Strategy for Publishing Your Books: How Many Books You Want to Publish in a Year and How to Get There

If you’re going to treat your writing as a business, one of the most important things you’ll do is create a plan.  The plan is a list of goals you have and the strategy you’ll use to get there.  If you don’t at least have a plan in place, it’s too easy to get sidetracked by other things (like browsing those cute Facebook pictures or watching You Tube videos).  The plan helps you stay focused so even if you start to “goof off,” you can find your way back to where you’re supposed to be.  😀

A good time to plan is before the next year begins.  So November is as good a time as any to start your strategy.

How many books, on average, can you write in one year?

1. What is your best writing method?

This is the first question you need to address.  Everyone differs in this area.  Some people write faster than others.  Some people write their first draft quickly but then go through the process of rewriting.  Others write their first draft slower but don’t do much rewriting.  Some people polish up and edit each chapter as they write it, minimizing editing efforts later down the road.  Whatever system works for you, you’re better off using it than trying to imitate someone else’s method.

2.  What is the average length of time it takes you to write one book?

After you define your method for writing a book, figure out how long it takes to write the first draft.  This is an estimate number of weeks or months.  On average, I can write a 65,000-word first draft in 2-2.5 months.  So when I plan out when I’ll be finished with a first draft, I usually estimate out 2.5 to 3 months.  I do give myself more wiggle room because real life kicks in, and if you are rushing to get a story done, you can feel overwhelmed and sacrifice quality.  Always go slower if you can make the story better.  No one will die if you don’t get a book out as soon as you hoped.

3. How long does it take to rewrite, revise, edit, and do other stuff necessary to polish up your book?

This is going to vary from person to person, and I find a team of editors and beta readers are crucial to making the system go more smoothly and efficiently.  But, you need editors and beta readers you can trust to be honest, trust to do a good job, and trust to be nice.  Never have anyone treat you like you’re stupid.  Have people who are supportive and on your side.  This should be a positive learning experience, and the best way to learn is with open and friendly communication.

Also, I find it handy to have a good grammar book on hand in case you question the advice you’re given.  There are some grammar rules where there’s more than one way of doing things.  In that case, you do the method that you prefer.  And always go over your book after it’s done.  There are things that can pop up at the last minute or not sound quite right.  I prefer to listen to the book using a text to speech feature at this point because the way a book sounds can be different from how it is when you read it.  It also helps to look over it in different formats, one time on the computer, another time on physical paper.  Just having a different format can help you spot errors you might have missed.

So figure out, on average, how long it takes from the time your first draft is finished to when your final product is complete.  For me, this can range from 1-2 months.

4.  How long will it take to do the cover, formatting, uploading to book sites, etc?

The cover can be done well in advance, and I like doing the cover using GIMP for ebooks and Book Cover Pro for paperbacks.  I usually do the ebook cover when I start writing the book then do the paperback after I publish the book.  But your preference might be different, or you might want to hire out for this.  Either way, it’s part of what you plan out when you make your strategy.  For me, this process can be anywhere from 1 day to 1 week, depending on how quickly I find the right pictures to go on my cover.  And sometimes I change a cover if I find a better picture.  So space out time for stuff like this.  I usually do it when I’m taking breaks between writing projects for the day.  But that’s my style.  I need more than one thing to do at a time.  Some people do better focusing on one project at a time.

As for formatting, I find this takes about one to two hours.  If you hire out, figure in the time it’ll take the person to do it.  And for uploading (publishing) your book, that can take a couple hours too, depending on how many places you publish with.

Based on the above, you should be able to estimate how many books you can publish in one year.

I think it’s very reasonable to publish 4+ books a year if you pace yourself and work on multiple projects.  This is based on daily average word counts and using time management strategies.  It requires discipline and eliminating anything that distracts you from writing.

1. Set aside a certain amount of time where you’ll write and figure your average daily word count.

You might not hit a certain word count goal.  If not, that’s fine.  Don’t sweat it.  On some days you will; on others you won’t.  But I think it’s crucial to get into the habit of setting aside a certain amount of time (1/2 hour or 1 hour) where you are writing.  You are training your mind to be creative.  Choose the same location if possible.  Do this for one month, mark down your word counts for each day and then average out how many words you got done each day.  That will be your baseline goal for a daily word count.  I wouldn’t stress the word count goal too much, but I like to have an estimate to shoot for.  It helps me stay focused.

