Once upon a time, most writers could survive by writing just one book a year. But in the changing landscape of the publishing industry, with lower advances and sales, writing one book a year isn't financially feasible for many.
With the ease of e-publishing, more and more writers are able to publish their books. But unfortunately the reading population hasn't gained as many new readers at the same rate as the number of new authors. Thus, among the influx of writers, the publishing pie has been cut into smaller and smaller slivers so that the majority of writers are earning significantly less.
As writers earn less, one of the solutions is to publish more with the hope of increasing earnings with each book out there. Obviously an author has the potential to make more money with five published books versus one.
In addition to hoping to increase earnings, writers are moving toward quantity writing because having backlists has become one way to maximize marketing. Many writers offer older books for a reduced price (or even for free) with the hope of gaining new loyal fans who buy current releases.
With so many authors and books available, it's all too easy for readers to finish our book and then find another author or book that catches their attention. Consistently having books to put into our readers' hands keeps our names fresh in their minds amidst the growing competition.
Whatever the case, the trend over the past couple of years has moved toward quantity publishing and long tail marketing. Among indie authors I know, it's not uncommon to see them releasing a new book every few months.
While the nature of traditional publishing may not allow for authors to put out books quite so frequently, many are self-publishing alongside their traditional book deals to allow for more quantity.
In this modern era of quantity-driven writing and publishing, however, there are a few pitfalls. I've had to be careful not to fall into the pitfalls myself.
1. Skimping on Research:
Research is an integral part of the writing process for most writers. Whether we write historicals, thrillers, suspense, or contemporary romance, we all have areas within our stories to research.
If we're striving to add some freshness to our story and move beyond the mundane of what most people already know, then we have to seek out new occupations, new locations, or new issues that go beyond the ordinary.
But of course, it takes time to investigate issues, interview experts, read research books, or even take trips to do more in-depth hands-on learning.
When pressed for time, research often suffers and consequently so does credibility, passion, and the thrill of unique and fresh material.
2. Skimping on Depth:
The age old question still arises: quality versus quantity? And is it possible to write fast and prolifically and still have stories that are well-plotted with characters that have clear arcs and settings that are full of sensory details?
Of course, I don't think fast writing equates poor writing. Many writers who have been using their creative muscles for a while, have honed them, learned writing techniques, and are able to produce large amounts of beautiful prose in short amounts of time.
But on the other hand, prolific writing doesn't always allow writers the time to reflect on issues within stories, to add more twists, to create more suspense, or to take characters deeper. In the rush to produce, writers may sacrifice the contemplation and mulling process that can take a story from good to great.
3. Skimping on Editing:
Often the first place writers cut corners on the road to publishing is with editing. Sometimes writers may not want to take the time to let the story have a resting period in order to gain objectivity. They may finish the writing and jump immediately into editing the book.
Usually our books need to be self-edited multiple times. One or two read-through's is never enough. But if we're in a rush, we may cut out some of the nit-picking or we may decide not to rewrite a troublesome spot.
Other writers may not want to pay the cost for a good content AND line edit. They may pay for one and neglect the other. Or they simply may be naive enough to think they can go it alone (or perhaps with the help of a critique partner or two).
My Summary: While there's nothing wrong with quantity writing, we all need a reminder now and then (including myself) not to sacrifice too much for the sake of getting our stories out there. In the end, quality still trumps quantity in building loyal and happy readers.
What about you? What are some of the pitfalls (or positives!) you've noticed about quantity-driven writing?