A Self-Publishing Assembly Line

I am really, really bad at sticking to a schedule. When I first started writing this blog, I made it my goal to publish on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

It was also going to be a fiction-only blog. Oh well.

But I have to put this out for discussion, because I read an article about it that kind of blew my mind.

This article, which was featured in the New Yorker’s Book Bench, outlined the idea put forth by the man who runs an online publishing company called Leanpub, and equates publishing in this day and age to a startup business.

The idea behind Leanpub is that while you’re in the process of writing your book, others can read it and influence the process. They presumably make constructive criticisms and suggestions which act as the ‘editorial’ phase and at the end of the day, the argument here is that you’ve got an entertaining book that you know people want to read because hey, you already tested it with a bunch of readers.

When I first saw this, I thought, “Assembly-Line Publishing. NO.”

Just think. You’re a fantasy author. You’ve got a great idea for an urban fantasy revolving around witches. You put up your first chapter and the comments roll in: “There should be vampires! They should SPARKLE. The two main characters should be in love but they can’t be together because he’s a werewolf or a warlock or blah blah blah…”

I’m using Twilight as the exemplary trend here, but you can take any book craze – Harry Potter, the Da Vinci Code, even Sweet Valley High (ugh). My immediate gut reaction to this publishing process was that people are going to start reading a book not with the interest in seeing how it finishes, but with an interest in manipulating the story themselves.

My second issue is that it supposedly makes the post of editor redundant. Um, what? As someone who’s been reading from age 5 and writing from age 6, I can tell you that while I can critique a piece, I am not qualified to edit it. It’s a skill set that I could have learned but never acquired, and I would argue that for many other writers, it’s the same. Just because you get 35 people to read your novel doesn’t mean that you don’t need an editor at the end of the day.

This experiment, however, is intriguing to me. I want to see how well it works and what it’s like. So I have decided to take the plunge. I’m going to try it.

I’m going to use one of the Nanowrimo ideas that I didn’t work with this year – Predestination, in case you’re interested. It’s an idea that I like but don’t love, and this provides me with the opportunity to improve my writing without really risking anything but a bit of wasted time.

I’ll be periodically blogging about the experience as I go. At the moment I’ve just signed up, so I don’t know much about the inner workings.

If you’re interested in taking a look at Leanpub to decide for yourself, you can always click here.

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9 thoughts on “A Self-Publishing Assembly Line

  1. LeanPub seems like another FanFiction or Wattpad site. Which is great for writers with a series of novels but not anyone else. Usually writers put their first novel of a series at .99 cents then increase the price with the following novels. So I’m not so sure about giving it away for free. And I’m not cool at all with anyone, even a fan, telling me how a story should unfold. Call me stingy but writing is still an intimate thing for me.

    • forgingshadows says:

      I think you’re entirely spot-on. In fact Leanpub claims to have a fanfiction section, which I have yet to find. Your last two comments also resonate with me, as they were the first two things that popped into my mind when I was introduced to the concept. I am a rather jealous writer and I have a very hard time sharing my work, and I believe that writing is an art that should be paid for. Having been subjected to the online freelance market I know what it is to do a lot of work for unreasonable pay.

      I’m giving this experiment a go in order to see how much the feedback element changes essentials of my story, and to see what kind of a product it yields. The concept was never at the top of my list so if the experiment fails, it’s not the end of my life or even a significantly depressing event. And I intend to be fully critical, discussing both the good and the bad of this platform as well as my own errors.

      • I’ve seen some authors do this very successfully on Wattpad as well, with ‘subscribers’ who get an email every time the author posts a new chapter, they leave comments suggesting things for that chapter or the next chapter, and then they end up buying the paperback because they can say they contributed to that story. The author gets editing feedback as she writes and then publishes the final draft as ebook and paperback.

        Not sure if I’m ready to rely on that, although I did a reader’s vote for a story on my own blog.

      • forgingshadows says:

        I saw the story you put up as a result of the vote (it was really good, by the way). I haven’t been on Wattpad but maybe I should poke around on there. It seems like Leanpub is a little bit sparse at the moment – I’m not sure how much traffic the site gets. I don’t think the search/sort features are quite up to snuff yet either, which means that after the initial publication, any work will become harder to find by new readers.

        Thanks for posting your comment – the effectiveness of this sort of thing is exactly what I’m experimenting with, and while my results will never be conclusive, the case study might be interesting to some.

      • I was on a site before Wattpad, but it didn’t have much of a readership, either. It had some, but Wattpad has more incentives for people to be on there, such as apps for phones and iPads, instant connection to your facebook page, etc. It has provided exponentially more traffic than my old site, and I’m just a small fish in that sea. So far, I’m very happy with it…just need to figure out what all the voting actually does.

      • forgingshadows says:

        Cool, thanks for the info. Maybe if my experiment fails on Leanpub, I’ll shift it over to Wattpad and see how it fares.

  2. slepsnor says:

    I like the idea of a test audience like they do with other products such as movies, toys, and some foods. You get a good idea of what works and what doesn’t in terms of characters and plot. Still, you’re right that it isn’t a substitution for real editing. Probably be smarter to do both with the test audience first and an editor to help tighten everything up after you take the audience’s opinions into account.

    • forgingshadows says:

      Thank you for your comment! I especially like how meta it is – by highlighting the benefit of giving a different perspective, you’re providing a different perspective. You’re also helping me to feel a little more confident about the potential of this project. So thank you very much for your contribution!

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