Value Added Writer


Posted On Jul 9 2014 by
indy writer
Photo courtesy of Flickr creative commons – leanforward photos

Here’s how my brain is functioning these days:

I’ve been chasing the publishing dream for about ten years now. Typical of the part-time writer. My observations have been thus:

1. It takes anywhere from a few months to a few years to write a novel.
2. It takes about a month or so to write a synopsis, craft a letter, and submit to an agent.
3. It takes an agent up to six months to respond.
4. You will repeat steps 2 and 3 quite often until you get a positive response.
5. The agent will submit your book to publishers.
6. It will take anywhere from a few months to a few years to get a positive response.
7. Even then, there’s a real good chance that your book will get cut from the short list before publication.
8. If you make it through all that, it will take at least a year before your book is released.
9. Oh, and you’ll be making changes requested by the publisher in the meantime.

Now, none of this is bad, necessarily. It’s simply the way the system works. Agents get thousands of submissions every month, as do publishers. There is simply no way to make anything happen fast.

But that doesn’t mean we have to participate in that system.

Value Added is a term applied in manufacturing. It means that this activity adds to the value of the product (in a rare case when businessspeak means exactly what it says). When a worker attaches a mirror to the car on the assembly line, it’s value added. The inspector checking for defects is not value added. Is he any less important? No. We need those inspectors to keep our good image with the customer.

Among my 9 steps above, only number 1, and possibly 9, are value added. Agents and publishers and all their activities are vital, but they don’t add anything to the product. You, the author, will spend a minimum of two years from the moment you type THE END until your book sees a shelf. Hopefully, you kept writing while waiting, but what do you write? Do you continue the series if you haven’t heard anything? Do you even remain in that genre?

The indy, on the other hand, has the advantage of speed and a strong desire to eat. He will look at steps 2 through 8 and say, “I can spend all that time writing the next book.” And he does. He finishes a book, edits, gets a cover, and uploads it. From the beginning of project to end is six months if you’re an average writer. If you write one hour per day you can easily write two books per year. The more hours, the more books.

Here’s the math: 1000 words per hour x 260 working days = 260,000 words = about 3 books.

I love math. If you think you cannot write 1000 words in an hour, stick around, I have plenty to say about that.

So when I say that I have an hour at lunch and two hours every evening to write and that I’ll write six books per year, I’m not crazy. Tired, but not crazy.

I say all this because I want to make it clear that I harbor no hard feelings toward the publishing industry. But every author must decide how their time is best used. While self-publishing is not the easy route, it does allow you to focus on the value added, on the writing.

For me, a guy with an engineering\business mind working in lovely harmony with his creative mind, it’s a simple argument:

Do I spend hundreds of hours querying, synopsisizing, making one-sheets (huge groan), submitting, submitting, submitting, making changes, etc., or do I write.

Yes, I’ll do my own marketing. Guess what? I would with a trad publisher anyway. I’ll have to have my own cover designed and hire an editor. Those two items will cost less than the average writer’s conference (I’ll still go to those because they’re just fun and I still have to learn writer stuff).

But 80% of my efforts will be value added, as opposed to 40% with the trad route.

Will I ever go with a trad publisher? I have no idea. But after writing a dozen self-pubbed books and establishing a readership, I’ll have a lot more say about what goes into that contract. And I won’t be the desperate new author willing to sign away his favorite napping couch just to see his name on a book cover.

It’s time to re-invent the way we (the talent) think about publishing. It’s our work. Our price. Our show.

Stick around. And be sure to watch my daily posts with my progress report (I wrote over the long weekend, but didn’t post). Trust me, my friends, there’s room in this business for every single author who wants to work hard.

Write big or stay home.

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Last Updated on: July 9th, 2014 at 6:08 am, by Ron


Written by Ron

Just about everything I believe has been shaped by the written word. But books don't force a belief; they stir the imagination so that you, the reader, eventually draw your own conclusions. We grow richer in spirit when we read, deeper in our understanding of the universe and our role in it. That's why I read. That's why I write. To offer you a bit of myself. Come along on my journey, won't you? There's plenty of room.


3 responses to “Value Added Writer

  1. You make a great point, Ron. Have you finished Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k yet? My goodness, I gobbled it up, and with the information in that book, you can create a system that is 100% Value Added (by the way, I think your three-project rotation method is brilliant and have now adopted it).

    • I’m about halfway through it, John. She confirms a lot of what I already do and adds some new ideas. Essentially, the key is to know what you’re going to write before you sit down and block out distractions. I don’t think she uses my rotation method, but she does juggle multiple projects. I’ll have to post my spreadsheet with my projects scheduled out. My goal is to have five books on the chart at all times, so I’ll know what’s coming. Of course that will be easy if I write a series, but I’d like to keep a rotation of YA and Middle Grade books going. Thanks for the reply. Let’s make some words!

      • I’ve found similar validation as I read, too. I think being on the cusp of a new project is great too. The one thing I’ve found the most impacting so far is her simple suggestion with your major characters: add 1) I love 2) I hate 3) more than anything, I want. I started doing that with the story I’m working now and wow did it ever grow! Her suggestions allow a fractal approach to drafting, something I tried to a point in my previous attempt, except I couldn’t see a way to restrain myself beyond the scene notes – I went in and did the writing, then ran into all kinds of snarls. Essentially, it’s about efficient time use, not rushing, which has given me hope and I’m already seeing some results.
        Happy writing! Looking forward to hearing more.