UPDATED: Recalculating by Jennifer Weiner: from idea to ebook in less than a week

I know that as an author I’m not supposed to be excited about the possibilities of e-publishing, but I can’t help it, I really am. So I was intrigued to hear about Jennifer Weiner’s latest project: a short story (approximately 10,000 words) called Recalculating.

Jennifer had the idea for the story last Tuesday. And it was published – on iBooks, Amazon and B&N today. Yes, today. From idea to publication in less than a week. (Read Jennifer’s blog post about it here.)

Now Jennifer is a professional with nine published books behind her and years of experience as a newspaper journalist. She wrote the story quickly, her agent, editor and copyeditor all read it and gave her feedback and it has a professionally designed cover – this is very much not the same as an unpublished author e-publishing their NaNoWriMo book on 1 December – but it’s still a pretty exciting idea, don’t you think?

Even though I don’t like ghost/horror stories (because I am a massive wuss), I was intrigued enough to download Recalculating and I really enjoyed it. It was involving enough that until Joe responded to a question Dora the Explorer asked on TV, I’d forgotten he was there (I am an excellent mother…) and it absolutely didn’t read like a rush job (and I only spotted one mistake – “Blue-ray” instead of “Blu-ray”).

So what do you think? Is this an interesting prospect for authors or the beginning of the end? Or, you know, just a story…

UPDATED: Following a heated debate in the comments in which I was accused of being “pointlessly snide” about self-publishers, I just wanted to clarify my position. I didn’t intend to be snide or negative about self-publishing at all. The point I (thought I) was making with the example of NaNo novels published on 1 December, is that, for the majority of authors, publishing anything so soon after writing it isn’t a good idea. I used NaNo as an example a) because it starts tomorrow and b) because apparently agents and publishers are actually sent unedited NaNo novels at the beginning of December (which obviously is also a very bad idea!). I’m not accusing anyone of anything!


21 thoughts on “UPDATED: Recalculating by Jennifer Weiner: from idea to ebook in less than a week

  1. I don’t see why authors shouldn’t be excited about ebooks! I definitely understand a concern that authors should not be ripped off writing them (and I understand concerns about quality control) but I’m mostly excited by the possibilties (for e.g, I love the Kindle Single range of shorter ebooks, which ridiculously there isn’t a link to on their homepage). Having said that, I’m still amazed she could go from idea to book in a week. She clearly doesn’t know the meaning of “procrastinate”…

    1. Oh I don’t either, obviously, but lots of people are still v wary, I think. (Unless I’m wrong…)

      I think the main worry is quality control – if anyone can e-publish, where will it all end?! Won’t somebody think of the children?! 😉

      1. Haha! Yes, I guess people worry about self-published ebooks flooding the market, but I still think quality stuff will always stand out (and with trad-published authors, will already have an audience, obvi).

  2. I think it’s a great medium, especially for those ideas you get on the spur of the moment and want to run with. Sometimes knowing the uphill struggle to get anywhere near traditional publishing, is enough to make you give up at the first lull in momentum. Seeing the end in sight, as if the case when you e-publish, is very motivating.

    But I can’t help but think all the e-published books out there are all just basically bridesmaids, hoping Mr Right will spot them in the bridal party and promote them to White Dress.

    1. I agree with you. One of the most frustrating things about traditional publishing is how ridiculously slow it is, so e-pub is great for speed. But, yes, I do think a lot of people are e-pubbing and waiting to be “talent spotted” – but I guess that’s fine too (why not?).

      I think what I find particularly exciting is that you can e-pub hoping to be spotted, you can make a living in e-pubbing alone, you can do it as a hobby, or you can fashion a combination that works for you. Interesting.

      1. Ah, OK, thanks. No, it’s not, although I don’t mind it for short stretches. I’ve only used it with the Kindle app though, which works v nicely, although you still have the small bright screen of course.

  3. And, Diane, authors (and publishers) also worry about cheap or free ebooks devaluing all books – if readers get used to paying 99p for an ebook, how long is it before they don’t want to pay £6.99 for a “real” book? And then where will we all be? (I think we’ll just have to adapt and work around it, but lots don’t agree.)

    1. Oh yes, there is that. But then again, if authors got 70% of the profit or whatever, they might end up better off… But I’m happy to pay somewhere between 99p and the price of a paperback if it keeps publishing going. Although ads in ebooks are becoming a thing also in order to subsidise that model, no? Definitely interesting times! I think the best attitude has got to be “How can I work with these changes?” rather than “Oh, there’s no hope, woe…”, though.

      1. Yes, if I sold as many ebooks as paper books I’d be a lot better off, even at 99p. But I’m not going to sell many ebooks at the moment, since they’re priced higher than the paper books…

        And, yes, I think ads in ebooks – and chapter samples of other books – will help, plus there’s a knock-on effect of ebook sales to real book sales, apparently.

