The End of Limits: Guest Post by Matthew Iden

There has been a lot of talk recently about the changes that have taken place over the last two years in the business side of publishing.

Today, I have a fascinating guest post from indie author Matthew Iden who examines how the digital revolution may be changing the very way we write (and, ultimately, the way we may be compensated for that work).

Before we get to that, I want to quickly mention that I’ll be running a monster sale for St. Patrick’s Weekend – right here on this blog – with 27 books from 23 different authors, across every genre, all being dropped to 99c in honor of the world’s favorite saint.

There might also be a rather tasty competition. More on that later in the week. But for now, here’s Matthew:

The End of Limits

The chatter swirling around e-publishing these days seems to center around monopolies, royalty rates, and the end of traditional publishing as an industry. But digital publishing isn’t just toppling Big Six publishing (heh) or re-indexing price points, it’s redefining the craft of writing by giving authors unprecedented control over the presentation of their material in one potentially game-changing venue: length. From six word short stories to million word mega-novels, e-publishing is opening doors of creativity and knocking down antiquated legacy word count requirements. A basic fundamental about writing as a craft is being…well, rewritten and we are now in the age of the end. The end of limits, that is.

How did we get here?

Consider some of the formats you currently write in. Short stories that are magazine-ready usually weigh in at 3,000 words, with the occasional 8,000 word exception for a one-per-issue long-short. Debut novels are usually capped at 75,000 words/300 pages. (Certain genres might tolerate a submission double that size, but in that case it wouldn’t be unusual for the author to be asked by a publisher to either trim it back to the century mark…or increase it so it could be split into two or even three books for marketability.) Novellas–the red-headed stepchild of literary formats–wander aimlessly everywhere in between.

These are all lengths we’ve grown accustomed to and so we pattern the lengths of our digital titles similarly. But what determines these lengths? Legacy publishing limits. Print publishing limits. Three thousand words tales allow magazine editors to cram five or six stories in an issue without having to print and ship catalog-sized glossies, a prohibitively expensive proposition if they want to keep selling subscriptions for low, low prices. Over years of trial and error, magazine publishers discovered the sweet spot of issue length and customer price tolerance, while still giving value.

Ditto for novels. Debuts aren’t 300 pages long because that’s the perfect length for story-telling–an absurd idea when you say it that way–it’s because at that length, book spines only take up an inch or two on the shelf, allowing more space for their more recognizable (read: New York Times bestseller) 500 page neighbors, while still providing value to the buyer. Anything shorter is perceived as a bad financial deal for the reader; anything over is undercutting sales from a proven success. Story, being malleable, has been required to fit into this physical limit with few exceptions.

What’s in a name?

Digital publishing throws traditional word limit requirements out the window. What’s a short story? Is it a thousand words? Six thousand? Eighteen thousand? When does a short become a novella? A novella become a novel? When a novel starts topping a quarter million words–or a million or three million–what is it, actually? The real answer is: it doesn’t matter anymore. Story is as story does.

Certainly, as readers we’ve become trained to respond in a certain way to particular lengths. We expect short stories to be pithy, punchy, and to the point. Conversely, we have expectations that novels will take us away for hours at a time. And some part of us will always view monetary value in terms of volume and length and not impact or artistry. But now that the width of a book’s spine is no longer relevant, the nomenclature of length–and the corresponding value we place on a work–is starting to vanish. Graham Green’s The Quiet American is a masterpiece of modern literature, but comes in under 45,000 words. In print taxonomy, it’s a novella–with all the negative baggage that comes with that term. But in digital language, it’s simply…a classic.

Dickens, Wattpad, and the Re-birth of the Serial

Former and current English majors will remember that some of the tedium experienced in Charles Dickens novels (apologies to Dickens fans) is explained by the fact he sold most of his novels in serial form to periodicals. Because he was paid for each installment, it was in Dickens’s interest to draw the story out and end each episode with a cliffhanger. These novels are hallmarks of Western literature, yet were tailored to fit the medium in which they were delivered.

What’s old is new again. Digital publishing and the media with which it’s accessed–e-readers, yes, but also phones–bring the serial novel back to the forefront. It’s portable, it’s accessible, and it makes sense to read in bite-sized chunks when time is limited. The advantage we have over Dickens, however, is that physical limits are off the table. So serialization is for the convenience of the moment, not due to the limitations of the printed page.

