacks and use the jacket flap for hardcovers to mark my page. So when I got a bookmark, it went into the garbage.
As the years went on, I began confronting authors about bookmarks. Partly because I was a know-it-all prick in my younger days, but partly because I was genuinely interested in human nature and helping other writers.
Whenever someone handed me a bookmark, I'd ask, "Have you ever bought a book because someone gave you a bookmark?"
Some authors told me they did. But at least half of them would go wide-eyed with self-realization, and I got the chance to witness their moment of "Why the hell am I doing this if it doesn't work on me?"
Bookmarks don't work on me, so I don't give them away.
I don't click on Facebook ads, so I don't buy Facebook ads.
I've never gone out of my way to go to a booksigning, so I no longer do booksignings.
And so on. I'm not saying that these things don't ever work for other authors. But if it doesn't work on me, I don't do it.
The converse is also true. We all need to pay a lot more attention to why we buy books. How did you hear about it? How many steps between your awareness and the point of sale? What were the factors that lead to you buying? And so on. Someday soon I'll do a more detailed post about how we convince ourselves to buy stuff.
But today I want to talk about writing shit.
It seems like a no-brainer, right? If you own a restaurant, your food can't suck. There are other things that contribute to a restaurant's success; location, decor, pricing, service, cleanliness, menu, etc., but the one thing a restaurant needs to do is serve decent food.
At least, it makes sense to believe that.
It also makes sense to believe that your book has to be good. We all work hard on our writing, and I've never met a writer who doesn't care what readers think. We want to entertain and impress. We want to make lifelong fans.
And that starts with a good book.
Or so I used to believe.
I had a very popular post ten years ago debunking the so-called Tsunami of Crap. TLDR: there are billions of books to read, a few more million shitty ones won't destroy reading as a pass-time.
I still believe this. But I've begun to refine it.
Going back to the restaurant analogy, I am blessed to live in an area where good eateries abound. I have favorites, depending on the food type. Every so often, I have a mediocre meal or experience at a place I normally enjoy, and I usually give the joint a second chance. If I have two bad meals, I don't ever go back.
But I'm beginning to believe that this doesn't translate to readers and books.
People are creatures of habit. I just went to jury duty, and while waiting to be called I sat at a table off to the side. A woman joined me, and we spent three hours on our respective Chromebooks, then left for the lunch break. When I returned, I purposely changed tables, moving one to the right, because I know that people always return to the seat they had earlier and I like to consciously break that evolutionary quirk of human nature.
The woman who sat with me earlier sat with me again. Not because I'm a thrilling table-partner--we didn't really talk. But she saw me as her reference point, and sat in what she thought was her old seat, not even knowing she was one table--about twenty feet--over to the right. Another juror approached us and mentioned we'd moved over a table because he came back and was irritated his old table had been taken.
Interesting, ain't it?
We are creatures of routine and habit. We gravitate toward the familiar, because it is safe.
So now I'm going to tie all of these disparate points together.
My wife, Maria, reads a lot more than I do. She loves thrillers, and goes through 3-5 per week, getting most of them on Kindle Unlimited. If an author she likes isn't free on KU, she will spend up to $6.99 for the ebook. But never more than that. She has favorite authors whose ebooks are released by publishers for more than seven bucks, and she won't read them until they are on sale.
She's been doing this for years, like clockwork.
Not coincidentally, she is my audience. Both literally--I write books intended to please her--and figuratively, because Maria represents my average reader.
So while I normally tailor my efforts to things that work on me, like never giving away bookmarks, I've taken to tailoring book-related stuff to things that work on my wife.
And I've noticed an interesting habit of hers.
When Maria is reading a mystery series, she keeps reading it.
She will audibly complain, at midnight in bed while finishing a novel on her Kindle, about how shitty the book she just finished was...
...and then she immediately gets the next book by that author. If it isn't for sale yet, she'll preorder it.
Like me, she'll give a restaurant two tries before walking away forever. One bad meal is a fluke. Two bad meals means we'll never go back. But with books, her capacity to endure and even devour bad writing is eye-opening.
Maria doesn't abandon authors.
Maybe she keeps hoping they'll go back to writing the way they use to write, when they first hooked her.
Maybe she reads so much that she forgets who wrote what and when she sees a familiar name she reads it because she forgot the last few experiences were bad.
Maybe it's just easier to ride with the devil you know than the one you don't.
Actually, I'll ask her.
Joe: Hey babe, why do you continue to read an author if their last book was bad?
Maria: Because I like their characters.
Joe: What would make you stop reading an author?
Maria: Too expensive. Multiple bad books.
Joe: How many bad books before you quit an author?
Maria: I dunno. Four.
Joe: Have you ever actually quit an author?
Maria: No. Wait, yes. One. He became too expensive. And he changed genres.
Joe: You read about five book a week?
Joe: How many are sub-par?
Joe: And you keep reading those authors anyway?
Maria: Yes. I forgive them. They had a few crummy books, but I hold out hope the next one will be better.
My takeaway: My wife has read thousands of books, and the sole author she abandoned was because he dropped out of Kindle Unlimited. She kept reading him even when he switched to a genre she didn't enjoy, and kept reading him even though his quality went down. Ultimately though, price was the ultimate reason she left him.
According to her numbers, 2/5 of the books she reads are below average, and she STILL READS THOSE AUTHORS!
Mind officially blown.
In most cases, it takes me 2 to 3 months to write a 80k word novel. About 1/3 of that time is rewriting/polishing/fixing/tinkering/making it better.
But I'm beginning to think I'm wasting a full 1/3 of my writing time.
My first drafts are pretty good. They're lean, and fast, and the character arcs and plot rarely need tweaking. The rewrite polish is mostly spent on housekeeping stuff; adding color, exploding certain scenes, adding more drama to the climax, salting in a few more jokes, changing word choices, putting in a few more clues or callbacks.
And sometimes a book is short, say around 60k words, I'll spend time expanding some scenes or adding a few to beef it up to 70k+, because I want to give good value to the readers who still pay for my stuff rather than read it via KU.
So I spend a full 1/3 of my time as a writer trying to make a grade B book into a grade A book.
I think I'm wasting my time.
Why write longer? Why write better? What's the benefit?
