Do You Distrust Authors Who Publish Too Frequently?

I realize that “publish too frequently” is a relative term. But the idea is that good writing takes time, and if authors rush the process of writing, revising, editing, etc., then the products they publish will likely be low quality. As an author and reader who’s particular about details, I understand and agree with that idea.

However, I don’t agree when fellow readers say it’s only possible for authors to produce one quality book a year—sometimes maybe two books—and that anything more than that is a sign of rushing and poor work.

Broadly applying “one book, maybe two in a year” to all authors doesn’t take into account that different writers’ training, abilities, and natural writing speeds differ; that different authors’ work schedules, households, life experience, and other personal circumstances differ; that not all books have identical research and groundwork requirements; that aspects such as book length and genre differ from one book to another; and that not all publishing methods and systems are the same.

I know that the longstanding precedent of traditional publishing (especially if an author only has one publisher) has set a lot of readers’ expectations for a publishing process that results in no more than one or sometimes two books from an author in one year. Hence, it’s understandable to assume that quality books depend on that common publishing speed/rate.

However, much (not all, but much) of that publishing process has nothing to do with how fast or slowly the author writes.

Even if an author can write a great manuscript in three weeks or a month, it’s still usually going to take several months to a year or so before that book makes it into print with the publisher. It’s not as though the publisher is putting all their time, focus, and finance into working with only one author’s one book.

Plus, if you were to get a look into authors’ writing lives behind the scenes, you’d find that many of them have multiple book ideas, more than one writing project going on, or even more than one finished manuscript at a time. Whether or not an author already has published books on the market, you never know how much unpublished material they may have “stacked” at home.

(Addressing the different reasons behind manuscripts, including good ones, sitting or remaining unpublished would take another blog post. But just because a book is published in a particular year doesn’t mean that’s the year the author wrote it.)

Nevertheless, some authors may get more books published in a year because they’ve landed contracts with more than one publisher. Some authors write in different genres under different names, so not all of their readers are aware of how many books the author has published in a year.

Also, with the tools and technology available nowadays for authors to publish independently, more of them are becoming hybrid authors: getting one or two books traditionally published in a year while also publishing additional books on their own in the same year—because now they can. There are also more authors who are fully independent, free to publish at their own pace, whether they’re naturally faster or slower writers. An independent author may have their own strictly scheduled, streamlined system that focuses on just that one author’s books, from their writing and revising time to their editor and cover designer, to their marketing plan, etc.

Besides, writing isn’t the only or main thing in every author’s work life. Many of the authors we read, even traditionally published ones, are people with other full-time day jobs—whether on account of preference or out of necessity. Even authors who can write pretty fast but only do it in the relatively few hours they fit in after their other jobs will likely produce books at a slower rate than they would if they wrote books full time, as some authors are in a position to do: 8 to 9 hours a day, 5 to 6 days a week.

Also, sometimes an author’s writing speed differs depending on the book or the author’s current season of life. It may take years for an author to write a single book because the material hits them so close to home. Or, the words may burst out of the author in a few weeks of writing because that sensitive material has been pent up. Or an author may not be super-emotionally attached to every book they write, but that author is fueled by successfully producing books that fans love.

Yes, when you’ve been used to seeing only one or two new books from authors in a year, you might be skeptical when you see other authors publishing more frequently than that. And unfortunately, there are some authors who do rush the process, skipping important steps or moving at a rate they personally can’t handle well, resulting in poorly crafted work.

However, poorly crafted work is not the standard that other works should be (pre)judged by, and not every higher-speed publishing process is a rushed or sloppy one. Publishing is changing, with more options available now than in the past. If an author is blessed and talented to write well at a fast speed, or they have ample hours to write every day, and they have an efficient publishing system to keep up with their production pace, I wouldn’t hold their efficiency against them, immediately assuming, “The books must not be good. It takes the author less than a year to publish them.”

Instead of prematurely basing our judgment of books on assumptions about every author’s writing process or publishing system, we should stop and take a fresh look at the products themselves—so that we won’t miss out on the good ones.

