Among the many differences between traditional publishing and self-publishing is the turnaround time from book completion to book publication. A common distinction you hear between the two publishing options is that authors have to "hurry up and wait" in traditional publishing, while they "wait and hurry up" in self-publishing.
In traditional publishing, the hurrying up and waiting stems from authors hurrying to make their deadlines and then waiting the inevitable six months-plus for the long-lead publicity campaign that their publisher is (hopefully) mounting. In self-publishing, the waiting and hurrying up refers to the tendency of self-published authors to have spent forever and a day writing and/or shopping their book to agents and editors, so that by the time they decide to self-publish they're anxious--hurrying to get their books out ASAP.
Neither of these strategies is ideal, however, as both scenarios tend to make authors anxious, and the "wait and hurry up" strategy of self-publishing can be downright harmful to a book's success.
Here are 5 reasons to wait and slow down:
1. Although many agents and traditional publishers still take on and buy manuscripts on proposal, waiting until you finish your book to shop it around will set you up for success. Writing your book on deadline for someone else is stressful at best, and while some authors argue it's the only way their books would have ever been written, the vast majority of authors I work with get sidelined and distracted from their own writing once they start shopping their books to agents and editors.
2. Long lead publicity (meaning publicity garnered in advance of your book's publication) is key to your book having a chance in the world. You'll hear from many publicists that they need three to four months lead time in order to make an impact; more and more I'm hearing they need six months to a year. Self-published authors who are in a big hurry to publish their books to the point of sacrificing this lead time should not be surprised by mediocre sales results.
3. Taking time between finishing your book and publishing your book to conceptualize a marketing strategy requires you to slow down. The marketing and publicity mindset is quite different from the one you adopt to write your book. Give yourself some transition space, and spend time brainstorming and coming up with creative ideas and outside-the-box plans for getting the message of your book out to the media and to readers. Creative planning should not be rushed.
4. Unless you have an incredibly timely topic, your audience will still be there in six months. Most people in the "wait and hurry up" camp are putting themselves under undue strain because they feel guilty for having spent three or four or nine years writing their book. Consider why you're rushing. If you don't have a built-in audience clamoring for your book, sit tight and work on building your platform and audience for a few months. It'll be worth the wait.
5. Too often I see authors sending out or publishing half-baked work. They're anxious to shop their work to agents or editors in order to get some sort of gauge on the legitimacy of their work. Or they're so beyond ready to have their book in hand that they undermine themselves by hurrying up. Your first book speaks volumes. It sets you up for future success. There are many ways to put a book out into the world, and if you're super anxious to publish, consider other ways of slowing down. Put out a small "teaser" book, or serializing your novel as a series of ebooks, publishing the final print version at the end.
Hurrying up to publish is surprisingly anticlimactic, too, so if you're feeling itchy, take a deep breath and revisit your timeline. And try to remember, time flies. So use it to spread the word, build your platform, and connect with your audience!