Is one book a year enough?

Julie Bosman of The New York Times published a piece over the weekend discussing how writing one book a year might no longer be enough in this age of the digital book and instant media gratification.

The push for more material comes as publishers and booksellers are desperately looking for ways to hold onto readers being lured by other forms of entertainment, much of it available nonstop and almost instantaneously. Television shows are rushed online only hours after they are originally broadcast, and some movies are offered on demand at home before they have left theaters. In this environment, publishers say, producing one a book a year, and nothing else, is just not enough.

Bosman identifies novelists who specialized in mysteries, thrillers and romance as being specifically impacted by this new demand, whereas “literary novelists like Jeffrey Eugenides and Jonathan Franzen can continue to publish a new novel approximately every decade and still count on plenty of high-profile book reviews to promote it.”

A few thoughts on the subject:

  1. If I was not also teaching and engaged in a myriad of other occupations, writing two books a year would be quite feasible, and I would probably enjoy it a great deal. I have a pile of story ideas just waiting to be written, so the thought of committing them to paper at a more rapid pace appeals to me a great deal.
  2. In terms of my current publishing schedule, I published my first novel, Something Missing, in 2009, my second, Unexpectedly, Milo, in in 2o10 and will be publishing my third, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, this year. But my third novel was actually ready for publication last year. A combination of switching publishers and delaying the release of the book for marketing reasons created the two year gap between books. I also have a unpublished novel put aside for a rainy day (written last year) in addition to the book I am finishing this year.
  3. Determining if this trend might one day apply to me is a question I find difficult to answer. Bosman indicates that the writers of mysteries, thrillers and romances are feeling the pressure associated with trend, but I don’t write those types of books. Nor do I write the literary fiction typically associated with writers like Franzan or Eugenides. As always, my genre is difficult to define (quirky fiction?), leaving me somewhere in the middle, wondering where I might stand on this matter.
  4. I think it’s a shame that given the chance to cite literary authors for her piece, Bosman chose with Franzan and Eugenides and did not mention a woman.
  5. While I can certainly see the value of a well-timed novella positioned a few months ahead of the release of a book, it seems to me that this only works for authors who are writing about already established characters from a series of books. I can easily think of several short stories and novellas that I might write in preparation for the launch of my next book, but without an understanding of the characters and the world contained within the story, the novella would mean little to a reader and would also spoil aspects of the book itself.