5

I just finished writing the first draft of my novel. (BTW, this is my first)

As luck would have it, something just popped up in the news which is directly related to my story. The topic has been trending on Google for months and is still going strong. But the problem is that I was planning on spending the next 2 years editing. My book isn't ready for release. Not by far.

Here's the options I've brainstormed so far:

  • Start a blog and build a readership I can later market my book to (but the blog will require a time commitment and pull me away from my novel, delaying the release even further)
  • Release an average to above-average novel now... and a second edition in 2 years
  • Split my book into 4 parts (100-150 pages each). Release one book every six months
  • Sigh and say this wasn't meant to be (doing some research, I estimate it will take 10-20 years for this topic to start trending again)
  • Quit my job and get this book out there now (haha)

Any advice on what I should do?

  • What's the trending topic? – Chris Sunami May 10 at 18:11
9

Finish your book, make it the best you can, move on to the next

95% of the time, first novels are garbage. First drafts of first novels, even more so.

Now, it's possible that you're an exception, and you have managed to produce something that is good enough to ride the crest of the trend to reasonable sales. As an anonymous internet person, I have no way to tell. But the odds are not in your favor. It's far more likely that your novel will end up in the vast pool of other mediocre works trying to cash in on the trend. (The fact that you started the story before the trend began is immaterial - the audience has no way of judging that, and wouldn't care even if they could.)

10-20 years isn't a bad timeline.

It can take decades for an author to jumpstart their career. And for plenty of authors, it isn't their first published novel that makes it big. Continue writing novels and improving your craft, and by the time this topic comes around again, you'll be prepared to publish your story as the masterpiece it deserves to be.

3

I agree with Arcanist Lupus on this.

If you release an unedited novel, even if the trending subject does drive extra readers in your direction, a few one-star reviews on poor grammar, spelling, and sentence structure will soon drive the rest away. And those one-star reviews don't go away (unless you re-publish and start again).

If the subject is still going strong, you could find an editor who can do a developmental edit, copy edit, and proofread in a short time. And while that's happening, you could get a cover designer on the case also.

But you will regret rushing and skipping these steps and pay for it down the line.

Also, blogging is generally no longer considered to be the best traffic driver for fiction. You're better off with Facebook ads, Amazon Marketing Services ads, and BookBub ads to drive traffic to a novel.

Good luck!

  • 1
    Although, as a prolific reader, I don't have Facebook and have no idea what AMS and BookBub are... so, horses for courses. – Spagirl May 10 at 12:27
  • Hi @Spagirl, forgive me, I'm not grasping your point. Do you mean Caspian should blog? Or do you mean Caspian should release an un-edited novel? If you have alternative advice for him/her you can post your suggestions. Everything on here is horses for courses, that's the whole point of voting up if a contributor agrees. I'm only one person and this is just my humble opinion. Caspian neither has to listen to it, take it, or vote for it. – GGx - Reinstate Monica Cellio May 10 at 12:50
  • As a self-published author, Caspian would be doing him/herself a disservice not to get to grips with FB advertising and Amazon Marketing Services (AMS). And Bookbub is one of a writer's most effective advertising tools. This is just standard advice for any self publisher. – GGx - Reinstate Monica Cellio May 10 at 12:50
  • I didn't mean that Caspian should or shouldn't do anything in particular. If pressed, I suppose my point was twofold: Firstly that self publishing can become an insular merry-go-round and that doing what everyone does only punts your work to the same readers as everyone else and; many potential readers are not reachable by those channels. And secondly that it might be more helpful to be more explicit about what the course you are advising is rather than assuming knowledge. But I'm not looking for an argument about anything. – Spagirl May 10 at 13:01
  • @Spagirl In my personal experience, traditional publishing was far more insular than the indie world. It's actually an incredibly warm, open, friendly and helpful environment. The many readers who aren't on FB or shopping on Amazon can be reached by a plethora of other methods and it's no longer difficult to get your books into libraries and bookstores. The indie world is changing at such a rate it's overtaken the trad industry. – GGx - Reinstate Monica Cellio May 10 at 13:09
3

Don't try to chase trends.

Everyone wants to be the next best thing. The perfectly timed topical hit. If that works out for you, great. But don't try to make it happen.

Even if you finished your book next week, it's too late. The topic may have been around for months, but it will be gone by the time you get published. If not gone, then it will be coming at the end of the news cycle when readers are already tired of it.

If the topic really is that strong, it could easily have a resurgence in a couple of years. Maybe triggered by the release of your book, though I wouldn't count on that.

Let your publisher decide about marketing angles. If you're self-publishing, then worry about that when the book is completely 100% done and being released. A hot news cycle at the time of release might change the timing or marketing slightly, but that's it.

It might be different for nonfiction but your work is a novel. A well-written novel transcends news cycles. A well-written novel can also be 8-18 years old when it gets a reader surge due to sharing its subject with something in the news.

Just finish the novel and try to get it published. Let news cycles do their thing without worrying about them.

3

From experience, just hitting a pop-culture trend head-on isn't necessarily going to make people read your book. Keep in mind, when a trend is hitting, there's plenty of competition. The people who strike it big in those situations are the ones who were solidly ahead of the trend in the first place. So you may be overestimating this opportunity, even in the scenario of a 100% ready book.

With that said, it sounds like you're self-publishing. If that's the case, there's little downside to serializing your book online, one chapter at a time, either on a blog you create for that purpose, or on the best pre-existing platform you can place yourself on. Of course, you won't want to do this unless you're confident of the quality of each chapter as you publish it. Given that, however, you can catch the trend, build an audience, get early feedback, and still publish a completed, polished-up book at the end of the process. Traditional publishers tend to be much more wary of work that has already appeared in one form or another, but if the work is popular enough online, a traditional publisher will have no qualms about snapping it up. At one time, it was common for novels to first appear in serialized form --nearly all Charles Dickens' work first appeared that way --and it seems like this is making a comeback in the internet age.

It's too early for me to give a report back on the outcomes, but I'm actually doing this right now with a timely non-fiction book that I wasn't able to place with a publisher. Instead of bottom drawering it, I'm serializing it online on a well-known professional blog. There, I have the advantage of the host blog's platform and audience. If it does well enough there I'll either try again with the publishers, or potentially even self-publish. (Meanwhile, I'm getting paid per installment --the most income I've made from my writing in years.)

1

There seems to be a consensus here.

If you release it now when you know it is not ready, anyone who reads it will think this is the best you can offer. Should you publish another, the readers of the first will eschew your second knowing the quality of your writing.

They might even post reviews - if it is anything like the first, save your money and time.

Consider, once it is out there, you want people to read it and enjoy it. Tie ins with current events are interesting, but can also seem opportunistic. Readers don’t like that and you might misrepresent yourself as the literary equivalent of an ambulance chaser.

Write the book and finish it. Perfect it as much as you can. I have a WiP that is possibly three volumes that I have yet to format - too busy writing. I joined a writers group and sent the first 18 pages for critique (which has amounted to ‘wow’) so I know mine is readable.

Once you have it right and it is something that you cannot remove one more word without thinking of Mozart’s reply to the criticism ‘too many notes’ - then publish. If that is five years from now, so be it.

Also, you mention this is your first. First novels are rarely great. Harper Lee’s Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I know my first attempt at a novel will never be read - not worth it. What I am working on now is my fifth so at least three novels exist purely as an educational exercise. My fourth could use some work, but maybe. My fifth I am confident is something that I would have bought to read had someone else written it. Even so, I understand the odds are long and certainly not in my favour.

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