During my MBA, one of the problems that was often discussed is the tension between having quality information with which to make decisions versus having timely and fast information with which to make decisions. In an ideal world, your information is both timely and accurate. It’s hard to make good decisions unless you have information that is both accurate and timely. But in the real world, there is a trade-off between timeliness and accuracy.
I offer this by way of analogy. This holds true outside the world of business and MBAs as well: in whatever field of interest or endeavor of human activity, there is always a tension and a trade-off between the quality of something and the speed it can be done.
Author Dean Wesley Smith, who has become something of a self-publishing advocate, talked about this in a recent guest post gig he did on the “Fictorians” blog. I found it interesting, then, that he took a stand against one of the most commonly-cited positives for new authors to choose self-publishing over traditional publishing: speed.
The argument goes this way: traditional publishers suck because you write a book and then a publisher accepts it and then it’s like two years before the book comes out and before you sell a single copy. Or, you self-publish and the book is out tomorrow and you’re selling like hotcakes.
And hey, I can dig that argument. I mean, yeah, two years is a long time after you’ve already invested whatever into writing that novel in the first place.
Which gets to the heart of Dean’s argument: you did invest time and learning into writing that novel, didn’t you?
His point is that many fans of digital self-publishing today are jumping in before they’ve learned to swim. They’re dashing out stories at such a breakneak pace that none of those stories is getting enough care and attention to make sure the work is the best they can make it, and as high a quality or better than anything a traditional press might publish. There are writers who haven’t earned their chops, who haven’t honed their craft, who haven’t figured out how to write a truly satisfying story. And some of them, they figure that they can self-publish so they might as well justdo it.
Dean seems to be putting a stake in the ground here: that in the world of fiction, quality matters more than speed. Overall, I think I agree with him. Sure, I’d love to go faster. I’d love to write faster, and to get published faster. But I’d rather be good than be fast.
And so I take my time. I try to pay attention to my craft. I try to learn how to write better. I’m in no hurry to make my publishing debut. Whether ultimately I end up traditionally published, digitally self-published, or some combination of the above, I have no reason to jump before I’m ready.
Some people can write faster – heck almost anybody can write faster than I do – and learn these lessons faster. But skipping the lessons just to get your next ebook out… probably isn’t going to land you on the digital best-seller lists.
What do you think? Quality? Speed? How do you balance these?