Are Non-Genre Authors Slow? Part II

Welcome to Part II of a comparison between genre and non-genre authors’ publishing frequency. Here, we’ll look at numbers for genre authors and consider the answer to the question posed in Part I.

The study includes six genre authors, for no reason other that’s how many qualifying authors I identified before my patience waned. The average for the non-genre authors was one new “pie” (or, story) every two years.

Genre Authors

Dan Brown (Mystery/Thriller)

Digital Fortress (1998), Angels & Demons (2000), Deception Point (2001), The Da Vinci Code (2003), The Lost Symbol (2009)

Number of “pies”: 5 novels
Publishing period: 11 years
Publishing frequency: 0.45 new novels/year (or, a novel every two years)

Julie Garwood (Romance)

Gentle Warrior (1985), A Girl Named Summer (1986), Rebellious Desire (1986) , Honor’s Splendour (1987), The Lion’s Lady (1988), The Bride (1989), Guardian Angel (1990), The Gift (1991), The Prize (1991), The Secret (1992), Castles (1993), Saving Grace (1993), Prince Charming (1994), For The Roses (1995), The Wedding (1996), One Pink Rose (1997), One White Rose (1997), One Red Rose (1997), Come The Spring (1997), Ransom (1999), Heartbreaker (2000), Mercy (2001), Killjoy (2002), Murder List (2004), Slow Burn (2005), Shadow Dance (2006), Shadow Music (2007), Fire and Ice (2008), Sizzle (2009)

Number of “pies”: 29 novels
Publishing period: 24 years
Publishing frequency: 1.21 new novels/year

Charlaine Harris (Mystery/Horror)

Sweet and Deadly (Dead Dog in the UK; 1981), A Secret Rage (1984), Real Murders (1990), A Bone to Pick (1992), Three Bedrooms, One Corpse (1994), The Julius House (1995), Dead Over Heels (1996), Shakespeare’s Landlord (1996), “Deeply Dead” in Murder, They Wrote (1997), Shakespeare’s Champion (1997), Shakespeare’s Christmas (1998), A Fool And His Honey (1999), Shakespeare’s Trollop (2000), Shakespeare’s Counselor (2001), “Dead Giveaway” in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (2001), Dead Until Dark (2001), Last Scene Alive (2002), Living Dead in Dallas (2002), Poppy Done to Death (2003), Club Dead (2003), Dead to the World (2004), “Fairy Dust” in Powers of Detection (2004), “Dancers in the Dark” a novella in Night’s Edge (2004), “One Word Answer” in Bite (2005), Dead as a Doornail (2005), Grave Sight (2005), Definitely Dead (2006), “Tacky” in My Big, Fat Supernatural Wedding (2006), All Together Dead (2007), Grave Surprise (2006), “Dracula Night” in Many Bloody Returns (2007), An Ice Cold Grave (2007), From Dead to Worse (2008), “An Evening With Al Gore” in Blood Lite (2008), “Gift Wrap” in Wolfsbane and Mistletoe (2008), “Lucky” in Unusual Suspects (2008), Dead and Gone (2009), “Bacon” in Strange Brew (2009), “The Britlingens Go To Hell” in Must Love Hellhounds (2009), A Touch of Dead (2009), Grave Secret (2009)

Number of “pies”: 29.60
Publishing period: 28 years
Publishing frequency: 1.06 “pies”/year

Steven King (Horror/Suspense)

Whew. Everyone knows King is prolific, but he’s also varied. Chances are good that I missed one or more of his published stories. Note that I intentionally excluded poems, comics, and movies that weren’t based on one of King’s novels or short stories.

Do you think I should have included them?

King’s Novels and more novels* (55 from years 1974 to 2009)
King’s Short Stories (100 to year 2008), plus “The Glass Floor” (1967) and “The Tale of Gray Dick” (2003)

Number of “pies”: 60.10
Publishing period: 42 years
Publishing frequency: 1.43 “pies”/year

Note: *The Bachman Books is a reprint collection, so it was not counted.

James Patterson (Thriller)

2009 – 8 novels
2008 – 6 novels
2007 – 6 novels
2006 – 5 novels
2005 – 5 novels
2004 – 4 adult novels
2003 & prior – 26 novels

Number of “pies”: 60 novels
Publishing period: 33 years
Publishing frequency: 1.80 new novels/year

Note: The book pages on Patterson’s website weren’t functioning on January 13, 2010.

Nora Roberts a.k.a. J.D. Robb (Romance)

King and Patterson combined still don’t come close to Roberts’ quantity. Fortunately, all of her works are listed in one document.

Robert’s Complete Book List (pdf; 185 novels and 17 novellas from years 1981 to 2009)

Number of “pies”: 185.85
Publishing period: 28 years
Publishing frequency: 6.64 “pies”/year

Summary and Conclusion

With Nora Roberts in the group, the average number (or, arithmetic mean) of “pies” per year is 2.10– four times as often as the genre authors. Removing Roberts drops the number to 1.19 “pies” per year, twice as often as the genre authors.

The median with and without Roberts is 1.21 and 1.14, respectively. That makes me most comfortable with the once a year estimate.

So, do Literary authors publish less often than genre writers? Yes, they seem to publish new fiction half as often.

Closing Comments

If you enjoy double-checking other people’s math, then please let me know if you see any errors in my calculations.

For everyone: How do you think we could make a similar study better, more useful, or whatever?

For example, the most common genres in bestsellers lists were those represented here: Horror, Mystery, Thriller, and Romance. My genres of Fantasy and Science Fiction weren’t represented at all, because the authors I saw in the lists are deceased or residing outside of the U.S.A. I’d like to gather data for the publishing frequency of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Do you have any questions? Thoughts?


2 thoughts on “Are Non-Genre Authors Slow? Part II”

  1. It would be interesting to see Sci-Fi and Fantasy figured in, though it might not change the average.

    So, am I correct in assuming that the assertions made in article that inspired your survey, would not hold true for most non-genre writers?

    I don’t know about Nora Roberts, though I’m highly suspicious after reading these totals, but I think it’s common knowledge that James Patterson uses ghost writers.

    1. Gah, I hadn’t considered that some of these authors would use ghostwriters. I don’t understand ghostwriting for fiction. How could someone want to take credit for another writer’s novel?

      Assuming we can call the results valid, then Smith’s assertions are *less* true for most non-genre writers. If all else is equal, a Literary writer who produces a novel every two years will take longer to establish a living than the typical genre writer.

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