A Tip for Authors Dealing with Critical Book Reviews

I’ve written before about the kindness of critical book reviews, discussing how both positive and negative reviews are necessary in arts and entertainment and how more than just positive reviews benefit authors. Still, negative reviews can sting, and not all authors—especially newer ones—know exactly how to deal with them.

I’ll not be going into all the different ways of handling discouraging, frustrating, or baffling reviews. Rather, I’m getting to one tip for authors that I don’t hear as often as other tips.

See, many times when authors mention a negative review a reader posted about one of their books, the authors say something like, “I just got a terrible review,” or “A reader gave me one star because of such-and-such they didn’t like.”

The thing is, Author Joe, no—YOU didn’t just get a terrible review, and Author Sue, that reader didn’t give YOU one star. You the person are not what’s up for review, here. Readers are expressing their opinions about something they read, and we know how opinions vary depending on the individual.

One star from a reader doesn’t necessarily mean or prove that your book is horrible, and five stars from a reader doesn’t necessarily mean or prove that your book is excellent. Readers tend to review books based on their individual standards, thoughts, and feelings, and how a person experiences a book ultimately comes down to the person doing the experiencing. How people feel is up to them, whether the products they review are subjectively good or bad.

I know it can be difficult for authors not to take criticism of their works too hard or personally, especially considering that writing is such soul-deep work for many authors. But no matter how soul-deep the work of book writing is, book reviewing is still a subjective activity, and what someone thinks about a book they read doesn’t necessarily determine or prove anything about the person who wrote it.

So my little piece of advice to authors who want to handle book reviews better? Don’t say a reader “gave YOU” a rating or a review. Don’t word it so personally that you condition yourself to feel as though you are under assessment, as if whether or not someone likes your product affects your value. Instead, say something like, “A reader picked a two-star rating for my book because of such-and such,” or “One reviewer didn’t care for my book because of x-y-z.”

While you, figuratively speaking, may put a lot of yourself into your writing, you are not the books you sell. So don’t speak in a way that indicates you’re the product.

Hey. Some folks may think the issue of one’s language about reviews is an insignificant matter of semantics. But don’t writers know about the remarkable power of language? Being selective in your language about reviews of your books can help you to develop a thicker skin, to consider criticism from a professional perspective, and to maintain the right motivation as an author.

 

Do “Free” Books Stop Me from Buying Higher-Priced Books?

Firstly, as I share my thoughts here as both an author and a reader, be aware that “free” is in quotation marks in the title of this blog post because there isn’t really a such thing as a free book. Even if a reader isn’t taking money out of pocket for the chance to read a book, there were still costs involved with producing that book and making it available to the public. Somebody had to pay those costs.

Secondly, I’m writing this post because I know that fellow authors (particularly independent authors) sometimes suspect or assert that giving away ebooks at a $0.00 price at retailers devalues books. “Readers are starting to think that books aren’t worth anything, but I work too hard on my writing to just give it away for nothing.”

As an author, I so get it. I work incredibly hard at what I do. Still, I personally can’t think of a $0.00 price on a book of mine as a devaluation or an insult. If I did, I’d have to see all prices on all of my books as insults. Even if I were to charge 30 bucks per copy for my ebooks and I never gave any away, a “$30.00” sticker wouldn’t truly reflect what that writing cost me in practical sacrifices as well as the blood, sweat, and tears—the heart and soul—I put into my work.

It’s not up to a reader to pay a monetary price equivalent to the value of my heart, my soul, and my life experience. That would be impossible. But my very heart, soul, and life aren’t for sale anyway. I’m selling books, and once I put a book on the market, it’s a product for consumers. Putting monetary prices on products is a practice of business, not sentiment.

When I hear authors say that giving away free books is an overall bad idea, the discussions sound as if the practice of giving away books started with indie authors and the digital age. Yet, while a digital book is indeed a relatively new medium for reading, free books aren’t a new thing, and they certainly aren’t the original invention of today’s indie authors (many to most who haven’t been in publishing more than a decade or two yet, I figure).