On average, I think it’s possible to write 500 words in 1/2 an hour.  So 1,000 words would make 1 hour.  If you wrote only one hour a day and averaged 1,000 words each day, you could have 60,000 words done in two months.  Or if you wrote 1/2 hour each day averaging 500 words a day, you would have 30,000 words in two months.  This is a doable goal.  Again, it doesn’t mean you have to reach your goal every single day, but I think you’ll find some days will be easier than others so you’ll exceed your goals on some days which should bring you to the average goal.

2.  Will you write only one book at a time or more?

I do best working on three books at a time.  I will devote one hour to one book and two 1/2 hour segments to two books.  In other words, I’ll average 1,000 words in one book and 500 words to book 2 and another 500 to book 3.  This is average.  I don’t get stuck on actual word counts but find I end up hitting near this range.  During the editing stage, I rely heavily on my editing and beta reader team to pick up most of the work to free me up to be more efficient so I can spend less actual time editing and reading over my own work.  This narrows down my actual editing time to a month at the most.  So usually 3.5 to 4 months is what it takes from start to finish to get one book out.

Since I work on more than one book at a time, I’m usually halfway through books 2 and 3 by the time book 1 is published.  Then I take book 2 and bump that up to 1,000 words a day and add book 4 to the list.  So I’m not starting from scratch on books 2 and 3.  This helps for better efficiency and quickens the pace.

3.  Get rid of anything that distracts you from writing.

That means setting aside a certain amount of time where you will not answer the phone, surf the Internet, answer the door, watch TV, etc.  If certain music helps get you in the mood for writing, then listen to that music.  If you prefer quiet, then go for quiet.  Also, try to get a good night’s sleep or take your daily nap.   A well-rested mind is a creative mind.  Do whatever you can to get your mind geared up for writing.

4.  A little rest goes a long way.

I do take a day or even a week off as soon as I feel tired.  If you take a break at the first signs of exhaustion, you will avoid a burn out.  The key is knowing when you need to back off.  If you ignore the warning signs–lack of enthusiasm for writing, no creative spark, you’re physically tired, you’re stressed out over something, etc, you will have a harder time getting back to writing.  Also, schedule in vacations.  I have kids in school, so my big vacation time is summer.  I have blocked off three months where I’m with the kids.  People you love aren’t here forever, so be sure to spend time with them.  Even if it means getting less out, you’re better off in the long run if you take the time to engage with family and friends.  Plus, being with them will also help you avoid burn out.

Now grab a calendar for the next year and mark in your goals.

1. Using the information from above, get an idea of how long it will take you to get  the first draft and final product done.

I like to mark down an estimate on when the first draft will be done.  You don’t have to even start the book or even know what the book will be about when you’re making your goals for the next year.  I usually call it book 1, book 2, etc.  This frees me up to choose the books I want to write later while keeping me focused.

So go through each month for next year and mark down when you want to start a book and when the first draft will be completed.  Next, mark down the time you’ll start editing and when you’ll finish editing (give a couple weeks’ leeway for your editing and beta reader team).  Then set down a goal for when the book will be published.

2.  Mark in any vacations or times you know you won’t be writing.

And adjust your goals around those times.  True, the unexpected happens, but it helps if you can still pencil in those things that you know for sure is coming up (ex. reunions, weddings, vacations).

Evaluate your progress

Now that you have your strategy in place, go back and evaluate the calendar every two to three months in the next year.  Did you meet your goals?  Why or why not?  Are you able to publish more books in the year or not?

Evaluating yourself doesn’t mean you pass or fail.  It means you are figuring out your strengths and weaknesses, learning what works and at what pace.  This is helping you to get a better grasp on your writing and publishing speed, and it’ll help you create an even better strategy in the future.

And remember, you are not competing with anyone.  You set your own terms and work on your own schedule.  😀

24 Comments

  1. This is all such good advice! I love this post, Ruth. I especially like the idea of a calendar where you put your goals for your books. I really wish I could write full time. I think I could crank out four novels a year if I didn’t work. Right now, I can usually write two novels or three novellas if things are going well.

    1. I was more productive before my husband retired. LOL

      The calendar was a tip I got from Stephannie Beman, and I was skeptical at first until I realized it kicked my butt into gear and got me to force deadlines on myself. I can’t say I always hit the deadlines, but I do think I’m closer to them than I would be without a plan. Seeing it on the calendar helps to track my progress, which is why I love it.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post. I just bought a smallish day-timer to help me stay on track with my writing and think it will make a difference. And I like your idea of having a few projects on the go at the same time…I always have more than one idea floating around in my head and it is difficult choosing which one to work on first…now I’m going to try your method–sounds as if it would work for me.
    Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. I love the planners. I usually buy a couple to track what I hope to do and what actually happens. 😀 I also have trouble deciding on what story to write. It helps me so I don’t get restless if I work on more than one at a time. Even better, if I get stuck on one story, I have another to work on.

