A post by James Scott Bell at Kill Zone Blog: Should you write dreck?
The gist of [a recent post by Joe Konrath] is that it may be pointless for today’s writer of indie fiction to spend too much time trying to improve the quality of his writing … He goes on to say that readers of an author will stick with that author even if subsequent books in a series are not as good as the first few.
Bell then adds,
To be clear, Konrath’s post does not actually advocate its title. He does not think you can write pure dreck and get away with it. He says he couldn’t live with producing a work that’s “less than a grade C … But I could live with Bs. I was fine with getting Bs in school. Why put in all that extra work to turn a B into an A when I won’t lose readers for a B?”
This is interesting. My personal knee-jerk reaction is revulsion as an author and strong disagreement as a reader.
There is a short but definite list of authors whose work I used to read quite avidly, but stopped because imo the quality of their writing fell off over time, sometimes dramatically. Laurell K Hamilton comes immediately to mind, but I could add four or five more names.
There is a longer list of authors whose first book or series was great, but a second book or series was worse than mediocre. I’m quite hesitant to follow those authors to a third book or series and frankly I’m having trouble imagining that many readers don’t care if the quality falls off. I say this even though I personally do know someone who apparently can’t tell, or doesn’t care, whether the book she’s reading is good or terrible.
Here is Konrath’s post. A reasonable snippet:
I am 100% convinced that I could have self-pubbed my original novels with minor changes and made the same amount of money as I’ve currently made on those books. The reviews would be justifiably bad, but it would have benefited my career because I’d have new six books out instead of three, and the three new JD books I would have written would have sold more copies, and the three old Phin books I didn’t rewrite would still make a few bucks and my fans would forgive me.
What does this mean for writers?
Do we write books that are good enough and then move along, or do we hold onto those books until we can make them better? If all signs point to readers being forgiving and sticking with authors, shouldn’t we be listening?
I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to test my hypothesis.
SHOT GIRL took three months. Lots of research, lots of planning, a good deal of polishing.
CHASER is my next Jack Daniels book.
I’m going to start writing it on July 1 and see how quickly I can finish, and I’m not going to follow my normal routine of taking a month to make it better. I’ll get it proofed and get that sucker out there and see how it compares in sales and reviews to my other books.
I’ve got no objection to hypotheses and experimentation, but here’s the experiment that I think is relevant:
Write one great book. Follow it with a less great book in the same series. Then with four more, still in the same series, that you just zip off at top speed without any particular effort. THEN look at the numbers.
I do think readers will forgive an author for a dud in the middle of a series — Tekla did not stop me from reading the Taltos series — but I cannot believe many readers will still be with you by the fourth book of the above series. Or for your next book that’s in a different series, either.
But I guess I could be wrong.
I don’t think you commenters here are a random sample, but weigh in. How many so-so books would it take before you gave up on an author and stopped looking at their books?