Reader Friday: Are You Publishing Too Soon?

SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) teaches us to set a completed draft aside for a while. It’s easy to prematurely submit a manuscript to a publisher, or to push publish too soon for Indies. And sadly, these books languish on Amazon with poor reviews and one-star ratings.

We’re too close to our work. By setting aside a manuscript, we gain clarity. A new perspective illuminates typos, plot holes, clunky sentence construction, wordiness, writing tics, etc.

How long to set aside a manuscript fluctuates between two weeks to two months, depending on the writer.

How long do you let your manuscript rest?

Do you start a new project while you’re waiting?

What’s the longest you’ve waited? And why?

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About Sue Coletta

Member of MWA, Sisters in Crime, and ITW, Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer of psychological thrillers. She also writes true crime: PRETTY EVIL NEW ENGLAND hits bookstores by Nov. 1, 2020 (Globe Pequot, trade division of Rowman & Littlefield). Feedspot & Expertido.org honored Sue's blog with the Top 100 Crime Blogs on the Net award (Murder Blog sits at #5). Learn more about Sue and her books at https://suecoletta.com

19 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Are You Publishing Too Soon?

  1. No set time. By the time I hit ‘the end’ the beginning has been sitting around for several months, so my wait time before starting the editing process might be a week. I’m an ‘edit as I go’ writer, and I have great critique partners, so it’s a reasonably clean manuscript, but I read for the big pictures. I’ll put it through all my self-editing steps and send it to my editor. Her editing time is my ‘down time’ and I don’t think about the book other than trying to come up with marketing stuff until she returns it. This time around, I wrote a reader magnet short story while she was working. Then, I let the manuscript sit again for about a month, but I put it up for preorder for about a month before release, more to make sure everything’s ready than because I have a huge preorder fan base. Once it’s formatted for print and I get the proof, I read it once more, so it’s an ongoing wait and work, wait and work process.

    • Makes sense, Terry. My editor took longer than usual to send back my latest, so long I’d forgotten parts of the story. I’m reading like, “I wonder what’s gonna happen next?” LOL

  2. Good topic, Sue. I’m ever-evolving in this writing world, so I have no set “delay to publish” period. (However, I think a healthy waiting period is a very, very, very good idea 🙂 I just put my latest up on Amazon, Kobo, and Nook yesterday. (54.5K words) Looking back, I started it in November and set it aside half-done for three weeks over Christmas, then gave ‘er bullets on January 1st. My proofreader takes 1 week and then I take 2-3 days to finalize. Uploading stuff to the e-tailers now only takes a few hours so the overall process is fairly smooth.

    I can’t work on 2 drafts at the same time. But I do start the next draft right after I ship the last one to the proofreader. I used to do next day edits, but I changed production to just-write-the-draft and then carefully go over the whole thing before my proofreader finds her (many) issues. Thank God for her!

    Hey – can I slip in a little motivational tip for indies? Get your cover done early in your draft process. That way you’re staring at it while you write and you know you have to fulfill your goal. BTW, have you heard of the first-class cover designer Elle Rossi? You might want to check out her work at Evernight Designs – EJR Digital Art: https://www.evernightdesigns.com/

    • Nice plug for Elle! She’s amazing. Sadly, she no longer works for my publisher, so a new-to-me girl did I Am Mayhem. I’m so used to working with Elle, the process wasn’t as smooth, but the end result is cool.

      Congrats on your new book baby, Garry!

  3. I go 4-6 weeks. I have a hard copy printed out with a mock cover, sometimes with another author’s name on it. Why? To create the illusion of reading an actually published book by a writer I admire. I read it through without doing any heavy edits. Just want the overall impression.

    I always have another project on the front burner, and several “in active development” a la a film studio.

    • Sounds like a great system, Jim. I *wish* I could shut off my inner editor. Cool idea to add another author’s name to the mock cover. I might try that. Thanks!

  4. Good question, Sue.

    The time varies and depends on the schedule of critiquers, beta readers, consultants, etc. When I turn a book over to them, I try to put it out of my mind (not saying I always succeed!). That’s usually several weeks to a month.

    When I read their feedback, there are lots of head-slapping moments. Then down to hard editing to incorporate their suggestions.

    Interspersing short work–articles, blog posts, PR blurbs–is a great way to occupy waiting time. I always have lots of “little” projects going and like to alternate between long and short work. Stuck in the novel? Switch to an article or post. Changing gears helps reboot the brain so, when I return to the novel, the solution is usually in front of my nose but I hadn’t noticed it until I took a break.

