As you can tell by the title of this post, I’m writing today about what’s next (for me as a writer) and why one shouldn’t publish their first book. Although I’m going to write about these issues in the reverse order of how I have them in the title, you’ll soon see that they go hand-in-hand.
Now that I’ve finished publishing a complete trilogy, I can honestly say that there are a lot of things I’ve learned about writing and publishing novels (another blog topic for another day). One of the most important things I’ve learned that I would like to expound upon today, however, is that I believe that the most (if not all) self-published authors should NOT publish their first novel.
I know, I know. Before you start showering me with your WTFs and your OMFGs let me explain.
When I say that most indie authors shouldn’t publish their first novel, I don’t necessarily mean all of the time…but I definitely mean something pretty darn close to it.
I am currently in the process of whipping up a second edition of the first novel in my trilogy, Agents of Change. Essentially, this is a fancy way (for me, anyway) of saying that I’m fixing just about every bad thing about the book that I and my readers have (repeatedly) identified.
I was driven to do this because I feel that the second and third books in the trilogy are so much better than Change that Change doesn’t really deserve them. I feel that it would be a shame for people to miss out on two good books because they couldn’t stomach the first one. (And I’m not trying to toot my own horn here…my reviews back up my claims.)
In retrospect, I didn’t know what I was doing when I wrote Change, though I definitely thought I did at the time, which I’m sure many of you feel or have felt while writing your first novel. That’s not to say that the book was horrendous; it has its share of positive reviews. But what I mean when I say that I didn’t know what I was doing was that, no matter how many steps I took to polish it (three rounds of edits, beta readers, a proofreader), it was never going to be the great book that I am now trying to re-publish as a second edition.
Why is that?
Well, I’m a firm believer in Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that it takes the average human being 10,000 hours of practice to master anything. After writing, editing and publishing three novels, I’m still not close to having written for 10,000 hours (so I wouldn’t dare call myself a “master writer”) but I’m a much better novelist than I was when I wrote Change.
As I go through and polish Change for the second edition, I just shake my head and ask “What was I thinking?”
At times the prose was choppy; the dialogue was stilted; the protagonist, described as debonair and mature, was snarky to the point of immaturity; and there was a massive info dump in the second chapter of the book. Through re-reading the book and reading its reviews, these are all things I didn’t consider when I set down to write for the first time and are things I’ve come to grips with, causing me to delve into this idea of a second edition (which is certainly allowable, if not encouraged in the indie world).
So, my advice to all you neophyte indie authors out there: If you’re planning a trilogy or series (one that you’d like for people to consider your signature work), hold that idea and save it for later. Write a different story, perhaps a standalone novel that you may very well intend to publish at some point but don’t mind releasing after a few extra months if not years of scrutiny.
Use this standalone as a “throw away” book. Take that time as you write it to master the art of writing. Embrace the process more than the end result–if you can’t do that, you may need to ask yourself if you’re in the right biz. And, by any means necessary, see the book through to completion. When I say “completion,” know that I mean that the book has been written, edited, beta read, etc. but not published.
Then, after you’ve completed that first book, start working on your trilogy or series. Trust me, it will get your series started on the right foot…you won’t regret it.
So what’s next for me?
I hope to have the second edition published sometime in August. It won’t be labeled as a “second edition” in ebook format since ebooks can always be changed with little ramifications, but I’ll have to actually publish it as a second edition (with a new ISBN) in paperback format since the number of pages will be different.
After that, I plan to embark on my first foray into the young adult category with a post-apocalyptic novel called Nuclear Winter, the first book of a trilogy. The details surrounding this story will be a pleasant surprise for some, I think/hope. And I’m currently working with a graphic artist for the trilogy’s cover art. I hope to unveil Nuclear Winter’s cover sometime in late August, early September.
Until then, happy reading my friends!