This is Part 1 of the post. Click here to jump to Part 2. -t.
If you’re not already a prolific author, and the whole idea of writing multiple books a year seems like way too much work, keep reading.
If you’re already a prolific author, you might not have thought of all of these advantages, and may not have deliberately applied them as strategies, either.
I won’t open up the incredibly large can of worms with the label “Fast writing = crap” here. That’s for another time. [May update: I did open that can. You can find the first of that series here. – t.] For now leave aside all considerations of quality in relationship to how fast books are written.
Let’s look at the reasons why you should work toward being as prolific a writer as you can.
You’ll keep your readers happy.
You can stream and instantly watch just about any TV series or film you want, these days. Binge-watching is a thing.
So is binge reading. If you’ve ever run a promotion in Bookbub and swooned over the number of readers who buy that book and every other book in the series at the same time, then you’ve seen binge reading at work.
The super-popular genres have legions of binge-reading fans. Romance, for example, has many readers who read at least one book a day.
When you write a lot, you have a greater chance of snaring the interest of a reader with one book cover and blurb, even if another of your covers and blurbs didn’t do it for them.
I’ve done this myself—I’ve read terrific stories by a new-to-me authors and gone looking for their backlist. Among the backlist I’ll spot a cover I’ve seen many times before and completely ignored. Now I’ll buy the book.
I have readers who read everything in a series—sometimes without looking at the cover. If it’s the next book, it’s bought. Those same readers won’t touch other series of mine, because of some small factor; there’s gargoyles, or it’s set in the Victorian Era instead of the Regency…
Everyone has preferences. The more books and series you write, the happier your readers will be and the more readers you’ll have.
On the other hand, if you take too long to get a book out, even if it’s the next book in a beloved series, you’ll drop below the horizon of readers’ attention span. They’ll forget about you and your series.
If it’s been a very long time, they may not pick up the next book, because they don’t want to bother going back to the earlier books to remind themselves of the storylines and characters.
We’re in an attention economy these days. If you’re not tapping readers on the shoulder every few weeks, they’ll move on permanently.
You’ll keep Amazon happy.
The Amazon 30 day cliff is a well known phenomenon. (Also, here and here.) If you can release another book before your last release is greater than 30 days old, then you will vastly offset the drop in sales for your previous release, once Amazon stops pushing the title.
This is more critical for Kindle Unlimited authors, than authors distributing wide, for visiblity on Amazon is everything for those authors.
However, even wide authors can keep the sales of previous books alive by releasing new ones. They don’t have to be in the same series, either. I write across (currently) four series, cycling through each series one after another, with each book release.
There are also similar cliffs at 60 days and at 90 days, so the ideal cycle would be three series, each one with a new book release every 90 days.
Stuff your Also Bought array.
When you write a lot of books in the same genre, then you reach the happy place where the whole line of Also Boughts on any of your books’ product pages on Amazon is filled with your books, too.
That encourages readers to stay on your turf. If they don’t like this book, they might like one of the books in your Also Bought list and click through to that. They still end up buying one of your books, instead of clicking through to another author’s title.
…and your series adds to the real estate.
If you have a stuffed Also Bought array and you’ve also written a lot of books in a single series, you can end up with this visual display on your book’s product page:
Every single book in the Also Boughts is mine, from two different series, plus, there are seven books showing for the series, in the line above.
Pages 2-9 of the Also Boughts features more of my books from different series in related sub-genres, too.
It increases your visibility.
This is not the same thing as grabbing screen real estate on Amazon.
Visibility is the holy swear word of indie publishing. Without it, you won’t sell, even if everything else in your arsenal is optimal.
When you have written a lot of books, you show up in a lot of places. It’s simple logic.
I have over 100 unique titles. That’s at least 100 pages on Amazon, with related links, plus Kobo, plus Google Play, plus Barnes & Noble, plus every other bookseller out there. Google indexes every single one of those pages, too.
Plus there’s every book’s page on Goodreads, and on Bookbub’s author profile pages.
Every single book on my site has its own page, too.
When you have even, say, twenty books, your author profile anywhere tends to draw the eye, far more than authors with only a small handful of books to their name.
Recently, I submitted four books to Kobo for a single promotion. As Kobo lays out their promoted titles in lines of five, whenever a reader clicks on the promotion, they see a big chunk of my books, and if one of the covers doesn’t catch their eye, another might…
You can afford the time to experiment.
I constantly apply William Goldman’s axiom about Hollywood to the book publishing industry, especially these days. Goldman said, “Nobody knows anything.”
Actually, the full quote is:
“Nobody knows anything… Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”
― William Goldman, Adventures in the Screen Trade
No one in publishing knows for sure why some books hit big and others miss.
