The inspiration for this topic was taken from a great bit of writing and thinking by indie author Mathew Iden. Hope he doesn’t mind that we use it as a jumping off point with due credit given. The point is this. Thanks to the digital revolution, readers and writers are in the midst of an upheaval of epic proportions when it comes to how we define the words we consume. As Iden puts it, we’re reaching “the end of limits.” What does this mean?
First, let’s ponder why, under the traditional publishing model, a writer’s first book is generally capped at 100,000 (about 300 printed pages) words while Stephen King is allowed to circuitously confabulate his way through a story that might easily run twice that length. It all comes down to profits and printing costs. With a newbie writer, the publisher has no idea if anyone besides his or her mother and friends will even buy the thing. On the other hand, Stephen King has proven he can sell millions of books on any topic, at any length. He could probably publish his grocery list and get at least a few hundred thousand sales.
In short, new writers are constrained to a certain length because publishers are not prepared to risk the increased printing costs until there is a track record of success. But with digital publishing, who cares how long or short a piece is? That is Iden’s basic point. We’ve all been conditioned by the traditional publishing model to think that a short story is about 3,000 words, a novella 50,000 words and a novel 100,000. But pixels are cheap and the old way of thinking need no longer apply. Do you want to write a million word tome? Go for it! Unless your name is Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, no sane legacy publisher will take you on, but that’s where digital self publishing comes in.
The only limit that exists now is determined by the reader. Hold his interest for a million words and he’ll likely pony up the cash for your next million word masterpiece. It works the other way too. Maybe your grand production clocks in at 30,000 words – too short for a novella and too long for a short story.
Who cares? If someone wants to read it, you can sell it. The end of limits indeed. We kind of like where the new world of publishing is headed.
The Speaking of Wealth Team
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