How Long Does It Take To Write It Right?

pile_of_booksI’ve been at this self-publishing game since 2003, when I published a novel I’d been working on for at least a decade. It’s been fun and rewarding, but not what I’d call lucrative. Luckily, I never expected money or fame. In fact, I didn’t think it was in the cards for anyone who chose self-publishing. Maybe it wasn’t, back then. But now there are enough success stories popping up every day to get any writer salivating.

I don’t begrudge anyone their success; quite the opposite. I just wonder how they do it. Some are hitting the jackpot by writing a lot of books, preferably in a series, and doing it fairly fast so as not to keep the fans waiting. I have yet to figure out how to write fast. To get it right takes me endless drafting and rewriting, followed by critiquing and editing, followed by more rewriting. And that doesn’t even include the final touches of line editing and formatting, which are best done by professionals who don’t come cheap.

In order to make anything close to a decent living in digital self-publishing (defined as the magic figure that might tempt an author to quit his day job), it seems necessary to publish a new book no less frequently than once every six months. A shorter interval between books would be even better, especially if it appears advisable to offer one or more for free in order to market the others.

So how do these hot-shot authors get so prolific? It can’t be just because they have more time than I do. I couldn’t pull off the same feat even if I wrote every day, all day. Could it have something to do with genre? Perhaps sci-fi and fantasy lend themselves more easily to rapid writing than the complicated plots and character development that my chicklit-style novels require. There’s undoubtedly a knack to keeping plots simple and improvising on proven formulas. That is not to cast doubt on the quality of such rapid-fire books. As long as they’re attracting readers, their authors are doing something right.


3 thoughts on “How Long Does It Take To Write It Right?

  1. Thanks so much for this fascinating post. I couldn’t agree more about the amount of time and effort required to produce a decent end product (I’m currently working on a two-year timescale and I doubt I’ll be happy at the end of that). In a marketplace that (sadly, in my opinion) gravitates towards bargain basement pricing, I often wonder how many sales actually reach the human eye, or do they simply languish amongst so many other titles in the virtual depths of e-reading devices?

    1. Well said. Sometimes it seems hopeless to find a way to stand out from the multitudes. I guess all we can do is take our time and create the best products possible. Then at least we’ll have satisfied ourselves. Thanks for commenting!

    2. The bargain basement prices are a problem for serious attempts to write indie literature – but if you price too low, except possibly for sales, you are saying that’s what your work is worth, and comparing it to quickly-written genre books.

      I think it started with Darcie Chan selling 600k copies of The Mill River Recluse – at 0.99 each – and not raising the price. She was taken on by a publishing house which raised the prices (a lot) and put out hardcovers (?). I believe they then published her two sequels – and they sold even fewer copies – but I’m going by memory, and not having seen her name in a while.

      Indie work which hopes to compete with the better novels put out by traditional publishing should, I believe, be priced at the lower end of those books (which range from 7.99 up to a LOT more) – not in the range of what the indie Romances sell for (2.99 to 3.99?).

      It’s not so much a matter of pride as of price-signaling as an indicator of quality; I’ve done that – and haven’t really found my niche and tribe yet, so I can’t say if it’s the correct marketing strategy.

      For a comparison point, Amazon’s entries into the literary field typically sell at 5.99 (Little A imprint). I check these every month when new literary Amazon novels are offered with my prime subscription, but haven’t found any I really liked yet, and they tend to be on the short, rather than goat-gagger, size.

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