How many, how often?
“How many books should I write, how often should I release them?” That’s a question I hear a lot as an administrator to a writer’s page, next to, ‘How do I become a rich and famous Indie writer.’ Or any kind of writer.
There is no simple answer, but I’ll do the best I can.
I once read that you should have at least three books written before you submit to a traditional publisher – and I think that still holds true for traditionally published and indie writers. There were several reasons for that maxim. One of the primary ones is that very few writers become rich and famous with one book – barring a few notable exceptions. Another is simpler – both publishers and readers want to know that if they fall in love with your writing, there will be more of your books to read.
The new question is – How often?
That used to be dictated by the traditional publishers. Those publishers had thousands of books to release over a given year, and they didn’t want to saturate the market with a particular writer. If the author’s first book showed legs, they were more likely to produce and promote book two, if there was one. Knowing a writer had more books in their back pocket helped.
There was also a life cycle for traditionally published books – print for six months or so, paperback, then the new release a few months to six months after that. Especially for Christmas and pre-summer releases. Like motion pictures, publishers wanted to get the most bang for their buck. How many of you have waited impatiently for the next new book in a series? Only to find out the release date is six months out, so you pre-order it? (Giving the traditional publisher a pretty good idea of what their print run should be.) And then went searching for a similar writer to get your reading fix?
That, by the way, guaranteed them an income from that writer for at least a year or year and a half. With a second book, two years. Because another maxim was also true – book one sold book two, book two sold more of book one, and a third book would sell more of both of the others. (Otherwise known as the now-nearly-defunct back list.)
Fortunately or unfortunately, Indie writers don’t have the luxury of a large marketing department and a given reader base, so we have to create a new paradigm for ourselves. But that last maxim still holds true for us. Book one sells book two, etc. How many people have seen writers hawking the same book endlessly – to the point that you’re tired of seeing it? How many of you are inclined to buy said book, knowing that there isn’t another (or they’d have mentioned that book two is ‘coming soon’?) At a guess, not many.
And that maxim of putting books out regularly has been proven. From Amanda Hocking to Hugh Howey to Jasinda Wilder, all have proven that getting new books out regularly has made them successful. Hocking built a reader base that helped push her books along, Hugh Howey released the Wool as a serial, and Wilder put out (with her husband) about a book a month until she hit the right chord.
Do you want to be a successful well-known writer like Jasinda Wilder or Hugh Howey or Amanda Hocking? Then you have to get your name out, you have to keep it in the eyes of readers. Marketing alone won’t do that. Write a compelling book, get it edited, and while it’s being edited, write another. Get a decent cover artist. Release that first book while the second is being edited, then write the third. In the meantime, talk to people, do interviews, join FB groups. Talk about your works in progress so readers know there are more coming.
More than anything though, write what you’re compelled to write. Only Jasinda Wilder – that I know of -deliberately chose to write a certain genre. Then she and her husband got every romance/erotic romance they could find and read them – the ones that worked and the ones that didn’t. (Proof that reading your genre helps find your market.) She didn’t really hit it big – although they were making money, until she wrote Falling into You – a story of heartache, loss and healing that appeals to women readers. First, though, she built her name.
There is no easy way, but the easier way is to write, and write a lot. Put out new well-written, well-edited, books as quickly as you can. Indie writers have the ability to set their own time frame, and it doesn’t have to be tied to the traditional release cycle.
Wilder did about a book a month. A writer friend of mine does three different series and puts out three books a month – one in each. Her small publisher assigned her an editor of her own. She’s hit the USA Today bestseller lists. Yes, those two examples are romances or erotica – sex does sell. But Hugh Howey does post apocalyptic fantasy/sci-fi. Most indie writers do genre writing. Find your niche, fill it, and write. After all, isn’t that what writers do?