Jan 17, 2012

475 Hours (or.. authors, know thy craft!)

On the average, it takes 475 hours to write a novel (bookstatistics.com).

Of course that’s your average-sized novel and your averagely experienced writer. Size matters (in writing time, it does!) and so does experience. As I’ve progressed in my writing career, I see that it takes less and less time to create each new novel (averaging out by length). Does that mean I’m putting less effort into it? Not at all. It means practice works, that exercising my writing muscles make them function better, that stories come out more smoothly than they used to so there’s less starting and stopping.

Either way, 475 hours divided by 40 hour weeks equals right at 12 weeks of work, or roughly 3 months. That’s for an average length novel, remember. Most self-pubbed authors average around 200 sales of one book. If you figure an average of $2 royalty per book, that’s $400 for 3 months of work. Some make drastically less. Some explode (very few, mind you) and make drastically more. But on the average, keep in mind that $33 a week “salary” from the book you spent 475 hours writing.

Still interesting in being an indie author? Great! Then go for it! If the numbers scare you, walk away very slowly and search for a different route or a different job.

[Please be aware this is a very unscientific assumption based only on what I’ve heard passed around as far as sales. It is NOT meant to be quoted as statistical fact; it’s only for demonstration purposes.]

So, if you’re still hanging around and considering the self-pub path, you have very large … uh, amounts of determination or belief in your work or both. Good for you! There will be many, many times you’ll change your mind about both of those things while walking (or trudging) the path. We all do. Okay, 99.89 percent of us do (as a guess, of course; I didn’t do a survey).

What’s the point, here? The point is that with the odds so against you and with the simple fact that there are more indie books every year, you need to do what you can to help yourself, and the rest of us.

How? STUDY your craft!


I understand why self-pub authors have such a bad rep. It’s because it’s terribly easy to put out your own books these days and there are no filters other than savvy readers who know to check the publisher before they buy, and honestly, too many of these books are not worth more than $33 a week income. Sorry, but facts are facts. They aren’t worth more because too many authors just jump in and decide to write a book because they “can” without stopping to check on the “how” it should be done.

Like anything else, writing a novel is small part talent, large part technical skill. Or it should be. If you have this turned around, please do us all a favor and stop, listen, and learn. Take a class. Read a lot, preferably in several genres, not only your interest. Get critiques from strangers (not from loved ones). Know what POV, climax, denouement, plot, characterization, setting, mood, and theme mean and know how to use them. Things like poetic speech, sentence flow, and why you probably shouldn’t head hop are also good to know. Rules – please know the rules. Breaking the rules in fiction is fine, but know them first and know why you’re breaking them. Take a class! Yes, I said this already, but it deserves repetition (also know how to use repetition properly). There are a myriad of online learning classes for writers and specifically for novelists. Some are free. Many published authors will gladly give some free advice if you’re willing to listen. BE willing to listen! If an author says something like, “I’d like to discuss a couple of points about your book,” say THANK YOU for your time and then LISTEN. Don’t say, “Well, I don’t really want to work on this more.” Okay, then. You’ve lost respect and support and more importantly, you’ve lost potential readers who may catch what that author wanted to tell you and decide not to bother again.

This is a tough road. Don’t make it even tougher on yourself, or on the rest of us. Know your craft. Study it and then continue to update your knowledge. READ! An author who doesn’t have time to read is an author who is not terribly read-worthy. If you never read fiction, don’t try to write it. If you never read horror, don’t try to write it. But do read outside your writing genre.

Indie publishing is not the easier path. It’s harder. It’s an uphill battle through swamp land and gators and ticks and leeches and other warriors trying to jump in front of you with more armor and more training. It’s also full of nay-saying critics who believe indie authors are those who couldn’t make the cut. Be ready for that. And be ready to defend your territory with the knowledge that you’ve spent the time to prepare for battle and can fight fire with fire instead of with a barely glowing sparkler.

And then, go out and break a leg!



  1. I should read more literary romance. But there seems to be this HUGE learning curve associated with it. And it has nothing to do with indie authors. (You're my favorite anyway!)

  2. Ah TC, that's because you read so much non-fiction! Or maybe not. I know it's a tough sell to combine the two opposing genres. Maybe there is a learning curve to reading it. Now I'm going to be considering that.

    Glad to be a favorite even if I can't name another literary romance author. ;-)