Self-Publishing: Quality vs Quantity

I know this is one of the biggest debates in the self-publishing industry. Is it better to write and publish 4+ books a year because it creates more opportunities for readers to see your books and buy them? Or is it better to put your focus on 1-2 books a year and make them as good as you can before sending them out there?

I tend to be a fast writer. The 1,667 words needed per day for National Novel Writing Month have never been a problem for me. When I’m really in the zone, I can write 6,000+ words a day. My normal output is probably more in the 1,500 to 4,000 range. Because of this, I could theoretically put out 3-4 books a year.

But I have to ask myself if that’s the right thing to do. I need time to edit my books, and no amount of editing passes ever seems like enough. I always catch something I feel I could improve.

That being said, four months doesn’t seem like it’s too little to write and edit a book. If I’m writing at my general pace, the first draft shouldn’t take more than two months. Then I’ll probably leave that novel sitting for a month or two while I work on something else (either a sequel or another series). I can also edit one book while writing the first draft of another. So it wouldn’t be like my books only take four months. In truth, they take longer, but that includes time for them to sit and for me to look at them with fresh eyes each time I do an editing pass.

Personally, I’d like to find a middle ground in the quality vs. quantity debate. I want my work to be high-quality, but I don’t want to spend too long between books. The self-publishing business is very fickle, and if you drop off the radar, you often have to start all over again with your next book.

Thankfully, I already have a decent catalogue of novels I can publish right out the gates. Empire of Chains is a few editing passes from being ready. Sunweaver, the first book of another epic fantasy series, is in about the same place (though currently it’s on submission in the Angry Robot Open Door, which is why I haven’t talked about it much). I also have a first draft written of a third epic fantasy, tentatively titled A Song of War. It’s only been lightly edited at this point.

In addition to all that, I’ve already drafted books 2 and 3 of Empire of Chains, and I’ve started on book 4. I’ve also started on book 2 of Sunweaver.

Then there are all the ideas floating around in my head.

In truth, the ability to publish multiple books a year is part of what makes self-publishing so attractive to me. I have so many ideas, and I want readers to see them. At the same time, however, I do not want to sacrifice quality.

In the end, I’ll aim to get books out quickly, but not so quickly that I sacrifice quality. They will take however long they take.

But don’t worry. I have no intention of being George RR Martin and taking an eternity to write the next book in a series. Of course, my books aren’t nearly as long as his. Empire of Chains, my longest at 167,000 words, is just over half the length of A Game of Thrones, the shortest novel in Martin’s series.

In the end, it comes down to respecting the reader. This comes in two forms. On the one hand, you respect the reader by writing at a good pace and getting new material out there. On the other, you also respect the reader by giving them a quality product every time.

I’d like to come down somewhere in the same territory as Brandon Sanderson. He writes at a quick rate and publishes multiple books a year (unless he’s working on a Stormlight Archive book). The books, at least in my opinion, are consistently high-quality. That’s what I hope to be.

Thanks for reading this rambling discussion.


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