Tips for Writers:
Tip #11 On Flooding the Literary Marketplace

We all want to make money. If you’re a freelancer, it’s even more imperative that you do the most work, at the best wages, in the shortest amount of time, but that doesn’t mean you should produce poor quality work for your clients. As this is true, the same idea goes for your career as an author. Being a freelance writer is different from being an author in that an author writes manuscripts for publication beyond an Internet readership. Freelance writers usually pen short articles or reviews for a number of websites that are looking for informative, entertaining content. They are paid for their services in most cases, though the income varies per site. Authors write for the love of the word and the need to tell a story and, of course, they’d love to earn an income from their pen. Though the author and freelance writer are producing different types of texts and varying amounts, the needs of both audiences are relatively the same: entertain and instruct, even inspire, but do it in such a manner as to make the text seem as if it were effortless to write and even more effortless to read.

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My tip this week concerns the “varying amounts” of writing that an author and freelancer produce. Freelancers are required to generate as much copy as possible not just because the companies and sites they work for ask them to, but also because they need to make a living wage. Authors, on the other hand, should think about the amount of writing they do and publish because their output is more readily considered creative and literary, especially poetry, fiction, memoir, and autobiography, in contrast to most copy that writers produce for the Web. Published work that appears in print or e-book format is, in a sense, held to a higher standard than what appears online. Artistic value seems to be in the nature of the form. We are also going to read the entire book whereas in reading texts online a majority of website users only scan an article or review to get the gist.

So, in a nutshell, all authors should think about the quality of the fiction or nonfiction they write and not flood the marketplace with copious volumes, in spite of the desire to have their name known and to make money. I know that novel series and trilogies have been all the rage for quite some time now, and that the more we produce the more money we think we’ll earn, but that isn’t really the case. It’s honestly quite difficult to make a good income as an indie author, in spite of all the instant “best-selling” self-published authors Amazon may post on its homepage. I may be a voracious reader and I used to be a writing demon, but as time has gone on, and living the not-always-so-great freelance life, I have slowed down substantially in both areas.

Authors have the inherent responsibility to create quality literary art in what they write. They are the inheritors of an ancient lineage of storytellers that goes back to oral traditions across the globe and across cultures for which myth was foundational and brought and bound a community of individuals together. I have many things to say, and a few stories to tell, but I will not write just because I can self-publish my own work, and no longer need be dependent on a traditional publishing house to have my tales read by a large audience. I believe in the power of language to change the world, to shape minds and hearts, and to inspire action in response to this shaping, to these words, so I will not write and race to an imaginary finish line because even the littlest part of me would like to make some extra money and see my books appear on the virtual and remaining brick-and-mortar bookshelves.

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So my advice is to think carefully about the stories you want to tell and how you want to tell them. How many tales can you weave before your characters, your themes, your plots and language become repetitive, dull, and formulaic? Just because you have one or two stories in you doesn’t mean you have six or seven, or that you can unravel the tapestry of the same main characters’ lives for more than two books, three if you’re lucky and have a devoted fan base. Instead of overrunning one genre such as mystery or romance, why not dip your pen in the inkwell of poetry or memoir? The key to becoming an accomplished author with a valued name and much-loved books is to produce quality literature over a period of time in which you don’t weigh down the shelves with numerous books each year or even one a year. Let your readers savor your characters, your language, your ideas and give them the time to do it in before you put out another book, whether it be in a trilogy or a standalone. Let yourself write freely, not rushed, and become well acquainted not only with the perils and pleasures of writing for an audience but with the beauty of language and how you can tell a story with your own voice that not just your readers but you as well can love and learn from. Not matter what anyone tells you, in this world it really is and always should be about quality not quantity, and that goes for all goods and services we provide for the masses, including readers.

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