Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Under-achieving Author

In the brave new world of ebooks, the accepted wisdom is that it’s to your benefit to write as many books a year as possible. In the old days of print, one book a year was the norm. I spoke to one erotic romance author who had eleven books out in one year. (To keep me from jumping off a cliff, she assured me she’d written most of them before that incredible year.) With so many authors publishing books, it makes sense that every new release puts your name out there, making it more likely that readers will remember who the hell you are. Every time a reader downloads one of your books, there’s a chance they’ll decide to check out your rapidly expanding backlist. Everybody wins – the author becomes better known, the reader has more to read, and the publisher is thrilled by all of this.

Many wonderful authors pull this off beautifully. I won’t name names, but you highly productive writers know who you are! Then there’s me. In 2012 I will have a grand total of two new releases. To be fair, if you include my other writing name, it will be five releases for the year, which sounds more respectable but hardly over-achieving.

I swear, I always thought I was a fast writer! I can crank out three thousand words a day and be pretty happy with them. That adds up to two weeks for a novella, six weeks for a full-length book. With fifty-two weeks in a year, I ought to be spitting those books out like gumballs. 

But here’s the thing. That rough draft takes me two weeks. Then I let it sit while I work on something else. Then I come back to it and rewrite/vastly improve it. Then I send it to beta readers. Then I tweak it some more. Sometimes I do another full-scale revision/transformation. Then I write a synopsis, and a query letter. Then there’s the wait to hear what the editor thinks. Obviously I’m writing during that wait, but still, the time is ticking away. Once the book is accepted, there are more rounds of edits, all of which take writing time. So that two-week novella is probably more like a six-week novella, if you scrunch all those workdays together.  Oh, and I forgot the approximate week it takes to work out the story outline, the characters, the plotline, as well as whatever research might be required.

When I think of it that way, my measly two (or five) books in 2012 don’t sound quite so slacker-ish. But still, I do worry that readers will forget me in between releases. Just yesterday, according to the Book Tart, 562 new fiction books were released. In one day! I’m not sure if that even includes self-published titles. How do you keep from getting lost in that  rushing river of new books?

On the other hand, I don’t want readers to get sick of me and my books. How many books a year is “enough, already”?

I’m curious to know what other writers and readers think about this. How many books per year do you like to see from any given author? Or does it matter? Is this just one more thing for slowpoke authors like me to get neurotic about?


Phuong said...

The number of books an author can write a year all depends on that person and their family life and writing schedule. Of course, I'm always impatient for new releases from my favorite authors because I love reading their stories do much so never enough LOL :) I'd be happy with 3-4 books a pressure *winks*

Meg Benjamin said...

Sadly, productivity also depends on publishers. If they're willing to get your books out there as fast as you can produce them, you're lucky. But it's more likely you'll have a lot of down time while you wait. And no, honey, nobody's going to get sick of you and your books!

Kelly Jamieson said...

This is good to hear thoughts from readers.

Juniper, did you see this article on the Samhain blog?

It's a good reminder that cranking out 10 or 12 books a year may *not* be such a good thing.

I've discovered that even though I can write fast and I could write that many books in a year - these days I actually can't. With four releases a year, I have only just finished promoting a new release when I get the print galley to proof for the print release, then edits on the next digital release, maybe a little time to write and then it's time for more promo on the next release! With my full time day job, I just can't realistically do more than that, especially without quality suffering.

Anonymous said...

I want as many books per year per author as I can get...provided they're well written and the story's good. Depending upon the author, that be anywhere between 1 & infinity. As long as your stories are well written and keep me engaged, I'll keep buying them (as I have the money to do so). And I'll wait however long I have to, to get the next story from you.