In the entrepreneur world there are two concepts–minimally viable product and quick to market–which I see being touted as the next big thing for publishing. Both of which are spun from the “Move Fast, Break Things” school of thought from Zuckerberg, and are designed for maximum market disruption. Too much jargon for you already? You’re not alone.
Quick to market is just that. It means being quick to get your product to market. For drugs, cars, and other mechanical things that need testing, it means less testing, more marketing. When it comes to books, this means spending less time on editing and production and getting book out in as little a timeframe as possible. Some of us have “trained” our readers to expect a book a month, or more, and some “authors” are just a pen name under which ghost writers or a team of authors writes, to make sure that books get produced on a regular schedule without disclosing this except in closed writer communities, if at all.
The idea of a minimally viable product means putting out something as roughly finished as you can, with the idea that you will test the market, see how it does, and clean it up from there. This might be a subscription box with just enough to get people to buy it that evolves into something more. Or it could be a book that hasn’t been edited as thoroughly as it should have been.
I was following a recent thread on Twitter talking about editing or lack thereof, and that’s what got me to think about MVPs, as they’re called, again. You see, I think many authors take the MVP route. Some for money; others because they may not know better. They start out rough. Get better as sales happen, and continue to grow. And that’s not a bad thing. I think even our favorite authors we notice a distinct difference from their first book to their most recent one in terms of craft and polish. At least, I hope we do.
But I also think that the concept, as applied by certain marketing gurus to publishing, can hurt too. I’m hearing “I try not to read indie books anymore. They’re just not edited well.” That reflects on those of us who do edit (typos happen, even to big authors and big houses. This goes beyond that), and it also reflects on our industry as a whole.
The good news is that there are many ways to edit at a reasonable or no cost. Not only are there programs that help, but even having multiple pairs of eyes look at a manuscript means that it will get more editing, and I think all off us would agree that we often can’t catch our own typos. (I like to print out my manuscripts on paper and do an editing pass that way. It helps me catch those things.)
I’m curious as to what you’ve seen. A lot of MVPs or something more? Let me know in the comments.