One of our staff writers is an editor and, sitting around the gruel pot the other day, she asked our opinions. Her client was in a rush to publish a book by a specific date, because it meshed with a historic event that was about to occur. It was her opinion that there wasn’t time to get the book ready. He said he didn’t care. He’d publish it now and “fix it up later.” What should she do?
Well, that’s a two-layer question. As an editor, she should keep telling the guy what is wrong with his writing, and when it reaches the point he’s happy with it, he can publish it. It’s his book, and all the final decisions are his.
What if You’re the Writer?
What if you have a new/fresh/interesting perspective on a historical event that is about to happen/has just happened/is happening? Should you bang off something in a hurry to catch the wave?
Well there are is one main consideration. Are you a promoter? Do you have a ready-made audience? Because if your topic is truly topical, there isn’t going to be any “later” to fix it up in. You’re talking a flash-in-the-pan, take-the-money-and-run weekly wonder that needs to hit the ground running (sorry about the mangled metaphors) for a very short sprint.
Take me, for example. I blog 1500 words every week. I’ve done the NaNoWriMo a couple of times. On a topic I was conversant with, I could sit down and whip off a presentable book in about three weeks, no problem. With a willing editor, I could have a book up on Kindle in less than two months.
Not a chance. Why not? Because I’m not a promoter. I don’t have a twenty-thousand-strong mailing list of fans just panting for my next book. I don’t have fifty reviewers in my pocket who will read my book on the strength of my former successes and give me a boost on Amazon, Goodreads, and Smashwords. My selling is done on the merits of my books, not on my lame attempts to publicize them. So, no matter how topical and entertaining my new book might be, by the time sales got ramped up to a decent level, the hot topic would be ice cold.
What about Editing?
Personally, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Let’s assume you’re a decent writer and you get decent proofreading. Then publish. Face it, if you’re writing a here-today-gone-tomorrow Twitter-famous kind of book, your target readership isn’t going to be as fussy. Like any other genre, there is an accepted level of polishing, and if you meet that, no harm, no foul. And if you’re after more information on writing that kind of literature, there are a thousand “How to Write Crap and Sell a Million Copies” books on the internet to help you.
And for those of you considering writing the definitive pandemic novel? Go ahead and start work. There is plenty of time between now and when this is finally over to write, adapt to new developments, rewrite, and get it properly edited.