Quantity In Sacrifice of Quality

A major gripe I have with much of the self-publishing community is that they push for authors to get as many books out there as fast as they possibly can. This goes along with my post last week about not rewriting.

I can see where some of this advice comes in. Some authors write very quickly, and write very clean drafts, so there’s not much holding them back from publishing. In the traditional publishing model, those authors would have to wait a year or more for their finished manuscript to be published. In the self-publishing or indie model, they can go from finished manuscript to product for sale in a very short amount of time.

That’s very temping, but I still can’t get over the concern for quality when every single author is trying to do that.

Here’s a story to go along with this. As a teenager, I loved Ted Dekker books. I devoured every one I could find, and there are several I re-read in the space of a year. Nowadays, I don’t read Ted Dekker. In fact, there’s only one book of his that I would re-read. Part of that is that I no longer read horror/spiritual thrillers (not for any particular faith reason…it’s a post for another day), and part of it is that I grew disenchanted with the quality of his writing at some point. I remember one year that he released 4 or 6 books. I read a couple of them and was immediately struck by how the quality of his writing had dropped. And I’ve never really picked any of his work back up.

Similarly, I recently tried a book co-written by the writers of the book Write. Publish. Repeat. I liked the how-to book, but I didn’t like their fiction, and part of that was because of the quality of the writing.

Maybe I’m a bit of a snob, because both these guys and Ted Dekker sell a lot of books. So should the quality of the work really matter, when apparently folks will still read poorer quality work

I still say that yes, quality does matter. At least to me. I can’t help it–as a kid, I dreamed of having my stories read generations later, like Lewis and Tolkien. I want my work to last. For that, you need quality, not just quantity. As should be apparent by some of my blogs on this subject, I don’t think that necessarily means that traditional publishing is the way to go. They publish just as much crap as the self-publishers. But if you want to rise to the top and have your work endure, quality is a must, and I think there are authors on both sides of the fence that are capable of it.

About H. A. Titus

H. A. Titus is usually found with her nose in a book or spinning story-worlds in her head. Her love affair with fantasy began at age twelve, when her dad handed her The Lord of the Rings after listening to it on tape during a family vacation. Her stories have been published in Digital Dragon Magazine, Residential Aliens Magazine, and four anthologies: Alternative Witness; Avenir Eclectia Volume 1; The Tanist's Wife and Other Stories; and Different Dragons Volume II. In December 2013, her short story "Dragon Dance" won Honorable Mention in a Writers of the Future contest. She lives on the shores of Lake Superior with her meteorologist husband and young son, who do their best to ensure she occasionally emerges into the real world. When she's not writing, she can be found rock-climbing, skiing, or hanging out at her online home, hatitus.wordpress.com.

13 comments on “Quantity In Sacrifice of Quality

  1. A hearty amen, here. Tried to read the book that couldn’t get published and spawned Smashwords. Um, I agree with its rejection (couldn’t even understand the first scene). What’s really sad about the “push em out, shove ’em out” self-pubbing mentality is the number of books I would have loved had the author gone through one more round of editing. Why settle for a 3-star book?
    (I also have a friend who stopped reading Dekker when she found he recycled one of his plots almost verbatim.)

  2. Well said, Heather. If quality suffers too much, trust is broken and quantity won’t matter because even the most loyal fan gets tired of repeated disappointment.

    On the other hand, “polishing” a manuscript before publication can sometimes reach OCD levels. Eventually, you gotta let that thing go and start the next project.

  3. Excellent thoughts here. As writers, we have to ask ourselves: what goals do we have? If we don’t care about our artistic legacy, then polishing matters less. But for me, I believe God is glorified by excellence. If I want to serve him with my writing, then I have duty to make it the best I can. He doesn’t ask for lots of dross when he builds the tabernacle, but the right amounts of gold and silver.

  4. Reblogged this on Tales of the Undying Singer and commented:
    One reason why I re-evaluate my writing goals of late. It’s hard enough to polish a short story to make it worth reading, let alone a novel.

  5. Heather, it is not snobbish to demand quality from artistic professionals. Writing is an art form, and we must do it excellently not only to please readers but, as Becky noted, to make an offering that glorifies God.

    Yes, we can get OCD and revise the same manuscript a million times (been there) but that’s when great critique partners, beta readers and (ahem) editors come in.

  6. Hurried work is worried work! 🙂

  7. And yet, readers were willing to wait SIX YEARS between Patrick Rothfuss’ books. There is hope that not all authors fall into this trap, because not all readers are fickle :).

  8. Well now, I don’t feel so badly that I haven’t dumped my fourth book on the unsuspecting public yet. 🙂

  9. I couldn’t agree with you more. You are dead-on right. The problem with “prolificity” to coin a word, is that after a while they all start sounding the same. Because they are the same. The classic adventure author Edgar Rice Burroughs immediately comes to mind. Although he was a master of style, if you’ve read one Burroughs you’ve pretty much read all of them barring a few exceptions. Then we have modern authors who “edit” what “partners” actually write, slap their big bestselling names on it and voila, a “new” book by “that author” shambles forth every three or fours months! Thank you for reminding us all that it’s quality, not quantity, that matters. Our writing should be works of God’s unique, distinctive and exquisite art, not an assembly-line where every book looks and sounds just like the one in front of it and behind it.

    • It’s really a matter of taste, especially in the situation you mentioned with Edgar Rice Burroughs (and writers like him).

      Just because his books are similar doesn’t mean they aren’t great or they aren’t exactly perfect for what they are. Some of us like to have a predictable experience. I was not bored reading any of ERB’s books, even though there were many and (perhaps) they were all very similar. I enjoyed every second. I wanted that experience.

      In an art example, Brian Kesinger can do as many hundreds or thousands of variations on his Otto & Victoria illustrations as he likes, and I will be thrilled to see each and every one. It’s just a girl and her octopus going about in their daily life, but I’ll never tire of it. Someone else might. Someone else might say it’s not “real art”. Someone else may not want Brian’s illustrations for their wall.

      That’s okay. It’s just a matter of taste.

  10. More than once I’ve loved an author’s first book, only to be disappointed in the second because it clearly needed more editing. I suspect the first took many years of love and careful polishing, then came a trilogy contract and the other books had to be done FAST… Such a shame. And this from large traditional publishers. They should know better. A series can certainly be effective to multiply an author’s exposure, but only if the quality of subsequent books is equal to *or better than* the first.

  11. Quality always should matter over quantity. It is always my goal whether it is in how many friends I have on facebook despite perhaps my not getting around to them all or not. I prefer fewer friends and quality friendships. I agree with this mantra in all things.

  12. […] Quantity in Sacrifice of Quality “A major gripe I have with much of the self-publishing community is that they push for authors to get as many books out there as fast as they possibly can… That’s very temping, but I still can’t get over the concern for quality when every single author is trying to do that.” Also see Trust Me, You NEED to Rewrite, same author, along the same lines. […]

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