I realize that “publish too frequently” is a relative term. But the idea is that good writing takes time, and if authors rush the process of writing, revising, editing, etc., then the products they publish will likely be low quality. As an author and reader who’s particular about details, I understand and agree with that idea.
However, I don’t agree when fellow readers say it’s only possible for authors to produce one quality book a year—sometimes maybe two books—and that anything more than that is a sign of rushing and poor work.
Broadly applying “one book, maybe two in a year” to all authors doesn’t take into account that different writers’ training, abilities, and natural writing speeds differ; that different authors’ work schedules, households, life experience, and other personal circumstances differ; that not all books have identical research and groundwork requirements; that aspects such as book length and genre differ from one book to another; and that not all publishing methods and systems are the same.
I know that the longstanding precedent of traditional publishing (especially if an author only has one publisher) has set a lot of readers’ expectations for a publishing process that results in no more than one or sometimes two books from an author in one year. Hence, it’s understandable to assume that quality books depend on that common publishing speed/rate.
However, much (not all, but much) of that publishing process has nothing to do with how fast or slowly the author writes.
Even if an author can write a great manuscript in three weeks or a month, it’s still usually going to take several months to a year or so before that book makes it into print with the publisher. It’s not as though the publisher is putting all their time, focus, and finance into working with only one author’s one book.
Plus, if you were to get a look into authors’ writing lives behind the scenes, you’d find that many of them have multiple book ideas, more than one writing project going on, or even more than one finished manuscript at a time. Whether or not an author already has published books on the market, you never know how much unpublished material they may have “stacked” at home.
(Addressing the different reasons behind manuscripts, including good ones, sitting or remaining unpublished would take another blog post. But just because a book is published in a particular year doesn’t mean that’s the year the author wrote it.)
Nevertheless, some authors may get more books published in a year because they’ve landed contracts with more than one publisher. Some authors write in different genres under different names, so not all of their readers are aware of how many books the author has published in a year.
Also, with the tools and technology available nowadays for authors to publish independently, more of them are becoming hybrid authors: getting one or two books traditionally published in a year while also publishing additional books on their own in the same year—because now they can. There are also more authors who are fully independent, free to publish at their own pace, whether they’re naturally faster or slower writers. An independent author may have their own strictly scheduled, streamlined system that focuses on just that one author’s books, from their writing and revising time to their editor and cover designer, to their marketing plan, etc.
Besides, writing isn’t the only or main thing in every author’s work life. Many of the authors we read, even traditionally published ones, are people with other full-time day jobs—whether on account of preference or out of necessity. Even authors who can write pretty fast but only do it in the relatively few hours they fit in after their other jobs will likely produce books at a slower rate than they would if they wrote books full time, as some authors are in a position to do: 8 to 9 hours a day, 5 to 6 days a week.
Also, sometimes an author’s writing speed differs depending on the book or the author’s current season of life. It may take years for an author to write a single book because the material hits them so close to home. Or, the words may burst out of the author in a few weeks of writing because that sensitive material has been pent up. Or an author may not be super-emotionally attached to every book they write, but that author is fueled by successfully producing books that fans love.
Yes, when you’ve been used to seeing only one or two new books from authors in a year, you might be skeptical when you see other authors publishing more frequently than that. And unfortunately, there are some authors who do rush the process, skipping important steps or moving at a rate they personally can’t handle well, resulting in poorly crafted work.
However, poorly crafted work is not the standard that other works should be (pre)judged by, and not every higher-speed publishing process is a rushed or sloppy one. Publishing is changing, with more options available now than in the past. If an author is blessed and talented to write well at a fast speed, or they have ample hours to write every day, and they have an efficient publishing system to keep up with their production pace, I wouldn’t hold their efficiency against them, immediately assuming, “The books must not be good. It takes the author less than a year to publish them.”
Instead of prematurely basing our judgment of books on assumptions about every author’s writing process or publishing system, we should stop and take a fresh look at the products themselves—so that we won’t miss out on the good ones.