Wattpad is one good example of a service that’s recognized this paradigm shift (Dave talked about his experiences with Wattpad here; I talk about mine here). The prevailing situation on Wattpad is a young person reading a novel on their phone for an hour a day. Overall length does not seem to be an issue. Science fiction writer Bill Gourgey, one of Wattpad’s success stories, posted his 163 page novel Glide on Wattpad, dividing it into 73 parts. A novel this short might’ve been difficult to sell in a traditional print world. But Wattpadders don’t seem to give a fig: it’s registered 1.6 million reads to date. Story is what matters.

Content is King

Even innovators like Wattpad may be behind the curve. In China, the rage is for self-published, web-based serials, long-running fiction sagas that are delivered to PC’s and smartphones on a daily basis. The newspaper China Daily reported last year that these serials, called “original fiction”, have attracted 195 million readers, or about 42% of all of China’s internet users. Thousands of authors upload their stories to publishing sites offering their work for free, but hoping to have the next storyline that will catch fire. When that happens, the publishers of the site escalate the author to VIP status and begin charging for additional installments.

But by keeping the payment low (around $0.30 – $0.50 USD) for large amounts of story (100,000 words), the temptation for piracy is minimal while still providing an income for the author and value for the reader. Hordes of readers wait breathlessly for the next episode in the most popular series… and don’t mind that the tale may reach into the hundreds of thousands of words. In short, story is so much more relevant than volume that length is essentially a non-issue. Many of the most popular serial titles have been converted into movies and video games, further blurring the lines of format, length, and genre.

The End

As e-publishing continues to evolve, today’s experiments with word count are going to seem pedestrian and, frankly, ridiculous. It will be difficult to explain to future generations that a whole industry–a whole art form–was constrained by the box in which it was delivered. It’s up to today’s authors to push the boundaries of the new form and write what they have to write–to create good stories–unencumbered by historic labels or restricted by arbitrary numbers.

Sources

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/10/guest-post-by-blake-crouch.html

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2011-03/28/content_12234103.htm

http://blog.publishingtechnology.com/digital-solutions/freemiumfiction/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2011/nov/04/china-future-publishing

About Matthew Iden

Matthew Iden writes thrillers, crime fiction, and contemporary literary fiction with a psychological twist, but he’s also tried his hand at fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Former money-earning activities include time as a rifle-and-backpack-toting volunteer for the USDA Forest Service in Sitka, Alaska; IT Manager for the world-spanning Semester-at-Sea program; and… postman.

He’s recently released four collections of crime fiction short stories in e-book format (collected in the omnibus One Bad Twelve) and a fantasy short story debut, Sword of Kings; his medium-boiled crime fiction series featuring retired Washington DC homicide detective Marty Singer debuts soon in A Reason To Live.

* * *

A huge thank you to Matthew for a thought-provoking post. His (excellent) blog is here, you can follow him on Twitter here, and see the full list of his work on Amazon here.

I’ll be back on Wednesday with more details on the St. Patrick’s Weekend Blowout Monster 99c Sale Extravaganza (the name needs a little work), and another guest post.

About David Gaughran

David Gaughran is Irish, living in Prague, and the author of Mercenary, A Storm Hits Valparaiso, Let's Get Digital, Let's Get Visible, and this here blog.
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51 Responses to The End of Limits: Guest Post by Matthew Iden

  1. yoga-adan says:

    a really important post, glad you had matthew guest-post this, thanks😉

    Like

  2. Hektor Karl says:

    Matthew, I like the future you envision.

    Like

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Thanks, Hektor. I don’t want to overstate the obvious, but we live in exciting times–and not just because writers have unprecedented financial and publishing freedom (though hallelujah for that!): the face of writing might change substantially in our lifetimes.

      Like

  3. philipparees says:

    It’s beginning to seem absurd the extent to which control of literature depended upon the self interest of what you called packaging but I think of as ‘suffering the barren-handed, who would sell their words for your labour’ ( Courtesy Kahlil Gibran) Why did everyone put up with it for so long, and why do none of them realise (yet) that those days are over?

    Like

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hi Philip – I agree.I think it will be a gradual process, but I truly believe our children’s children will be thoroughly confused when we try to explain that stories used to come in certain sizes not because that was the right length to tell the story, but because of the size of the thing it came in.

