Dear Writer: STOP Releasing So Many Novels!

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by Michael Cristiano

As I’m sure you know, dear readers (or Mom… Hi, Mom!), I’ve come to a couple realizations over the past year or so since the release of my first novel. The biggest revelation, the one where I decided to go back to writing for myself, I’ve written about extensively already, and you can read that post here…

But the focus of this post will be on something I’ve wanted to say for a long time, but I’ve been a little wary of the potential backlash I might face. I’d first like to preface this by saying that everyone’s writing/publishing journey is different. Every individual writer is unique, and what works well for one writer may not work well for another.

And that’s two-fold: I acknowledge that what I’m about to say is simply my opinion, and it by no means is meant to shame other authors or demean their work. Besides, you do you, fellow writer, you. There are no rules in writing. Well, there are, but you know…

Okay, deep breath. Here goes.

SLOW DOWN!

I’m not on board with the culture of write-fast, publish-much that’s taken hold of the publishing industry lately. Okay, amendment: I’m not on board with the culture of write-fast, publish-much that’s taking place in the indie author sphere (because, let’s be real, long production times are the norm, albeit necessary, with a traditional publisher).

What is the write-fastpublish-much culture, you ask? Today in the publishing industry, especially in the indie-author market, quantity is king. I’m not saying that quality isn’t being taken into account, because to some extent it probably is, but there is a new mantra for indie authors like myself: write a lot and publish as often as possible. That means that some authors are publishing three or more novels a year, sometimes as many as ten novels a year.

“But that’s not a bad thing, Michael,” you protest. “If I write three or more novels a year, and I’m able to release them, whether through a small press or a self-publisher or on creased rolls of toilet paper, why shouldn’t I? Besides, I’m building my brand, and to expedite the process, I’m growing a catalog  of my titles so that readers can discover my work.”

Well, in my opinion, there is a big problem with that mentality.

The Eternal Quality vs. Quantity Conundrum

I’m not going to lie, I judge authors who feel the need to release more than two books a year. Okay, second amendment (and I’ll be generous): I judge authors who release three or more books within a year ESPECIALLY if the three books are not part of the same series. I’m sorry: a writing career shouldn’t be a puppy mill of stream-of-consciousness vanity projects. I just don’t see how anyone has the time to publish more than three novels a year AND maintain consistent literary quality.

To me, releasing novels rapid-fire-style is indicative of premature work. If five or ten or *gasp* fifteen individual novels are being released per year, how much time was spent on each one? How many drafts did you write? How long did you spend on developmental editing? Copy editing? Proofreading? Getting notes from beta-readers? What about that break you should take between the final edit and the final read-through to clear your palate? I’m pretty sure a single evening of binge-watching Netflix doesn’t count.

Sure, if you’re a full-time writer and you have a really quick team of beta-reader/editor-robots, you could have a really good, polished manuscript in a year. Eight months if you’re lucky. But a quality novel every month and a half? I just don’t believe it’s possible. Sure, if you have a back catalog of novels you’ve written since childhood and you think they’re all ready to go at the same time, by all means, release away. But three or more is overwhelming, and did you ever think that maybe those back-cataloged books are in the past for a reason?

So, where’s the sweet spot? How many novels should you release a year in order to ensure highest quality? I don’t know, frankly. But I have a hunch: unless you’re J.K. Rowling or Shakespeare or Stephen King, or you’ve had independent third parties verify your equivalency, I’d focus more on the quality of your work and not on the quantity if I were you.

And Now: A Moment for Cheese

Because let’s be real. The number of books released in a year is just that: a number. The ratio of novels to years is arbitrary. But you know what’s not? Quality. In my opinion, books are like good cheese or wine. Good cheese and wine need time to grow–time to mature. That’s why older cheeses and older wines are more expensive: they’re better because they’ve been given time to sort their sh*t out. I’m just doubtful that the sixth novel you’ve released this year is any good.

What’s the rush for? Take your time. Be the aged cheddar of the publishing industry: digestible and dependable and a classic. Be the brie: smooth and double-creamed served with red pepper jam. Hell, be blue cheese: an acquired taste but oh-so-prolific.

Just don’t be processed cheese. Got it?

But wait!

I’m not saying it’s not possible to draft a novel in a month or less. That happens all the time, and even though sometimes I take  upwards of a year to complete the first draft of one of my novels, I know that is not the norm. Drafting a novel quickly is not the problem; rather, the problem is releasing everything that touches a Word document within six months of conception in an attempt to inflate the number of works attached to your name.

 

 

 

Guest post contributed by Michael Cristiano. He works in editing and acquisitions for Curiosity Quills Press, and his freelance work has appeared on websites such as Nexopia, FluentU, and BlushPost. Check out his blog for more of his work.

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118 thoughts on “Dear Writer: STOP Releasing So Many Novels!”