        I’m totally with you re working with the changes – I read a quote from a publishing person along the lines of “do we surf this wave or grab for a life belt?” Well OBVIOUSLY we should try to surf it! Or we’ll be left sitting on the beach with sand in our pants. Or something…

  4. I have to admit, I kind of sighed when I read this: “editor and copyeditor all read it and gave her feedback and it has a professionally designed cover – this is very much not the same as an unpublished author e-publishing their NaNoWriMo book on 1 December”.

    So people self-pub, that doesn’t mean they don’t use editors, copyeditors, beta readers and don’t have professionally designed covers. That’s largely a myth these days – self-pubbing has changed hugely in the past year – and I wonder if it just makes “trads” feel a bit superior. (Just read Kindleboards.com for a while and see how the self-pubbed authors are doing there.) Yes, there is some self-pubbed crap on the market, but like the trad-pubbed crap those sink pretty fast. Fact is, a lot of agents reject books that have done incredibly well self pubbed so it’s not like agents are spectacular examples of quality control or what the readers want anyway.

    A friend of mine self-pubbed his book, sold 33,000 copies in a few months and did get “talent spotted” for Random House – good for him, and made more than many “trad” authors. Personally, I self-epub my two novels, sell 2000 copies a month and my books are all in their top 100 genre categories on Amazon US and UK.

    As for Jennifer Weiner epublishing quickly – good for her and I’m glad she’s able to. She already has her name to back up her shortie, and a team to rely on, so she’s hardly battling against the wave of no one knowing who she is. Straddling both “trad” and “self-pub” worlds seems a smart thing to do. Good for her! I don’t know why more authors don’t do it, no-compete clauses permitting.

    1. I think you’ve misunderstood my point, Camilla. I’m not saying that selfpublishers don’t use editors, copyeditors and/or professional cover designers – I know many do. But if they published a novel they’d finished on 30 November on 1 December, they wouldn’t have had time to do that. My point being that Weiner was able to get that done within a week of writing the story, which wouldn’t be possible (or would at least be highly unlikely) for most people.

      “Straddling both “trad” and “self-pub” worlds seems a smart thing to do.” Yep, I completely agree.

      1. Fair enough. I clearly don’t get your point about NaNoWriMoers (would that be a good way to pluralise?) at all – how many actually do what you’re suggesting? It just seems a snide way of saying Weiner, or at least “trad”, is better, without really having any valid backup behind it. The line strikes me as totally pointless in context to the post.

        Could you not just have settled with what Weiner did in a week was great without taking a stab at those “silly NaNos/self-pubs who don’t know what they’re doing”?

  5. Apparently lots do, Camilla. Scott Pack made a joke on Twitter about December, for publishers, being NaNoRejMo, i.e. National Novel Rejecting Month. Plenty of people apparently do send their NaNo book out unedited at the beginning of December.

    I wasn’t being snide or having a go at self-publishing at all – I’m all for it. My point is that very few people would be able to e-publish a book within a week of writing it – and that includes traditionally published authors.

    1. Yes, I’ve heard the rumour that agents simply shut their books in Dec due to the “NaNo deluge”… but submitting to agents is a little different from self-publishing a MS the next day. Could you point me in the direction of any authors who have pubbed their NaNo book on 1st Dec? I’d be interested to take a look.

      I do agree that it is totally feasible to edit and get a prof’ cover done for a 10,000 story in a week though.

      1. No I can’t point you in the direction because I would hope no one’s ever done it – that’s my point. And while submitting to agents/publishers the next day is different to self-publishing the next day in practical ways, it’s equally inadvisable, in my opinion – that is also my point. And while it may be feasible in practical terms to get an edit and cover done in a week, I don’t think it’s a good idea for most authors who don’t have Weiner’s experience and backing, self- or traditionally published. Again, that’s my point.

        But as long as you choose to believe that I’m slamming e-publishing, which I’m really not, I don’t think there’s much point in discussing it further.

  6. This is what newspaper journalists have been doing for hundreds of years – centuries before the era of e-publishing – writing and editing stories and articles ready for publication in a very short space of time. I know that I could do this (err…with the right tools to e-publish). But when I present my work as journalism, or even on a blog, there’s an understanding that I’ve written uinder time pressure. With the books I write, I strive for even higher standards, because I have more time., I value that time and I use it to improve my work. I don’t really want to write fiction under the same conditions that I produce journalism, even though I suspect I could do it. I’m curious to know why she felt she needed to push it out so quickly? Why not just keep it until next year? Who knows what it could become? Was it particularly 2011-specific?
    Having said that, I love the fact that she had the freedom, the energy and the imagination to do this. Writers should be able to go as fast or as slowly as they want.

    1. Yes, I agree, Keren. Although traditional publishing is too slow, I wouldn’t want to work this fast either. And, no, nothing 2011-specific. Maybe she just wanted to prove that she could do it?

  7. I didn’t say you were slamming e-publishing. I do maintain that in the context of your post you appear pointlessly snide about self-publishers without having any valid argument, or proof, just a personal opinion on what you think others may or may not be doing.

    Agree to leave this now. Seems pointless.

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