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  • [Breakfast with the Muse] Indie Publishing and the Temptation to Rush Work into Print
[Breakfast with the Muse] Indie Publishing and the Temptation to Rush Work into Print
Written by
Jill Jepson
January 2015
Written by
Jill Jepson
January 2015

Several years ago, I took an online writing class with seven or eight other students. One of the members of the class was a brand-new writer who’d just finished a draft of her very first novel.

I remember thinking that her novel had a lot going for it. It wasn’t very good yet, but it had promise—a clever idea, interesting characters. I thought, With some work on style and plotting, she could really go somewhere with this.  

About a year later, I ran into that same writer online again, and we shared what we’d been doing in the past few months. I learned with dismay that, soon after our class ended, she’d sent her novel out to several publishers, and after a mere six rejections had decided to self-publish it.

I was surprised at how disappointed I was. Rather than working to create the strongest, most compelling book she could, she’d rushed to get a rough and unrefined manuscript into print. Instead of thinking of rejections as a sign that her novel might need work, she’d shrugged them off and taken the easiest route to publication. My friend had the talent to turn her work into something excellent—if she’d taken the time to learn and practice, to hone and polish. Instead, all she had was a poorly written book that only a few of her friends and acquaintances would ever read.

This, to me, is the greatest advantage of traditional publishing over indie publishing. It challenges writers to do better. It forces us to make sure our work is as clear, effective, and interesting (not to mention as marketable) as it can be. It acts as a gatekeeper, saying, "Stop! This work isn't ready!" 

Don't get me wrong. I love independent publishing. I think it is one of the best things that has happened for writers in the past decade. It has offered numerous excellent authors the opportunity to present their work to the world and take charge of their own careers. But it has a downside: It’s just a bit too easy. Because virtually anything can get published independently, the whole indie enterprise is a huge invitation to publish as quickly as possible. And that presents us all with the temptation to rush work into print before it’s ready.

I’m certainly not claiming that every traditionally published book is brilliant—far from it. What I am saying is that writers do themselves a serious disservice when they use indie publishing to hurry their work into print. Whatever avenue we take to publication, we should commit ourselves to the long, hard, beautiful, horrible process of revision, until we’ve turned our rough-hewn drafts and awkward first attempts into the strongest form they can take. 

What do you think about this aspect of independent publishing? How can indie authors make sure their work is ready before hurrying to get it into print? How can authors act as their own gatekeepers?

Jill Jepson is the author of Writing as a Sacred Path. Sign up for her free weekly strategies for writers here. Get her free e-booklet, Calling Up the Writer Within: A Short Guide to Writing at 50 and Beyond here.

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  • Twila Colley

    Wow, this is oh so true.  I have found that just leaving my story for two weeks, not even thinking about it, and then returning to it is a mind blow. I always find a dozen or more things  that I want to fix, or better ideas on how to say the same thing. 

    I recently wrote a short short of 500 words that for me was more of an experiment. I read it over several times and sent if off just under the deadline. I was thinking is was so short what the heck. I went on to another project and three weeks later I saw another call for submissions I wanted to send it to.  I opened it up to looked at it and was appalled. Did I actually send that in? 

    I agree, use a really good editor, know what criticism is good and use it, and don't be rushed. Rewrites are your best friend.

    Learn to step away and come back with a fresh eye. 

    Good call Jill,


  • Jill Jepson

    Great point, Lana. You can't overstate the importance of a good editor. It sounds like you know what you're doing--and that you're going to do self-publishing right!

  • Lana Pecherczyk

    Hey Jill, I agree with you there. I think if you self-publish, it's important to have a great editor you trust to push you to finish the book properly, not just want more money out of you, but to mentor you along. I'm due to publish my first novel in the next few months. I didn't even go to the traditional publishers, instead I'm putting my time and effort into working with a great editor (who actually used to be my teacher). I am learning that the process isn't as quick as I originally imagined, but I am confident that in time, the finished product will be great.

  • Jill Jepson

    I'm so glad to hear this post spoke to your experience, Shelah!

  • Sally Ketham

    Hi Jill, thanks for this. It's very timely for me since I pulled back from self-publishing this past November to make sure I had explored every other avenue--to give the book more time to percolate....your words have encouraged me that I didn't make a mistake in waiting. Thank you! :)

  • Jill Jepson

    Sounds like a plan Nora! Except, I'm not actually an indie author...Do I still get to be part of the take-over?

  • Nora Gaskin Esthimer

    So let's take over the world!

  • Jill Jepson

    Thanks, Nora. Your comment hits the nail on the head!

  • Nora Gaskin Esthimer

    Hi, Jill. Good post. I hope the right people see it and take it to heart. I support my habit (writing) by doing developmental editing. I am self-published and I push people to make okay work good, better, the best it can be. I often hear "I have been working on this for 3, 4, 7 years," and I break the news that it isn't enough yet. 

    This is especially important for those of us who self-publish. We need to hold ourselves to a very high bar and we need to encourage those around us to do the same.