Should Writers Delay Their Gratification?

Photo credit: its caleb on Flickr
Not too long ago, we lived in a time where writers were forced into a scheme of delayed gratification. We would hole up in our writing spaces for hours, weeks, months, even years slaving over a novel while giving up time with our families/ friends/ video games/ television shows/ extra-curriculars in order to finish the darned book. We would then submit to agents and maybe, if it was the right time, months later we’d have representation. After that—editing, then submission to publishers, more editing, until the glorious book contract sat on our kitchen countertops, waiting to be signed.

After that, eventual publication. You know, in a year or two.

Now things are a little different. Although the delayed gratification traditional publishing scheme is certainly still an option, it is now just that—an option.

With the advent of upload-now-insta-publish indie publishing upon us, suddenly it is up to us—the writers—whether or not to delay the gratification of being published. The power, my friends, is in your hands.

Now that’s not to say that indie authors are avoiding delayed gratification altogether—there’s still the matter of writing the book which is anything but instant, but from there writers have a choice: do you publish now? Spend a couple months (or years) editing? Go the traditional route?

Why delay our gratification at all?

I don’t need to tell you that the temptation for instant gratification is there—most of us know by now how to prepare and upload a book onto Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords and even if you don’t, it’s not difficult to find out how. But should you?

Friday’s post will cover my thoughts on delayed gratification, but first I want to hear from you.

What do you think? Should writers choose to delay the gratification of publishing? What are the benefits? The consequences? Share your thoughts in the comments below


Matthew Rowe said...

I don't think it's much better at all. Sure, you now know you can publish your book, but the act of publishing doesn't have the gratification any more. That comes when a lot of people buy the book, but who knows when that will happen? I think instead of having one large lump of gratification when the book is published with a traditional publishing house (which isn't that great when you think about it because it still doesn't mean people are going to buy it), we have swapped it for many tiny pieces of gratification each time we see that our book has been bought.

Thinking about my recent published works, the gratification has come for me when I finished the book, when I had put it together with the cover to make a final product and the rare occasions I've noticed a sale. Maybe others are different. I'm very early in my career so I don't have the experience other writers have had but that's how I feel now.

Ava Jae said...

You make an interesting point about what forms gratification comes in for writers. You're probably right that even that is changing--both in the "lump" gratification of traditional publishing, and in the spread out smaller instances of gratification for each sale. I haven't done either, so I can't speak from experience, but I imagine depending on which route you take, gratification would come at different stages. 

Susankayequinn said...

I think knowing the right path and moment to publish is difficult, but discernable, if you give it some thought about what is right for you. Which is why I posted Seven Questions You Should Ask Before Self-Publishing. :)

p.s. I linked to you in my post today!

Ava Jae said...

It's a difficult decision, to be sure, and one that definitely shouldn't be made too quickly. 

Thanks for linking me! :)

Laurapauling said...

My book hasn't even released and I have so much more gratification from being in control and moving forward. I can't really say it's instant gratification and it's not as easy as just uploading your book if you take into consideration learning how to do it right, do you want print, how is blogging going to change, how are you going to reach past your bubble on the blogosphere then it's a lot of hard work. There a lot of decisions. I guess you could just upload a book but most authors I know don't just upload a book. Much more to it.

But only each writer can decide when it's right for them. I did the research and didn't make the decision overnight. 

Ava Jae said...

I agree that indie publishing is certainly not instant gratification (as you said, there's a lot that goes into it), however I imagine it's different when, as you said, you have control over the process rather than waiting a year or two for your book to hit the shelves. Granted, there are many in-between things traditional authors have to do, but the actual publishing part is out of their hands. 

I don't think there's a right or wrong answer when it comes to which publishing road to take. As you said, it varies per writer and the decision is certainly not a simple one. 

Daniel Swensen said...

Well, Freud did have this theory on sublimation of desires in order to channel them into creative... oh. That's not what you meant. Carry on. 

Alice M. said...

For me, gratification comes with any forward momentum (if my writing is markedly improving, if I have a flash of understanding when plotting, if I finish a short story and gain approval from my first round of readers, &ct).

MORE gratification comes with each baby step along the traditional publication route, but that's only because publishing houses & agents & so forth have the power to bring me a career that I wouldn't be able to organise alone. 

Truly, I'd never make it as a debut indie author; there's too much to schedule & plan. I'm hopeless in most aspects of normal adult life and spend most of my non-writing time running about and flailing my arms, trying to catch up with the list of things I'm meant to be doing involving insurance or housework or the stock market (?).

Quite literally the ONLY THING I AM GOOD AT is writing, perhaps reading? And I'm not even certain I'm good at those things? So I'll need an agent & so forth to see that I don't end up selling 'zines out of a cardboard box helpfully labelled "Bookstore" in felt-tip pen.

Ava Jae said...

I'd say you're also pretty darn good at editing, but I suppose I'm a little biased. :) 

That's definitely true that we can get small snippets of gratification along the way, but I agree that the big boosts of gratification tend to have something to do with publishing. It's also true that indie authors have much more on their plates when it comes to the other not-necessarily writing-things they have to work out as well as releasing the next book, such as marketing, cover art, formatting, etc. 

Vikram Karve said...

You are absolutely right when you say that earlier, before the advent of the internet, writers were forced into a scheme of delayed gratification (and frustration, as well) because whether their book will be published or not, and when, everything depended on the publishers (and agents). Now, thanks to information technology and internet, which have introduced vehicles like blogging, ebooks etc where creative writers can instantly showcase their work, in today's fast paced world, I think the time has come for instant gratification. 
So it is best for budding authors to avoid the frustrating wait, slush piles and rejection slips of the traditional route. 
I feel there will be drastic changes in the way books are published since it is a matter of time before the traditional print publishing process is no longer be viable.

Ava Jae said...

Interesting thoughts. I don't know that traditional publishing will ever reach the point of non-viability (and if it does, I imagine that wouldn't be for quite a while), but there are certainly more options available now to writers that didn't exist a couple years ago. 

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