Traditional publishers have been giving away free copies of books for a long time, including in the form of the thousands of advance reader copies (ARCs) they’ll print up for an upcoming release in the hopes of garnering some early reviews and endorsements for the book. I myself get free books from traditional publishers all the time, whether they’re ARCs, or finished copies for review, or books I’ve won in publisher giveaways, or books I’ve earned through publisher reward points, or books I’ve borrowed from the library.

YES, public libraries with free checkouts still exist!

Sometimes traditional publishers even give away piles of free copies of a new book just to get the buzz going about it among readers. I first learned about this type of guerrilla marketing when I was pretty fresh out of high school, years before I became an author. A couple of times since then, publishers I’ve reviewed for have sent me and a lot of other folks some free extra books in the mail. New releases, no strings attached—read them if you want, pass them on to friends, or whatever. Whoo!

And I’m talking about free copies of paperbacks and hardbacks from publishers. Yes, I also receive some free ebooks from traditional publishers now, including through free ebook promotions they have at retailers just like indie authors do. But publishers didn’t start by giving away ebooks. They’ve been giving away print books since well before many of today’s indies even had a serious thought about getting into publishing.

Digital publishing hasn’t created free books, but it’s added some new methods and changed the level on which free books can now be distributed.

Sure, running promotions for free ebooks doesn’t yield the same results for a lot of authors as it did earlier in the indie game, but markets change as they begin to mature. A lot of readers who used to grab up every free ebook in sight (because Free Ebook Grabbing was the new thing they could suddenly do) have since become more selective about the free ebooks they’ll download. And some readers are shopping less while they work through the ebooks they already have, discovering which authors they like and weeding out freebies they once snatched up in a hurry but now realize they have no real interest in reading.

In general, it takes a little time for an authors’ new, true fans to emerge after they’ve gotten some reading done.

So. Does downloading or otherwise borrowing books stop this reader (me) from buying higher-priced books? Nope! Real book shoppers like me find that, just like back in the olden days, plenty of books we really want, we have to buy. Or request our local libraries to purchase them. Or we let our loved ones give us bookstore gift cards for Christmas. That kind of olden-day stuff.

But instead of only having the option to buy ONE new $10, $15, or $25 book, reading it once or twice, and then cycling back to read some of our older books again while we’re waiting to save up or receive more book money to spend (like we did back in the good ol’ olden days), we now can get 3, 5, or 8 new ebooks for the same money if we want, plus pick up some freebies and inexpensive books to try new authors and genres we never would have tried in the past when our 10, 15, or 25 precious dollars would only afford us one new book.

Ebooks and the rise of independent publishing have given us more options. Exploring our options takes time, and while exploring, when we read something we find worthwhile, we put that author on our list and come back shopping for that author later.

Granted, I’m no market expert, and I’m not speaking for absolutely all readers and authors. Readers have different wants and habits, and different strategies work for different authors. If an author decides as a strategy or on principle never to give away any of their books for $0.00 to consumers, I respect their decision.

Still, giving away samples and free products isn’t a new concept or practice in business, and I do my share of research. The information I find, including these results from a survey I recently took part in, tends to show that most authors who make a living or otherwise substantial income from their books (evidently reaching good numbers of readers with their work) are authors who not only sell books but who also give away free copies.

Hence, in the bigger picture beyond that strategic $0.00 price on a book, those hardworking authors aren’t giving their writing away for nothing.

In my case, I’d rather have my writing reach as many insatiable book lovers as possible than for fewer people to ever read my writing while I’m holding on to a “heart and soul” principle that no monetary price could satisfy anyway.

That’s me. 🙂

 

Taking a Chance on New and Independent Authors

When I hear some fellow readers say they tend to stick to reading good authors they’ve already read before, or that they steer clear of independently published books, I get it. It may not be easy to risk your money and/or time on an author who isn’t proven to you, and the rise of independent publishing has put a lot of books out there that are poorly written, full of typos and technical errors, plastered with unprofessional book covers, or all of the above.