  3. Barb says:

    Thanks, Ruth. I’ve looked at your output and wondered how you did it. i appreciate you sharing your process.

    1. I don’t watch much TV and I stay off You Tube and away from the cute Facebook pictures. I can get sucked into You Tube and Facebook for hours. LOL That’s not a good thing. 😀

  4. Thank you Ruth for the info! I think it will help alot of authors, giving a structure and ideas to help them achieve their writing goals. Great tips, cheers Dave

    1. I didn’t think a plan helped until I tried it. I used to just write and see what happened. I found the plan helps give me a reason to turn the TV off. 😀

  5. This is an incredibly inspiring post. I totally went out yesterday and picked out a calendar just so that I can start keeping track of how I work and making plans for the future.

    1. Awesome! I glad I could inspire you! I got the idea back in 2009 when Stephannie Beman suggested it. I started one up, and even today, I don’t get everything I hope to but I have a better idea of what my usual timing is for each book. So it’s always a work in progress to fine tune how we work. 😀

  6. It may take more time and effort to promote a book than to write it. In 2011 I wrote and published eight books, and did not have nearly enough time for proper marketing. In 2012, I cut back to three — a much more sensible number.

    Michael N. Marcus
    http://www.BookMakingBlog.com
    http://www.SilverSandsBooks.com
    http://www.BookFur.com
    http://www.Facebook.com/SilverSandsBooks

    1. It does depend on where you’re at. I did my heavy promotion in 2008 and 2009. This was back when I had no ebooks until 2009 and was just getting my feet wet in the whole thing. I hung out on discussion boards and forums a lot and met a lot of people who became friends. Back then a free ebook and $0.99 also went a lot further in promoting than it does today. It helped that most authors were still against self-publishing and would send out “please go with a publisher” type of emails my way. hehe Now that the stigma is going away (it’s not completely gone), it’s harder to get noticed. I don’t envy anyone who is just starting out. The road is harder to pave for your name and books.

  7. Tarla Kramer says:

    Thanks for this post. Certainly know all about the goofing off! Now I’m looking down the barrel of the summer holidays and am working better knowing that family time/time to catch up at home is coming.

    1. I’ve been guilty of goofing off, too. Sometimes, I still am. And I know what you mean about the barrel of the summer holidays. I’m currently trying to plan out a way I can finish getting all the books I can get out before mid-to-end of May hits. I started working on the calendar today, but I didn’t get further than the beginning of January. Planning can be one of the hardest tasks.

      1. Tarla Kramer says:

        Well I’m very glad you do goof off, as well as doing all your books. I’ve only just started out this year doing the ebook thing and still waiting to sell a copy. Ho hum. But have lots of projects on the go and that’s important. Don’t use a calendar yet, still only use a list with priorities.

        1. Try not to despair about lack of sales. Unlike a lot of other authors, the only sales I made early on were books I gifted to family and friends, and it turned out they didn’t care for them. LOL It wasn’t until I had about ten books out and priced a couple at free that things finally started moving.

          1. Tarla Kramer says:

            Thanks again for your advice and encouragement. Have downloaded a couple of your free books, but seem to have only used my e reader as a bookshop rather than a library so far, and have browsed endlessly without settling to anything apart from the Bible.

            1. I end up doing the same thing. I keep telling myself I won’t buy any more books until I read half of what I have on my Kindle, and then I’ll find a book that looks interesting and buy it. So i know what you’re talking about. 😀

  8. Getting sucked into distractions is very, very easy!

    1. Yep. Even now, there’s a show on TV my family is watching, and I’m having trouble sticking with some proofreading before I sent out my story to an editor. LOL

  9. Thank you, Ruth, for this post. This provides a great starting point for me as I head into self-publishing. It’s so liberating to think about setting my own writing and publishing schedule – until I realize I’m probably my own worst boss. Too much forced focus, not enough breaks, and yet no real productivity to show from it. I really don’t know if I’ll be able to write very many books a year, but this will help me set milestones to work toward, and remind me to take those breaks instead of driving myself into the ground. Thank you!

    1. It’s hard for me to take breaks due to forced focus, so I understand what you mean. I feel guilty when I do take breaks, but when I come back refreshed, I do have an easier time writing. It helps when I am assured that I haven’t lost my creative edge. Sometimes I worry that I’ll never be able to finish another book because I’ll lose my creativity if I stop writing. 😀 I think that’s why it’s hard for me to take those breaks. That, and we’re told we need to spend each day writing if we want to succeed. I don’t know if that’s what you feel, too, but I wanted to let you know you’re not alone.

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