Readers will forgive me if I phone-in a book. Or four. Especially with a series. As long as my first 12 are solid, I could probably make the next 6 mediocre, or even shitty, and most of my fanbase will stick with me.
Now, I'm not talking about releasing a book with errors in it; plot problems, story problems, typos, formatting probs, and so on, even though Maria forgives authors for those indiscretions, and according to here they happen in about half the ebooks she reads.
I'm talking about releasing a book that would average 3.7 stars from readers, whereas if I spent an extra month on it, I could average 4.2.
Seems like a gigantic waste of time. And speaking of...
I just spent an ENTIRE YEAR writing a novel. Not SHOT GIRL, which took three months (1/3 of which was spent polishing it). I'm talking about a book that hasn't come out yet.
I'll blog more about this epic 180k word novel in a future blog post, because it challenged me more than anything I've ever written, and I refused to settle for anything less than a perfect translation of the story I saw in my head.
But now that I've finished that giant novel, I'm wondering if I wasted an entire year. Rather than torturing myself to try to get something perfect, I could have done four novels that were great. Or six novels that were pretty good. Or eight novels that were mediocre. Or ten novels that were shit.
And if I'd done ten novels that were shit, that likely would have made me the most money out of all the options above.
I can't explain how big of a mindjob that is to me. It is so counter-intuitive to everything I've learned as a writer, and everything I've learned about self-promotion.
Better isn't actually better.
More is better.
Faster is better.
Flash beats substance.
Loyalty trumps all.
Because we no longer need gatekeepers, were are the guardians of our own quality. And the reader I count as representative of my core audience is pretty much telling me that I don't have to try so hard, because she'll repeatedly forgive me.
This almost always bears out with Big Name Authors. Authors who have been around for twenty years and always appear on the bestseller lists. Some of them--not all, but some--get terrible reviews by readers on the latest books. Comments about "phoning it in" and "cashing a check" and "not the series I loved ten years ago."
Yet the books keep selling. A three star average doesn't stop a bestseller.
So does that mean McDonald's wins? Quantity over quality? Mediocrity over excellence? Cheap and fast over a richer experience? Are we such creatures of habit that we'll stick with a writer in decline just because we had happy memories of a book of theirs they wrote in 2003?
Well, hell, I think so. Much as I hate it.
And not just because Maria feels that way. I realize I do the same thing. I just ordered the new Thomas Harris novel, even though the reviews have been bad, and even though I didn't enjoy his last two books. But I loved his first three, so I'll continue to buy him.
And, newsflash, the new Thomas Harris is every bit as jawdropping as the reviewers are saying.
But will I buy his next one? Yep.
I've been to 42 states, and the best hamburger in the country is at The Assembly, which, gratefully, is close to my house. I'm a burger connoisseur. I've eaten them everywhere.
I've been to The Assembly four times this year.
But we've gotten fast food burgers at least twenty times.
Fast and cheap and mediocre beats teriffic.
Have you ever stuck with a TV series even though it dropped in quality?
Sure you have. We all do.
Everything I know says I need to stop spending so much time rewriting. And I also think I spend too much time in the planning stages of writing; working on outlines, making sure I have enough twists, cleverly seeding in clues for the big "a-ha!" moment.
I am wasting my time trying to turn "good enough" into "great." Which, ultimately, is a subjective, arbitrary notion, because I've struggled to make books as perfect as I can make them and there are those that still don't like what I've done. I get one star reviews, same as every other author.
Which begs the question; if I get one star for something I worked my ass off on, it's not like that reader could give me less than one star if I didn't work as hard on it, so why am I bothering?
So... should I just write shit?
There are books I've picked up, self-pubbed and legacy-pubbed, and I can't even get through the first few pages without cringing because the writing is bad.
And I mean objectively bad. I mean being able to take a red pen and point out why the sentence doesn't work and why the paragraph isn't needed and why the story doesn't actually start until page 15.
But many of these authors outsell me.
There's also a good chance that I'm wrong. What I consider "objectively bad" is really subjective, because I'm a huge pile of neuroses and riddled with envy. If something is that popular, it can't be bad.
I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I published a book less than a grade C. I'd feel lousy. I love writing, and I wouldn't want to release something I wasn't proud of.
But I could live with Bs. I was fine with getting Bs in school. Why put in all that extra work to turn a B into an A when I won't lose readers for a B?
This moment really hit home for me two years ago, when I rewrote my first three novels. I blogged about it.
In a nutshell, I created a character named Phineas Troutt when I was in my early twenties, and wrote three novels with him as the protagonist. They didn't sell to publishers. Years later, I used Phin as a supporting character in my Jack Daniels books, which did sell.
All of my other early rejected books found their way onto KDP, and some of them have earned a lot of fans and a lot of money. So I thought I could release my first three novels with minimal work and make a quick buck.
It didn't work out like I'd planned.
When I began to polish them, I realized how shitty they were. I was young and didn't know what I was doing. So I rewrote all three, and because it was Experienced Joe fighting with Newbie Joe over what could stay and what needed to be fixed, it took me longer to rewrite them than it would have taken to write three books from scratch.
I'm proud of the rewritten books. I think they are among my best work.
But they didn't sell as well as my Jack Daniels books.
My time would have been better served writing Jack Daniels instead.
I am 100% convinced that I could have self-pubbed my original novels with minor changes and made the same amount of money as I've currently made on those books. The reviews would be justifiably bad, but it would have benefited my career because I'd have new six books out instead of three, and the three new JD books I would have written would have sold more copies, and the three old Phin books I didn't rewrite would still make a few bucks and my fans would forgive me.
What does this mean for writers?
Do we write books that are good enough and then move along, or do we hold onto those books until we can make them better? If all signs point to readers being forgiving and sticking with authors, shouldn't we be listening?
I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to test my hypothesis.
SHOT GIRL took three months. Lots of research, lots of planning, a good deal of polishing.
CHASER is my next Jack Daniels book.
I'm going to start writing it on July 1 and see how quickly I can finish, and I'm not going to follow my normal routine of taking a month to make it better. I'll get it proofed and get that sucker out there and see how it compares in sales and reviews to my other books.
This isn't unusual for me. I wrote SHAKEN in nine days. Amazon published it without a single change.
