Quality Vs. Quantity Writing. Where Do You Fit?


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This weekend, I read a great article from Lorraine Devon Wilke regarding her stance on quality over quantity. She took the stance in her article ‘Dear Self-Published Author: Do NOT write four books per year” that quality of writing is better than quantity. This was in response to an article by Penny C. Sansevieri at Self Published Author by Bowker. Lorraine was taking the position that one should not be writing so many books and should instead focus on the craft and quality of writing. She makes a good point on the current status of the publishing industry:

Beyond the fact that the marketplace is glutted with an overwhelming number of books already (many of dubious quality), writing good books simply takes time, lots of it. There’s no getting around that time. It involves learned skills, unhurried imagination, fastidious drafting, diligent editing, even the time to step away, then step back, to go over it all again. And, unless you’re a hack (and we know there are plenty of those out there), isn’t the whole point of this exercise to write good books?

This is in direction contrast to what Penny states in her list of things you should do to get discovered as a writer:

Publish. A Lot: For those of you who have spent 10 years writing your last book I have news for you. You have ten days to write your next one. Okay, I’m sort of kidding with the ten days but, candidly, the most successful authors are pushing out tons of content: meaning books, not blog posts. In most categories, readers are hungry for new reads, new books, and willing to discover new authors.  You’ll have a better time getting found if you continually push new books out there. How many should you do? At a recent writers conference some authors said they publish four books a year.

Yes, that’s right, four.

As a writer, only you know what drives you every day to get up and write. So the question is, which side of this argument are you on? For me, I take the side of Penny. This isn’t because I disagree with Lorraine. However, there are many factors at play here. Here are some of the key points I’ve outlined that reflect why, in this CURRENT environment, Penny may be right.

  1. Being ‘discovered’ has changed. If you’re actually looking to make a living writing, and hopefully one day publish that ‘masterpiece’ to the world, working on one piece for years isn’t going to cut it. On one side, competition has increased to the point that writing and publishing has become a commodity. Anybody can do it. And they can all do it by publishing .99 cent books. On the other side, the opportunities have never been greater. Where else in human history can you have the power to decide your own fate? Where else can you achieve a following without going through 100’s of rejection letters from major publishers?
  2. If you’re looking to be ‘discovered’, you need to think like an entrepreneur, because that’s what you really are. Nobody gives you a salaried job where you can sit for 8 hours a day with the promise that you have all the time in the world to publish your book and hone your craft. Not only do you have to write, but you have to put your marketing hat on. If you’re starting off writing, you need to know who your audience is, where they hang out, and how you’re going to reach them. You’re going to have to make connections with influencers so that one day when you do publish that masterpiece, you have a better chance of succeeding.
  3. I’m an entrepreneur, so that may lead to a biased opinion on this. In business, I like to fail fast and fail often. That’s the mentality you need to learn from your mistakes, move forward and continue to improve. Sitting down and spending a lot of time on the book cover isn’t going to get you anywhere. That’s the sign of a perfectionist. Write, and write often. Publish if you have to. Your first few books aren’t going to be as good as you think. They may in fact be horrible. But there’s one thing that will happen. You’re going to get SOME interest. You’re going to start getting feedback. You’ll be able to take this feedback and do better next time. Spending years on one piece of work so you can master your craft and come up with a masterpiece may ultimately disappoint you when you find that the audience you wanted isn’t the audience that’s interested.

Where do you fit in? Are you one who takes action and writes for the sake of writing, and learning from your mistakes? Or do you sit and savor every page of your piece of work, taking time to develop your craft? Leave a comment below.

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