Dear Author recently ran a poll (click on post title to view results and responses) that asked readers if the amount of published fiction should increase, decrease, or remain the same. The largest percentage of respondents voiced a desire to see fewer fiction titles published and a belief that too much of the stuff being put out was crap.
I'm resurrecting this topic because two of my publishers have recently made mention of a heavy influx of submissions over the summer, resulting in big additions to their stables. What does this mean?
Well, it probably means different things to readers, authors, and publishers.
For the companies: more writers = more releases = (ideally) more income. All publishers are scrambling for bigger pieces of the pie. This is a completely logical business goal. But, as stables grow, the multitude of new titles must somehow be accommodated. One way is to increase the number of weekly releases. Another is to increase the length of time between manuscript acceptance and publication. In any case, the business model is bound to change.
For readers: more published writers = more available books. Is this a good thing? I'm not sure. Many fiction readers complain their TBR piles are out of control. Many, like the respondents in the DA poll, have said they're dismayed by diminishing quality. Many admit their book-buying budgets are already stretched to the limit.
For authors: more fellow writers = more competition for release dates and royalties. Hard to get around that fact. As the pie slice expands for publishers and readers, it shrinks for the creators of the product. Only authors with huge, well-established followings are immune to this rather dismal outcome.
I've been through a "growth spurt" at EC, and it wasn't pretty. When that company doubled its number of weekly releases, my royalties immediately plummeted, and I wasn't alone. From what I've since seen and read, EC now issues titles just about every day of the week. They currently have ten "new releases" posted on their home page. If you count the other covers displayed there, some of which are print editions, 23 books greet you at the mouth of the Cave. Wow.
Anyway, I'd like to hear your input on this subject. How much reading material is too much? Or is there no such thing? Do you avid readers feel more is always better? Or do you think that when companies start popping out more and more titles, it's an indication they've lowered their standards for acceptance? Have you noticed a decline in quality that seems to correspond with a rise in the number of offerings? Or has quality remained consistent?
What's the optimum number of weekly releases per publisher? By that I mean, a number that satisfies your book hunger yet doesn't stress your budget or muddle your mind?
Authors, what's your take on publisher expansion? Has it ever affected you adversely, or aren't you fazed by it? Do you see it in a positive light, and if so, why?
I confess, I get the jits when one of my publishers introduces a plethora of new authors. My experience with this sort of development hasn't been good. Sad to say, becoming a better or more versatile writer isn't the solution -- not when readers are bombarded with a blinding number of choices.
My greatest fear as a craftsman is feeling forced into "assembly-line production" mode, which often seems like the only way to succeed at this gig. And, damn, I just don't want to go there.