I think I need to get out of my own way, stop letting perfect be the enemy of good, and see what happens.
Let me take a moment here to bring up a salient point; I'm an established writer with a fanbase and over 70 books that have sold over three million copies worldwide and have tens of thousands of positive reviews.
I like to think that I've written some good, even great, books. My numbers bear this out. Longtime fans will stick with me if I write something so-so.
But what if the first book of mine that a reader discovers is so-so? Will they go on to read more of my work? Or does it end right there?
I have no idea. And I'm not sure how to test this idea, other than write a mediocre stand-alone under a pen name and see how it does.
That seems... counterproductive.
Which probably means I won't be able to release something I'm not happy with under my own name. My ego won't allow it, even though my brain says it's the smart move.
What do you guys think? Spend a lot of time to make something a little better? Or stop wasting time trying to turn a good book into a great book and hope your fans are as forgiving as my wife?
I will usually forgive a bad book or two from an author I enjoy but wouldn't keep reading someone if their first was terrible and didn't show at least a bit of promise. I used to love reading Stuart Woods for its sheer ridiculous escapism and forgave him a few clunkers. A few years back his books took a nosedive, about the same time he went from two per year to three, and I couldn't continue reading him. Having bought a book from him in years and I was a faithful hardback buyer.ReplyDelete
LOL! You had me chuckling throughout this post as I read. I'm so glad you are back to blogging. I've missed reading your posts.ReplyDelete
Regarding your question: Is it worth spending the extra effort and time to make a good book great?
My own answer is: Yes!
I do want to earn money. Of course I do! Like everyone else I have bills to pay. But if money were the only reason I write...well, there are other more certain ways to earn money, and probably more of it.
I write because I love writing and love creating. But I've got to write the best book I can in order to be satisfied. I'd feel like I was settling for second best, if I gave less than my best effort.
Now, I don't believe that spending extra time just to spend extra time is at all worthwhile. If the book is great, who cares that I created it in 9 days? It's the quality that matters, not how long it took me to achieve that quality. But if a book does need more work, then do it.
But I also don't believe that a lot of niggly re-writing or fussing is necessary. Write the book well in the first place. Fix things that are truly errors. Then release it into the world. Trust yourself and trust the book.
I drop authors entirely when I stop thinking they're good. I'll forgive a mediocre book or two, but I rarely keep buying after that. There are so many good writers out there, and I find new ones every week, that continuing to throw money at an author that has disappointed me doesn't make sense. I'll find one that doesn't, and give them my money instead. Two three star novels in a row is enough to move an author to the "only when I'm entirely out of reading material list", and a third in a row is the kiss of death.ReplyDelete
On the other hand, consistently putting out books that I'd rate a four star or better guarantees I'll buy it without even bothering to read the synopsis.
'Shot Girl' was riveting, and I'll probably go back and re-read the entire Jack Daniels series again (for the fourth, fifth time?) now that I've finished it.
And I find new books to read in much the same way I did in pre-Amazon days, although now I don't have to stand around in the aisle of the book store reading the first chapter to see if it grabs me, I have Amazon send me the free sample. I read it, and if I'm interested enough to keep reading, I buy it. Title, synopsis, first two or three chapters; if an author nails those, they get my money. If the book is satisfying, they've got a new reader that chews through three to seven novels a week, depending on their length and my workload. So, bookmarks are not an effective marketing tool for me, either.
I guess I'm trying to say I agree, but only to a point and will wait and see. And will eagerly await the publication of 'Chaser'!
Some years back I was at a book fair in Dallas. The women at my table spent almost the entire lunch complaining about one of the featured speakers, a Famous Mega Bestselling Author.
“Her books aren’t as good as they used to be,” they agreed. “Her earlier books were much better,” they said, and on and on they went about how bad-boring-disappointing-waste of money the recent books were. The bitch-fest went on all through dessert and coffee.
Yet on the way out, where Famous Mega Bestselling Author’s new book was piled high, EVERY ONE of my lunch companions bought a copy.
I just spent several months revising/rewriting a book that was a hardcover and mmpb bestseller in its day, but styles and standards change in books as in everything. The revised incarnation is infinitely better *by today's standards.* But should I have spent the time writing a new book instead? Was it worth it? Will I ever know?
Unknown, I wish I could drop Thomas Harris like you dropped Stuart Woods. I haven't gotten through Cari Mora yet, and I don't know if I'll make it. But I think I must, simply because I'm slack-jawed at the quality. I'd call it mesmerizing, but I've already set the book down over a dozen times, so maybe I need a better descriptor...ReplyDelete
Write the book well in the first place. Fix things that are truly errors. Then release it into the world. Trust yourself and trust the book.ReplyDelete
That's my usual method, JM. Except for this epic book that took a year. I tortured myself with that one.
I also tortured myself with those three Phin books. And Stop A Murder.
The older I get, the less I seem to trust myself.
Two three star novels in a row is enough to move an author to the "only when I'm entirely out of reading material list", and a third in a row is the kiss of death.ReplyDelete
Is it any book by that author, Celeste? Or only books in a series?
My wife has a few writers where she reads one series by them, but not another because it isn't a genre she likes.
I'm different. If I like an author, I read everything.
'Shot Girl' was riveting, and I'll probably go back and re-read the entire Jack Daniels series again (for the fourth, fifth time?) now that I've finished it.
Thanks, that means a lot. If you don't mind me asking, if the JD series all you read of mine? Did you read the Phin trilogy? The horror books? The Timecaster books? The erotica? Why or why not?
The revised incarnation is infinitely better *by today's standards.* But should I have spent the time writing a new book instead? Was it worth it? Will I ever know?ReplyDelete
Thanks for your thoughts, Ruth.
My friend Ann Voss Peterson just got her backlist back from HQ and is doing the exact same thing with many of her older titles. I'll ask her to chime in an opine if it is worth it.
Is it any book by that author, Celeste? Or only books in a series?ReplyDelete
If they're publishing other books outside the series that interest me, it might only be the series. But I do stop reading when I stop enjoying.
If you don't mind me asking, if the JD series all you read of mine? Did you read the Phin trilogy? The horror books? The Timecaster books? The erotica? Why or why not?
