Recently, I listened to the podcast Sidedoor put out by the Smithsonian Institution. The episode was about the E.T. Video game put out by Atari in 1983. This game was determined to be the “worst video game in history” and resulted in Atari not knowing what to do with thousands (or maybe even millions) of unsold game cartridges. They found a great place to put them, by the way.
The reason this game was so bad? The development was a rush job. The executives at Atari were so greedy that they didn’t take into consideration that quality mattered. All they wanted to do was slap a game together in time for the Christmas sales in the early ‘80s.
Their plan backfired. As I listened to this episode, I couldn’t help but think that this is a morality tale for those writers who rush to publish. It doesn’t matter what creative work we do, whether it’s poetry, novels, or video games based on famous movies, if we don’t take the time to create it with skill and patience, we are disrespecting our field, insulting our readers and possibly making a mess in the desert. A rush job, the poor quality, the lack of respect, the short-sighted goal of a fast buck, is not the way to make art.
How can you keep your self-published novel from being a financial disaster and figuratively winding up in a hole in the desert? Try these things:
1. Understand that a first draft is never a final draft. It’s not even close.
2. Get involved in a critique group or find other experienced writers who can read your work and offer suggestions.
3. Read books on craft and apply what you’re reading about to your work.
4. Go to conferences or take classes. Invest in yourself. You probably have more than one book in you, so learn how to make the next one amazing.
5. Don’t assume that just because other writers are making money publishing quickly that you can too. Regardless of what you may have heard from some, this is a hard, hard business and there are far more failures than successes.
6. Be wary of any publisher or press that wants you to rush into publishing. Many of them are predatory and are looking to take advantage of writers who only see dollar signs. Don’t make a commitment to any organization who expects you to pay for publishing.
7. TAKE. YOUR. TIME. If you want to add to the chorus of literary voices, be respectful of the art of creative writing. Your readers will love you all the more for it.