Books Written Before Debuts: Stats

Photo credit: kenteegardin on Flickr
So a little while ago, while I was looking for statistics about the number of books various authors had written before writing their debuts, I found that there was shockingly little information out there. I mean, sure, if you hunted for it you’d find some scattered answers, but I couldn't find an easy database with averaged information.

So I asked around Twitter to see if anyone knew of such a database. And no one did. But the genius @Bibliogato suggested I take an unofficial Twitter poll and hope it got RTed enough to get some decent data. 

So I did. And wow, did it ever get enough RTs. 

Overall, I got over 200 responses from traditionally published writers all over Twitter, which was pretty incredible. Combined with some data I found online from specific authors, it gave me a pretty interesting spread of information. 

The question I asked specifically, was how many novels the respondents had written before writing their debut novel. 

83.8% of respondents said that they’d written at least one novel before writing their debut. The most common answer was one (so debut was the second book), followed very closely by three (debut was fourth). The average was 3.24 books written before debuting. 

  • 16.2% debuted with their first novel. 
  • 17.1% debuted with their second novel. 
  • 13.1% debuted with their third novel. 
  • 16.7% debuted with their fourth novel. 
  • 14% debuted with their fifth novel. 
  • 7.7% debuted with their sixth novel. 
  • 6.2% debuted with their seventh novel.
  • 9% wrote seven or more books before writing their debuts. 

The spread: 

That data point of 20+ books written before debuting? That’s a HUGE author. Like, Twitter-verified, NYT bestseller. AKA: don’t give up. 

Some interesting anecdotes: 

  • One writer spent 17 years writing short stories before writing their debut. 
  • One writer wrote over 40 novellas before writing their debut.
  • One writer spent 10 years writing fan fiction before writing their debut. 
  • One writer spent 25 years writing four books. 
  • One writer spent 13 years writing one book (their debut). 
  • Many writers didn’t sell the first book they signed an agent with. 

All in all, there was a really wide spread here, but I think the takeaway is not to give up. Maybe it’ll only take you one book, and maybe it’ll take you twenty. But if you keep working at it, and writing, and revising, and sending your book out there—one way or another, I think you’ll make it.

What do you think of the statistics? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
.@Ava_Jae asked pubbed writers on Twitter how many books they wrote before writing their debuts. Here are her stats. (Click to tweet)  
Writer @Ava_Jae shares her results from her unofficial Twitter poll on how many books pubbed writers wrote before their debuts. (Click to tweet)  
Feeling discouraged about having to trunk a novel? @Ava_Jae shares statistics you might find encouraging. (Click to tweet

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