      If you don’t believe me, try explaining to a 14-year old why LP’s (what’s that?) only had 11 songs on them. Or that you had to buy the whole thing to get the one song you liked. Or that all songs were 3 minutes, 11 seconds in length…

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  4. Sean McGuire says:

    In the long run, this is not earth-shattering. Literature shifts with the tools used to write it. From oral poets in Ancient Greece, to Dickens’ serial novels, we tell stories in different ways.

    With the digital revolution, the new limit is the audience’s attention span. When it comes to expressing higher truths through literature, could this get to be a problem?

    Like

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hi Sean – When the last paradigm in writing format occurred a hundred and fifty (if we choose Dickens) years ago, and the other historical turning points one can think of (the advent of the prose novel, poetry in the vulgar, oral story-telling to written word, to name a few) span thousands of years, I think the news for today’s writers is, if not earth-shattering, of immense importance. I believe the evolution will be gradual and almost go unnoticed by us…but it will change the way we write in our lifetimes.

      I agree with you on readers’ attention spans; however, it’s difficult to guess in which way this will change. I often hear from those who don’t know digital publishing that they expect short stories and flash fiction to be the favorite format of an Internet-using public (i.e., short attention spans = short works), but I don’t think that’s the case at all. Novels still seem to be the favorite, though time will tell if that’s a hold-over from the print world.

      That’s why the Chinese model intrigues me: it’s long (hundreds of thousands of words) AND short (delivered in micro-bursts of a few thousand words a day). It’ll be interesting to see if that model gains traction in the West and, if so, how that impacts literature.

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      • Sean McGuire says:

        I hadn’t heard of the Chinese model before reading your post, and I was interested by it as well. Wattpad is doing it already with success. It will be huge in the West. Busy Americans (and college students like me) like media that they can access quickly while they’re on the go and/or multitasking.

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      • Sean McGuire says:

        I will also say that I wonder how serialized novels will impact the reader’s perception of themes and motifs. I’m not familiar with reading serialized stories, whether on Wattpad, Chinese sites, or elsewhere. I do notice that even when a novel is altogether, one can miss a lot; in segmented novels, do you think could one miss even more? I bow to your experience in this matter.

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      • Matthew Iden says:

        “I do notice that even when a novel is altogether, one can miss a lot; in segmented novels, do you think could one miss even more?”

        Sean, I think you’ve hit on an interesting and potentially disturbing issue; namely that in a society with an already fragmented attention span, what happens to good writing that has traditionally required deep reading, reflection, and discussion when the wave of the future seems to be leaning towards a delivery in pieces? (Novelist Jonathan Franzen has already hit the panic button on this one…maybe a little prematurely).

        My guess and hope is that literature will separate along genre and “usage lines” (ugly term, sorry) rather than word limit lines. So, for instance, your quick thriller fix might be delivered serially, but more considered, literary works might be ebooks only accessed by regular download…or maybe this is where print truly comes into its own in the future. It’s all a guess at this point…but worth exploring.🙂

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  5. This is a fascinating post, Matthew. It seems that we are in a time of churning change but, as you point out, a hundred and fifty years ago Charles Dickens was carving out a name for himself and making a fortune by bucking the perceived wisdom and challenging himself and the medium in order to meet the needs of the newly literate reading public.

    I love the idea of novellas being the red-headed stepchild of fiction by the way. I think I will join the excitement by suggesting a new term of evellas, the purple-headed cuckoo which can be any length to suit the author, the subject and the reader.

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    • Matthew Iden says:

      Thank you, Martin. I think evellas is a wonderful term🙂

      This topic may have occurred to me simply as an excuse to defend/celebrate the novella, which I love as a literary form and has all but disappeared except in literary journals and the occasional piece in more popular literary magazines. It’s back and writers are finding success with it (Deborah Geary and Zoe Winters come to mind).

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  6. Great observations. Wonderful guest post.

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  7. margaret y. says:

    So nice that finally (finally!) stories can fall to their natural lengths, neither padded nor rushed. In the past, stories of 20-50k were awkward, and seemed to fit nowhere. Now, they are the perfect length to read on an ereader.

    Like

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hi Margaret – I couldn’t agree more. We’re free to focus on story, now, and not have to fear the “Great Swampy Middle” (to paraphrase Jim Butcher) of filler, struggling to reach 75k so we can write the words “A Novel” under the title. If your title is 42,000 words and it works as a *story*…publish that sucker.

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      • I’m of the same mind. My next novel will be around 50k to 60k. There is no way in hell an agent would ever look at a historical novel that short, unless the writer had a serious (bestselling) pedigree. But that’s the right length for the story. The only way I could have fit the (print-dictated) lengths that publishers/agents demand is by padding it out with unnecessary subplots and fluff – ruining the entire pacing of the story.

