Writing a book isn’t easy. ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ took me almost a year to write, and there will be several months’ work to revise and get it into a fit state for possible publication. There will be expenses, too – cover art, and professional editing, for example. And it’s a big book, epic in size as well as scope. So why post the entire book, so that anyone who wants to can read it for free? Why give it away?
There’s a difference between giving away the whole book, and posting it piecemeal on the blog. A few years ago, Brandon Sanderson posted a book on his blog, as he wrote it, chapter by chapter. Then, when it was done, he tidied it up and published it. That book, ‘Warbreaker’, is still available on the blog, yet the published book continues to sell well. Why? Because reading a book a chapter at a time on a blog is time-consuming and inconvenient. It’s not formatted nicely for a smartphone or tablet or Kindle, it’s cluttered up with headers and footers and sidebars, the font may be difficult to adjust. And it’s an early draft. It may be full of typos and non-sequiteurs and plot holes. It’s a different product.
There are many authors who give away entire books for free. They edit them, put eye-catching covers on them, polish them up to (hopefully) a professional standard with as much time and/or money as they can spare and then – they give them away. Mostly they do this because they have a whole line of other books in the series, and they’re happy to give away the first to entice readers in. It’s a bit like a supermarket offering cheap baked beans, but hoping you’ll also buy a few more profitable items.
I don’t have a whole series to promote. ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ is the first novel I’ve ever completed, and as I learn more about writing and (I trust) improve, so I become aware that this is unlikely to be the best fantasy book ever. Even though I’ve had some very positive feedback, I know that it’s a bit of a monster, sprawling at a leisurely pace through chapter after chapter. It’s not so much that it’s slow but it covers a lot of ground. Structurally, the plot is inclined to shoot off at tangents. I know it’s not as tight as it could be.
There are two possible ways forward. One is to rewrite it from the ground up, making it tauter and more evenly paced. Well, life’s too short to spend years rewriting the same story over and over. So it’s on to plan B: polish it as much as I can, then simply put it out there and move on.
But how to polish it effectively? The online critique group I use (Scribophile) is wonderful for low-level editing and character development. It’s less suited to overall plot analysis, especially for a work of this size. So I’m using a two-pronged plan of campaign: beta readers and this blog. Once I’ve revised the whole book, I’ll look around for beta readers. However, I also hope to get some feedback from people reading the story a chapter at a time on the blog. I may post it on Wattpad, or similar, for the same reason.
Why not simply pay for structural editing from the professionals? The short answer is: because paying for an editor gives you precisely one person’s opinion. It may be a very experienced and incisive opinion, but it’s still only one point of view. Scribophile has shown me the overwhelming benefit of having multiple critiques of the same piece of work. The more opinions you have, the more idea you have of what has to be changed because it trips up almost everyone, and what can be ignored because it’s an outlier. That’s an invaluable perspective.
So ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ will be published, chapter by chapter, here on this blog. All feedback, positive or negative or meh, is not only welcomed, but positively encouraged. The more comments I get, the better. So have at it. With luck, this will give me some idea whether the book is worth publishing.
For more detail on how the book got written, and why I decided to toss it out into the world, read the About this blog post.