Friday, January 26, 2018

Do You Want a Second Marshmallow?


In a recent episode of the St. Louis Writers Guild's Write Pack Radio, "Is it Ready to be Published?," steampunk author Brad R. Cook brings up "The Marshmallow Test" and relates it to reaping rewards in publishing. "Some people finish the book and query right away. Those people will not get a publishing contract," says Cook.

What is The Marshmallow Test? The Stanford marshmallow experiment was a series of studies in which children were given marshmallows and told that if they didn't eat the marshmallows for a while, they would be given more treats. The kiddos who ate the marshmallows right away didn't get any more treats. "The people who know to wait before querying, to work — and you know, run through the process," Cook continues, "they will get the second marshmallow." Fellow St. Louis author Fedora Amis chimes in, "But it's not just a matter of waiting in order to get the reward. It's also a matter of doing the other things that need to get done... the work doesn't stop just because you've written 'The End.'"

The struggle is real.

"Running through the process," in Cook's terms, means vetting your book and improving it. It means re-reading it yourself and revising it, as well as having some other trusted readers give you their feedback. It means editing, in a nutshell, but for self-publishing authors it can mean so much more — it means everything.

While the marshmallow metaphor is easy (just wait, kid), the process of getting a book ready to publish is a lot of real work. Cook is talking about getting a manuscript ready to submit to an agent, which means soliciting advice and opinions (from professional editors or from beta readers, for example), then processing that feedback and revising your book accordingly. Self-publishing authors, however, are given 3 marshmallows, and they aren't allowed to eat any of them too soon if they want more sweets:

  1. Production
  2. Marketing
  3. Management

To get good results out of your book, it has to look professional, and it needs professional production. To get good results with your sales, it has to catch the eyes of your buyer. And it has to be maintained and kept going.

Remember that rushing a book to publication often means foregoing the opportunities you could have built by waiting and working. Be patient, and you'll get your just desserts.

just desserts