Kevin talks about his “iterative publishing” approach and how to leverage it to produce more books, faster, and make them as close to perfect as they can be, over time.
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Read the full transcript below. If you’d like to help improve the transcripts, email me!
Kevin Tumlinson: 00:00 Hey slingers, welcome to another Solos slinger episode. And today, perfect is the enemy of good. Find out what I'm talking about next. Hey, you look again for a jump on your own indie author career, but kind of confused about where to start. I got the place for you. Check out draft two digital. That's where you're going to be able to convert your manuscript, distributed worldwide, online, and get helped the whole way from the best author support there is. Trust me on this one. So go check out drafted firstname.lastname@example.org slash word slinger.
Announcer: 00:37 It's the Wordslinger Podcast, where story matters. Build your brand. Write your book. Redefine who you are. It's all about the story here. What's yours? Now here's the guy who invented pants optional ... Kevin Tumlinson, the Wordslinger!
Kevin Tumlinson: 01:03 Well, I am Kevin Tumlinson, the Wordslinger. Thanks so much for tuning into another word slinger podcast. This is another solo slinger podcast. I just, that really is just a fancy name for, it's just me knowing interview. And, uh, for those of you paying close attention, normally I have an interview, uh, that goes live on Fridays and these solo episodes typically go live on Wednesdays. Uh, I'm not committing to that schedule officially, just cause, uh, they're going to be a little times, like times like today when things Kinda got out of hand and it wasn't able to record and post on the day of, uh, largely this time due to the, uh, US holiday Independence Day, July 4th, uh, we had, you know, celebrations and everything going on. And Karen, I didn't really do much honestly, but, but there were some things that happened the day before, uh, which would be Wednesday, uh, personal things, that little challenges I had to deal with, uh, family related stuff.
Kevin Tumlinson: 02:04 Uh, and then the holiday poured right into that. I was gonna Leverage the, the holiday to, uh, recording another episode and instead of designed to eat hot dogs and, uh, watch crime shows a little bit of a recharge. Uh, sorry about that. No, so, no. Huh? Here I am. Um, the day after, normally I would, uh, post an interview, but I had something I really wanted to talk about this week cause it's been a big part of my publishing strategy for so long now. Um, that it's just automatic for me and it's kind of controversial. But I want, and when I say controversial, I mean I have had people who just have a visceral reaction to the very concept of what I'm about to share. Um, I've had people leave nasty reviews, um, on my books. I've had people write entire articles featuring me and featuring this process on sites like medium.
Kevin Tumlinson: 03:07 I'm trashing both so people can be weird. Um, and I've had people like at conferences who just hated everything about this idea. This could be you, you could despise what I'm about to talk about. But, um, it is a, it's a great, it's been a great process for me to really knock out work pretty quickly, get better as I go, um, improve quite a bit as I go. And, uh, and now I don't really get the kind of comments I used to get when I first started. So the idea I'm going to talk about here is iterative publishing, which if you came in from the title of this episode, You knew that right away. Uh, and I'll talk about what that is, the, the quote. And I built the quote into the title of the episode as well. And I said it just as we opened up, uh, the quote is, uh, perfect is the enemy of good.
Kevin Tumlinson: 04:00 I've also heard people say it as perfect as the enemy of done, uh, which is also true. The original quote came, we people sort of attributed to Voltaire. So, um, you can go and look it up quite a bit about this, but, um, the idea is that, uh, focusing on perfection will be detrimental to you in the creative process in creating new work. Um, now what's interesting is in a doing just a quick [inaudible] spot research to find out and to make sure I knew who said the quote and, or who said, at first at least, um, I came across the Wikipedia article, which you should probably check out. And one of the things it talks about that I never even considered. Uh, so it talks about how Aristotle and Confucius and some other as Wikipedia labels them, classical philosophers, uh, had a prince, they came up with the principle of the golden mean, um, which is a, you've probably heard that term used before.
Kevin Tumlinson: 05:06 Um, and then there was the idea of the Pareto principle or what some people call the 80, 20 rule. And these things all play into, uh, this exact concept. So here's the deal in a nutshell, a as we define it here, iterative publishing is creating first the very best work you can create with the resources you have and then publishing. And that does not mean you've finished your manuscript. You've done zero editing and you post it online. It means you finished your manuscript, you've done as much editing as you are capable of doing. You've hired people if you were capable of hiring them. You've done all the things to produce this book, um, to the, to the best of your ability. That includes cover design, uh, editing, uh, you know, uh, whatever formatting all these things. It's so you've, uh, you've done the very best you can do with the resources you have and only you are going to be able to judge this.