        Similarly, digital publishing is ushering in a revival of short stories (I’ve published two at 4k to 6k, impossible in print unless via a magazine), and novellas – which had become severely neglected.

        But I think this (and what’s happening in China) is but the tip of the iceberg. It will probably take some time to shake the idea that stories should be a certain length, but it’s going to be fascinating to watch various creative experiments unfold as the next generation of writers comes up – ones who haven’t been weaned on the set-lengths dictated by print.

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      • James says:

        Similarly, digital publishing is ushering in a revival of short stories (I’ve published two at 4k to 6k, impossible in print unless via a magazine), and novellas – which had become severely neglected.

        Dave is to the point here, I think–things like the Kindle and Amazon (and the Web, really) are helping to revive an almost-dead form. That’s the big news.

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    • Great point, Margaret!
      It occurred to me as I read this post that I was still trying to fit in with traditional publishing models when writing my fiction. The novel I’m working on now is on the “short” side, which surprises me because of the subject matter, but it seems to be its natural length. I’ll stop fretting about it!

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  8. James says:

    It’s up to today’s authors to push the boundaries of the new form and write what they have to write–to create good stories–unencumbered by historic labels or restricted by arbitrary numbers.

    Which is what all great writing has always done. The “limits” never existed, except in the minds and pocketbooks of authors who focused on commcercial success. What you’re describing is new commercial opportunities, not new writing ones. The opportunity to create good stories and write what you want has always been there, and always will.

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    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hi James – Yes, that’s partly my point, which is why I mention Greene’s Quiet American. You can look down on “commercial opportunites” all you want, but those opportunities are what have dictated the exposure of the last 100+ years of literature. If Greene went to New York today to peddle a 45,000 words piece as a “novel”, he’d get a door slammed in his face every time…and we’d be the poorer for it.

      Until the digital revolution, great writers who wrote in non-traditional lengths primarily wrote for themselves and their families and for the vanity press they had to use to get
      their work published. This is why, to me, digital publishing is so exciting: the great writing that you describe is aligned with the medium through which it will be distributed.

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      • James says:

        You can look down on “commercial opportunites” all you want

        …Except that I’m not, or I’d be a rather suicidal writer. I do hesistate when hearing phrases like this, though:
        we are now in the age of the end. The end of limits, that is.
        I’m not even sure what that means, Matthew. I see all kinds of limits for the publishing and marketing of my work, physical and otherwise.

        Oh, and about this:
        If Greene went to New York today to peddle a 45,000 words piece as a “novel”, he’d get a door slammed in his face every time
        He might. He might not. It seems to me you’re talking semantically here–if I sell a Kindle version of a “novel” that’s extremely short, I find it difficult to believe that many readers won’t be disappointed.

        But most of all, what you’re describing here largely omits the perspective that matters: the reader. And that’s difficult to do, isn’t it? It’s not enough to say “but I’m a reader too!”, because readers vary too much. The most truthful thing we can say about the evolution of writing forms is that they are affect by all three factors: the medium, the writer, *and* the reader.

        If I were making a prediction? I’d say the future is a lot less dramatic than most predict. It’ll have the same old forms, but also include new ones. I’ve been around since the birth of personal computers, and I’ve heard the death of print and long-form writing predicted the entire time. Yet in reality, both forms have grown and evolved–digital and analog. People want both, purchase both, and want “content” of all shapes, sizes, and lengths. The current faddish focus on the Kindle and digital purchases is a very limited view, in my opinion.

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  9. CJ Parmenter says:

    A deeply inspiring post, Mathew, thank you so much! I believe it was Seth Godin who said (in essence) that traditional publishing methods are all about creating scarcity around writing, capitalizing on the limited shelf space available in physical book stores. He then goes on to point out that there are no space limitations on virtual shelves. The thoughts on word count expressed here tie in perfectly with that, and the possibilities are exciting. I suppose one important caveat might be this: If content is king, then craft is the high chancellor standing behind the throne, whispering eloquence.

    Coincidentally enough, just this morning Kristen Lamb posted some interesting thoughts on craft and its importance to writers in the digital age here: http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/writers-in-a-gilded-cage-art-will-set-us-free/

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    • James says:

      I believe it was Seth Godin who said (in essence) that traditional publishing methods are all about creating scarcity around writing, capitalizing on the limited shelf space available in physical book stores.