I've read the JD series, all of your work as Jack Kilborn, the Timecaster books and the Phin trilogy. I've read a lot of your collaborations, too, in fact I think I originally stumbled onto your work because I liked Draculas so much. I tried some of the erotica, but that isn't normally my thing, so I guess the above, re: dropping a series instead of an entire author stands. I'd actually forgotten you had the additional pen-name. If you're publishing thrillers, horror or mysteries, I'm buying it. Try moving into more Fantasy/SciFi, and I'll probably buy that too.
To revise or not is a question that confronts authors with long backlists. I'd love to hear from AVP about her reasoning. I hope she chimes in.ReplyDelete
Harlequin reverted the rights to 20 of 25 romantic suspense novels I wrote for their Intrigue line. My plan was to revise and self-publish them. But that’s not all.
For some, my plan was pretty simple. I’d update them and fix what problems I saw (wordiness/redundancies, truncated endings). But 10 of the books were set in the same area as my Val Ryker thrillers (small town Wisconsin), so I decided it would be cool to incorporate Val and her friends into the stand-alone stories and expand a bit on the mystery/thriller elements that were already there. Those 10 books became my Small Town Secrets series. And that’s where my problems began.
To make a long struggle short, I found I wanted to rewrite EVERYTHING.
Now understand, I like these stories. But as a writer, I’m in a totally different place now. This summer will be the 20th anniversary of my first book being published. I’ve written a lot since then. I’m even writing in a slightly different genre now. So I’m changing a lot and adding whole new story threads, and as a result, these books are taking WAY too long.
Is it worth it?
For the progression of my career? No.
For my bottom line? Maybe in the long run. Certainly not now.
For my mental health? Hell, no.
But here’s the thing: at this point, I know I won’t be happy if I don’t finish this project. So I guess I’m primarily doing it to satisfy myself. Not the soundest of business strategies, but there it is.
Thx for your valuable input, Ann. You and I have talked about this since we both rewrote our early stuff.ReplyDelete
The big difference; your early stuff was published and sold millions of copies, and mine sucked and got dozens of rejections. So you updating/fixing/editing was very much about you making them modern and fitting in with your universe, while a lot of mine was trying to fix plain bad writing. But I still think I could have uploaded them with the bad writing and made the same amount of money, albeit minus two stars on my average ratings. And maybe Germany wouldn't have pubbed them if I hadn't rewritten.
You have the potential for a new hit series, with a strong tie-in to your other hit series, so I think you'll get more bang for your buck than I did.
As a reader, I'll stick with a series that I like because there's usually some hallmarks of the series that matter more to me than the actual writing (the main character is quirky/funny, the setting is familiar, the conflict resolution is executed in a signature way, etc.) I've heard many authors comment that they write series books to make money, but it isn't really what they spend most of their time on. The books are driven by a formula they found that works, so they just pump them out. So, if the writing quality drops off in later books (supporting characters become 2D, character motivations are vague, pacing is slow/inconsistent, etc.) I'll still endure it as long as the series maintains its hallmarks.ReplyDelete
And as for publishing a "meh" book as a "new" author, I (and many other struggling self-pubbers) can tell you it's not worth it. I wrote my first book and made it as good as I could at the time but it was, after all, my FIRST book. Now I look back on it and see it's frankly "meh" and I'm considering re-writing it. I think you need that first book to be as sharp as possible to hook readers. If they like what you're doing, they'll tolerate some drop-off later on as you noted.
Maria is a lot more forgiving than I am. I gave up on Koontz and Patterson some time ago because I felt like Koontz got a little too pretentious and Patterson is too formulaic. But I'll never stop reading King.ReplyDelete
I would say to follow your conscience. If you know your book is utter crap, fix it. If you feel like it's a good story, don't labor as extensively over it. I don't believe you'd allow yourself to publish a book that you know deep down is shit.
Ann—So glad to hear from you! Seems we're in about the same place: my revision is taking too effing long, way longer than I thought. And not so hot for my mental health, either. But on I plod. For what? As you say, basically for my own satisfaction.ReplyDelete
I think genre fiction is much more about story than the quality of the prose. The prose can be mediocre but if the reader is hooked by the story, it doesn't matter. It's like when we start a movie on TV and realize halfway through it's terrible, but we finish it because we want to see how the story ends.ReplyDelete
That said, spending a month polishing like Joe says he does seems like a reasonable price to pay for a work that will be out there earning for years.
I have two words for you:ReplyDelete
The most powerful force in getting people to indulge in habits is intermittent reinforcement. It's actually MORE powerful than continual reinforcement.
What this means to you: you have to pay off for "I enjoyed reading that" at irregular intervals once you've established the habit of getting a reader to pay for your work.
This begins with the assumption that the extra time tinkering, fussing, and agonizing over the book actually makes it better. But I have also seen the opposite. There is an argument that (assuming you are doing your best to begin with) you can make the novel worse by overworking it. Authors (all artists, really) are often times the worst judges of their own work. The stuff we think is amazing can fail miserably with readers. The stuff we are sure is shit ends up getting the best reception.ReplyDelete
Here's a cool article that talks about this idea in more depth: https://thenextweb.com/contributors/2017/06/10/producemore/
Part of it is the whole "perfect being the enemy of good" thing.ReplyDelete
Under a pen name I wrote a bunch of novels by dictation. I hired someone to fix dragon's output, did a light rewrite and then used a proof-readers.
They sold like crazy. Books that I dictated in 15 hours. Maybe I spent 30 hours all up on them. One is on its way to $60K in earnings, so that's $2K an hour.
The books I slaved over, rewriting and running through various programs to identify word overuse, cutting adverbs and redundancies... they didn't make that money.
I've been reading a lot of LitRPG recently on Kindle and there are almost always errors. I keep reading them because they're fun and I'm there for the story. Readers are highly forgiving like this. At most you'll see "few grammatical errors but great story". It's only the truly dire books riddled with errors to the point of unreadable that get smacked down about it.
In the new eBook publishing landscape, speed is essential. I'm also not convinced high levels of revision and reworking does ultimately produce a better result. Sometimes I think the changes are only important in the mind of the author. When they write "tightened some elements" it's stuff no one cares about.
In fact, I think a decent story trumps pretty much anything. If it's cool and interesting then people will let a lot slide by.
The McDonald's comparison is apt. A lot of us authors are making fast food and pretending we're not.