Kevin Tumlinson: 06:08 Okay. This sounds familiar. I'm sure. Cause I talk about this all the time, but now we're going to quantify this as a, uh, as a technique, as a process. Um, so the idea here is to get the book as ready as you're capable of getting it right now and making it live. Don't wait to ship a Steve jobs is famous for saying real artists ship and by ship. In this case, we mean publish, um, publishing. Get your work out there. Like I said, and I'm sorry. Here I'm going to pause and, uh, I'm going to mute and clear my throat.
Kevin Tumlinson: 06:41 You are welcome because I already coughed in your once. So, um, here's the, here's the idea. You, um, you're not just throwing this out there and forgetting about it. The idea of iterative publishing is you're gonna come back and improve this as you go. So the, hopefully as you're producing work, you are improving on the resources you have. Okay? So let's just, uh, let's just use a sort of bare bones, skeletal analysis of this whole thing. You write the book, you get it to the best shape you can get it in. Let's just say that you don't have the resources to hire anyone to make your cover or, um, edit your work or do the layout. And so you have to figure out ways to do that yourself. We've talked about ways to do that, just that sort of thing. Uh, in the episode on a bootstrapping your author career to go to the word singer, podcast.com, search for that on the, uh, the, the podcast page. And you'll find that episode. Um, you've, so you're bootstrapping your career by using free resources and things like that to create your cover to your editing and do your layout among other things. So you've used those and let's say that you published that book and you start getting a readership and then somebody writes and says, um, hold on, I'm on mute again.
Kevin Tumlinson: 08:07 I am sorry about that. I know I could edit this out, but it doesn't seem more like we're having a conversation across the table when you get to hear me choking and coughing and drinking water like this. Mm. It's intimate. Uh, so, and I'm sorry for those of you who hate that sort of thing. I know. Uh, so the, the idea here is you've produced the book at the best and highest quality. You're capable with the resources you have, but you're going to come back to it as you, as your resources grow. So in our scenario, you put the book out and you get some readers, a reader, uh, either leaves a review or emails you, hopefully they email you. You don't want to do not use the reviews as a conversation. Do not ever use your, the reviews on Amazon too. Don't ever comment on a review, good or bad, just don't do it.
Kevin Tumlinson: 09:01 If you're able to reach out to the person somehow outside of Amazon, a fine, but do not, do not respond and engrave this in your brewing your brain so that it can't be ignored. Do not respond to reviews online. It will never go well. It will never go well. Even if you get some buddy buddy love from whoever it is that you're talking to, it's going to work against you. Just trust me on this. If you don't trust me on this, I'll talk about this more in another episode. Um, so you've got your good enough version of the book, good enough meaning, uh, you've gotten to a point where it's, it's at the highest quality. You're a book produce. Someone writes you and says, Hey, I found a bunch of typos. What is this bs or whatever. So what you can do at that point is invite that person to get on your, I call them my street team, but you can make them your Beta readers.
Kevin Tumlinson: 09:59 You can make them your editing team, whatever you want to call these folks. And the deal would be a come on board and I will send you, every time I write a new book, I will send you a free copy of the book. And then you help me out by helping me find those typos and errors. And then you take what they give you. And you go back to your source document, you correct it, you spit it back out as an ebook and you put it back online again. So it's iterative publishing, meaning you iterate, you improve as you go. Uh, now, oh, sorry, you heard me say you're putting your good enough version online. Uh, this is the part where I usually lose folks or they get mad at me. Um, because some people have this, I believe, misguided belief that a book has to be absolutely perfect before you can show it to the world.
Kevin Tumlinson: 10:55 When you have the resources to do that, that I think that's fine. I think, I think you should always perform up to your resources okay. Up to your capabilities if you are a terrible at cover design. Um, and so you use Canva to make your cover. There's nothing to be ashamed of in that, but you should be working toward, um, putting back the money to pay someone to design a cover. Or alternatively, you could go and start, you know, taking courses and learning how to do, you know, high end graphic design yourself. Uh, but let's just face it. It's just, it's just a little, that's probably not what you want to do. Like that's, that's outside of the, uh, sort of the purview of the work that you're trying to do. Right. So, so just, uh, work on putting some money back in, hiring somebody, but the Canva cover will be just fine.
