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Once you get past measurable quality (demonstrable errors in spelling and grammar, and things like sentence structure and word repetition), quality is 100% personal and 100% fluid. I would even argue that there is no more quality, because it assumes that one style of writing is better than others.
 

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My best books sell. Because I don't release anything that isn't the best I could write it when I wrote it. Why on earth would I consider doing anything else?

And yes, I think quality does matter. I see it a lot when looking at sell-through and things like that, and in terms of longevity of an author.

That said, I don't think anyone can really judge "good" once you have the basics of craft down. That's pretty much up to readers. If you hit upon the things your audience wants and communicate a story clearly, that'll show in sales.
 

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Patty Jansen said:
Once you get past measurable quality (demonstrable errors in spelling and grammar, and things like sentence structure and word repetition), quality is 100% personal and 100% fluid. I would even argue that there is no more quality, because it assumes that one style of writing is better than others.
This is very true.

There are a lot of popular trade published authors that I think are absolutely horrible writers. But there are a lot of people that think those same authors are awesome. It's pretty much all subjective. It's why I don't really bother reading the reviews of books I buy, and it's why I rarely give my opinion on books.

Make sure you release a quality product that is error free and hope that you find an audience that likes your writing. That's the best you can hope for.
 

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Niles said:
Okay, this is a bit of a weird question, but how important is the quality of writing in terms of sales?

Do your more smoothly crafted books sell noticeably better than your rougher books? As long as we meet a minimum level of competence, does the writing matter as much as, say, a strong concept? Or the genre? Or, for that matter, the title and cover? The number of books you've published a single genre? I guess what I'm getting at is, how would you prioritize the importance of various factors in terms of sales? Obviously, we need to be strong in many areas--you can't sell complete dreck, and even sheer brilliance won't sell if nobody knows it exists--but I'm just trying to get a sense of how various people weight different factors.
Have you read the one star reviews of 50 Shades? And it supposedly went through two different editors.

There is no way of telling why certain books go viral.
 

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It's so subjective as to what's "best."

My prose, compared to the hotshots in literary fiction, is dirt simple and quite plain. Most of the folks here on the board have much better chops.

With that being said, I would hope that my skills over 22 titles has improved. It sure seems that way, as I cringe when I go back and read some of my stuff from those early books. The review average per book reflects that improvement as well, but I can find no correlation between my opinion of a books "quality" and sales of the title. 
 

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I think "quality" is subjective. We can all agree that a typo-ridden work with a bunch of plot holes isn't great. I've still seen some of them sell. There's one top-seller in my genre that absolutely baffles me. We're talking typos in every paragraph. Big ones. She still sells huge numbers. That being said, what is quality? I find some books that are supposed to be "masterpieces" to be unbelievably boring. I know some people find my stuff unnecessarily snarky and heavy on dialogue. I think there's an audience for just about everything. Not every book is for everyone. I've read some stuff billed as "comedy" that I can't find a laugh in. I've found other stuff not billed as comedy hilarious (and in a good way). I think people just like what they like.
 

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If my story is not satisfying or doesn't make sense, if I have a lot of copy errors or disappoint my readers, then it's of a lower quality and that will be reflected in sales or disappointed readers.  :-(  It is always my best work when I release it.  I hope I'm improving.  I hope I'm hitting my goals of improving storytelling, satisfying reads, and releasing cleaner copy.  That's the best I can do.

 

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I've never tried skate by on any minimum, so I couldn't really tell you. I give 100% every single time I leave the gate. I can't imagine not putting my best foot forward.
 

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I couldn't release a book if it didn't meet professional standards in terms of presentation and grammar. Anything less is a disservice to readers, in my opinion.

Quality, in terms of writing ability and storytelling skills, is harder to define and readers will pass judgement on that aspect.
 

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Niles said:
Ha! Well, you can't sell literal dreck, then!

I guess I don't see much tension between 'quality is personal' and 'quality is an empirical fact.' Beauty is personal, too, yet even those of use who might prefer the look of Jon Lovitz to the look of George Clooney will recognize that Clooney is, despite our personal affinity, empirically more beautiful. And I know that some of my books, and some of my sentences, are better-constructed than others, as a matter of pure craftsmanship. People may enjoy the less-polished books more, but that doesn't make them less polished, simply more appealing. The way that one house can be magnificently crafted, yet still uncomfortable, while another can be shoddy, but comfy as heck!

I am fascinated by 50 Shades, dianapersaud. I know a number of authors of erotica who have written dozens of novels, many of them along the same general lines as 50 Shades, that I would say are objectively better-crafted by a tremendous amount. Yet none of their stuff has sold a fraction of a hint of a whisper as much! Clearly 50 Shades has something, though it's not anything that is perceptible to my eye as a writer.

