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Ask Daphne! How Often is TOO Often?

anklebowsmilanfashionweekA friend shared a link with these shoes from Milan’s Fashion Week, which have nothing to do with this post… or so I thought, until I suddenly realized there’s like a fashion week EVERY week, between Milan, New York, Paris, etc. So it does work with Georgiana’s question, as follows:

Do you have expectations regarding the frequency a writer finishes and submits novel manuscripts? At one point MaryJanice Davidson was writing something like six or seven books a year but then other writers only finish one every seven or eight years. Do you want a book a year? Two books a year? You don’t care so long as they’re good?

I would think it would be hard for you to make ends meet if your writers were on the taking almost a decade side of the spectrum.

To answer the easy part first — sure, it would be tough to make ends meet if ALL of my authors were only writing one book a decade, but most authors keep to much quicker schedules, and that’s why agents have multiple clients, instead of depending on just one.

As to my expectations about frequency, I’m going to go with the wishy-washy, “it depends.” Does the author have a publishing schedule? If Random House or Penguin or whoever is counting on a book a year, then I darn well hope my author will be turning in a book a year. Someone like MaryJanice Davidson, who started out in the category world of monthly releases, may be able to swing six books a year, but for MOST authors, that’s A LOT. Especially if you want to have one of those, whatchamalits, a LIFE. (You may mention James Patterson in the comments, and I will note that Patterson doesn’t WRITE all of the books published with his name on them in a year. He may come up with the ideas, but notice the co-writers.)

So, if you have a schedule to keep with a publishing house, you may be turning in a book or two a year, maybe more, but that will be worked out with your editor in consultation with you, and with the expectation that you’ll be realistic about how long it takes you to complete a draft.

But say you don’t have a publishing contract with due dates laid out in legalese. How often should you be turning in a new manuscript then?

Well, you want to give each manuscript that your agent is submitting the best chance possible. It can look weird to have manuscript #1 out on submission, and then call a month later to submit manuscript #2 by the same author. You want to give MS#1 the best chance possible, and that might take 6 weeks, 6 months, or over a year.

Does that mean if you are one of those superhuman writers who can turn out a book a month, you shouldn’t TELL your agent about them? No! Always tell your agent about them, but recognize that if you’re giving her a new manuscript to read every 30 days, she’s not getting a chance to really sit and think about each one. And if she gets behind (as we all do), you may see your manuscripts stacking up on her reading pile in a somewhat overwhelming tower of guilt.

What you should do is make sure each manuscript is as polished as possible before sending it off to even your agent. That means making use of your critique groups, your beta readers, even the drawer in the back of your desk, where it can sit and marinate for a bit. Time away from your manuscripts is sometimes the best way of seeing the edits you can make yourself.

Does that answer your question? Any follow-ups? Put ’em in the comments!

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