Mat: great stuff.ReplyDelete
I think you need that first book to be as sharp as possible to hook readers. If they like what you're doing, they'll tolerate some drop-off later on as you noted.ReplyDelete
I agree, Dan. But the problem is that you never know which book is the first one a reader will pick up. Some have no problem starting with book #7 in a series if it is free or on sale. So with that theory, every book needs to be sharp.
I don't believe you'd allow yourself to publish a book that you know deep down is shit.
Maria went a step further and told me I couldn't write shit if I tried. Not because of a pride thing, but because at this point I know what works without thinking about it. Even if I tried to be bad on purpose, it would be because I know the rules I'm purposely breaking.
I've certainly turned in books with errors. I once had a pre-order that I finished at the last minute and had dozens of readers point out over 100 typos. But--and here's what blew my mind--not only did they forgive the typos, but gave me good reviews because they liked the story. I quickly fixed all the typos and apologized as best I could, but it didn't hurt the book sales.
The prose can be mediocre but if the reader is hooked by the story, it doesn't matter.
I agree, Mark. It can go the other way, too. Some people love clever prose even though the story isn't going anywhere (hello literary fiction).
My first goal is always to hook the reader. My second goal is to thrill them enough so they buy my other books and tell their friends.
Interesting take, Dak. Pavlov and gambling, eh?
Does that mean occasionally writing a bad book is good for authors?
Hmm. I can't name a single author where every book was awesome. Some are always better than others, for some reason. So maybe there is something there. But does that mean writers should try to be mediocre on purpose?
Rob, that link was worth following, and this quote really hit home for me:ReplyDelete
“Each creator is impotent to improve their chances of success with increased skill or maturity. The creative genius seems unable to determine which works will earn future applause. All the creator can confidently do is to exploit the odds by being productive.” – Dean Simonton
I've driven myself half-insane over the last five years trying to figure out why some books outsell others. I just don't understand it.
Under a pen name I wrote a bunch of novels by dictation.
I came really close to doing this once. Maybe I'll give it a go.
If it's cool and interesting then people will let a lot slide by.
That's true with more than just media, Dak. It's true with relationships, and with jobs, and with games and sports. A three hour MLB game only has 20 minutes of actual action. NFL football is 11 minutes.
Play a four hour game of monopoly with five people, and you were only playing for an hour of that time. The rest for the time you were watching others play.
I've kept shitty jobs because one part of the work fascinated me, and have acquaintances that won't ever be best friends but are interesting enough to talk to occasionally.
For a hyper-judgmental species, we certainly give a lot of things a free pass.
I write the kinds of books I want to read, and hope that others will like them to. I am my audience, and making them as good as I can is important to me. It's the same for me at my day job (software engineer).ReplyDelete
I'm concerned that the example of your wife is possibly an outlier. While the truly voracious readers may be more forgiving, those of us who get through fewer books in a year don't want to waste time with mediocre and certainly not shit. Even my wife, who _is_ a voracious reader, will dump a bad book as late as page 99. I don't think she bothers to keep track of authors, so it's possible she'll buy another one of their books, but I think that's more of an accident than a return to the familiar.
I can see that bookmarks handed out in venues where many others are handing them out wouldn't be useful. But for felicitous one-on-one interactions, I know of several cases where the bookmark (in my case, just a business card) was essential to the reader remembering the book title and my name in order to buy it.
But what do I know? Thirty percent of my readers still prefer Nook to Kindle.
I'm not sure you're wife is typical (!!) but I'm an avid Kindle reader and read lots of Kindle books, which is why I say stuff to the chap who does my covers like, 'It's got to look like the other five books they've just read of the same genre'. I was right; my post apocalyptic series with roads going into the distance and dark clouds and and all that shit on the covers is the most successful of all my books, generally (apart from the two I've recently had on BookBub featured deals, but that's not typical).ReplyDelete
I'm a Kindle reader, so I understand Kindle buyers. I like to think so, anyway...so, what I was getting round to saying is this: I LOVE the thing about the bookmarks, book signings, and whatever the other things was that I've forgotten - exactly!! You need to look at what would make YOU buy. Same as when you tweet a book... what would make YOU click that link?
The rest of this excellent article I want to read again and think about before commenting :)
I love this. Glad you're blogging again!ReplyDelete
I'm full-time, and doing well. But here's the thing: I wasn't a writer before, and I came into it to build a career, not necessarily because I "have a story to tell." I had a good idea for a story, then another, then another... and now it's a career.
But I think it's important to realize that the stuff you guys inherently know because you've been writers for as long as I've been alive *cough* is that I don't know those things, or if I do, I don't know them intuitively. I know what's "good enough," but I don't always see the ways my writing could be better when I go over it again. It's abundantly clear when I crack open my FIRST books from years ago, but not as much when I read through my current stuff. I don't see what a trained, long-time writer eye sees. I see what I, a mediocre writer IMO, sees.
I always want to get better, but I think it's important to realize, like Maria told you Joe, is that you couldn't write crap if you tried.
I, on the other, can absolutely write crap. So it's important for me to know that what is "good enough" for me might not be "good enough" for a readership that's used to a certain speed I'm churning out books.
I'm concerned that the example of your wife is possibly an outlier.ReplyDelete
She might be. And I might be, with this stance.
One of the cool things about having a blog is getting different opinions. Thanks for chiming in.
After writing 70+ books you can't write shit. It might not be stellar, but it won't be below a "C". The point you're making about readers sticking with you no matter what is very true. I recently asked my readers if they'd be okay with reading something tangential to what I normally write. They said they'd ready anything I put out. After 70+ books myself, I know I can't write shit. Maybe some are a "C", but ultimately readers don't care.ReplyDelete
I'm glad you're blogging again. Your blog is what motivated me to write my ass off to GTFO of my shitty day job. It took a year before I was making what I made at my day job. I've been full time now for over 5 years. So thank you. I hope you keep blogging more.
