As I write this, I’m around thirty thousand words into ‘Aces High’, the next Battlecruiser Alamo novel, so almost half-way through. I expect to have the draft completed by the end of the month, with the editing process to take another few weeks. In short, that means the book will be out on schedule, some time towards the end of July, say in around five weeks’ time. This one is actually going pretty smoothly after some initial problems; the first two or three chapters were, well, just not necessary and ended up going. There’s definitely something to be said for leaping right into the action…
The big news in the publishing world at the moment - at least, as far as self-publishing goes - is that Amazon is changing the way that it handles loan payments. Now, as a rule, I never talk business on this blog, and I don’t intend to dwell on it here, but suffice to say that I am very happy with the changes. The reason I’m mentioning it at all is that I’m getting a definite vibe of ‘the sky is falling’, when really that is not the case at all. There is a danger, a big danger, when a writer enters the self-publishing world, that he or she takes the decision to see what is working, to work out how to take advantage of the system, and plan their books accordingly.
I’ve said before that one of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to ‘write what is on your own bookshelves’; just because cannibal dinosaur erotica might be all the rage now (and I fervently hope that we live in a world where that is not the case, though I suppose I might just be behind the times) does not mean it is a good idea to write it. Working in any genre that you don’t know is a mistake; your heart won’t be in it, and that can and will tell in the work you do. Better to work in a genre that you feel happy to write in, where you are widely read enough to know how the game works, rather than treat it as a chore.
Writing a book is a creative thing, not a business model. Yes, anyone self-publishing has to think like a business in some areas. The key concept I take is that it is best to act professionally, to keep regular hours - or at least, regular targets - and to conduct yourself in a professional manner. Which means keeping decent accounts, looking at pricing, keeping familiar with the state of the art, especially with ebook technology, that sort of thing.
It doesn’t mean writing books for a particular purpose. Writing is hard enough without imposing unnecessary constraints on what you are doing. When I started writing the Alamo series, the first couple came in at around the 70,000-word length, and I’ve stuck to that as the usual length for the series, simply because it is the format I am most comfortable writing. It’s a book with a plot-complexity level I know I can handle, and one I can write in a reasonable amount of time, meaning regular releases not too far apart. In total, writing an ‘Alamo’ book takes roughly twenty-eight days when all is said and done, with actually sitting in front of the keyboard and typing taking up a bit more than half that time.
The problem, the big problem, with writing books a certain way to take advantage of a system is that everything changes. We’re in a very fast-moving world at the moment, everything changing, and even if things do reach some sort of stability for a while (not impossible, though I think it will take a few more years yet) they are unlikely to stay that way for a working lifetime. Probably not for a decade. No-one can work out a strategy that will predict the future, because it is impossible to work out where things will be in ten months’ time, still less in ten years’ time.
There is something you can do. For any authors out there, anyone who wants to know the key secret that has the best chance of leading to a measure of success, the magic ingredient is this. Write books. You can’t go wrong with building up a catalogue of books with your name on them, that you own the rights to. No matter what happens in the future, those books will still exist - and if they are ones you wanted to write in the way you wrote them, then you’ll have an inventory that you can be proud of. It’s the surest possible route in an admittedly constantly changing world.
What is the point of this? That there is only one way to decide what books you should write - the ones you want to write. Don’t write ‘what you think will sell’, don’t write ‘the latest big thing’. Don’t even write ‘the book you want to read’, because that is a completely different thing. Write the book that you want to write. And on that note, the next post (hopefully tomorrow, but that depends on how the other writing going - as ever, Alamo is my priority) will be on my thoughts about my second book series...