Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lemmings are cute, but sometimes they just don't think...

As a kid, I was taught that lemmings run off cliffs for no good reason. Actually, they are solitary animals, coming together to mate then going their separate ways. But they are remarkable at mating.

Twice a decade, these rodents have a population explosion when food is plentiful. Then, en masse, they seek new food and lodging. Their behavior isn't all that understood, but in their extreme efforts to scatter and rabidly hunt new locations to live, they drown, fall off unexpected cliffs, and run into disaster, thus depleting much of that excess population.

We are in a time of the lemming.

But we're in a horrendous economical period, you say. Well, that has nothing to do with lemming behavior. Let me explain.

1. We lemmings have an abundance of means to publish. We can publish for nothing or pay thousands to do it, but we can do it when we want to. We have traditional, self-publishing, electronic publishing, pubbing on iPads, Kindles, Androids, and anything we can hold, put a battery in, and read. The environment is lush, and we are feeding like crazy, reproducing like crazy, thrilled that we have so many avenues to throw our work into the public setting.

2. There are way more than enough of us. Worldometer shows that a million books are published annually world-wide. I think that's a very conservative number and could actually be closer to two million with the explosion of electronic publishing the end of 2010 to the present. many books do you read? While there is no absolute source, most online "authorities" estimate 8-11 books per person  in the US. Put it this way, if no more books were added to your local library, how long would it take you to read what's on the shelves now?

3. We're anxious to make a move. A week doesn't go by that I don't advise someone to stop worrying about publishing and finish the dang unfininshed book. All the hand wringing, shouting and drama in the news has writers jumping around like fleas, looking for a place to land, assuming it means a book in hand. So many are thinking how to publish more than how to write. They're flustered as others are darting, advancing, slinging ebooks up on Amazon faster than seems humanly possible. They must make a move, even if it might be wrong.

But . . . just because the grass looks greener on the other side of the river (or canyon), just because others are making their move, just because others are  making quick moves, doesn't mean you are ready to follow the masses. What the blogs and headlines don't tell you is this . . . a lot of lemmings are running off cliffs. Trouble is, they don't live to tell you about it. They just disappear.


Linda O'Connell said...

I can attest to this. I know plenty of self-published authors who have made it into obscurity because they were in such a hurry to get their book out there.

Following the masses is not the wisest move.

BECKY said...

Hope, what a marvelous post today! (Well, ALL of yours are marvelous!) But this one in particular called to me. For months, I've been frustrated and angry at myself because I couldn't get more of my book was more concerned about what the cover will look like when it IS finished! DUH! Fortunately, just a couple of weeks ago, it did hit me that I was going about it backwards. I took the pressure off myself and am writing more often, and much better stuff! (for lack of a better word)Thanks for always enlightening us!

Kevin said...

Sage advice. We get bombarded by names and stories of the uber-successful, and even those accounts of the moderately-successful ones can make us feel like we are going to be left behind if we don't get that ms out now, get 25,000 likes on facebook now, develop a huge twitter following now...

On the other hand, there comes a time we have to jump in. After rewriting my first book 44 times, finding less and less to nit-pick each time, finally I had to say 'ok let's get this out there.' A year later I see a couple things I might have changed but even the Cobens and Kings and Browns of the world do that. On the marketing/publishing/agent-querying side as well, learn as much as you can before you leap in, but there will always be things you'll learn to do right only after doing them wrong.
It's a tough balance.