  1. I totally agree that quality is more important than quantity. However, if someone looked at the publishing dates of the eleven book under my Amazon Author page, which have all been published since February of 2014, they would probably assume I was ‘cranking them out’. The truth is that four of them were originally published in 2001 and 2002 by traditional publishers. (My rights were returned when the imprints shut down.) Plus, one of the eleven is a box set of a complete trilogy and another is a short prequel to my current series, which I offer free, so readers can decide if they like reading from a cat’s perspective.
    Thus, six of the eleven basically only required formatting to adhere to Kindle’s requirements, plus some of the others were written for my own amusement before I decided to self-publish.
    In point of fact, each new novel takes at least 9 months from beginning to actual publication. (About a third of that time is spent writing the rough draft and two-thirds is spent polishing/rewriting.)
    My goal is to write a new book each year. Xander’s books are novella length, family-friendly books for 13 and up animal lovers, so the book-per-year goal feels reasonable to me.

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  2. Brandon Sanderson published multiple books last year. His quality seems to be okay, and in the same genre as the author writes.

    Seems like one guy deciding he’s got the only right answer here, when in truth it’s different for everybody.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Brandon Sanderson’s quality is more than okay, in my opinion. I love his work on the WoT series. In Michael’s defense, he also has a team of editors and book coaches, which most indie authors don’t. Perhaps Michael is viewing it through the prism of his own experience, which is valid to him. I agree that it’s different for everybody. Thanks for reading!

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      1. I agree with you that it may be right for Michael. But Michael isn’t talking about himself. He’s telling other authors what to do based on what works for him. If he had said ‘hey, I write one book a year because that’s what I can do’ he’d get no argument from me. But he’s also totally ignored economics, and the differing markets by genre.

        Everybody is in a different situation. I’d suggest everyone has different factors to consider.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, yay! A place for me to share my opinion! Will I get backlash? Will
    I get new fans? The suspense is killing me!
    Ok, I’ll be serious. I agree, for the most part. If you’re a parent, or have a job, I don’t see how anyone can crank out that many GOOD, quality books in a year..and it’s the fault of people writing total crap books and publishing that makes it hard for the rest of us.
    BUT, if writing is your job, and you have no spouse to give attention to, and no kids to keep alive, then yeah, I can see someone cranking out several books in a series or two. SHOULD they? Well, that’s a question for the philosophers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While I agree that not everyone can write fast and well, some can. I wrote my first four novels while working a full time (and then some) job as an over-the-road truck driver. My work days were usually 14 hours and I normally had one day off every weekend. My days off at home were confined to working our subsistence garden, taking care of yard work, and fixing things. My only writing time, was when I was on the road and shut down for the night in some truck stop. I wrote those first four novels between July 4th, 2013 and May 28th, 2014, a total of less than 11 months. Written, edited, formatted, and published. It can be done, regardless of what publishers say.

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  4. I’m sorry, I don’t usually reply to stuff, but I just had to make one comment.
    The market doesn’t care if it’s good quality. Just look at 50 shades.
    Just sayin’

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I take issue with the author’s conclusions on several counts. For one thing, equating the length of time one works on a project with its quality is an oversimplification. Personal experience here: I’ve worked on books for years and they were still crap; and I’ve done a book in a couple of months (twice) that was polished, needed little editorial input, and I still am proud of it when I reread it years later.
    Secondly, you don’t seem to consider that some authors simply don’t have a choice. They need to get new stuff out in order to get food on the table and the bills paid.
    I’m always suspicious of flat statements based on one’s own personal experience only. That’s just what they are: one person’s experience. They don’t necessarily apply universally

    Liked by 3 people

  6. This article is the most succinct and best description I’ve heard to date of today’s crazy writing market. Granted, there are authors who are hauling past manuscripts out, but the key here is that they take the time to do all necessary to put out quality work. I may not be an ‘Amazon Best seller’ – often achieved by offering free books, which is another practice I don’t agree with – but the reviews I get are genuine and when a reader emails me and says ‘wow, when is your next book coming out’ I know the time I’m taking to write that next books is time well spent. Thanks, Michael, for telling it like it is.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. If you can’t keep up, there’s no need to be salty about the people who blow past you with faster, high-quality works. (Yes, contrary to your assertions, there are plenty of authors who put out amazing works, and *GASP* more than three a year.) You do you. And let everyone else do them.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This article is sadly ignorant of what readers want and the amazing ability of many writers to deliver it them. I don’t believe their writing quality is suffering, in fact, it’s likely their health or self care may be the thing that needs some attending to. If this article had been written more compassionately to consider what some indie writers are doing to make a living as a creative, that would be one thing.

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  9. I’m sure it can be true for novels, but what about poetry? I have released a few collections already this year, and I worked very hard on them. A lot of the poems were already publishable because I had written them a few years ago. I’m sure this is also true for many authors, who enjoy their writing projects, are always very conscientious about quality and are excited to share their work.

