The Law of Quality


“Every fine story must leave in the mind of the sensitive reader an intangible residuum of pleasure, a cadence, a quality of voice that is exclusively the writer’s own, individual, unique. A quality which one can remember without the volume at hand, can experience over and over again in the mind but can never absolutely define as one can experience in memory a melody, or the summer perfume of a garden.” [Willa Cather from Willa Cather’s Modernism]

What is quality?
It means different things to different people depending on several circumstances and the type of products we are evaluating. However, I believe in the world of book writing there is a threshold of quality that the reader expects. Also, their definition of quality (or a good read) affects the author’s brand and ultimately, the sales of the book because people don’t recommend poorly written books.

I feel strongly about quality because I want readers to have a positive experience with your book. I want your readers to feel that they are having a memorable involvement with you and your writing.
Why do I feel so strongly? One reason is my experience. In both publishing and book retailing, I’ve never seen a poorly written, or poorly edited book sell well. I’m sure there are exceptions, but why should we live in the exception zone?
Also, in my consulting business, I review many manuscripts, and, unfortunately, I read some bad ones. Let’s be clear. I’m not talking about the author’s core concepts. I’m speaking about the number of grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and ineffective word usages, and sentence structure. I’d add to that voicing that is too “me” focused and not reader-centric that causes the quality meter to slip to unacceptable levels.

What we all need to remember is that quality resides in the mind of the reader. If you want to create a bestselling book and an influential author brand, you need to build into your work, not merely strong content. You also need a deep commitment to quality.

Here are some ideas to help you develop quality:
1) Don’t scrimp on editing. Yes, your best friend, wife, mother, aunt, or uncle may have done well in English. Yes, they are inexpensive. However, they are not professional editors who will not only correct mistakes but will also provide honest feedback on your work. Hire a professional editor and trust them. If you need names, email me at, and I’ll help you.

2) Listen to your voice. Willa Cather is right—you want to develop a memorable voice. You want to build a lasting relationship with your reader. You want your reader to recommend you to other readers. One way is developing a writing voice that reflects you, as well as the love and empathy you have for the reader. Let me give you an example from one of my favorite novels.

I’m talking about the sound of the voice we hear when we read. Sense and Sensibility is cool but never cold. When we read it, we feel engaged, with a sense of detachment from the events Austen describes. Her writing voice sounds bemused, ironic, and we feel we’re reading a letter from an intelligent observer of the foibles of life. Her voice captivates us, and over 150 years later, the book is famous, and she is popular.

3) Look for the experience. Whether your self-publishing or going with a commercial publisher, examine your book’s layout and design. Does it feel good to read? Does the interior look attractive or like a term paper? Some people call this reader-friendly, and it’s an integral part of your overall brand and book quality, even for electronic books.

What is quality? It’s all these things, and it is what helps the reader develop a relationship with you, so they can’t wait to read your next book. In addition, they also take the time to recommend you to their friends.


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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

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