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Why writing in public?

Lean Publishing, creation journey3 min read

If you stumbled upon this page, you might be asking yourself: "Why is Bruno promoting an unfinished book"? In short: I believe this way the book will become much better. Also, otherwise, I might not finish it, or I would finish it without ever making it public.

What is this weirdness called Lean Publishing?

Publish early. Publish Often. And listen to your readers.

The above quote comes from a book by Peter Armstrong. He is a founder and CEO of Leanpub, a company that supports authors through the Lean Publishing journey: from writing first sentences to selling the full book. Once you start browsing the platform you will find multiple un-finished books featured here and there.

But why would you like to share work that is not finished?

It's mostly to get early feedback from more people. This allows you to pivot if needed, and increase the chances of success of your book. If you do it properly, you won't end up with a book that nobody wants to read. Or if you do, at least you've written only 5 chapters, not 30, before you abandoned the project.

It's not any different from how you write successful software. Lean Publishing is derived from similar ideas was implemented e.g. by the development team of Linux:

Release early. Release often. And listen to your customers.

Lean Publishing in fiction

I can see how the lean approach can work well for technical books, where you could refine the code examples, fix some explanations, etc. However, what about fiction books like mine? Would you alter the plot of finished chapters, after receiving bad feedback from readers? I believe the answer is: no, don't change the plot in already published chapters. Instead publish short chapters, as a periodic series. This way you can still change how the story ends.

I was really surprised to learn that this is how Charles Dickens created "The Adventures of Oliver Twist". It was a monthly series published over 2 years (1837-1839). Polish readers might be familiar with "Lalka" (eng. "Doll") written by Bolesław Prus. It was a series published 60 years later, from 1887 to 1889. Or even a bigger polish classic "Ogniem i mieczem" (eng. "With Fire and Sword") written by Nobel laureate Henryk Sienkiewicz in the years 1884–1888!

For now, I will ignore the fact that all those authors had undeniable talents and mastered the written language. I will focus on publishing in series instead.

In my mind, the key benefit of such an approach is being able to shift the story, to where the readers like it the most. May it be killing a character that simply "didn't click" with the audience, or further exposing the most likable figures. Those can be subtle differences, yet those are some of the factors that possibly made those books into all-time classics.

Peer pressure

I know myself better than anyone. I'm not writing this book for glory or money. I'm writing it because it's fun. However, I engage in multiple fun activities that I never finish. I have 2 great mobile games that I never managed to complete. I have started multiple short stories that will never have that final sentence. I created several web applications that only GitHub administrators could ever see, assuming they decide to browse the 200+ million repositories.

How can I change that? This time I want to use public accountability to peer pressure myself. The logic here is as follows: I already told others that I would do it, it would be a shame if I had to admit to a failure later on. Will it work? The future will show.

Engage with readers

I also hope that I will manage to engage with my readers and act upon their feedback. I have bought a domain and published this site and blog. I also created a newsletter. Every sample book ends with an invite to share feedback through e-mail or, for those who prefer not to talk with a stranger on the Internet, through an anonymous online form.

Will it be enough? I'm thinking also about creating a LinkedIn or Facebook page for the book but I don't want to over-engineer it. I've already spent a lot of time creating this site, instead of writing new book chapters.

Would you have any advice on how I could further improve my approach?

Do you have any thoughts on the topic? Feel free to mail by at