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March 4, 2009

The Wait Between Books

Last week Kaye Munro did a post about writing and author productivity. I’ve been thinking about this, and I want everyone to put on their reader hats while they read this post about author releases.

It used to be that authors would write one book a year and sometimes one book every two years. These days authors tend to have a higher rate of productivity. Some authors write three or four books a year, depending on the line they write for and also if they write for traditional or e-publishers.

The good thing for readers is this means there are a large number of books available to choose from. We’re spoiled for choice. I don’t know about you, but as a reader, I love the trilogies or connected books by the same author that come out in three successive months. I think that’s reader heaven. I like my favorite authors to have releases at least every six months. That’s a good length of time for me. If the wait is much longer, I forget to look for the next release because I have a lot of favorites. If I can’t find a book written by one of my favorite authors, I tend to look farther afield, and I explore the books of new-to-me writers. Sometimes I find new favorites, so there’s a danger if an author doesn’t have frequent releases, they’ll lose me to another writer or writers.

How long are you willing to wait between books? Can an author have too many releases in one year? Do you think quality is sacrificed in favor of quantity these days?


  1. Roberta Harwell

    Hello. Being an avid reader, I have a running list of authors I collect, a list of authors to buy, and even another list of authors to check out. Needless to say I have OCD.

    If I truly enjoy the author, I can wait for a very long time for their next release.

    I don’t know about an author having too many releases. I think it should be the authors decision not the publisher. Sometimes I think there is too much pressure put on authors to keep up the pace of putting out 3 to 4 books a year.

    Quality versus quantity, now there is a debate. If the author truly has a mastery of words, I believe there will always be quality. However too much quantity without the quality for me, can lead to burning out on the author.

    Have a great day.

  2. Lucinda

    There is only one author, Janet Evanovich, who is an auto-buy for me. I love everything she’s written, although some are better than others.
    I think quality definitely suffers in the push to get more out of the best authors. Great work takes time. Pushing authors to crank out a book every six months doesn’t leave much time for perfecting the work. I think it’s also the reason why the production quality of the books have suffered. Years ago, we wouldn’t have found a typo anywhere in a NY-published, mass market book. Now, it’s almost the norm to find at least a few errors.

  3. Kaye Manro

    What an interesting post, Shelley. For authors to produce lots of books and more frequently has become the norm. But it can sure make it hard on some writers. There are those who can write so well quality doesn’t suffer. But there are those who pub a few great books and then the quality does suffer. I’m on the fence. I can wait for a favorite author, but like you if it’s a series I want it faster. Usually in the paperback world it doesn’t happen as quickly as in the e-book world.

  4. Amy Ruttan

    Good post Shelley.

    It kills me when I have to wait a year or more for the next book in a series.


    I think 6 months is about right.

  5. Susan Helene Gottfried

    In most cases, I LOATHE this new speed ’em up release. I heard best-selling authors at RT last year say that they were so busy meeting deadlines with their writing that they couldn’t get out and meet their fans. And yes, they were VERY concerned about burn-out.

    Also, there are SO many series anymore that it’s impossible to keep up. I’m not current in a single series I read, including the ones that are finished!

    So how long to wait? As long as I have to. I’ll take quality over instant gratification any day. I mean, heck, Pam Houston’s last book was HOW long ago? I’m still waiting.

  6. J.K. Coi

    Hmm. I don’t mind waiting. If it’s an author I will auto buy, and I have a rough idea when to expect the next book, I’ll try to put it on my calendar and then it doesn’t matter if I forget along the way, since I’ll get a reminder when the time comes.

  7. Jory Strong

    Great question Shelley! Like Roberta, I keep a list of all the authors I absolutely love and periodically go to Amazon and do a search on each name (unless through blogs, RT, etc. I already know they’ve got a release coming and in that case, it’s in a table with the release date already noted). Some of them produce once a year, some once every two years, but they are well worth the wait and their books often end up on my keeper shelf.

    My book buying isn’t an either/or thing. I pick up new authors all the time, but they don’t replace old ones. Often the beauty of “discovering” someone new is that I’m late in doing it, so have the benefit of being able to read all or most of a series without having to wait :)

    As far as quantity over quality–I think this is a real problem in today’s market. There are so many authors I no longer read because their writing has suffered, or become stale/formulaic–in my opinion, because they’re over-contracted and rushing to get one book in so they can start the next one.

  8. Barbara Martin

    I have favourite authors where I wait until the next book, often reading other books in between. The publishers may want to be making money, but if the authors burn out from overwork their cash flow will drop. It would be in the publishers’ best interest to ensure quality writing over quantity writing.

  9. Amy W.

    I agree with everything Kaye said. If you don’t write fast enough for me then I will look farther afield for a good book to read, but that doesn’t mean I won’t come back. I read a lot of books….A LOT, so I’m always on the look for quality writing and I must say this push for more, faster has brought the quality way down. I have authors whom I will never buy from again because they put out one very poor quality book, even if I liked previous ones.

