Sunday, September 20, 2015

How many books a year is too many?

Is the whole dust-up a load of sheep?
You decide.
Because I only blog here once a week, sometimes I miss the opportunity to talk about an issue when it's hot. By the time I get around to talking about it on Sunday night, everybody has already weighed in and moved on, and it feels like talking about it here will just rip off the scab.

Sometimes -- but not often -- it keeps me from talking about the issue at all. This week, as usual, it won't.

So here's the thing: Last Sunday, indie author Lorraine Devon Wilke wrote an article for the Huffington Post in which she basically told indie authors to slow down. Her post breaks with the advice-mongers who have been telling indies for the past few years that the way to success on the indie train is to write a lot of books and shove 'em out there. How many is a lot? She quotes one source who quotes some indies as saying they write and publish four books a year. Lorraine said in her post that four might well be too many for some folks -- that that sort of publishing schedule doesn't leave a lot of time for letting the prose ripen, working diligently with an editor to make the book the very best it can be, finding a cover artist, mapping out and executing an effective marketing strategy, and all the rest of the stuff that goes into making a book. 

I'm convinced she meant well. I believe she believed she was letting writers off the hook -- that people were feeling pressured to keep to some grueling, arbitrary publishing schedule and were freaking out and releasing their books before their time. She wanted those authors to know it's okay to write and publish more slowly.

But y'know, it's teh intarwebz. If people can get offended, they will. Some folks felt the tone of the article was condescending -- that perhaps Lorraine didn't believe anyone could turn out quality prose so quickly, and that maybe even she believed that the only sort of books worth writing were those slow, meandering, literary novels with exquisite words strung together in exquisite ways but with no actual plot to speak of.

I am pretty sure she didn't intend to say any of that, but that's what a number of folks got out of it. Chuck Wendig, who has had a fair amount of success with his own books lately, weighed in on Tuesday, suggesting the best course of action was this: You do you. In other words, write as many books as you're comfortable with, and take however long or short a time makes you comfortable doing it. My fellow minion at Indies Unlimited, Shawn Inmon, said much the same thing in a post on Thursday. I'm sure other bloggers piled on, as well, but those are the ones I saw.

By the time Shawn's post ran, Lorraine had gotten the message and then some. She posted a follow-up on her own blog Tuesday, saying that even when she tried to clarify her post at HuffPo, people got mad all over again. Like I said, it's teh intarwebz.

So what's my take? As I said above, I think Lorraine meant well. And all of the posts I read -- even Lorraine's -- came to same conclusion: Your publishing schedule is nobody's business but yours. You should publish as many books per year as you feel capable of producing without the product suffering in some major way. That doesn't mean your work has to be worthy of winning a National Book Award. But if you write slowly, own it. If you write fast, own it. If you write genre, own it. You do you, as Chuck says, and don't let the people with well-meaning advice tell you any differently. Indie Author Land is a big, big place, and there's room enough here for all of us.

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I'm still on track for my usual and customary three books per year, by the way. I have a little more work to do on the first draft of a companion guide to the Pipe Woman Chronicles books. It will feature some extra info about each of the gods and goddesses in the ten books of the series. I expect to make it a stand-alone book, and I'll probably also include it in the Pipe Woman Legacy set, which will be out sometime in November.

I had meant to make the companion guide a leisurely summer project, and write a new novel this fall. But when I blinked, it was mid-September. Ah, well. I won't have a big novel launch for the holidays, so maybe I'll do NaNoWriMo in November and have something fresh to start off the new year. I'll keep you posted.

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These moments of sheepish blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.
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