Kevin Tumlinson: 11:49 It's good enough, right? It looks professional, you know, could probably be better, but it's going to look professional enough. Uh, you, you know, you can use layout software like vellum, if you can afford vellum or you can use free software like drafted, digital's a free layout tools to, to lay out your book and format your book. Um, that is fine. I mean, I use that, I used all of them, but I would use draft to digital if I, if I couldn't afford vellum, I would, I would use drafts. Digital's formatting tool. Um, so, you know, you don't have to pay anybody for formatting, just use, use the tool. Uh, there's no shame in that game. And same goes with, uh, editing. You know, as soon as you can afford to pay someone to edit for you, then go out and get yourself an editor who will help you find typos, find logistical problems with the book, you know, all the things, the developmental editing stuff, you know, just, just keep adding to your resources over time and it's always worth the investment.
Kevin Tumlinson: 12:53 If you start, you know, investing in better tools, you can leverage those tools to create more work later. Some of you may not be writing series, may not be writing multiple books. I understand this, the iterative process still works for you because you'll improve the book that you have. Okay. Um, until it's perfect. I mean, eventually it may well be perfect. I'm going to tell you though, I haven't come across the perfect book yet, far. I'm nearly 47 years old. I've read a lot of books. I've, I've yet to find a perfect, flawless book. And, uh, at this stage of my life, kind of starting to think, I don't want to, how boring would that be? Honestly, if you think about it, I mean, perfection can be kind of boring, you know? Uh, it has its glorious moment in the spotlight and then you're done nowhere to go after perfection.
Kevin Tumlinson: 13:47 So, um, but anyway, I know that a lot of people, especially when it comes to like grammar and typos and that sort of thing are kind of obsessed. My advice to you is, um, go ahead and put in the time to get that thing is as good as you can get it, as polished as you can make it. Um, but if you keep, the more you focus on that, the, uh, the longer it's gonna take you to get that book out there and eventually you're not going to get it out at all. And that's where the slight change to the quote saying that perfect is the enemy of done. That's where that comes in. Um, you should, so this, this whole idea, by the way, it's not meant to get any feathers ruffled. What is meant to do, and it's not meant to put subpar workout on the market either.
Kevin Tumlinson: 14:35 A, what it's meant to do is, uh, produce a body of work that represents, you know, your skill set and your skill level with the, with the sort of commitment that you're going to come back and improve that over time. So I'll tell you a story [inaudible] okay. This, it's kind of funny, but I, I've got about, you know, 40,000 people on my, on my author mailing list. Okay. And [inaudible] excuse me. Um, I am, I had been getting, uh, reviews like three star reviews for Quail Medina's the first Dan caller thriller. Ah, I've gotten some recently that complained about the editing and it would always go something like this. Uh, they never give me a one star, which I found very encouraging. I've gotten one or two one star reviews on that book. [inaudible] so I'm so sorry. I keep coughing year. Um, but they, what they would say is, you know, this is a great book.
Kevin Tumlinson: 15:34 Kept me up all night, read through the whole thing, couldn't, couldn't really put it down, but I, sometimes I wanted to, cause I kept running across, you know, typos and, and editing errors. This book just really needs a good editor, you know, uh, sometimes they were a little more insulting than that. Um, now see the deal with that book is, it was the first, it was kind of an experiment. I hadn't yet written thrillers or anything. Uh, I got it to a good enough, uh, state for the, for the resources I had at the time and I put it out. And so it had some flaws. And when some of those flaws, uh, we're kind of kind of bad, you know, missing words, wrong word choice and not wrong word choice, but sometimes just a, a similar sounding, you know, word, that sort of thing. Um, things that I've gotten better about over time and now I have a much better editing process.
Kevin Tumlinson: 16:25 I get a lot fewer of those kinds of complaints with my current books. Right. In fact, I actually get emails from people who've read my books from the beginning who tell me, um, that they're really impressed that, you know, they're not seeing that kind of stuff as much anymore. Uh, it's, it's becoming more and more rare. Okay. So that's the whole iterative process at work. Um, now what I've done is I've gone back and periodically updated quail o medallion and that I really thought I had it all licked. Um, but I didn't, uh, there was clearly some flaws still the book, I was still getting those reviews. So what I did was I reached out to my list and I said, hey, the book is free right now because it was, it was during a promo, the uh, the j Conrad Promo actually that told you about a couple of weeks ago.
Kevin Tumlinson: 17:13 It was, um, free for a few days. And so I said to my list, Hey, if you haven't read it already, there's a good chance to get it for free. Um, and I would really appreciate it if you'd help me find and fix any typos that you find. Like just, just send me an email with the list of typos. So a 40,000 people on this list did, I mentioned this part. So I got no fewer than 3000 responses from people over the course of the next couple of weeks with typos. They were, some folks were sending me an email every, every time they found an [inaudible] a, an error one at a time. So I might have someone sending me a hundred emails multiplied by like 3000. So, uh, so you could see this guy out of hand really quickly. So I eventually I sent another email and I said, hey, thank you all so much for your support for, for, you know, me and Dan Cao.