One of the very successful authors who shares extremely helpful posts here mentioned that her earlier novels are not very well-crafted, yet they did quite well. Just got me wondering if people sometimes think, 'Why is this sloppy book doing better than that perfect one???"
50 Shades has marketing and buzz. Once something is as big as 50 Shades, it creates its own buzz in this cycle that feed sales seemingly indefinitely. (Also, it's not self-published, so not really helpful for the purposes of self-publishing). It's more helpful to look at successful books in the midrange. You can't copy an outlier.

While there are a few successful authors who put out crappy books in all genres--poor formatting, spelling errors, incomprehensible plots, the majority of successful authors are putting out at least decent prose.

IMHO, the only path to sanity is focusing on the things you can control. You cannot control stumbling upon the next big erotica niche (BDSM billionaires). You can control the quality of your prose, the research you do on your genre, the effort and budget you put into marketing. There will always be a level of luck. You can only help yourself by putting out quality work.
 

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Well, for starters, 50 Shades isn't erotica. It's a romance novel. There's about as much sex in it as you find in most contemp romances these days.  Second, it did have buzz, but people also bought the sequels. It had more than buzz. It managed to fulfill a desire in millions of readers enough that they went on and bought two more books. Instead of denigrating it, studying why and how it might have captured readership like that might be useful. :)

I'm sure people think X book should sell better than Y other book. We all have opinions.
 

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It sounds like you're thinking along the lines of sentence structure than satisfying storytelling.  The two can't really go in the same discussion of quality, surely?  I mean, there are more beautiful sentences already written in the world than I could shake a stick at, many of them available for free on Gutenberg, Amazon, etc.  Unless you are writing literary fiction, my guess is you're not trying to out-write them, but to tell your stories and find your audience.  Right?  Maybe I'm in the wrong discussion or something.  It seems self-explanatory. 
 

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HSh said:
It sounds like you're thinking along the lines of sentence structure than satisfying storytelling. The two can't really go in the same discussion of quality, surely? I mean, there are more beautiful sentences already written in the world than I could shake a stick at, many of them available for free on Gutenberg, Amazon, etc. Unless you are writing literary fiction, my guess is you're not trying to out-write them, but to tell your stories and find your audience. Right? Maybe I'm in the wrong discussion or something. It seems self-explanatory.
I disagree, most of the books I read aren't literary fiction, but many of them stick out to me due to their beautifully constructed sentences. I'm always trying beautify my prose. I'm constantly picking at my sentences, looking for that perfect flow, trying to make sure my words have that spark. CW and HBO both tell great stories...but there's a stark difference in the cinematography found in something like True Detective and something like Arrow. My prose is my cinematography and I'm always aiming for True Detective.
 

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I think you have to do the best you can, and make it an honest effort. If you're knowingly putting a sub-par product to market, be prepared to read the corresponding reviews. If you gave it your all and people have a couple worthwhile comments on editing, etc., listen to them and adjust. If you did your best and feedback is positive, you're on the right track.

:)
 

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Briteka said:
There are a lot of popular trade published authors that I think are absolutely horrible writers. But there are a lot of people that think those same authors are awesome. It's pretty much all subjective. It's why I don't really bother reading the reviews of books I buy, and it's why I rarely give my opinion on books.

Make sure you release a quality product that is error free and hope that you find an audience that likes your writing. That's the best you can hope for.
THIS.

After publishing for several years, I realize that notions of quality are subjective. I have reviews that RAVE about the quality of my writing and then a few reviews that claim my books are poorly written TRASH! How could I get such diametrically opposed reviews? Because it's subjective.

You can't please everyone so do the very best you can and hire a good editor. At least then you know you've done everything you can to deal with the writing quality in terms of sentence structure, grammar, spelling, typos, etc. As to whether the story is quality, that is also subjective. Instead of talking quality, I tend to think in terms of audience, as in a book with a big audience, an author with a big audience. If you have a big audience waiting for your next book, questions of quality are moot, IMO.

And by that I don't mean you can forget about quality if you have high sales. What I mean is that the issue of whether your books are quality or not are trumped by the fact of having great sales. A book can be written beautifully, edited perfectly and fall flat in terms of sales because the story just doesn't catch on. Conversely, a poorly edited book with mundane prose but a rip-roaring plot and page turning pace can sell extremely well because readers care more about story than writing mechanics.
 
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Yes! quality is subjective. Like beauty is in the eye of the beholder the quality of your work represents different things depending on what you place as qualifiers. This could be spelling, grammar, sentence structure etc., but to many, many, many people out there the emphasis is always on story, entertainment factor and likeability. They will forego the occasional error as long as it's not laziness or pure stupidity (there are lots of those) where the writer is literally taking the  p*ss .

As writers get the opportunity to develop new skills or improve existing ones, the things we tend to concentrate on are usually those that the writing world demand as a 'norm' and there is always the danger that in trying to please our peers, we risk our ability to write for our reader.

So, quality yes, but think carefully about what it is that the word represents to you and your readers, not what the writing world 'per se' insists it should be.
 
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