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What Do Readers Want More: Quantity or Quality?

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Recently I took an informal poll over on my Facebook Page. I asked readers this question: How many books a year would you like your favorite authors to write? Is ONE enough? Or would you like to read MORE than one per year?

Many writers are feeling pressure to increase their production to earn more as well as to remain in the public spotlight. Thus, many are tackling multiple projects. Some authors I know are writing 3 to 4 books a year. Others are writing two and supplementing with epublished novellas or short stories.

Let’s face it, epublishing is changing how writers do business. Because of the ease and faster pace inherent in publishing a manuscript in e-format (versus the long process involved in traditional publication), self-published ebooks can naturally hit virtual bookshelves at a much faster pace.

And now that self-published ebooks are coming out at a quicker rate, the pace has affected all authors (including traditionally published). Authors everywhere are putting pressure on themselves to keep up and to find success.

However, the real question is—what do READERS want. Do they really want more from their favorite authors? Or are they satisfied with one book per year?

As I said, I asked that question over on Facebook. And I was a little surprised by the answers I received.

Plenty of readers said they would love for their favorite authors to write more than one book a year. The majority of those wanting more, said “At least two.”

This was especially true of books in a series. Readers felt that waiting a year for the next book in a series was just too long to go between books.

One reader said this about waiting for a series book: “It sort of 'cools' off the reader when that happens. I would have bought that next book right away if it had been out. I wonder why the publishing company doesn't postpone the books in the series so they come out closer together.”

Another reader said this about series: “When too much time lapses it is hard to keep up with the people in the book and remember what is going on, especially if you are a big time reader.”

Other readers mentioned that while they would ideally love to have more books to read from their favorite authors, they understood how complicated the research and writing process are and know they have to be patient and realistic.

But . . . amidst all of the comments about wanting more, I found that a large number of comments mentioned that they would much rather have one quality book from an author they love, then multiple books that aren’t really up to par. Here were just a few comments:

“Too many books too soon results in poor writing. I've read some of the commercially popular authors, and I've been disappointed more often than not. If an author has a good story to tell, and knows how to tell it well, I'm willing to wait a little longer.”

“I would rather an author take whatever time is needed to make the book the best it can be, than be pressured to produce books too quickly that fall short of their best effort.”

“If it depended on the quality of the book I would rather have one good one than two decent ones.”

“I’d rather wait then have higher frequency but lower quality. I'll consider not continuing to read an author for poor quality, no matter how many books they've written, but I won't stop reading just because they take longer to write.”

My Summary: From what I can tell quality is much more important than quantity. Writers can spit out several books a year—if they really want to. But if we’re beginning to compromise the quality of our writing and story to keep up with the frantic pace, then we’re only hurting ourselves.

In the race to keep up and produce, we can’t lose sight of the fact that ultimately readers want a well-told story that they can fall in love with. The STORY still trumps everything else.

Side note: The quality of writing depends upon many factors. Fast-writing doesn’t necessarily equate poor quality any more than slow writing means the book will be good. However, I think it’s true that fast-writing can potentially lead to sloppiness.

Whether we crank out numerous stories per year or just one, readers aren’t going to care about our books unless we reach deep inside them, grab them tightly, and refuse to let go. If we don’t grip them, then it won’t matter whether we publish one book a year or ten—because they won’t buy any of them.

So, writers, don’t lose focus of the main thing. Tell a riveting story. That’s what readers care about most.

"Quality is not an act; it is a habit." ~Aristotle

What’s been your experience? Does your quality of writing go down the faster you write? What do YOU prefer from an author—quality or quantity?

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