If you’re writing and releasing books quickly, you can afford to take three or four weeks to write a book that is outside your usual genre, or different in some way that makes you uncertain of your readers’ response to it.
It’s possible to poll readers or get them to respond to excerpts, etc., but I’ve learned that what readers say and how they actually behave when their wallet is involved are quite different. The only way to find out how a book will go over is to publish it.
You can always unpublish if it’s an unmitigated disaster (or just let it sink down below the 2M rank mark and become invisible…and perhaps be discovered one day in the future when pet rock inspired granite punk is suddenly hot.).
Or you just might have a winner on your hands. You don’t know until you get it out there.
If that book is your only book for the year, or only one of four titles for the year, it’s a very big deal if the book tanks. That’s a quarter of your annual income, gone.
On the other hand, if the book’s sales suck like a vacuum, you can always max out your writing schedule for a couple of weeks and get another book out there tout de suite.
If the idea of hitting the mattresses and cranking out (yes, I said it) a book quickly to fill in a production gap or to spike sales steals your breath or offends you, then it’s possible you’re mired in the idea of a novel being a holy work of art.
I’ve lost count of the number of newbie authors who have told me, with completely sincere expressions, that the romance/thriller/space opera/some type of popular genre fiction novel is the book of their heart, a peice of their soul, or their baby.
While first books are far more personal than the ninety-first, if you’re writing fiction as an indie writer and want commercial success, you cannot write literature. While I’m sure there is an example out there to prove me wrong, 99.9999% of successful indie fiction authors are writing commercial fiction, to meet market demands.
If you really want to succeed in indie publishing by writing fiction, then you must off-load the notion that your book(s) is/are in any way precious.
Books are almost (but not quite) commodities. You can be proud of them, you be creative and artistic–as long as you meet the readers’ expectations. Your books should be produced with a workmanlike approach.
Frank Gruber tells about a writer named George Bruce who used to throw parties in his small Brooklyn apartment. One night the place was jammed with thirty-plus people. At ten o’clock Bruce announced he had a 12,000-word story due the following morning. He went to a corner where his typewriter was and pounded it for four hours, ignoring the party swirling around him. At two o’clock in the morning he announced he was finished and poured himself a glass of gin.
That’s a wordsmith.
Most series don’t really take off until book three is out.
This is something I’ve noticed in my own sales. Readers are wary about starting a new series, especially if there’s only one or two books available.
This is related to binge-reading–they would prefer to start a series knowing they can race to the end if they get hooked, without having to wait, perhaps years, (G.R.R. Martin style) for the next book.
Also, and I’ll touch on this in detail in a minute, readers are cautious if there’s only a book or two there. What if the series is cancelled mid-stream?
We’ve all been caught by TV series that fizzle mid-first-season, or are abruptly cancelled at the end of one or two. I was recently burned by two TV series I got hooked into: Frequency and Minority Report. Readers feel the same way about book series.
The traditional publishing industry is particularly bad at killing off series only a couple of books in, as they print to net and sales are artificially choked (the dreaded Death Spiral), which makes them even less likely to buy the remaining books in the series. This practice has trained readers to tread carefully.
As an indie author, this means you can’t really tell if a series is taking off until you’re at least three books in. For some authors, that’s an entire year’s worth of effort.
If you’re prolific, then that could be just a few month’s worth of writing, that you can scatter in amongst other successful series, and still pay your bills, even if you’re forced to kill the new series after book three (or four).
One sucky book is not the end of your business.
This is related to the last two points.
Sometimes, you have to cut your losses. I have a few books like this. I wandered outside the comfort zone of my readers for one reason or another.
Occassionally I have done this with my eyes open.
I’m trialing a new series right now, as it happens. The first book will be out next month and while I’ve already written the second book, if the first keels over at the starting gate, I won’t write any more.
I’ve also accidentally put sinkers out there—books I thought would do super well and didn’t (because nobody knows anything, remember).
When you have a lot of books and can quickly produce more, releasing a train-wreck here and there isn’t a disaster. You don’t even feel like licking your wounds very much, because you don’t take it personally.
“No one wanted it. Bit of a shocker, but guess the market isn’t there after all. Next!”
It is impossible to cultivate that laissez-faire attitude when it’s the only book you’ve written in a year.
You can capitalize on successes.
On the other hand, if you write a book or series that suddenly takes off — and often, it’s the last book or series you expected to find traction that does, and usually when you least expect it–then, if you can get books out quickly, you can add more to the series as swiftly as you can.
This pleases both your readers and your bank account.
This is a two-part post because there really are that many reasons and advantages to being prolific. Part Two next week, when we cover more of the upsides.