    I’ve also been waiting about 8 years now for one trilogy to be finished by an author. Her books are generally 1000+ pages and well worth the wait! I know she’s started it and I can wait a few more years for this last one, guess I’ll have to go back and reread the first two again. LOL!
    -Amy W.
    P.S. I know I bug you to write faster Shelley but feel free to tell me to bugger off, I’ll come back.

  10. Lisa N.

    I can understand how authors can only work so fast, but I want the next book now!!! 6 months is good, but I can wait a year if I know the book/author will be worth it. I also like the trilogies that put out the books 3 months in a row, or every other month. The most frustrating is when the first 2 books come out quickly and then it’s a year to read book 3!

  11. Fedora

    I guess I want it all–I hate waiting too long between releases, but on the other hand, I’m disappointed if it seems like the quality of the writing/editing suffers because the writer’s under too much pressure to crank out the next title. I LOVE when the publishers release a trilogy three months in a row. I can see needing more time after that to get the next book in the channel!

    If the writer’s a good one, even if I find someone else to read during a long wait, I’ll likely go back as long as I’m reminded ;) (And as long as each release continues to click with me!)

  12. N.J. Walters

    Six months is good. I do enjoy the trilogies that come out one month after another for three months.

    Many of my absolute favorite authors only produce about one book a year, often in hardcover first. I always wait and buy the paperback, but I do buy it. There are some authors I don’t care how long it is between books. When they’ve got a new one, I want it!

  13. Sandra Cox

    Six months is about right for me too. I think typewriters contributed to only having a book out a year:)

  14. Suzanne

    Hi Shelly,
    I believe quality is lost when an author tries to have four books a year published. I’m talking about lengths of over 60.ooo words.

    I believe that writing three novels a year with lengths of around 50.000 words would not have a detrimental affect on the quality of the authors work.

  15. Amy W.

    I know I said earlier I’d gladly wait a few more years for that last book in a trilogy, and I would but I just went and read an interview by the author and now she’s saying she can’t see herself “looking back” and that’d include going back to this trilogy. ARGH! We’ve patiently waited as she promised she’d come back to it and now nothing. We’re left hanging. I now will be a strong promoter of the publisher hanging onto a trilogy and releasing it three months in a row. If that had been done I’d never had been as crushed as I was this afternoon when I found out that this book may never be finished and printed. I’m off to go cry in a corner.

  16. Shelley Munro

    Wow, you guys have been busy commenting while I was writing. It sounds as if you have mixed responses to my question, which I expected because we’re all different.

    Roberta – I think you’d probably shudder if you saw my haphazard pile and way of reading. You sound very organized. I agree that output should be an author’s decision, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way. If an author wants to make a living with their writing they have to produce books and fight for slots with other authors who might write really fast. Writing certainly isn’t an easy career path. Not that I’m complaining because I love what I do and can’t imagine a better job.

    Lucinda – Janet Evanovich is a must-buy for me too. I see there’s a new book coming which features more of Ranger. I’m as bad as Stephanie dithering between Ranger and Morelli.

  17. Shelley Munro

    Kaye – yes, it’s a hard one. You either push yourself and remain competitive or hope that readers remember you.

    Amy R – yes, my patience is running low by the end of a year. Of course we both know how much hard work goes into producing a book to keep on a six-month schedule.

  18. Shelley Munro

    Susan – unfortunately deadlines and tight ones are the downside. The problem is that epubbed writers are used to writing quickly. We have to in order to make money. With the large number of epubs coming through to NY they keep up the pace and take up slots. This means writers who take a year or longer to write a book are put under a lot of pressure. It’s a hard one.

  19. Shelley Munro

    JK – where do you get your patience from? Which store? I need to go and buy some. :lol:

    Jory – there’s nothing better than discovering a writer you like with a back list. I’ve just glommed all of Robyn Carr’s books and there’s a new one out this month with another next month. Reader heaven for me.

    Barbara – author burn out is always a worry. There are a lot of authors in direct competition and if I become disappointed with an author, I move on. There are lots of other terrific authors out there to choose from.

  20. Shelley Munro

    Amy W – LOL – you’re never a bother. I just laugh when you mention you’re waiting. It doesn’t worry me in the slightest. and just so you know, I’m on the home stretch of the latest Middlemarch book. I know what’s going to happen and things are going well!

    That’s disappointing about the third book in the trilogy. I almost wonder if the author has taken too long to produce the book and the publishers have canceled on her because too much time has passed.

    Lisa N – I agree with you totally, even though I know how hard it must be for an author to write trilogies like that. I’d certainly hate the deadlines.

  21. Shelley Munro

    Fedora – the three books in three months is fairly new and when I talked to an HQN editor at conference she said it had been very successful for them and pushed sales well. I guess we’ll see more trilogies put out in this way.

    NJ – I don’t buy hardcovers either. I see Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Acheron is coming out in paperback very soon. Some of them take ages to come out in paperback.

    Sandra – I shudder to think about writing a book with a typewriter. I don’t know how they did it!!

  22. Shelley Munro

    Suzanne – I think it depends on the author and their processes. I write 2000 words most days. That’s a good steady pace for me, which means I could do four 60,000 word books a year without a problem. The thought of keeping that up over several years hurts my head though!

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