Writing Ramble #2 How many books do you need to write?
Lots of people talk about writing as many books as you can. And you do have to write a lot to stand a chance to make regular income as an indie author. However, and it’s a big caveat, how many books in your life time CAN you write? When we start out on this career, we take onboard the advice of write a lot of books and we set about doing just that. If we can write fast, really fast then we maybe get out a book once every month or every two months. And let’s say you start when you’re forty. So, going on 1 book ever 2 months, that’s 6 per year. And let’s say you keep writing for twenty years (many people write for way after that, but just for argument’s sake), so that’s 6 x 20, or a 120 books. Which is a lot of books, but do you need that many? Or maybe you want more within twenty years?
The point I’m making here is, yes you do need a lot of books, but what you do with the books you have is more important ultimately than how many you have. Let’s say you’re only putting out 4 books in a year, within 3 years you have 12 books, maybe 2 or 3 series. How are you going to exploit those books the best, to be able to get a decent income from them?
See we’re told to write a lot of books for one simple reason, it increases the chances of one of those books doing better than average, i.e. becoming a hit. That’s why people also give the advice, that if a series is not going anywhere, then drop it and start a new one. Because you’re better off just starting again.
The problem with all of that, is that even if you’re writing really quick, 1 book per month, that’s still a months worth of solid work, which if that book doesn’t sale, its a month wasted. And in the grand scheme of things you really need to look at how much time you can waste. So I think the head down and blind rush to get books out is not necessarily a good approach. Especially not in the current indie book market. Things are different now, regardless of what a lot of people may say (that it was just as hard ‘back in the day’, I’m not saying it wasn’t hard back then, I’m just saying, it’s harder now) and the different climate has to be taken into consideration. Some people get lucky. They put out 1 or 2 books and it’s off to the races, by luck or skill or both, their book becomes a hit, but for 99% of everyone else it’s not like that, which means the ‘just get books out there’ approach, is only half the story.
You could be putting out a book per month, at the end of a year have 12 books and still not be making any money. A years worth of work, and you’re not making much. I’m sure lots of indie authors are in that situation. So if you want to write lots of books, fine, but be aware that’s no guarantee of success. You really need a plan of how you’re going to promote each story you put out there, so each book can be as successful as it can be.