How many books a year does an indie author need to write to be successful?

May 20, 2017

“I need to produce at least three or four new books a year to remain seen and sought after by readers.”

This is a statement I’m sure many indie authors have uttered in their writing careers. 

I was speaking to a friend and fellow indie author the other day and, as we often do, we were discussing what projects we were working on. She has a comic-prose novel in the works and I have the final installment in the Helheim Wolf Pack series that I’m working on. But then she said that exact statement to me: “I need to produce at least two or three books this year.”

My first reaction was: I need to compete with that, because, let’s face it, the self-publishing industry is nothing but competitive.

But my second reaction was: “How on earth am I going to do that?”
I’m not sure what other authors’ lives are like but mine is B-U-S-Y. I have a nearly three-year-old. I have a husband. I run the household. I buy groceries. I clean the house weekly and tidy up daily. I cook dinner every night. I try to squeeze in some ‘me’ time at the gym. I write when I can (usually after all my other duties are done for the day), but I struggle to find a couple of good, solid usable hours in which to be creative a produce something decent.

So when this statement was made, I recoiled. Yes, I’d love to write 2-3 books a year, but the reality is, it’s never going to happen. You’d be lucky to get one book out of me. But it did get me thinking…

On average, it would take me around 6-8 months to write a book. That’s one book. Add another 3-5 months to go through the editing and proofreading process and to get promotion and social media campaigns in place, and you’re left with approximately 13 months of work that goes into one book.

Can anyone else see the problem here?

Unless you’re happily unemployed, unmarried and without children, I just don’t see how a target of 2-3 books a year is feasible. 

So I did a little digging to see whether this figure is truly accurate…

Let’s take Stephen King for example. He has written 54 books in a span of 43 years (1974-2017). If you average all that out, Mr. King is producing 1.25 books per year.

Seems weird, right? All right, take JK Rowling as another example. Harry Potter was release in 1997. She is still actively writing, with her last release in 2016. She has written a total of 22 books in 19 years, so she’s averaging 1.15 books per year. 

Still not convinced? John Grisham. His career spans from 1990-2017. He has had a total of 36 books published in his 27 year career. The average? 1.3 books per year.

Here are some more startling stats:

Stephanie Myer (2005-2016) – 10 books ~ 0.9 books per year

Neil Gaiman (1984-2017) – 26 books (novels only) ~ 0.78 books per year

Jodie Picoult (1992-2016) – 27 books ~ 1.1 books per year

Nicholas Sparks (1990-2016) – 21 books ~ 0.8 books per year

Liane Moriarty (2004-2016) – 10 books ~ 0.8 books per year

Of course, there are a few freaks of nature out there who do produce more:

J.R. Ward (2002-2017) – 47 books ~ 3.1 books per year

Dean Koonts (1968-2017) – 115 books ~ 2.3 books per year

Even with these two examples, their yearly production of books is not ridiculous (4-6 books a year, for example; however, some indie authors are producing this many books a year).

So my question is this: where are indie authors getting the idea that they need to become slaves to their readers and churn out books so often? As a reader, I’d rather quality not quantity. 

Wouldn’t you?

Share your thoughts in the comments below, and let me know if you think this notion is crazy or not.

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