Products or quality entertainment: what are we creating?

Ah, Dean Wesley Smith, so much food for thought while challenging paradigms.

Anyway, he pointed out in a recent blog post that writers get really fixated on creating a product. We want to crank out books like bottle caps on a conveyor belt. More is better, we’re told. Make it a great product so customers will keep coming back.

Then I read an interesting thread on the Writer’s Cafe on kboards. People were talking about the low quality of these books being cranked out. Particularly the short stories or secret series prologues that are given out as bait for getting people to subscribe to mailing lists. They’re referred to as reader magnets.

One person said:

Most readers don’t want free or cheap books so much as they want entertaining books. Most of these reader magnets are marketing tools that offer little appeal to the reader.

Value is such a nebulous term as to be almost meaningless, but I think the shortest answer is this: the reader magnet should be your absolute best work. What I see, instead, is authors giving readers a blah free story, then wonder why readers don’t come back for more (often accompanied by a proclamation lamenting “freebie hoarders”).

Sturgeon’s law states that 90% of everything is crap (tongue in cheek, of course), but I’d suspect that rate is more like 99% for the reader magnets I see. Your magnet has to be a pro-quality product that you could charge money for, and I don’t see that with most of them. If we are being honest, most of them are written because some person on a forum or book said we needed one, and it was just a little thing to tick off on the massive to do list. This is generally not a recipe for compelling fiction.

Source


Between that little discussion about good quality books, and Dean’s observation about how authors fixate on product over story, it’s given me a lot to think about. Do I want to be an author who cranks out Products? Or do I want to be an author who takes care to craft a really engaging, entertaining story that is a fun, fantastic escape?

babydragons-sandara
Baby dragons, by Sandara. Quality art from a quality artist.

As a reader, I respect the heck out of my own readers. I want to give them a great experience when they crack one of my books. It’s why I took down the Spacetime books. If I couldn’t stand to read them, what reader would? They weren’t a good experience.

So, what do you think? Would you rather read a Product? Or a book that an author had worked very hard to make Quality Entertainment?

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6 thoughts on “Products or quality entertainment: what are we creating?

  1. Honestly, I think about this question all the time! I know there are fantastic writers out there who can crank out works at an incredible rate and still produce a quality read. I admire and respect them so much. And I’m so tempted to try to do the same, but I know me, I know my writing style and my process, and if I want to write quality books and not just a quantity of them, if I want my books to be the type that readers want to re-read years down the road, I have to take my time.

    It’s such a struggle. Because quantity seems to be everything in the marketplace. But if I respect my readers and my art, I’m going to take the time that my writing process needs in order to produce quality work.

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  2. I’m not published yet, but I’m definitely going for quality over quantity. I’m taking a loooooong time brainstorming my current project because I know my best ideas need time to steep. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Your vampire novel series sounds interesting 🙂

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  3. I hear what you are saying. I’m currently releasing all four of my book series The Seven Words within a one-year period (The Sorcerer’s Bane: February; The Light Arises: May; The Deceit of Darkness: August; The Light Unbound: November). I have, however, already written all four books and am polishing and editing in between releases. So though they are coming out quarterly, I’m hoping they are quality not quantity in the end.

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    1. I’m doing the same thing with my superhero fantasy books. They’re written and just need editing before release. I’m proud of them and feel like they’re quality stories.

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  4. That’s tricky. For my last reader magnet, I put the first book in the series up for free before officially releasing it to get reviews and get it out there. It’s definitely well-edited, big story as satisfying to me as a reader as it can be. I write long so I can’t throw something out there, even if it’s short and blah, I could probably do long and blah, but not short. 🙂 Anyway, that reader magnet worked to find about a dozen true fans, so not a ton on the journey to a thousand or something, but it’s the right direction. I feel like even reader magnets aren’t working anymore as that area becomes so saturated, Instafreebie and bookfunnel.

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  5. I’d rather read quality entertainment. I actually think twice before picking up a freebie because I automatically think it won’t be good reading. Once in a while, sure, to see what a series is about or to get a feel for the author’s voice, but normally no.

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