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  10. A year to write a first draft? You do realize that for a 100,000 word novel, that’s only writing 385 words per day, if you’re only writing on weekdays? Your post was at least three times that. How long did it take you to write this? Three days? I have a daily word count goal of 1000 words per weekday and I’m a full time author. When my writing is done at noon, I’m done working for the day. After four months, I have a 65.000 word manuscript. It then goes through a month of editing and formatting, using beta readers, professional editors and proofreaders, and professional formatters, just like traditional publishing. In fact, my editor works for a traditional publisher. Releasing often doesn’t diminish quality. There are thousands of poor-quality books out there, that were published by big houses. It’s Big Publishing that insists it takes a year. Am I selling millions? No, but I’ll earn half a million dollars this year and have thousands of loyal readers.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Who are you to say how many novels I should release a year? If you don’t like them, don’t buy them. There are others who will. Who are you to say that writing more novels automatically equals less quality? A working professional writer can write a number of novels a year at a good speed without sacrificing quality. I do agree with you that the ‘vanity press’ type wanna-be (self-published or not) who publishes out several ‘novels’ a year that are basically first drafts just so he/she can call themselves a ‘published author’ muddy the waters, but not all fast writers are low on quality. Again, you as the reader hold the power – for you. You are capable of buying just what pleases you. You do not have the right to dictate what or how much working professional writers write.

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    1. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything Michael said, I don’t think he was dictating, merely saying his opinion on how many books a writer should publish in a period of time. Is he write? Yes…for him. It sounds like he isn’t right for you, which is perfectly fine. Combining different opinions is what makes humanity great. Thanks for reading, Janis.

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  12. It seems that every time I see the quality versus quantity argument, it’s coming from someone writing a book a year. And for those writers, making a living as an indie novelist is probably not in their future. But to think that rapid production has anything to do with quality for those of us who do, is sheer ignorance. Indies who produce are driven, dedicated, and talented. Don’t think so? Well, the hundreds of thousands of readers do. And frankly, it’s their opinion that matters.

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  13. A lot of assumptions being made. They seem to boil down to sour grapes, though.

    I’ve got to say, as a 57-year-old who’s worked pretty much her whole life, that the job of “novelist” I’ve held for the past 5 years is the easiest and most fun job I’ve ever had. Not every single minute, but overall. Some writers find writing very difficult. Others, like me, find writing pretty easy overall. There’s no correlation I can see to quality. Likewise, some authors write very fast. Others write slowly.

    I don’t judge slow writers as being bad at what they do. I don’t see why they should judge those of us who are capable of writing faster.

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  14. Couldn’t agree more. As a professional editor as well as an author, I’ve seen plenty of manuscripts come across my desk that need to have considerable time spent on them and I know the author has no intention of doing that. When I hear that someone churns out more than half a dozen stories a year, I always cringe. While it’s possible they may be a genius writer who has no problems honing their story first time every time, I know that’s by far the exception and not the rule.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. It’s quality over quantity for me every time, and I respect authors who generally show this in their lower output. I want to write what I love to read, and what I love to read is highly selective. I don’t read just for the plot. Authenticity is so important within oneself, more important than financial gain through churning out numbers. It’s the same as my approach to art. if I did two or three in rapid succession, they’d mean a lot less to me, even if I could talk them up for the market. And where is the mindful journey in numbers? This is our lives we’re talking about. How we spend our time. For me, increased and less considered output (as it would have to be) would denigrate the wonderful experience and challenge of writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m glad someone finally said what many of us have been thinking for a while, and I appreciate Michael’s reiteratuon that this is just his opinion. He made that quite clear upfront, which is all the more reason why I agree (to an extent) with what he says. There are always legitimate exceptions, as so many people have pointed out, but I vote quality over quantity.

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  17. This makes 0 sense to me. If you don’t like the quality of Agatha Christie or Erle Stanley Gardner or Louis L’Amour or their modern equivalents, then fine, just don’t buy them. But why deny pleasure to the thousands–even millions–of readers who love those authors?

    If you can’t write fast without sacrificing quality, then obviously, don’t do it. But I edit for several writers who release 5-10 novels a year–because they’re hard-working, dedicated writers who work full-time. And their quality is just fine. Readers buy books they like. If quality is a problem, readers will stop buying.

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  18. Thank you for your article. Everyone can’t crank out several novels a year. We all work at different pace. I love writing and write short stories that I post on my website. I am working on a sequel to my juvenile novel and I have had it edited. I found that I had to set it aside for a couple of months and have recently started working on it. I found that I am looking at it with fresh eyes and will go over the editors comments more carefully. It takes courage to speak out. There are a lot of good books out there as well as some not so good. People buy what they are interested in after all. Again thank you for coming forward and speaking your mind. Self publishing also costs a lot of money unless you are good at formatting on create a space.

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