A Christian speed metal band used to emblazon their logo with the words, Faster for the Master. As if musical MPH was virtuous. The successful Amazon Kindle author could probably adopt that saying for their own. Only, in their case, the Master is the market and the faster they write, the more the market is “pleased” with their service.
A writing friend of mine recently signed a contract with Amazon for a YA Urban Fantasy trilogy. But unlike the tradpub business, which has been known to stretch trilogies out for years (and stretch thick novels into trilogies), Amazon wants my writer friend to crank out all three novels in one year. That’s right:
Three novels in one year!
Apparently, it’s a sign of the times.
In his article, Why zombie ebooks are killing it on Kindle, Simon Owens provides some insight into the real success behind some Kindle authors. He uses novelist Jeremy Laszlo as an example. Like many authors, Laszlo became disillusioned with his slog through the submission process, eventually writing off traditional publishing altogether. After researching some successful indie authors, and using Amazon’s self-publishing tool for Kindle, Laszlo dove in and found a niche: writing zombie novels. But the author had been learning something other than just finding a popular niche market. Fellow zombie novelist, Bobby Adair, illustrates what is becoming a key to the success of indie authors: Cranking out stories.
Adair wrote his first zombie novel in six weeks. After tinkering with pricing and promotions, within two months of releasing his first zombie novel, he released his second. Apparently, this is the “model” many indie authors are discovering: Faster for the Master.
Obviously, this model only works if you’re willing to write a series, and more importantly, write it quickly. If you were to release a free book and not follow up with a sequel until a year later, by then most of those readers will have forgotten you. This means pumping out a new book every two or three months. Many of the authors I spoke to said they’ll often have at least three books in a series completed before releasing the first one. Often, all three will be published on the same day, allowing the writers to hyperlink to the sequel at the end of each ebook. (bold mine)
For someone like me who takes well-on a year to crank out a book, this is intimidating. Even disheartening. Sure, there are some changes I can make to my approach and some trade “tricks” that could make the need for speed seem less intimidating. For one thing, I could approach the books in a potential series as being not nearly as dense (both in the length and literary sense) as I am used to. Viewing each book in a series as a single TV episode rather than a full-length theatrical release seems helpful. Lowering my expectation of “quality” could also help. Kind of like seeing myself as less a culinary expert and more of a burger-flipper at McDonald’s. Whatever the case, being a “successful” indie author would seem to dictate changes are in order, at least for a writer like me.
Still, this approach seems contrary to much of the professional advice many of us were weaned on. Like Malcolm Gladwell in his best-seller Outliers where he discussed the now famous 10,000-hour rule— which is suggested to be the amount of time it takes to achieve true mastery of any field—and quotes the neurologist Daniel Levitin:
“In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concern pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again.”
That’s right — “fiction writers.”
Of course, many successful indie authors have paid their dues honing their craft. Nevertheless, the need for speed, compounded by the accessibility of publishing tools, undermines the notion that mastering your craft is essential to being a successful writer. Now, it seems equally as important to know your genre and the current model for reaching your audience, as it does becoming seasoned in your skills.
Apparently, the 10,000 hour rule no longer applies to contemporary indie authors. Rather, to stay relevant, the contemporary indie author must be committed to “pumping out a new book every two or three months.” Which, for many of us, is the difference between comfortably mediocre sales and “success.” (It’s also probably why a Google search for “How to write faster” yields over 28 million hits.)
- We don’t expect a new movie from Pixar every three months.
- We don’t expect a new album from Radiohead three times a year.
- We don’t expect a new novel from George Martin quarterly.
- But we DO expect “a new book every two or three months” from our favorite indie author.
Oh well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Which means my new slogan is: Faster for the Master. Still, I’m left to wonder if THIS “master” is really worth serving.