Ninety Day Wonders

Recently I commented on the necessity of having a lucrative day job in a writer’s blog, and she responded by saying that the point in which most self-published authors start making money is after four years and fifteen novels.

I asked for clarification, and she reiterated that she feels that a self-published author, to be successful, should be releasing a new novel every three months. She seemed to think that it was perfectly reasonable to write, edit, and publish a book in ninety days.  While still holding a full time day job to pay the bills.

If this is true, then I am never going to make it.  I simply can’t see working an eight hour day and coming home, every night, writing a thousand words, and at the end of three months publishing it and then starting in on the next one.  If you need any time at all for editing or rewriting, then the daily word count goes up dramatically.

I went looking through the top selling authors on Amazon, and I found that not one of them averages a book every three months.  The more prolific ones average a book every year, which is what I have been going for.

Honestly, I can’t imagine that kind of pace producing anything but the most derivative style of formula fiction.  I put a lot of work into my books, research and contemplation and trying out different kinds of approaches to see what works best.  Some of my most productive days are ones in which I don’t add a single word to my manuscript.

Maybe I’m just too lazy to make it as a writer. Maybe I should be pushing myself to constantly produce verbiage.  I don’t know.

I’d really like to hear from other writers on this subject.  What do you consider a reasonable time frame for writing a novel?  How many novels a year do you consider your ideal goal?

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About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008MPNBNS
This entry was posted in Artists That I Admire, On Promotion, On Publishing, On Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Ninety Day Wonders

  1. She who? Does she put out a book every three months? Does she have a FT job? Inquiring minds want to know!

  2. A book every three months is insane. I mean, if you didn’t have a day job and writing was all you did … but STILL, that’s really fast. I’ve always felt that a crucial part of the writing process is putting your manuscript away for a few weeks and coming back to it later with fresh eyes, but you can’t really do that with the 90 day model, can you?

    I’ve always figured that a book a year or so is pretty good. A lot of my favorite fantasy authors seem to range between 2-3 years per book. George RR Martin, of course, averages 5+ years between books, but they are pretty thick, so we’ll give him a little leeway 🙂

  3. I believe you’re correct in stating this kind of pace would not produce great material. How could it possibly? Not when life continues concurrently, family, work etc. I understand for it to be profitable quickly it may mean having to produce faster; but at what cost? Money or quality writing…though I believe the the money will only come as a result of quality writing, back to square one. Keeping your own pace is always the best – only you know what you’re capable of.

  4. Oloriel says:

    I so love it when there is people writing giving some success sheet to follow or an “advice”. To be honest, I have no intention of sitting on my ass and pushing myself to write just to make the book published, because I believe this gives out sort of a generic stories. I believe a book needs love and time and I would prefer it if my book was vibrant and reflecting the world I created in my head perfectly – and I believe this can take a different amount of time, from idea to idea plus the real life factors I hate that these opinions are represented as something you simply must follow if you ever want to be any good or join the “best writers” club, making writers who have families and enjoy their jobs of simply pursue more then one passion quite vigorously, to feel like they are a failure and they must fit a mold.
    I would also say that this could work for someone who published THE story, the one that was kicking their heart around with the desire to live. I can understand the need that comes afterwards to earn some money out of writing, thus following this style of writing and dishing out book after book like crazy. hats of to those with that many loud worlds inside of them, but if you ask me, it reeks of bussines writing, and for me, writing is the blood and culture, not a credit card ballance.

  5. L. Marie says:

    I’m not sure who mentioned that a writer should produce a book every three months, but I haven’t been able to do that ever. Many years ago, R. L. Stine produced two books for kids a month at one point. But some of those were ghostwritten.

  6. I think the ideal is whatever the author can comfortably produce. Quality over quantity. That being said . . . I’m probably going to be doing 3 book releases a year, but it’s a unique situation. The 3 that I published last year were already written and edited with only touching up needed. So, I spent last year writing the next ones in the series. They’re done and in the editing stage right now. Eventually, my publishing might catch up with my writing. I spent so many years outlining, planning, and writing that I’m way ahead of what I’m actually putting out. Most authors aren’t in that situation and I don’t think such a pace is a mark of success.

  7. sue says:

    Well i haven’t produced one novel yet and many of my friends who are prolific do one a year, sometimes two wouldl have to check. Misaha don’t take everything you read so literally lol

  8. kingmidget says:

    I do believe volume is a part of the secret, but, yeah, one novel every three months is pretty ridiculous.

