Franchise Writers, How Much Material They Really Write


The rapid rate at which certain franchise writers can churn out material is truly astounding.  The current franchise king, James Patterson, admits to utilizing a team of writers who flesh out stories for which he provides just an outline.  Some literary franchises, such as the long-dead Robert Ludlum’s, utilize material “written in the style of” this author.  Of course Mr. Ludlum’s name consumes a typeface exponentially larger than the person who wrote that particular book.

I’ve long argued that it’s not possible for anyone to write a book a month.  Nora Roberts is famous for this, and it’s my belief that she uses a team of writers who create material under her masthead.  A well-known Romance author told me my contention is incorrect, that Ms. Roberts writes every word.  I don’t see how this is possible, even if many of her stories might follow a template.

I’m bringing up book frequency by a single writer because I recently read a piece attributed to Romance/Suspense author Barbara Freethy.  The article references her selling, via self-publishing, six million books during the past four years.  I parsed her list of 35 books she’s published to date, and a trend exists that I refer to as “speed creep.”  Ms. Freethy’s first book made it into print in March of ’96.  She added a new title every eight months or so for several years after that.  Then the titles came with greater celerity, until most are now three months or so apart.

If I could sell six million books in four years I’d also knock out titles as fast as I could, but I’d need a lot of help.  Mildly layered commercial fiction in the 100,000-word range is certainly possible to write in ninety days.  However, its readiness for market is another issue altogether, even with heavy outside editing.

It’s my position that writing a publishable book a quarter is not physically possible to sustain.  A few books perhaps might follow sequentially in a 90-day time frame, but never dozens.  And a book a month–over a period of years–is right up there with typing one thousand words a minute.  At some point the public will learn the facts behind how certain writers are so amazingly prolific.

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