What is This Flash Publishing Thing?

One of my readers who’s declared herself my “no. 1 fan” has consistently complained my books don’t come out fast enough for her. She was not happy to wait 8-9 months for each installment of A Perfect Hatred and asked me to “write faster.”

It did take me 20+ years to get A Perfect Hatred published, but I wasn’t going to publish until the series was ready. And I published the four books over two years for a specific purpose: to coincide with a significant anniversary for the events the series is based on.

Plus, I’m not a “rush to publish” independent author. I’ve seen that happen too many times, and the results aren’t pretty. Indeed, some indie authors have paid me to go back and edit manuscripts they published because they “had to.” Meaning they desperately wanted to see their book in print and that overcame any need for quality assurance.

Now, I’m not saying my books are perfect. I’ve found a typo (or several) in every one of my books, despite editing and multiple proofreads. Of course, I’ve found those in traditionally published books, too.

By the time 2020 thankfully ends, I will have published this year:

  • A Change for the Better (novella, January)
  • Collateral Damage (book 4 of A Perfect Hatred, April)
  • Dateline: Belgrade (novella reader magnet, August)
  • Welcome to Belgrade* (novel, October)
  • Dangerous Truths* (novel, November)
  • And Justice for All* (novel, December)

*Parts of the trilogy, Self-Inflicted Wounds.

Yeah, you read that right; three novels in three months; six books in a year.

But isn’t that “rushing to publish?”

No, because the two novellas and book 4 of the series had been in production for a number of years, and that trilogy started out as a single novel back in 2001. I didn’t finish the trilogy until 2018. Two years from completion to publication is actually pretty typical of what you’d get being published traditionally.

But the trilogy’s publishing technique has a name–“flash publishing.”

I’m Not the First

Probably four years ago, I attended the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. A presenter there, Liz Long, gave a workshop on Flash Publishing. The summer before in June, July, and August, she had flash-published her YA urban fantasy trilogy and had over 10,000 preorders for it. (And yes, I’d mention the name, but she published it under a pen name, which I’ve forgotten. Apologies.)

Of course, this didn’t mean she wrote book one, published it, and repeated the process for books two and three in three months. No, she explained, she had everything done and ready well before the publication dates. In other words it had taken her several years to write, edit, have the MSS beta-read or critiqued, proofread, formatted, covers prepared, etc.

But during that prep-time, she marketed the trilogy aggressively, accumulating thousands of followers on social media who were interested enough in the work to sign up for the preorder.

I was skeptical at first, but as she described her meticulous process–definitely not a rush-to-publish–I decided this was something I could do. I simply had to identify which of the multiple projects I was working on at the time to be the perfect candidate.

I already had a tentative schedule for the series A Perfect Hatred, as I said, revolving around specific anniversaries two years apart. That wouldn’t qualify as flash publishing, at least by Ms. Long’s definition. But I did have an MS about an event in the Balkans I’d been researching, writing, and rewriting for a number of years, Self-Inflicted Wounds.

Because Self-Inflicted Wounds had been in the works since 2001, it was a large manuscript–well over 150,000 words. Splitting it into a two-book series didn’t seem, well, like a series, so I decided three, 50,000+ word books would be ideal for flash-publishing, and not long after attending Ms. Long’s workshop, I started prepping the trilogy for publishing.

Easy and Hard

The easy part was dividing the manuscript into three books with the first two ending in cliffhangers. It was also easy to send them off to my editor, rewrite per her suggestion, line up beta readers, incorporate their comments, and format. However, a couple of technical bumps in the road slowed me down.

First was the covers. Now, I’m not a graphic artist by any means, though I did have ideas of how I wanted the covers to look. My usual source for great covers, SelfPubBookCovers.com, did not have anything that matched my vision. And believe me, I looked at a couple thousand possibilities. I’m not saying anything is wrong with the quality of the covers you’ll find there; they’re wonderful. I’ve used them for almost all my books. Rather, they didn’t have anything that matched what was in my head.

I had almost decided I’d have to hire someone and hope I could describe what I wanted, but I opted to give it a try myself, using free graphics from Pixabay. Again, I’m not a graphic artist, but between tweaking the covers uncountable times and running the possibilities past friends whose opinions I value, I got something that matched my vision.

I wanted simple, almost stylized covers (eyes, barbed wire, and lady justice), and I got that. It just took an awfully long time to get there, longer than the actual MS prep.

The second bump was something that had plagued me the whole time I’d worked on the story since 2001. In the former Yugoslavia, there were so many overlapping police jurisdictions, including multiple versions of secret police, I didn’t have a good grasp of the structure. This was somewhat critical because one of the main characters was someone I described as “the last honest policeman” in Yugoslavia. My research hit a dead end–for years.

Until early in 2019 when I found a 2001 U.N. report online about suggested improvements to the police in the then Yugoslavia. Where had it been all that time? Who knows? But it came at the right time. Of course, that meant some rewriting.

By the end of 2019, I had everything lined up and ready to go. Because the conclusion of my tetralogy was coming out in April of 2020, I opted to flash-publish Self-Inflicted Wounds in the fall, and that gave me more time to tweak those covers. In fact, I re-uploaded the print cover this morning after some tweaking from yesterday. But I’m done. I swear. Promise.

So, Flash Publishing – Yes or No?

For me it was a yes. Will I do it again? Probably not because it does compress a lot of formatting into a short period of time. I have two other trilogies that I will probably do a modified version of flash publishing for: two or three months between books instead of one.

But here’s the key to its being successful: Get the writing, editing, critiquing, rewriting all done before–well before–you want to publish. In other words, don’t decide in January to write three books to be published in February, March, and April. Work on them all simultaneously until they’re ready to publish, and accept that part of the process probably should take months, maybe years.

Then flash-publish to your heart’s content.

Book one of Self-Inflicted Wounds–Welcome to Belgrade–is available for preorder now. Books two and three will be available for preorder within the next couple of weeks.