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.