I don't read quite as much as Maria (I average 2 books/week) but oh boy, do I disagree with her! I drop series and authors ALL THE TIME. Even an author who a few years ago I would have told you was in my top-five all-time favorites -- his books drastically changed direction and I no longer have any interest in them, though I will admit I'd go back if someone I trust said they were more like his old stuff. (His name rhymes with Heave Samilton.) The authors I have stuck with -- Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, Peter Robinson, to name a few -- seem to make a real effort to make each book different and better than the last. My TBR pile is too large to read bad or even mediocre books; there's always a new author coming around the corner who I'm willing to take a chance on and hope he or she is creating my new favorite series.ReplyDelete
Yeah, I drop writers and series all the time. While story is my primary concern in genre fiction, I value quality prose enough that I won't tolerate a poor writer and I will select the good writers with good stories over the mediocre writers with good stories.ReplyDelete
And for whatever reason I never feel compelled to complete a series. I love Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim books but I'm about three books behind now and I haven't read one in 2-3 years. Elmore Leonard may be my favorite genre writer ever yet I still haven't read all his books. I just don't feel in any hurry. And I like to switch to different authors rather than gobble up five books in a row by the same writer.
With so much online content (like this!), news articles, & just googles and googles of things I’m constantly looking up online, you’re competing for my attention and valuable time. And producing said Shit just to say you did is a WASTE of my valuable time.ReplyDelete
I don’t get to read for pleasure (fiction) anywhere NEAR as often as I used to, so I’m especially picky about good writing if I bother. And I don’t think I’m in the minority.
I don’t even buy most books: I check them out at the library. I buy ebooks when they’re cheap. I believe most Americans have a short attention span; I’m loyal but - regardless of reviews - if I feel an author is just snoozing thru it and the book feels tired, I have no loyalty. Mostly because I have no time.
But I’ll make time for the ones who continue to give a shit.
Incidentally, you obviously do give a shit, Joe, because your work ISN’T garbage, and you’ve been contemplating & discussing this for a couple of years now, unlike some other successful writers who just quietly churn out crapola. And you obviously love writing.ReplyDelete
My comments are not meant to sound harsh but rather to reflect the me-oriented society of readers. And I do think a lot of folks have little patience for authors who don’t care.
I hope you keep blogging more.ReplyDelete
Thx, Liv. I think I will. I've got a few things left to say.
I drop series and authors ALL THE TIME.
Yeah, I drop writers and series all the time.
if I feel an author is just snoozing thru it and the book feels tired, I have no loyalty.
Hey Sue, Mark, and Crystal. Thanks for commenting.
I still haven't finished Cari Mora by Thomas Harris. 84 reviews, and 40% of them are 1 star.
But I'd still pick up his next book. And it debuted at #3 on the NYT Bestseller List.
A related topic to this, and one that may be worth exploring, is how much bad reviews hurt sales. Janet Evanovich's latest book was written with her son (something I endorse) but 37% of her reviews are 1 star.
Yet, people are buying. And I bet they'll buy the next in the series.
A bad book doesn't seem to stop some readers. And bad word of mouth doesn't seem to stop them either. Maria doesn't even look at reviews. If it's an author she recognizes, and it's in KU, she gets it. If it's a new author, and the cover looks professional, and the synopsis is intriguing, she'll download the KU version. If she's buying, she'll spend up to seven bucks, but only if the author is a favorite.
I spent $18 on the hardcover of Cari Mora because I have Harris's other books in hardcover first editions. Then I spent another $15 to buy it on Kindle, because I need the backlight and the large font.
I dunno what this says about either of us, but apparently we differ from many of the comments here.
I think quality, like truth, is in the eye of the beholder. But for me, I couldn't release a book without making it as good as it could be. But that's the rub. How good is that? Will another 1/3/12 months of revisions actually make it better? I don't think so. My readers love my characters the way they love sitcom characters, and as you say Joe, folks will stick with Everybody Loves Ray until the jokes are moldy, because they love the characters. And the feedback from my editors is that the characters glow right from the first draft. The plots could be more intricate, have more twists etc, but that would be making a B book into an A, for no return.ReplyDelete
And no, your wife is not an outlier in her following of authors even through average work. Go read 10 new legacy pubbed bestsellers with more than 10 books in the backlist. One or two will still shine. Most are just good to okay, the average product of experienced writers.
It's great to see your blogs again. As always, you give us a bunch of things to mull over. For me, it's very timely as I'm wondering how hard to work at one of my earlier books which is languishing on my computer and demanding to be published.ReplyDelete
I'm thinking that the Pareto Principle might be useful here. Find the 20% of things which glare at you from re-reading your book and fix only them. They provide 80% of the problems and there may be no need to tackle the 80% of the rest of the book. It sounds good in theory anyway.
Fascinating blog, Joe. I'm thinking now WHY I buy certain books. When it's an author I love, price is no deterrent, because my reading time is so limited and I want to squeeze every second of joy out of it that I can. The next is recommendation from a reader whose opinion I respect. And sometimes, a title will demand that I buy the book. THE CHOIRING OF THE TREES made me a lifelong fan of Donald Harington. But I'm not the reader that most writers want because I don't have time to read a lot. The voracious reader has a whole different set of priorities because they read so many books that price is very relevant. As a writer, though, and an old one, I have to work on the book until I feel it's as good as I can make it. If only I had that obsessive-compulsive attitude toward house cleaning!ReplyDelete
I can see your point, Joe. I read a lot of books, and I keep trying to convince myself to just write whatever crap as fast as I can, since my main genre, PA fiction, is full of shit that gets sales and rave reviews. But I can't bring myself to do it. I may be writing crap, but it's not on purpose. :D I read these books and wonder why they're doing so well. It's not the story. There may be a glimmer of a good story, but it's not utilized well, usually so sketchy that I can't find anything that would surpass the poor writing.ReplyDelete
Oh, well. I'm just going to continue to do my best, and maybe one day I'll get the right book out and people will start reading more of my stuff.
Glad to see you're blogging again. Finding your blog was what made me realize this self publishing thing I kept seeing online could actually work. Thanks for being there, Joe.
I started reading this blog long ago when JA Konrath was the lonely voice in the wilderness of Amazon self pub.ReplyDelete
That got me to read the first book, can't remember what, now I have read most Jack Daniels and most of the Killborn books. I'm firstly a fantasy reader, then SF then thriller and then horror.
I'm an unpublished (not even self published) author that have followed another big voice in the Amazon self pub area, Michael Anderle with the 200BooksTo50K Facebook group for a while. Have anyone here looked at his story and what they are doing in the group?
