Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Make money fast - NOT!

I'm sharing this because some folk seem to think writers dash off a first draft, seek an agent and then wait for the money to roll in.

Over on the Voyager forums someone asked an innocent-sounding question which turned into a bit of a confessional. Quite a few HarperCollins Voyager authors post on the board, so it was interesting to hear their responses.

The question? Something along the lines of "I wonder who took the longest from manuscript finish to publication?"

Karen Miller, author of the Kingmaker/Kingbreaker duology: approx 15 years.
Glenda Larke, The Aware: 14 years (1989-2003) and Heart of Mirage: 16 years (1991-2006)
Russell Kirkpatrick: Across The Face Of the World: 20 years (1985 - 2004), In the Earth Abides the Flame: 19 years (1994-2004), The Right Hand of God: 3 years (2003-2005)

That's just a selection, but you can see that 10-15 years is much more likely than one or two.

And just for reference: Hal Spacejock: 12 years (1994-2005, although I didn't finish the first draft until 1999), Hal Spacejock Second Course: 2002-2006, Hal Spacejock Just Desserts 2003-2007.

I can't speak for the other authors, but my own books have undergone countless rewrites, drafts and polishes during that time. In other words, I wasn't just sitting around for 12 years waiting for a publisher to throw money at me.

So, it takes years to get into print. Big surprise. But what can you do with that information?

First, you should have a long term view, because the publishing industry will still be there when your manuscript is ready.

Second, it doesn't matter whether they publish your first, third or fifth novel. Once in print they'll want to see your trunked manuscripts, so all that effort wasn't wasted. And with your added experience you'll be able to spot the flaws in those unpublished works.

Want to know how I did it? I decided to write fifteen novels in the Hal Spacejock series ... one per year until I hit fifteen. If I still wasn't published by then, I'd give up.

How many novels are you planning to write?

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)


James said...

Heaps. Guess I'll have to start soon.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Right now, I have
1 revision
3 in progress
2 in planning
2 very persistant plotbunnies

Fahim said...

Hmm ... fifteen's a bit much for me. I had a series of 7 planned after I wrote my first novel, then I added a prequel which spawned two others and then there are the odd couple of novels that don't fit into the same universe. If you count all of that ... darn, I'm getting close to fifteen :p But no, I don't think I want to do fifteen novels if I'm still not published - way too lazy for that :)

Simon Haynes said...

Sometimes it's easier to just plan the next one, so you have something to get on with when the current WIP is done.
It's tempting to give up when faced with a huge task, whether that's writing multiple books or painting the Sydney Harbour bridge, whereas if you take it one step at a time it might be easier.
You have to find what works best for you. Truth is, once you get published they're going to want more and more books out of you, so you might as well get on with them now ;-)

Simon Haynes said...

'dash of a first draft'?? Yeouch. Sort of illustrates the point. (I'm trying to correct the typo but Blogger is having fits.)

James said...

I have 35 started, but most are just a couple of lines of text. I find I can write a good opening paragraph, but then......well, there is no 'then'.

Simon Haynes said...

I have over 100 short stories started, many of them just a single sentence. Without fail, the ones I finish off are the ones with interesting characters.
If I start with just the idea - nothing.
With the books, I really got to know Hal and Clunk during the early drafts, and knowing their dislikes and weaknesses means I can throw them into plenty of situations that play to those character flaws.

Anonymous said...

Carnies - starting planning in the mid-eighties, came out in the mid-naughties, so I guess that makes around twenty years. :)

As for novels in the pipeline, I have one first draft of another short novel waiting for editing, one I'm working on, a follow-up to Carnies after that, and a directory with notes for eighteen others. It should keep me busy for the time being. :)

PS - finally finished reading the copies of Hal 1 and 2 you sent me - enjoyed 'em greatly! I'll still have to organise you a copy of Carnies once I get back to Oz next year!

Anonymous said...

The Atomic Girl: 25 years
Legacy of Leporis: 23 years
Of the Dark trilogy: 20 years combined
Daughter of a Lady: 1 and a half years
Let Sleeping Gods Lie: 5+ years
About six novels I've trunked: ~2-5 years each
Savark: um... 15?
Almost an Empress: 5+ years, will prolly take me another three to finish, polish and go.

And I've got a few more in the planning stages.

Keep in mind these are all concurrent over the course of a twenty-five year career. If I were to sit down and work 9-5, I could easily get a novel polished and ready for submission within a year, possibly sooner.

The more novels I write, the easier it gets.

Anonymous said...

Seven years to write the first, which is a pretty terrible book; three years to write the second (not quite as terrible)and I've just outlined two more. Wish me luck.

Diane said...

I have two finished first drafts, one almost finished first draft, and one sitting at a mere 25,000 words. And I'm going to do Nanowrimo again.