Kevin Tumlinson: 18:17 Kotler both. Thank you. Um, I, I underestimated how just generous everyone is and I've gotten 3000 plus emails. So, um, if you, you know, if you haven't started looking at the book yet or whatever, you know, you can, don't worry about it. I've, I think I've got enough to cover it. Of course, that led to, um, thousands of emails saying, Hey, okay, no problem. Glad you got some help. And, uh, I, here's the errors I did find. And so, uh, but that, you know, live and learn, right. I have lived in now learned, um, don't send an email to 40,000 people asking them to spot your typos. Uh, what I should have done is just go to the street team I already had and said, hey, look, guys, I know you've all read this book already. Uh, probably some of you came in after the release of this book, so you know, do me a favor, go take a look at it and now I'll, I'll find a way to reward you for the experience.
Kevin Tumlinson: 19:17 Um, I should've done that. I would, would've benefited a great deal more. Uh, but you know, that's part of this process is that, uh, because of this experience, I have now learned more about my list, more about what, you know, how people think. It's interesting. Some of the errors that people did send me weren't actually errors. Like one, a very nice reader sent me a list of every time the font changed in the book and by Font Change, she counted like the little, you know, few words at the beginning of a chapter or the beginning of the scene that I, that were all, you know, um, a small capped, you know, or, uh, a Tallix. So she just sent me every time that the font wasn't strictly courier or whatever, a news times new Roman or whatever the book was a was in, you know, whatever format it was in on her reader.
Kevin Tumlinson: 20:16 Um, one person sent me a really long letter describing that he, you know, the fact that he was a newspaper editor in w a retired newspaper editor, and here's what he does, here's what he would do for me and how much he would charge me, etc. And, you know, I'm not above paying for editors, I've done it in the past, but, um, you know, it was kind of a harsh demand kind of thing. Like it was basically dictating to me like, it will be done on this timeline and if you can't accept that, then you know, deals off, kind of like, yeah, I really appreciate your feedback, but, uh, I think I've gotten enough, uh, enough errors. Um, so, you know, live and learn. Um, now this is, um, what's been interesting now, I've now corrected that. This is like the third time I've corrected this book, by the way.
Kevin Tumlinson: 21:09 So this book was early in, in my, not early in my career, but it was kind of early in this new process that I use. And so like I said, it was experimental. There are lots of little flaws in the book, but it's gotten a lot better and it's going to continue to get better cause I have thousands and thousands of emails with Typos and that I've fixed a lot. A lot of them were in common, but some are not. So I'm going to just, you know, make it a little hobby to every now and then pick, pick one of the uh, emails and uh, go searching for flaws and see what I find. Um, and uh, you know, over time my expectation is that that book is going to improve quite a bit. The a end it needs to, right? I mean it's not this, this process of good enough, it's not about putting something out there forever in whatever state it's in and never coming back to it. We have a unique opportunity as indie authors to do something that really just cannot be done by the traditional publishing world.
Kevin Tumlinson: 22:19 And that is, and I'm sorry, I am all like a wreck right now. My throat is just going crazy. Um, flim everyone. Um, but, uh, we have this opportunity that, you know, most writers in the traditional world and never going to have, which is to go back and fix mistakes. I have talked to a traditional authors at conferences and over the podcast and things like that who've told me, um, yeah, there was, I get readers who email me about this one typo. These are these four or five different problems with the book and I just have to tell them, I'm like, I can't, there's nothing I can do about it. Like the publisher, I can send the note to the publisher and the publisher may fix it, but until they do another edition of the book, it's just going to stay that way. Whereas indie authors can go right after they get that email fix, it re upload and it's done.
Kevin Tumlinson: 23:19 So advantage hours. Um, and that is, uh, that's one of the strengths of being an indie author is our ability to pivot. There's a lot of criticism of indie authors self publishing. Um, that, you know, there are articles out there like, you know, self publishing is destroying publishing or destroying literature or it's bringing down the quality of books. Uh, you got groups like science fiction of America or whatever. Uh, the, the Nebula award folks criticizing Indie publishing, uh, you know, talking about it, bringing, bringing things down, bunch of scammers, etc. Uh, this is not the, that is not the industry. I know, you know, the folks that I know are folks like you who are good, good people who just want to produce stories that entertain or, or produce nonfiction book that informs or inspires, uh, all those good words, slinger, podcast, uh, tenants. But, um, how we get to that next level is paying attention to the quality of our work, uh, and making sure that we do come back and fix it.