One of their big things is in how amazon promotes new books to see if they make money and how long they do that if the book sells. A new book, if the title and blurb and everything is good enough to sell typically don't get any love from amazon after 30 days and if varies by genre.
A lot of people on the group have shown that you make a lot more money if you can release books 28 or 30 days apart. (not the only way to make money, but it helps a lot) Some people are all out for rapid release where books are often a week apart, and yes some of that is pre-written, books are not written and edited in a week, but release a week apart.
So that talks to one part of the story, releasing more often typically makes more money.
Looking at what Chris Fox, and Michael Anderle say about quality, you need to have your book edited and it needs to be good, but the story and characters are more important than prose. Also, the more you do this the better your first draft becomes. Think about it, if it is your 10th or 20th book with the same character, there will be a lot of characters that you already know, already have character sheets and your planning should be shorter.
Another thing is how Michael's editing works. He has by now a decent size publishing company with other authors standalone work and their collaborations being done through them so he has editors employed full time and he has a very interesting beta reader setup, which gets him to have a completely edited book a few days after he finish writing.
It does seem that there is lots of ways to improve speed without sacrificing quality too much. But a lot of it comes down to your personal process and happiness with what you produce.
P.S. The importance of prose vs story vs characters does vary by genre and some are much less forgiving of bad prose, or editing faults.
Can't help but notice this blog post has some shit in it--it's overwritten, and has a typo. But I read every word! Except the ones I skimmed....ReplyDelete
By the way, Joe, I spotted ENDURANCE at Walmart today. Livermore, CA.
Great to see the open sign on your blog again Joe. Missed reading this. As a writer of 35 novels 31 published now averaging 4 out of 5 stars on-line I've always follows Stephen King's writing technique. Two story drafts and a polish. For me this can take 6 to 8 weeks in total. My books are lean though, fast paced and cinematic, (I've been told). What I never try to do is drop a turd on the reader. Never compromise man. Keep it honest and fuck the cash!!! Just do it!ReplyDelete
I think quality, like truth, is in the eye of the beholderReplyDelete
True, AJ. But there can be an agreed-upon minimum standard of quality. I love bad movies. Really bad ones. They entertain, but for the wrong reasons.
With fiction, that's harder to do, because the story plays out in your head. If it isn't written well enough to engage the imagination, and doesn't check off all the elements needed for a narrative, you might as well read the dictionary. Or the ingredients list on a cereal box.
I can string a few sentences together to make a point, and I have a decent concept of narrative structure, character arc, and plot beats. But I think I still spend too much time trying to fine tune. Especially when there seems to be no correlation with my (or anyone's) perception of quality and which books become huge hits.
Find the 20% of things which glare at you from re-reading your book and fix only them.ReplyDelete
But when does that end? Let's say on the first read-through I find some errors. I fix them. Then I do another read-through, and find some other, smaller errors. Those comparatively smaller errors are now the largest errors.
At what point do I stop doing more adjusting? At what point is it diminishing returns? One read-through after the first draft? Two read-throughs? Three? What if I think I'm done and a beta reader points out that something could be improved, but with significant changes?
I'm far from being a perfectionist. But I also feel like I could be doing better financially, almost as well critically, and overall happier, if I lowered my own standards a bit...
But I'm not the reader that most writers want because I don't have time to read a lot.ReplyDelete
Actually, you ARE the reader that most writers want. We can all sell to our fans and to voracious readers. To be a hit, a writer needs to reach the reader who reads 1 book a year while on vacation.
If you can be the writer of THAT book, you can make a mint. And quality may not matter much...
That’s precisely my point: you DO have to be better for that once/year reader. Quality does matter more to that person than to someone who reads 5 books a week.Delete
It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just not garbage. The middle ground.
I read these books and wonder why they're doing so well.ReplyDelete
Maddening, ain't it?
So that talks to one part of the story, releasing more often typically makes more money.ReplyDelete
I dunno. Doesn't make sense to me to sit on a book ready to publish and holding off on publication until you have several to release at one week periods.
But I'm skeptical about how much Amazon helps books sell. Yes, it has recommendations, and ads, and bestseller lists, and Gaughran talks a lot about the Popularity list. But why do some books take off? More will always be better, obviously. And faster releases beat slower releases. But where do the big hits come from, and how, and why?
By the way, Joe, I spotted ENDURANCE at Walmart today. Livermore, CA.ReplyDelete
It's nice to be in Walmart.
It's nicer to not be in Walmart because Walmart sold out of your books.
There's only one key flaw I see with your new theory--what if the first book from a new author that your wife reads isn't good? I bet she doesn't go back for more then?ReplyDelete
You only have one chance to make a great first impression. If you lower the quality bar too much, you run the risk that they won't come back after that first book--and that your reviews will be riddled with comments about lack of editing, reads like a first draft, and so on.
There's only one key flaw I see with your new theory--what if the first book from a new author that your wife reads isn't good?ReplyDelete
Agreed. And though, with a series, many start on Book #1, many also start on Book #What's Free or on Sale, in which case you lost a potential repeat customer if the book is meh.
But why do many meh books get four stars?
I think that what I, as an author, think is good, doesn't equate with what many readers think is good. That goes both ways. I get 1 star reviews on all of my books. The books are well edited and formatted, have no glaring errors, and I know enough about narrative that I'm sure they hit the mark I was aiming for. But some people just don't like them, even though it isn't because of quality, but rather because of subjective personal taste and opinion.
I cannot make someone like my book, no matter how hard I work at it.
Quality does matter more to that person than to someone who reads 5 books a week.ReplyDelete
I dunno, Crystal. That person who reads 1 book a year on vacation usually reads a bestseller. And a lot of those perennial bestsellers really aren't well written. Some are really well done; I'm not speaking from envy here. But others phone it in, and thousands of reviews say the same thing. Yet that's the 1 book the once a year reader picks up.
Joe, at Killer Nashville last year you told us that we shouldn't spend time or money on anything that doesn't work on us- swag, bookmarks, ads, etc. Since then I tell others this- though not everyone wants to hear it, because they're searching for ANYTHING which might sell, and they don't know what else to do. Many writers are driving themselves crazy looking for more sales. I don't market well, or chase sales, so I don't sell as many as good marketing authors-- though I believe I'm much happier in my path than most.ReplyDelete
Everyone gets to choose their own adventure in this new world of publishing. I do take time to write good books. When a tradpub person says that all that Indie stuff is crap, I can hold up my work for a solid challenge against most midlist tradpub mystery and short story writers.
