A Quick Shake or a Slow Brew?

coffee-cup-802757_640Like many self-published writers, I’m forever concerned about sales and revenue. How can I get some financial return for my money?

There’s an avalanche of advice out there, but today I want to explore just one strategy. Several people who claim to know what they are talking about advise authors to publish multiple books. That way, they say, you can develop a following, a fan base, an audience. Once people have read one of your books, they are more likely to purchase a second. And third. And so on.

In other words, give your words a quick shake. Mix up plot, characters, and tension, add some snappy dialogue and a few clever twists, and you’ve got your novel done.

It’s hard to argue with this advice. Who among us hasn’t devoured multiple books in a series, like Harry Potter, or bought everything John Grisham or Elizabeth George publishes?

The further argument that the smart author will start collecting email addresses of fans so they can be notified of new releases or promotions only adds to the credibility of the advice.

So what’s a new author to do? Churn out four books a year?

Not so fast.

This whole strategy is based on the premise that people who read your first book actually like it.

Writing a book people like is hard enough. Even tougher is crafting a work of prose that people will enjoy (let alone rave about to their friends).

This harsh reality gets lost in all the publishing advice. Any time any of us sets out to do something new, it’s harder for us than it will be after significant practice. Which means it will take longer.

I’ve read too many books by people who seem to have overlooked this little snag that trips them up on their way to publishing glory. Some of them are books that seem to be first drafts. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors teem like mosquitoes on a humid evening. When I find myself reading to discover if the author will just once use a comma correctly, the author has failed miserably in her task of creating a world I get lost in for a few hours.

Other books have characters with magical qualities, and the book isn’t meant to be a fantasy. Like a man who can run his hands through his hair while involved in a high speed car chase and avoiding crashing into oncoming traffic. Really? I would think at least one had would need to be clinging to the steering wheel.

I could go on and on, but I think the point is clear. Self-published authors need to take the time to revise and edit their work, and get others to read it before it is published.

One author who asked me to review his published novel gave me feedback on my comments. He responded, “I know about those problems and will fix them in the next book of the series.”

So he’s expecting people to pay for a book he knows is sub-standard, and that they will come back for more? More likely he’s turned off potential readers. I know I won’t be reading anything else of his again.

We owe it to our readers to take our time and produce works worthy of their time and money. So I’m not so sure I agree with the publish-lots-fast philosophy. I heard once that writing a novel is like making a fine wine. It needs time to age.

I agree. Instead of a quick shake, writing is more like a slow brew, to get all the flavors and nuances right. If I’m going to go to the trouble to write, I want the finished product to be something readers will enjoy, and want more.

What do you think?

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