Do You Distrust Authors Who Publish Too Frequently?

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 Whether or not an author already has published books on the market, you never know how much unpublished material they may have “stacked” at home.

(Addressing the different reasons behind manuscripts, including good ones, sitting or remaining unpublished would take another blog post.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.

11 thoughts on “Do You Distrust Authors Who Publish Too Frequently?

  1. markrhunter says:

    I do get a bit nervous when an author says something like “I’ve only been doing this for two years, and I have sixty novels published!”

    There are limits to even the most prolific writer’s ability, and at a certain point you have to wonder if they’ve bothered with little things like revision, and editing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nadine C. Keels says:

      Sakes alive, 60 novels in two years! Heeheehee…

      Yeah, declarations like that from authors sound iffy to me at best. When some authors do rush the process or skip important, professional steps, and the poor results show up in their work, it can make it that much harder for readers to take future chances on authors they’ve never read before, particularly independent authors.

      On the flip side, the number of times I’ve heard readers say that authors are only able to publish one or two quality books in a year (and anything more than that must be all downhill quality from there 😀 ) makes me just as nervous.

      Especially because publishing is changing, I hope to add some perspective on how different variables play into the production pace of different authors, so a blanket “1-2 books a year” limit isn’t a good fit for every author’s ability and other circumstances in their individual lives and careers. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Davida Chazan says:

    Okay, so some writers are prolific… I think Agathe Christie is still the world’s most prolific writer ever, and most all of her books were very good. So no, just because they write a lot doesn’t mean that their books are bad or you should be suspicious of their work. However, sometimes authors feel pressured to write another book when they’re not ready, and that shows up in their subsequent books. For example (and don’t kill me here), the later Harry Potter books really needed much more editing and cutting down compared to the earlier books. This is the main reason why I don’t read many series. If the first book is really popular and the second or even third one gets similar good public reaction, the ones that come after are often just bloated and rushed. Of course, I’m sure that’s not always the case, but it happens far too often.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nadine C. Keels says:

      Oh yes, the pressure to produce is real!

      Author Sue is on the grind to make her writing career financially viable. But her course reaches a tough hitch when her last two carefully planned releases don’t perform well fast enough. So she hurries to produce different books to sell in hopes of salvaging her career before it goes too far into the red.

      Author Joe loves to write. But his creative process becomes an increasing source of frustration when it seems all of his successful author peers are able to publish two or three books for every two or three chapters Joe manages to write for this one unfinished novel he’s yet working on. Joe fears he’ll never be able to hold on to a loyal audience between books if he can’t produce them fast enough. What if any fans he gains get impatient with him, move on, and don’t come back?

      Author Rachel signed a big contract with a respected publisher to write a five-book series of Revolutionary War novels over the next few years. But three novels in, Rachel realizes her vision as an author and as a person has shifted, and her Revolutionary well is running dry. What she’d really like to say next would work far better in a novel about the Harlem Renaissance—but her current contract demands that she produce two more Revolutionary War novels anyway, and the pressure’s on for her to meet her looming deadlines even though her heart isn’t genuinely in the Revolutionary time period now.

      As much as we would probably like to be sometimes, authors aren’t writing machines immune to pressure. 😀 And for any number of reasons behind the scenes, it’s unlikely that every book an author produces will be their best, even when they’re a good writer.

      An auspicious and feasible balance between the (sometimes unpredictable) dictates of creative/artistic excellence and the nature and demands of the publishing business is not an easy balance to strike. Publishing isn’t the only area in arts and entertainment where even dedicated creatives and businesspeople get the balance wrong sometimes. It’s a longstanding, constant challenge.

      Hence, it’s that much more amazing and satisfying when the balance is RIGHT. Lovers of the written word live for those amazing moments, for those amazing works, in publishing.

      Heeheehee, I understand your feelings about series. As an author, I personally don’t try to set a certain number for a series in stone ahead of time, nor do I force out additional books for the sake of keeping a series going. I let the series lead me, and if/when another book comes to me to further add to the series, I write it. (In fact, two of the series I have out now aren’t ones I planned. I only envisioned one standalone book each of those times. But it was the characters who had other ideas, coming back to tell me there was more to their stories, so I was obliged to write more. 😀 )

      As a reader, there are some series I’ve given up on in disappointment, and others I’ve absolutely loved. So I find myself risking it with new-to-me series in hopes of finding more of ’em that will hit the spot.

      How you feel about series is often how I feel about novels over the 200-page range these days. I realize that publishers often have to put out books of a certain length because readers may not want to pay a certain price for a book that isn’t at least X-number of pages long. But publishers won’t be able to pay their bills, their staff salaries, etc. if they price their books too low, so the books, um, “need” more pages.

      Yet, the older I get, the more I write, and the more books I read…the more I can tell when this or that 300 or 400-page story could have been stronger, sharper, and better paced if it had been more concise and focused, told in two-thirds or half the length. Whenever I find myself getting bogged down in yet another thick novel containing chunks of filler, I toy with thoughts of swearing off longer novels and just sticking with shorter books.

      But then some long volume with a look and sound that intrigues me eventually catches my attention and won’t let go, and I find myself risking it again with another big bunch of pages. And when the risk pays off—yeah. I live for that. ❤ I also feel relieved that I didn't pass up the novel on sight just because of its length.

      However, because disappointments are still bound to happen now and then, I'm far more selective these days about the books I'll give a try. I have to take time to determine I reeeally want a long novel before I'll get it. And I don't feel bad about admitting that shorter books have become my overall preference.

      Gee…please pardon my writing a whole 'nother blog post in response to your response, Davida!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Davida Chazan says:

      Wow… lots here to comment on, but I don’t want to write a whole ‘nother blog post here in the comments. I just wanted to say YES about longer books. Sometimes you can feel the bloat, but sometimes it can be long without even one extra word. The latter is a joy to behold. But if you ask me, the real test of the mettle of any writer is… can they write a good short story? Some can, others can’t. Just saying…

      Like

    • Nadine C. Keels says:

      See there! ^^^ People too often assume that writing great short form fiction must be easier than writing great long form fiction, on account of the mere fact that short form is shorter. 😀 So it’s refreshing when folks realize there’s a challenging art to writing both forms, and not all authors are masters of both.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Davida Chazan says:

      Thank you! Yes, the shorter forms are much more difficult to pull off, if you ask me. I mean, think about poetry – the shortest form of literature there is (and I know this since I used to write poetry) – it is very difficult to pare the words down into that form to craft a really meaningful poem (and I don’t mean the Hallmark card crap that people think is poetry).

      Liked by 1 person

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