Quality v quantity: should authors really churn out books?

A MEMBER of the popular BooksGoSocial authors’ group on Facebook recently told how she was “on a mission” to finish the third instalment of seven novels by the end of the month – bashing out at least 65,000 words in just two weeks.

The frantic writer also told how she held down two jobs and looked after a baby (and a husband) while writing her books and self-publishing them.

Her post on Facebook prompted responses from many of the group’s 16,800 members, with one writing: “65,000 words in two weeks? That’s crazy.”

Yes, it does seem crazy – but it’s increasingly becoming the benchmark in the world of self-publishing, where quantity can sometimes overpower quality in the race to produce as many books as possible in the shortest time.

Another member of the authors’ group, formed by Irish author Laurence O’Bryan, posted that he had five books all lined up to be self-published and asked if he should release a box-set first, or publish all five works individually first.

Leading the charge among self-published authors is Bella Forrest, who cranks out “fantasy, romance, action and mystery-infused stories” – and has sold more than six million copies on Amazon since her first novel was released in 2012.

Bella, an American writer, has written a staggering 58 books in just five years – averaging nearly a dozen titles a year.

In an interview on goodreads.com, Bella told how her debut novel, A Shade of Vampire, took just one month to write, although the idea had been brewing in her mind for several years. Her sequel, A Shade of Blood, took her two or three months to write.

She said her writing schedule was “crazy”, adding: “The early hours of the morning are my favourite for writing. So I get out of bed at like 1.30am and work through until 9am. The biggest chunks of my writing get done during this period.”

It all sounds like a word factory, but Bella’s books have garnered good reviews from readers. For example, A Shade of Vampire has more than 1,500 reviews on amazon.co.uk, and more than 1,100 of them are five-stars.

However, Bella’s multitudinous offerings are never going to go down in history as great works of literature. And on Amazon, you can find a host of other prolific self-published authors, releasing book after book after book.

Unfortunately, some of these books are absolute dross. The authors are too busy hammering out their works to worry about revising their manuscripts, or getting them professionally edited and proofread.

The world’s most famous novelists wrote at a much slower pace, usually producing no more than one book a year, and honing and revising their manuscripts for months before submitting them to their publisher.

Graham Greene: wrote one book a year

Graham Greene wrote around 500 words a day. “Over 20 years I have probably averaged 500 words a day, for five days a week. I produce one novel a year, and that allows for revision and correction of the manuscript,” he said.

Ernest Hemingway: the writing well never ran dry

Ernest Hemingway also wrote 500 words a day. He said: “I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”

Michael Crichton: no dinosaur at 10,000 words a day

However, Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton pounded out 10,000 words a day. Well, who wouldn’t, with an angry tyrannosaurus rex looking over your shoulder? But he said: “Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten, including your own. It’s one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”

Gustave Flaubert: wrote one perfect sentence a day. Madame Bovary, below, took him five years to write

Gustave Flaubert, French author of Madame Bovary, is often described as a writer’s writer, but he was also one of the slowest authors in history, working at a drunken snail’s pace. It took him five years to write Madame Bovary and seven years to finish L’Éducation Sentimentale.

Despite working for 14 hours a day in his summerhouse above the River Seine, it often took him a whole week to write just one page. On an average day, his wastepaper basket would be full of discarded sheets, while he would salvage just one sentence that he was happy with.

Yes, good writing is a skill, an expertise developed over time – not on a conveyor belt in a word factory operating 24/7.

So why do some self-published authors work almost night and day to bash out a constant stream of books? Is it because of a love of writing, or purely a money-making exercise?

As a general rule of thumb, on Amazon it pays to self-publish a series of books, which can thrive off each other to boost sales, especially with Amazon’s special book price-cut promotions, such as daily deals and countdown deals. Many new authors discover this and cash in on it.

However, some self-published authors have had careers in other fields before catching the writing bug later in life. They get hooked on writing, and are happy to spend hours on end tapping away on the computer keyboard, producing a plethora of books. The income derived from these works is of secondary importance to them – the joy of creative writing is paramount.

If you’d like to comment on this blog, please use the comments box below.

FOOTNOTE: If any of you have written a book – either fiction or non-fiction – and need help with editing, proofreading, formatting for Kindle, or paperback design and cover design, I can help you on the road to publication. See below.

kindlegirlJPEG - Copy (2)

My ebooklover.co.uk business offers editing, proofreading, formatting and book and cover design services to self-published writers, of both fiction and non-fiction. See my website www.ebooklover.co.uk for full details. Check out my Facebook page www.facebook.com/ebooklover.co.uk and follow me on twitter www.twitter.com/ebookswizard


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

One response to “Quality v quantity: should authors really churn out books?

  1. There are only two possible people any indie author should care about pleasing: 1) themselves 2) their readers.

    Some readers don’t need NYT bestseller quality to enjoy a book. Some authors mostly care about writing a book that pleases those readers.

    Also minimized in the above post is the fact that many authors can write both well and quickly. I’m pretty slow, but I’m working on getting faster – without dropping quality. I’ve researched a lot of techniques to make my writing time more efficient and to help me stay productive every day instead of taking long breaks away from the keyboard. I’ve also analyzed my process to eliminate steps weren’t enhancing the quality.

    I’m not up to a book a month, but I think I can realistically reach 3-4 books per year.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s