Author Lorraine Devon Wilke is taking some heat for a piece she wrote for the Huffington Post titled Dear Self-Published Author: Do NOT Write Four Books a Year. Her argument condensed is that if you’re writing that many books a year, you’re stuffing an already over-stuffed market with poorly written books. She gives a number of examples of great writers who took years in between each title. She wraps the piece up by insisting that she doesn’t mean to imply that prolific writers are bad writers.
Wilke was inspired to write her article after reading an advice piece titled Discovery: Another Buzzword We’re Wrestling to Understand written by Penny C. Sansevieri, a marketing guru. Full disclosure, I’ve worked with Penny before and I like her. She knows the publishing industry inside and out. Her advice isn’t coming from the position of craft development. Her advice is strictly marketing driven. The theory is that the more you publish the more opportunity you have for discovery. It’s a solid theory and one with which I agree.
So, where do I stand? First, I’ve never written more than two titles in a year, and I hate myself for it. In fact, I’m completely jealous of people who can write more than three books in a year. I know one author that published seven books in a year, and I have to admit I dismissed his achievement because I had a hard time believing that they could possibly be any good. I never read any of them, so I don’t know if they were the crapfest that I expected, but to Penny’s point, he has a lot of fans, many more than I do, so I can scoff all I want, but he’s getting results. And I know this about him, he has a genuine passion for what he does, so more power to him.
The truth is that there are certain genres that lend themselves to formulaic writing and if you know the formula, cranking out four-plus books a year is easy. It doesn’t mean they’re bad books. It just means they deliver a story told in a manner that the reading public has come to expect.
My advice is this. Write. As quickly or as methodically as you want. In the end, what really matters is that you develop a style and voice that fulfills you as a writer. Do that in your own time. Don’t be prodded into publishing a lot of books because you want to be discovered and don’t feel pressured to hold back because you don’t think people will take your art seriously. Just do whatever your artistic heart tells you. I agree with Wilke on her main point. It’s more important that you commit to craft than publishing frequently, but that doesn’t mean I think publishing four books in a year means you’ve sacrificed quality.