How much work is enough?

Unpublished #writers must expect to put in at least as much work as any other “startup” if they’re going to #selfpub.

Writing is caught, not taught, so it only makes sense to find as much out as you can on how others accomplish this work. I looked around to see who gathering this information and found a few interesting ones.

In 2009 James Thayer in his article How Many Words a Day?, quotes a lot of people, but also has over 13 books published. He distilled his research to this:

“Initial plotting: one or two weeks. Research and further plotting: four to six weeks. Drafting outline: two to three weeks. Writing the novel: one page (300 words) a day. Finish the novel one year after starting the first manuscript word. If you work full time, 300 words a day is a reasonable goal. Editing the completed manuscript: about one month.”

Roz Morris asked writing group about daily word count and reports on it in How Successful Authors Do It. For herself she says:

I track wordcounts if I have a deadline, as when I’m ghostwriting. The plot is agreed beforehand and by the time I write it’s simply a matter of enacting what’s in the outline. I’d usually get 2,500 words done in a day, 5 days a week.

My own fiction is trickier because there’s much more discovery and exploration, even though I plan, so wordcounts grow erratically.

(The comments are also interesting.)

They are both traditionally published – that is, by a publishing company. My interest is more along the self-published route.

So, how much work are the self-published folks doing in comparison? Apparently, not enough. One publishing house says, “the overwhelming majority of self-published books are unutterable rubbish. and the industry is corrupt, believing a publishing house is the only way to protect the public. (ref: Self-published ebook sales reach 20% of genre market) over a year ago. From what I’ve seen, he has a right to be nervous – but not for that reason.

With and .com, when you self-publish you keep 70% of the money paid if your book is priced $2.99 or higher. And the books that are selling well are in genres big houses thought wouldn’t sell. Some are saying publishing houses are what was killing readers because they only published books that fit their success algorithm. Even traditionally published authors are going that route.

If you are really interested in how self-published authors are doing, check out kboards Author Forum and Episode # 59 of the Rocking Self-Pubishing Podcast – The Secrets of the World’s Most Successful Authors for a pleasant surprise.

The new wisdom says self-publishing is no longer “vanity publishing”, but a hard road where authors now must choose which book cover artist to hire, which editors to hire, and all the marketing as well. To do well, you need these things. It’s difficult but worth it, most say. And the payoff can be immense.

What about the traditional route? Isn’t it easier to focus on being a writer and the publisher handle the rest? As Stephanie Hale says in the podcast mentioned above:

“People abstain responsibility think that the publisher will do it for them,” Stephanie says. “The reality is that even if you have a publisher they are not going to do that much for you (unless you are already a big time author). Just because the publisher gives you a “marketing manager” doesn’t mean anything! Obviously, if you don’t have a publisher, it’s all down to you.”

So, it’s harder to break in, and just as hard to succeed.


To help you in your journey, I have one more link: Lindsay Buroker talking about “What I Would Do if I Were Starting Today.”

Thank you for reading this, and I hope you’ll keep writing, researching, and carve your own path. Emulating others serves no one, but picking bits and pieces of all their methods honours everyone, and your writing has a chance to touch others. That may be the more greedy goal, but why publish if you don’t want to be read?

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