Kevin Tumlinson: 24:29 And that's what iterative publishing really is. It's about coming back knowing that this is the living, breathing piece of work. Now, I've had, I've had reviewers, um, cause I'll write this in the back of a book. Like, Hey, I use this iterative publishing technique. So if you find typos, you know they're going to be fixed. Um, I used to put this one note in there that had, uh, my typo reporter, which I may put back in cause I think it's useful, but I had a, at least one reviewer, you just rake me over the coals for four. That idea. I do know, I agree with this idea of publishing a book before it's ready. Um, and I've had people write that in those medium articles, things like that. You know, the, the author is really just lazy. Uh, this is just an excuse. This is just lazy publishing, et Cetera, publishing a book before it's ready.
Kevin Tumlinson: 25:20 Uh, who says whether a book is ready though? Honestly, uh, if readers read and enjoy a book and leave a positive review, that book was ready and a, you can argue with me over that, but I'm going to win because this is, this is a game, uh, where you win by getting readers. You win by making readers happy. And if I did that, then the book was ready. If I paint, if I'm, if I create a painting, you know, no one ever questions whether a painting is ready. Right. That's, it's, it is the art flaws and all the artists creates and they put that art out there. There is no, you know, and they can't even go back and change anything, but it's, you know, interpreted to be good by its audience. And that's what, that's what these books are. Uh, now when it comes to nonfiction, you've got a, an obligation to accuracy and uh, sometimes depending on the type of work you are creating, um, you're gonna want to make sure that you, uh, that you get everything is, you know, right.
Kevin Tumlinson: 26:27 Your references are correct. Your, you know, the verbiage you're using is correct. That sort of thing got a lot more leeway as a fiction writer. But nonfiction, it's important to make sure those things are right. Um, that is a slightly different animal. But the, the process is the same because frankly, I have a book 30 day author. Then I plan to go back and, and tweak and update. Uh, and I was thinking, well, maybe I'll just doing a whole new edition and I probably will. Uh, but for the most part I just want to make sure that, you know, the information I'm presenting is still accurate and that is still useful. Well, I can do that. And there was no real overhead to doing that and I don't even have to, I know I'll call it a new edition and I'll even number it is a new edition, but it's going to be the same, essentially the same listing and everything on Amazon and elsewhere.
Kevin Tumlinson: 27:14 Um, just updated. So, uh, technically anybody who already owns the book could delete it from their device and re download it and get the new version, which is fine. That's, I love that idea. So, uh, but there, you know, I have an obligation with that book to make that book. Uh, you know, maybe not typo free, but to make sure the information is correct so that there, there is a slight difference with that. Uh, but anyway, so that is the, that's the gist of this, this whole iterative publishing thing. Uh, what I want to emphasize is don't get so hung up on trying to get the word perfect that you never actually finish writing it or you never actually ship it, meaning Polish it. Um, in 30 day author, I talk about this idea that you don't want to edit as you write. Now I've, I've loosened up on this rule a little because initially it was never, ever added while you write, write the whole book, then go back and edit it.
Kevin Tumlinson: 28:14 I don't think that way anymore because I think I've started a of an adapted, um, Dean Wesley Smith's a looping and he doesn't call it looping. I call it looping. I don't remember what he calls it. It's in read his book, writing into the dark, uh, very much worth it. But, uh, the idea of going back to the words you've already written and uh, editing those and then continuing on, I think that's a great way to approach it. And then I use an editing process that involves tools like Grammarly and pro writing aid and Microsoft words, uh, grammar and spellcheck. And you know, Google docs, I'm starting to kind of tinker around with Google docs and using [inaudible] tools. So, you know, um, but the idea here is you've got all the access to all this stuff. Don't try to make the book perfect. Eh. Also, in the book I talk about how we were essentially brainwashed into thinking we had to get it perfect on the first try. That's never been true. That's what editing and rewrites or forward it to Polish that work. So don't try to, don't try for perfection. Try for a, getting the work is good as you can possibly get it with the skills and resources and tools that you have. And I promise you, you'll finish more work, you'll get more work published, you'll find more readers, you'll do it all faster than you ever thought possible, and you'll be a happier as an author.
Kevin Tumlinson: 29:45 Easy peasy, right? So, uh, anyway, if you've got questions, comments, whatever, uh, giving, want to give me some feedback or follow up, go to words on your podcast.com look for this episode, episode one 92. Uh, leave me a comment on that or hit the, uh, contact button up in the menu and send me a little note. I'm a, I'm good with that. Uh, so anyway, hope you guys had a wonderful independence day. If you're in the u s and otherwise, a great July 4th, everywhere in the world. God bless you. I'll see y'all next time.
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