  9. Here’s my 1.5 cents (25% off today, special). 🙂

    A few authors are succeeding that way, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good model for writers, in general (and it may not even be a good models for those for whom the recipe is working, although if it’s working for them it’s kind of hard to knock it). Some authors who’ve succeeded with this strategy had a backlist to begin with, i.e. much of the work for several books had already been done (often, they’d been rejected by traditional publishers for years, and in the meantime had written several books).

    Readers want well-thought out ideas, wording that flows well for them, etc. Books don’t have to be written perfectly to succeed, but many readers won’t spend their money on “any”-thing. Most writers probably aren’t going to deliver to reasonable expectations with a highly accelerated timeline.

    Time is on your side. Quality is on your side, as that will help to spread the word in time. Great ideas are on your side, as long as you have time. If, on average, you can grow your readership, time and experience are on your side. If, overall, your sales grow (i.e. when they drop off, when you finally release your next book, or when the season changes, or after some promotion, you recover from it), then the future is bright.

  10. Elle Knowles says:

    I feel I am still honing my skills at this point and I don’t want to produce assembly line books. I believe one every 1-2 years while still holding down your day job is all that should be expected. Especially if you are the writer, editor, publisher and head of marketing.

  11. sknicholls says:

    I get anxious about the mass market fast industrial production of formulaic genre fiction. I know it is “trendy” to do everything in a series and put out one book after another as quickly as possible, but I feel that is what perpetuates the notion that independents cannot produce quality work. Realistically, we don’t have all of the middlemen to process through, so one would expect a bit of a faster production, but one in a year seems plenty fast enough. I don’t work, and I write or research almost every day (not always on the same project), but I can’t even imagine producing one book a year…and all of the OTHER things independents must do.

  12. Dave Higgins says:

    Stephen King suggests a figure of three months for a first draft. After that there is editing, re-editing, and marketing.

    I suppose if you took the bottom end of the novel length instead of the more usual ~100K, you could squeeze writing and a single round of editing into three months. But you would have to be crackerjack on using your spare minutes to brainstorm the next novel so you could keep hitting the ground running.

    Overall, I think you would have to be either immensely talented or happy to release slightly formulaic books with an above average risk of little errors.

    At the moment, I write too slowly to even hit three months for a first draft; I am working on getting there this year. Once I get there I am still planning on letting drafts mull in a drawer for a while before editing, so will probably not get faster than two novels a year. If I continue to write shorts as well, that could be lower.

  13. Any time I hear about numbers like this, I feel like they’re special circumstances to a particular author(s). That’s not going to work for everyone, and, yeah, I’d be just about ready to jump out of my window at work (which wouldn’t amount to much since I work in a basement) if I had to keep up that pace. I’m still working on the book I started early last year. Everyone has their own pace and everyone knows if they could be doing more when they’re making excuses.

    As long as you’re happy with your progress and you’re chipping away, I say try to ignore advice like this which just leads to unnecessary anxiety!

  14. Very interesting topic… To me, (admittedly not a writer of long fiction) I have to think that the type of book is a huge factor… My first book will be a collection of prose… (Though even my creative process still could not support 90 day wonders)

    Trying to understand both points of view, it seems to me that there is extra pressure to stay visible for self publishers,… Once relevant, keeping relevancy has got to be strenuous… Publishing every quarter, while also new content, also serves as a marketing tool. The referenced Amazon authors have publishers with year long marketing strategies… I even suspect that some of those authors have lots of works not yet published… Perhaps some have enough to publish 3-4 times a year BUT, due to an market established schedule of book-life and squeezing maximum gain (name recognition, press and long term profit) are strongly discouraged from publishing more often. They may even say that frequent publications could water down the brand…

    This speaks to nothing about a book’s natural creation life…

    Ultimately, there will be authors who post because of some self imposed deadline and on the other end of the spectrum, there are those who constantly edit and tweek in search for the perfect book (and I submit that some these folks may never actually publish)

    It’s gotta be about recognition and balance… Recognition of your environment and balancing the writer’s desires with those who help and support the writer… No formula, just best use of all available tools…

    Luckily, the writer is the judge and jury… I think

  15. Frankly, three months sounds way too quick to me. I can’t believe that anyone could consistently turn out good work at that kind of pace.

    I’m hoping to have my own novel done by the end of this year, which would mean a total time of around 18 months. A bit slow, I know, but it works for me.

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