Book Release Delays. Now I Understand…To a Point

Release Calendar - Final

As a reader, I can think of few things more frustrating than waiting for the next book in a series to be released, only to have it delayed over and over again. If you don’t understand the concept, strike up a conversation with a Game of Thrones fan and ask when the next book will be out. You’ll probably want to get yourself comfortable before asking, though. It may take a while.

The old adage that to understand someone you must travel a mile in their shoes applies here. While most readers understand that writing and publishing a book takes some time, there is such a wide range in the frequency of book releases, sometimes it is hard to determine if an author is dragging his or her creative feet or if the reasons (excuses?) for delays are valid. Out of curiosity, I did some research on a handful of authors to see how frequently they release new works. One must keep in mind that not all authors are created equal, so the numbers should be taken with more than one grain of salt.

Frequency of New Releases By Some Well-Known Authors
Author Number of Books Over How Many Years Frequency             (years per book)
Nora Roberts 234 32 0.14 (49 days!)
Tom Clancy 92 29 0.32
Brandon Sanderson 31 10 0.32
Stephen King 85 39 0.45
James Patterson 61 34 0.56
Terry Brooks 45 38 0.84
Robert Heinlein 38 46 1.2
J.K. Rowling 7 10 1.43
George RR Martin 13 34 2.6
Ernest Hemingway 13 35 2.7

As you can see, the average frequency for an individual author differs quite a bit, as does each book release for the same author. For example, though George RR Martin has an average of 2.6 years between releases, it has been double that since his last Game of Thrones book. It’s no wonder some readers are disappointed.

In the past, I, in my ignorance, scoffed at authors who spouted the old standby: “I just want to make sure the book is the best I can make it, so I’m pushing off the release date for another [insert ridiculous length of time here].” The thing is, there is some validity to the statement. Some.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not selling out and I’m definitely not condoning or defending authors who make their fans wait exorbitant amounts of time to get the next book in a series. All I am saying is that I have experienced firsthand how things can get slightly out of control.

Let me use as an example a story that has a fair amount of complexity and girth. Writing the first draft, it seems sometimes that things flow well and there will be no problem making the self-imposed deadline for release. Then, somewhere in between the third and fourth edits, the story begs to fork off in another direction. The author can ignore the direction the story and characters want to go, or he can oblige them and see where it all leads. And just like that, another month or more has just been added to the process.

This is not even mentioning delays in cover art creation, third-party editing, or one of the other dozen or so steps that are required to publish a book. Suffice it to say, it was eye-opening when delays began to rear their ugly heads with my own works. And then there are the delays originating with traditional publishing houses themselves, things completely out of control of the author.

Still, there are limits to which we can claim unforeseen occurrences meddling with our schedules. If delays stretch from weeks to months and even to years, there is something wrong. Authors have the obligation, I believe, to finish what they start, and to do so in a reasonable amount of time. In spite of all the many things that can tie us down and cause a release date to be pushed out, readers deserve the entire story, start to finish. As for myself, I need to get back to editing the next book in my series now so I won’t be accused of stalling.

If only George RR Martin would do the same.



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