How Many Books Should Authors Write per Year?
How many books per year should you write as a self-published author?
Well, much of it depends on your goal. If you’re writing for fun, you can keep any pace you want. If you want beauty and perfection in your novels, rushing anything can quickly become a problem, and it’s best to spend time crafting the greatest book you can. But what if your goal is to turn a profit, or even to write fiction full time?
Different authors have used different methods to identify the perfect number of books. Michael Anderle’s 20Booksto50k® adopts a mathematical approach. They say that you should calculate how much money per year you can earn from one book and then multiply your number of books until you have reached your desired income.
The strategy makes some solid points, and many writers have found that they don’t even have to reach their target number of books to hit their earnings. However, if you’re having trouble getting your foot out the door and making more than a couple of dollars on your first release, you might want to choose a different path rather than committing yourself to hundreds or thousands of future books, especially when you consider that most books dramatically decrease in sales after the first few weeks following release.
Other writers prefer a more individualized approach. It’s possible to map out your estimated word count per hour (usually around one thousand) and from their calculate how many hours you need to type a book and how many books you can type in a year.
The tricky part with this approach is that you need to account for unpredictable events. Your writing and publishing will not always stick to the schedule, and often revisions and formatting can take more time than you would estimate.
Does “More” Necessarily Mean “Better”?
When mapping out how often you should write books, you need to ask how important it really is that you publish a large number of books in the first place. It is worth noting that most successful self-published authors do publish multiple books per year. More books means that readers who discover you have more to binge on. Your variety can attract even more readers to your fandom and look more impressive.
So yes, quantity determines a lot. But what about quality?
Producing a quality book takes time, and for some authors that means spending multiple years on a single book. If you write multiple drafts, seek multiple editors, and hire a professional cover artist and interior layout designer, completing more than one book in a year might simply not be impossible.
You need to decide what elements of production you are willing to skip to keep up with the fast-paced crowd that is the indie book market.
(On the other hand, there are some authors who only needed to release a single book to reach the top of the rankings, such as Andy Weir with his sci-fi hit, The Martian. This skyrocketing popularity is incredibly rare and should not be counted on, even with meticulously crafted novels!)
Modern authors are hard-pressed when it comes to competition. Self-publishing has grown to be so massive that unless you can produce high-level books at a breakneck speed, you risk falling behind and not catching up with arbitrary royalty goals that you want to meet.
The good news is that readers are forgiving and usually flexible. A reader might finish your debut and read the next book she finds from a different author, but when she learns you have a new release, she’ll be just as happy to jump back in, even if you have a year in between. In the end, no one is judging your pacing or your quality except for you.
Your Lucky Number
So where can you start?
If you study more popular and successful authors, whether self-published or traditional, you’ll notice a wide range in the number of books published and the frequency of the publishing schedule. The only factor that remains constant is that successful authors almost always produce books consistently.
It doesn’t matter if you write three books in one year or one book in three: if you know your pace confidently and can stick to it without varying too much, you can build your publishing career off of it.
With fewer books and a slower pace, you can promote aggressive pre-release campaigns and host regular sales and giveaways to support the extended periods between. With a more frequent and heavy-hitting publishing schedule, you can focus your promotional efforts almost entirely on new releases and keep your readers wanting more.
Another key to successful publishing is to be realistic about what you have and what you are capable of getting. If you’ve published books in the past, take a moment to review your charts. Check how well you sell and how your books fare over time. You can use those numbers as a point of reference, keeping in mind how well you can expect to sell books in the future.
How many books do you write per year, and what is the perfect number for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below or join my Facebook group for self-publishing fiction writers for further discussion.