It can be a choice between running a fast-food chain place or a nice restaurant. You can probably make more pushing the fast-food. If that's your gig, fine. Dean Wesley Smith has been beating the drum for writing a lot and quickly, and not rewriting. He seems to be doing well with that model.
As for sub-par works, I drop authors when they don't measure up, and don't finish many books, due to lackluster or bad writing, no interest in the story or characters, nothing happening that I care about. I was a fan of Dan Simmons, then after tossing 3 of his books aside after a chapter or two, he's off the reading list. I'm into quality-only now, and still manage to find a lot of really good fiction. And I recommend good authors to others, and promote the good stuff. Maybe I'm the outlier. :-)
This is an interesting observation. For me, this goes against the “don’t do anything that doesn’t work on me” rule. I’m a heavy reader (not quite as much as your wife, but about 150 books a year), and I try a lot of new-to-me authors. But it takes a lot for me to even pick up book 2 in a series. Maybe I found the characters pretty interesting, and the plot kind of compelling, but I’m not going to commit to a series for a “kind of.” There are too many other books out there to read. Even once I get further into a series, one or two disappointing books and I’m usually done. I might remember the series every so often and think, “Hmm, I should give that author another chance,” but with all the other books on my list, and the memory of the book I disliked fresher than my memory of any of their other books, it never becomes a priority.ReplyDelete
I’m guessing your wife’s approach is relatively common, though, given the way Amazon has been marketing to me. A couple of years ago I read book 1 in a sci-fi series. It was mediocre, but I had loved the author’s previous series, so I was willing to chalk it up to a rough start. Book 2 was excellent! Book 3 was... okay. When book 4 didn’t improve, I gave up; I’m not even sure I finished the book. So I guess in that case it took me two-and-a-half subpar books for me to give up, which is a lot for me – without the very enjoyable book 2 and the previous series, I wouldn’t have spent that much time. Two years later and Amazon is still trying to shove the rest of that series down my throat, along with the author’s latest series. It’s driving me a bit batty, although at this point I’m honestly curious to see how long it will take for Amazon to get the hint that I don’t want to read these books.
Joe, this is an excellent post. Welcome back, and if you've been back awhile, sorry I'm late.ReplyDelete
This right here: "I think I need to get out of my own way, stop letting perfect be the enemy of good, and see what happens." - Brilliant! Joe, I've missed you! This is exactly what I needed to hear!ReplyDelete
You see this all the time in all kinds of media. When you build an IP, or series, the first one has to catch your audience, maybe the first two. After that, you can absolutely phone it in and consumers will still finish it, or at least enough people will finish it that you'll make much more by just phoning it in. You're emotionally invested in these characters, in the world, in the stories, and it did impress at one point.ReplyDelete
This means the most important thing for a series, any series, is having the first (or first few) books/episodes/movies be the best they can be. You can phone it in after that.
When you start a new IP, you can leverage your fame and that past desire for your previously appreciated good work by putting your artist name on it, and people may give it a shot again (even, as you noted, if it's in a different genre, or just wildly and totally different from the past).
If you're a new artist, and you want to build this IP portfolio, you have to basically churn out stuff until you get your first 'hit', it really has to be a stand-alone or ideally the first book in a series, then you can spend less time on the sequels.
If the series itself isn't as big as you'd like, you have kill it off (maybe end it as reasonably quick as you can) and try again with a fresh IP, or idea. Again, that new IP or idea has the be the good one.
We are definitely creatures of habit that find it difficult to let go of past glories, and entertainment, unlike food, doesn't give us physical indigestion, so it is much more tolerable when it is merely okay. Hope springs eternal, and we always hope the latest piece of phoned in trash shows some of the brilliance that the first works that captured our hearts did.
So in summary, it's not how great your grand finale at the end of the series was in your final book, it's how good your first one was, and how fast and how long you can keep on churning out average extensions for people now invested.
Great to see you back, Joe.ReplyDelete
I'm like you; I can't let a book go if I feel it's sub-par. But you've certainly given me something to think about!
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I hear you on this one.ReplyDelete
I've written a few books and the early ones suffered a bit from poor editing and a lack of writing skill. Over time, I managed to do much, much better in both regards.
But those early books SOLD. Now, with highly polished works (comparatively, of course. About the level of good Big Five works, only not as boring.) I find that people respond to them...
In exactly the same fashion. Maybe, possibly, my reviews kicked up a half star. (I have a high review average, so there is only so much that can be done that way!) But sales have dropped, since KU came into being. I'm all in on it and my page reads show that my books are still being read, but KU is HORRIBLE for helping things to catch on fire. It's a slow burn, with the placement in the algorithm slowly improving as each reader does their thing.
So, would I be better off writing a book a week or every two and just doing what editing I can fit in? Is volume the new king of the literary world?
I don't know. I just spent a long time reworking, rewriting and editing six of my first books, then republished them. Six books at once... They're selling. It's nothing special.
Would it be better if I had six brand new books? Should I wait at least a year before a sequel comes out on anything? Again, I have no clue.
But I really do get how you're feeling here, Joe.
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As I've gotten older I've become super judgemental about the books I read. If I don't like it fairly quickly, I'll put it down. If it's a genre or specific "thing" I really want to read, I'll give it a much stronger pass before putting it down.ReplyDelete
I also don't read many mystery or thriller books... Or if they are, it's a fantasy mystery or a sci-fi thriller.
As a new and unpublished novelist, I'm very cautious about putting out crap. I reread my first real attempt at writing from 2012 and it is BAD. Like BAD BAD. Most of the characters sound the same and don't have distinct voices. I'm not sure it's publishable. I'm not sure I could get away with publishing it.
My newer work is significantly better and I've written it on and off for over two years now. I'm getting to the point where I'm revising it as fast as I can and then publishing. It's actually dragging me down in a way, because I have so many more other ideas. At a certain point, it's a "shitty first book" and I'm better off starting on another project or the sequel.