Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Mystery and Romance Authors - How Many Books Should You Publish?


Antique Underwood Typewriter and Calla Lilies
Social media has swept instant and fleeting tidings over us - the expectation of continuous news snippets. I wondered how this impacts the work of authors. In doing research, I found an interesting quote from Donna Tartt, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Goldfinch:

There's an expectation these days that novels – like any other consumer product – should be made on a production line, with one dropping from the conveyor belt every couple of years.”

Every couple of years? I was astounded. Quite a few authors, including New York Times bestselling ones produce at least one book a year, such as Stephen King, Danielle Steel, Harlan Coben, and Jeffery Deaver. I also know writers who publish four books a year – and happen to be USA Today bestselling authors. Probably none of the ones I’m thinking of will be honored with a Pulitzer, but they are satisfying their fan base by penning multiple novels per year.

Antique Printing Press
It gives the aphorism “publish or perish” a whole new meaning. The impact on genre authors to keep
publishing new books increases their fan base, improves their rankings on Amazon, and sustains their visibility among readers within their genres.

Yet The Goldfinch author takes ten years (that’s right – a full decade!) to write a novel. A literary genius, Tartt has fans across the globe. Plus, she’s backed by big publishing houses and their gargantuan budgets, here and abroad.

Most of us who write genre would “perish” if we only produced one novel every ten years.

Selling novels boils down to two basic issues:

A. Storytelling writing a compelling and fascinating story.

B. Markets how these “consumer products” that Tartt mentions are advertised and distributed.

In 2018, more than 1.6 million books (both print and eBook with registered ISBNs) were published in the US alone. You can dismiss a portion of these as coming from aspiring writers or people doing a memoir for family purposes. But the point is made the diversity of choices for readers contributes to the difficulty new authors encounter when trying to distinguish themselves in a crowded market.

Despite the intense competition, I would not for a minute give up my writing! It’s the most satisfying, and craziest, endeavor I’ve ever done.

Care to share how you distinguish your novels in the crowded market?


Photo credits: Kathryn Lane for Antique Underwood Standard Typewriter, Printed page flying off antique printing press; Bobbye Marrs for Nikki Garcia Trilogy

Kathryn Lane started out as a starving artist. To earn a living, she became a certified public accountant and embarked on a career in international finance with a major multinational corporation. After two decades, she left the corporate world to plunge into writing mystery and suspense thrillers. In her stories, Kathryn draws deeply from her Mexican background as well as her travels in over ninety countries.




  1. I've often accused one of my favorite writers of writing faster than I can read her books. Personally, too much real life tends to intrude on my writing schedule, and I'm lucky to get out a book every 2-3 years. Fingers crossed that my readers don't entirely forget about me in the interim. While I feel pressed to get the next book out, I try to focus on doing the best work possible and not worry about speed to market. Good post, Kathryn.