Many times, I like to stick to what’s familiar and comfortable to me. However, becoming a book blogger, the rise of independent publishing, and the availability of ebooks have all made this lifelong book lover more of a risk-taker when it comes to reading.

Since becoming a book blogger, I’ve started trying more genres.

When readers say they don’t really try out authors they haven’t read before, I think, “But what about the authors you do read? Weren’t they all new-to-you authors you had to try for the first time at some point? And will those authors supply you with enough books to last you the rest of your life?”

Then when it comes to the influx of books riding the wave of indie authorship, I figure that having to distinguish good from bad isn’t some new concept or practice. Shoddy work is oftentimes easy to spot from a blurb or a sample, and the presence of mediocre writing on the market didn’t begin with independent publishing.

Typos and technical errors in books aren’t anything new, either. I now know there’s a myth that says, “Traditionally published books are always error-free,” but I’ve been finding errors in traditionally published books ever since I was a little kid sounding out words in picture books. Even professional editors and proofreaders reading copy for established publishers are human. Books edited and proofread by humans are subject to human error.

I suspect that more readers don’t notice errors in traditionally published books because their minds assume no errors are there. And on enough occasions, I’ve found traditionally published books with bigger issues, like batches of entire chapters missing from their middles.

Publishing errors happen, even for the big guys.

On a different note in my case, years ago, as a reader who liked to buy new books for keeps but could only afford so many (I did a lot of rereading), I ran into a little crisis. The new books coming out from publishers I trusted started to seem too alike to me. Not enough diversity in styles, plots, characters, or authors. I didn’t want to feel like I was essentially buying more of the same whenever I went book shopping.

The desire to read stories that weren’t too much like what I’d already read is a big part of what motivated me to start writing my own books. And that, along with the fact that I became an independent author after my first traditional publishing contract ended, has made me more open to trying other indie authors.

Yes, I still read books from traditional publishers too, and I don’t discount the importance of what they do. But I also find that indie authors often have more freedom to work and to write outside of conventional boxes, and despite indies who do put out substandard work, many other independent authors are serious about their writing craft, about having their work professionally edited, and about getting quality book cover designs.

Plus, to state a practical bonus, indie authors can often price their ebooks lower than traditional publishers can, so I can afford to buy a greater number of books instead of rereading the same ones as much as I used to.

Why do I choose not to ignore or bypass too many new and new-to-me authors, independent or otherwise? Because I don’t subscribe to the misconceptions that only old authors can be good ones and that only bad writers independently publish. There are good and excellent writers also who become their own literary bosses and publish their work for themselves because now they can. Independent publishing is a much more efficient and viable option now than it was decades ago.

At the same time, even while I’m branching out, I’m careful about my choices. We don’t have to jump into book purchases blindly, folks. We can check out the book blurbs, read or skim a few book reviews, look inside the sample portions at retailers to get a feel for the writing style and quality before we buy (or don’t buy).

Sure, I run into indie book blurbs and samples that are poor or unprofessional. Yet, there have been plenty of traditionally published books I’ve gotten a hold of with storytelling that I wound up finding lackluster or too unoriginal, or with rushed endings or disappointing halves (“Did the author have to hurry through tying this together to meet the publisher’s deadline?”), or with chunks of content that drag out the plot or take it nowhere (“Are these unnecessary chapters here to stretch the story’s length because the publisher wanted a prescribed page count for sales?”), or stories that simply turned out not to be for me.

But does that mean all traditionally published books are bad, or that none of them are worth my time and consideration? Absolutely not.

There’s never any 100% guarantee that I’ll enjoy a book, no matter who wrote it or published it. Even authors I love usually have some books I don’t care for or that don’t wow me like their others. There’s always some level of risk involved when I pick up a book I haven’t read before.

So I go on and take some chances. I try to strike a balance between newer and older books, traditionally and independently published books, authors I hear everyone talk about and authors I discover on my own, etc.

I want to miss out on as few good books out there as possible. 😉

While they’re not at all the only good books I find all year, I’ve started sharing my favorites through my Annual Book Awards.