Why "Always Be Publishing?"

The inevitable meta-post.

Why did I choose to call this list Always Be Publishing?

Obviously, it’s a tongue-in-cheek reference to the David Mamet play Glengarry Glen Ross. In the film adaptation, a room of seasoned real estate salesmen are badgered and harassed for seven profanity-laden minutes for not producing enough revenue for the company. The hoary sales maxim “always be closing” (NSFW) is shouted mercilessly at them while they squirm in their chairs, as though they’d never heard it before.

But it’s also a reference to another, lesser-known maxim, this time from the software industry: “Always be shipping.” This saying refers to the speed of modern software development and the stiff competition in the industry.

“Always be shipping” says: If you’re not writing code, you’re not adding new features and you’re not fixing bugs. Even if you do add a new feature or fix a bug, it doesn’t count until the changes have been delivered to your users.

“Always be shipping” is a modern take on all the trite aphorisms you’ve heard before:

  • If you’re standing still, you’re moving backwards

  • Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today

  • Seize the day

In 1983, Steve Jobs said as much to his engineers at Apple when he told them, “Real artists ship.” (Yes, Steve Jobs viewed computer programming as an art. I do too, but in a way that some people might still question.)

So, what do I mean when I say “always be publishing”?

Let me start by what I don’t mean. I don’t mean you should publish crap. Don’t rush out books riddled with typos, poor writing, and flat characters just to get them to market as soon as possible. Don’t do it.

I also don’t mean that self-publishing is a tough life of grinding out books. It can be a grind, but it doesn’t have to be that way (and it shouldn’t be that way). You can “always be publishing” and enjoy every minute of it. (I am.)

What I mean by “always be publishing” is, if you want to be serious about getting published, you have to stay focused on getting published. If you’re not writing or editing, you’re not moving any closer to publication.

And if you keep revising your newest novel over and over, only willing to submit it when your novel is oh-so-perfect, you’re also not moving any closer to publication. Real artists ship.

How can you “always be publishing?” In my mind, it comes down to two practices (or disciplines), which I’ll take up in my next posts.


My latest novel is In My Memory Locked, a detective story set in near-future San Francisco. It’s a world of computer viruses attacking the id, specialized neuroliquers washing away bad memories, and a worldwide social network wired into everyone’s head.

Fans of Dashiell Hammett, William Gibson, and Philip K. Dick will find a familiarity with this book. Fans of mystery novels will find plenty in it for them as well.

Available now for Kindle and in paperback. More information can be found at j-nelson.net

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