    • You nailed it, Debbie. A break allows us to see things we’d swear weren’t there before. 🙂 I like your idea of switching between long and short forms. Yes, I agree re: blogging. A deep-dive into research also works.

  5. I have multiple projects going on at the same time and I work a full-time job, so when I finish a project, I have plenty of things to keep me occupied while I’m letting all of my once deathless prose wither and die. I usually give it at least a month while I work on something else, but I’ve set projects aside for fifteen years. I’m just coming back to one I thought never to revisit.

    That said, I recently sent the first books of two of my series into a competition and the one that received the highest praise is the one that sells the least, while the one that received the weakest praise sells like wildfire and is my primary money maker. Consequently, I’m not convinced that all good books rise to the surface in the Amazon ocean. Great books languish and never develop a readership, but that doesn’t mean we should just throw our work to the wind as soon as we finish it. Coming back to a first draft after a time away is a great way to keep yourself humble. I always find parts I love and parts I hate. And sometimes I wonder what the heck I was thinking when I wrote it. Cheers, James

    • One hundred percent agree about great books languishing on Amazon, James. I laughed re: being humbled by an early draft. So true! More often than not, that dang inner voice whispers, “This sucks. Rewrite.” 🙂

  6. From some of the published books I’ve read, I’d say way too soon for a lot of writers. Not going back and rewriting that first book in the series in a year or two when you are self-published is stupid since it’s so easy to do. The second book may be awesome, but not many readers will get that far if the first book is poorly written.

    Those who are trying to be traditionally published need to remember they have one shot at submission. If they submit too soon, that book has no more chances to be improved so they are screwed. Patience and persistence are the hallmarks of a successful writer.

  7. Limited experience here. I only have two published novels, but I already have a pattern in place, and it reveals that I’m a very slow writer.

    I send the first draft (which I think is perfection itself) to my developmental editor. A month later I receive her feedback — major issues. After pouting for a day or two, I get to work and produce the second draft. More time goes by until I receive feedback: minor issues. I revise, revise, revise. We bounce the ms back and forth. As we get closer to the finished product, I recruit beta readers. I’m something of a perfectionist, so I may make small changes even at this point and I have a copy editor review the final manuscript.

    I’m in awe of Garry’s schedule. My second novel took ten months from first draft to appearing on Amazon. And that doesn’t even include all the time it took to come up with the idea, plot it, and write the first draft!

    The times that the manuscript is in the hands of my editor are opportunities for me to turn my attention to short stories, articles, interviews, or other writing.

    • Kay, contrary to some “expert” advice, there’s nothing wrong with being a slow writer. I’m also a perfectionist, which drives me crazy but keeps me humble. If it weren’t for deadlines, I’d have far fewer publications. Hence, my reluctance to self-publish. As it is, I pick and pick at the ms till I can’t any longer. By release day, I still find things I’d change if I could.

  8. I rarely finish a book in time to let it sit for very long. I do try to let it sit at least a week. And like Terry, it’s usually three months since I’ve seen the beginning, so it’s fresh to me.

    As much as I wish I could, I can’t work on another project…my brain just won’t go there. I know authors who work on one manuscript in the morning and switch to a different manuscript in the afternoon–blows my mind. lol

    • Patricia, yes, I agree. Sometimes deadlines don’t allow us to wait as long as we’d hoped. Waiting for the editor to return the ms often becomes our time away.

  9. Great question, Sue. I’ve pretty much gone from 1st draft to 2nd with no break, then I send it to beta readers, and use that time to outline the next book. That interval gives me a break, and then I have their feedback to help point out issues which I address in the third draft, then send it to my editor.

    the pressure to publish as an indie, especially when I’m not that prolific, has pushed me to revise immediately. This is something I’ve been reconsidering, especially now that I’m working in mysteries for the first time.

    • Dale, I’ll be interested to hear your take on mystery-writing. Not only does the author have to come up with a great story, he/she has to create a clever puzzle. That’s a high bar to get over.

    • Reader pressure is a real concern, Dale. Thanks for bringing it up. Many of us can’t crank out a novel per month. Well, we probably could if we didn’t care about quality.

      The next time readers pressure you to produce faster, use my line: You can either have fast releases or visceral thrill rides. Pick one. I can’t do both. 🙂

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