Write Your Next Book: The Ideal Book Release Pace for Authors

Write Your Next Book: The Ideal Book Release Pace for Authors

I have been wildly drafting away on the second book in my ongoing fantasy series lately.

Although I spent a good portion of this year creating a prequel novella to the series for promotion efforts, and a rough draft of a completely separate project so I can start to diversity my writing partnerships, I am determined to release book two within a year of book one.

Adding to the pressure of my own personal goal is the knowledge that a book a year is a snail’s pace by modern publishing standards.

The biggest authors seem to write at a pace that is inhuman—authors like Stephen King and Chuck Wendig write 2,000 words a day, no matter what.

For perspective, that is over 15 percent (almost 400 words) more than one would have to write each day to complete NaNoWriMo.

But not all authors write at this pace.  

At the Writers Digest Conference in August, Emily St. John Mandel, author of the National Book Award Finalist Station Eleven, said her writing pace was one book every two years, and a great burden of pressure dissolved from my shoulders.

So okay, different authors write at different paces. What is the ideal pace for you? There are a number of factors to consider.

Traditional vs. self-publishing

The traditional publishing industry used to recommend that authors aim to release about a book a year. But the industry is changing.

Now, more often you hear a recommendation of one book every six months for traditionally published authors.

On the self-publishing side, where the competition for readers is fiercer and authors have more control to move at their own pace, you’ll more commonly see a recommendation of a book every one to four months. Some even say simply, as often as you can.

Does this sound intense to you? I hope so. It took me a full five years to write my first book.

But I’ve learned a few things about my process along the way, thank goodness. Now, six months is pushing myself a bit, but within range. My writing goal for 2017 is to release the third and fourth books in my series.

But don’t rush!

The dichotomy of writing is that, as much as it is a business, it is still also, always, an art.

Never, ever sacrifice quality in your chase for frequency.

Getting new releases out will only help you grow a fan base if those books continue to deliver on what made readers love you in the first place.

If your content becomes ridden with typos, shallow characters, undeveloped settings or plot holes, it won’t matter how often you release new content.

So write fast. But slow enough to maintain quality. No problem, right?

The series factor

I started writing fantasy because I love how limitless it is. I get to make up all the rules, and as long as they are consistent within the world itself, nothing else matters.

Unlike a mystery or thriller, there are no real-world parameters to research;for example, the gun type has to match the bullet used has to match the injury, and so forth.

Magic works how I say it works, thank you very much.

So imagine my distress when I sat down to write book two and found that I was now boxed in by the very rules I had, myself, created.

Writing book two in a series requires even more attention to detail than the first book, and book three will require even more than book two.

Real talk: This takes time. And it matters.

Have you ever seen two mega Harry Potter fans debate the minutiae of how knuts and sickles work? Be prepared for your most avid fans to discuss your book with the same passion and detail.

You might not have as many of these fans as Ms. Rowling, but the ones you do have…well, don’t you want to reward them for that, rather than disappoint them?

Chasing ambition

My greatest downfall as an author is that I can think of ideas for books so much faster than I can develop them. You can relate, I’m sure.

My eagerness to tackle them all right now is compounded by the knowledge that most authors tend to see a notable increase in readership and sales around book eight to 10 (according to my publisher, general word of mouth and my own observations).

I would like to hit this sweet spot as fast as I can.

Yet, if you don’t do it right, it won’t work. So I try to put my blinders up and just focus on making the best book possible out of the one in front of me right now.

The rest will come with time and persistence.  

Publishing is a war between art and business

Regardless of writing pace, the best authors seem to find a way to be comfortable in the discomfort of straddling both sides of publishing, both the art and the business.

We all have to find our own sweet spot to balance these pressures.

To find yours, consider your goals, long and short term, and pay attention to your inner voices about what allows you to create your best work.

How do you balance the pressure to produce with managing your writing quality?

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10 comments

  • Deanna says:

    I’ve been wondering about this myself! I would love to crank out a new book every six months. And I could – if I wrote fiction full-time. But, I need to put food on the table and pay bills. So I have a freelance copywriting career that demands most of my attention. My struggle is to find time to work on my second book. My goal – like yours – was to have it published within one year of book one. But, I don’t think I’m going to make it. How do you pursue your passion for writing books when you work full-time and still want to have some kind of life?

    • I know, it’s super tough when you’re working full-time–or have another major demand on your life. For me, the solution was to start waking up an hour earlier to write before I did anything else in my day. But we all find our own solutions that work for us. Good luck!

    • I know, it’s so tough! The best solution I’ve been able to come up with is to wake up early and make writing the FIRST thing I do every day. For me, that means I’m up at 5am on weekdays, and between 6 and 7 on weekends.

      But we all find our own way. Others are more night owls, or prefer to use their lunch breaks. Good luck finding your own way 🙂

  • V.M.Sang says:

    I really ought to speed up my writing, but to some extent I’m a bit stuck at the moment as my publisher wants to re-release the first 2 books in my fantasy series and a recipe book I published. The 2 fantasy books have been released and I’m just waiting for the recipe book to be done before the next one is released.

    I’m also going to release a historical novel under a pseudonym. I think itwould be better to do this, as it’s such a different genre, but that means I’ll have to double my writing speed, which is rather slow at the moment. Hey ho! I need to get my skates on.

    BTW, I like fantasy too, for the same reasons as you. Having been trying historical, I’ve discovered just how hard that is. Hats off to all historical novelists.

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  • Colin Coles says:

    I’ve Just submitted a third novel for critique. The second one has received a most popular read notification on a Kindle site. Before this event happened I was not progressing well with the chapter writing of the third novel. The incentive of good replies for the kindle edition of the second novel assisted in the completion of a first draft. I started the new novel in 2013, but was absorbed with the process of sending in manuscripts, corrections, final draft copy and then making cover selection plus blurb for the second one. This publication in print went live in January, 2016. Interest was first shown in October for the Kindle edition. When requested I’ve sent print editions to magazines and interested parties. The first novel published in 2014 recently received a good review. A mystery thriller set aboard a merchant ship. There is historical interest, which may yet grow the readership. I contacted maritime organizations and joined the Merchant Navy Association to assist with promotion. Authors are frequently asked about their target readership, but it is reviews, comments and feedback from readers, which informs you, the author. My second novel has a much younger readership than I imagined The third novel has been written to appeal as much as possible to readers of this second novel.

  • Wendy says:

    Don’t forget, the average book is getting shorter. If you look at a mass market book from, say, the ’60s and compare it to a self-published book today, the self-published may be a bigger trim size and have more pages, but actually FEWER words. For some reason that eludes me, most software today has a “single space” that would be space-and-a-half in older layouts. And the default margins are bigger.

    Back in the expectation of “one novel a year,” a novel was commonly 200,000 words or so. But in today’s goldfish-attention-span world, anything beyond 120,000 words is considered a “long” novel. Many of the “novels” available on Amazon today would only be “novellas” years ago.

    Not to say that shorter works are necessarily bad, but to compare the pace of novel generation even twenty years ago with today is apples and oranges.

  • We can get the new ideas of writing next book with the help of this article. The above comments also have the direction of writing book and answers of some question which writers have in mind before write the book.

  • Yes i got a lot of books ideas with the help of this article. My friend was asking some ideas to write a short book. I have shared some ideas with him but when i start browsing to know more ideas then i come this article which have some great ideas. I hope my friend like these ideas.

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