      And to me, serials are also all about creating scarcity. In fact, Mark Twain (a famous writer of serials) essentially said that.

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    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hi CJ! Thanks for the kind words. Kristen’s post is thought-provoking; thank you for sharing it.

      Seth Godin’s thoughts are where I was going with this (in a roundabout fashion).🙂 There has not only been (somewhat artificial) scarcity around shelf space, but also about story-telling space…really, isn’t it odd to be told that you can only spin a good yarn (or, at least, one worth buying) if it’s over 75,000 words? The artificial limitations put on the craft to this point are understandable given the physical limitations of the past…but those days are gone, or fast disappearing. Bring on the future.

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  10. To me, this is one of the best things about self-published e-books; there’s no longer any need to worry about how long the story turns out to be, because no-one other than the reader is going to stand in front of me and say ‘no, that’s the wrong length for this market’.

    I’m actually surprised that the average magazine short story is so short; few of mine are under 4,000 words and 8,000 is common.

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    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hi Edward – I apologize; I should have been more specific. 3,000 is on the low/low-average end of word count for periodicals; genre magazines (fantasy, horror, and mystery) magazines often allow two or three times this length since their audiences are more accustomed to (or expect) it.

      I think the argument still holds, however: the cut-off is still there because of the physical limitations of the media. Good editors will always try to let you spin your story out to its “natural” length, but even they will be forced to give you the hook if you start wandering around the upper 5-digit word length.

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  11. James says:

    Amazon, in its Kindle Singles program, does in fact define a length for short stories and similar: 5,000 to 30,000 words.

    But that’s not the only definition, of course. I’ve never seen on universal definition of it; Poe defined it as what you could read in one sitting, but that could be a wide range. Magazines? They’re shorter now than ever, but typically range between 2,500 and 7,500 words–around the same as yours.

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  12. Mari Stroud says:

    A very inspiring post! Prior to experimenting with self-publishing, 75K had been such a goal for me for so long that it became its own prison. Now I’m tinkering with longer and shorter pieces both, and I’m much happier for it.🙂

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  13. Zia Black says:

    Very interesting read. I disagree with the price drop to lure pirates. If you’re trying to go to a low price to attract them then you’ll end up going to free, which is what they’re already paying. They won’t bother to browse prices first and then buy because it’s cheap. They’ll just stick with their pirate websites where EVERYTHING is free. Plus giving a massive 100,000 words for 30cents is a joke. You’d have to sell so many copies to pay your bills. Much better to have a higher price and sell less (lower sales is more realistic. I won’t struggle to earn a living to please a few pirates. I love writing, but writing AND paying the bills is better.

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    • Zia, it’s not that different to selling novels for 99c (which earn 35c royalties), which some authors have used as a successful strategy (or part of one). And, indeed, if you factor in the lower prices and cost of living in China, it probably compares quite favorably. Finally, from the (very) limited amount I know about this, the most successful authors sell in astonishing amounts.

      With regard to piracy, there is only one strategy (in my opinion), that has ever been successful in combating it or ameliorating its effects: convenience and price. Higher prices result in greater piracy. Not having content available (or in all formats) leads to greater piracy. Whereas, lower prices and ease of purchase in the format of your choice reduce piracy. The Chinese system – on the face of it – seems to implement these principles.

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    • “They’ll just stick with their pirate websites where EVERYTHING is free.”

      This is probably why the Chinese system works despite the lack of IP enforcement there: sure, you can probably download it for free from pirate sites, but if you want to read the next chunk of the story as soon as it is released (and ensure that the writer makes money so the next chunk is released to continue the story) you have to buy it. If the price is low enough then convenience beats cost.

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    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hi Zia – I can understand your position, but the Chinese model differs from the Western in one significant way: by being a serial, rather than a static system, the legitimate websites will always beat the pirates to the punch by a few days (i.e., despite the stunning speed of piracy, it still takes them some time to rip the works off).

      In the meantime, fans of the serial are so impatient for the next installment that they’ll pay the $.30 immediately rather than wait for the pirated version…but only because the cost is insignificant. The publishers and authors are overcoming piracy by beating “free, later” with “cheap, now”.

      Lastly, there are some obvious economies of scale going on here that are difficult to wrap our heads around. The serial model might not work in the West presently simply because there aren’t 1 billion+ readers ready to buy our stuff. When digital truly becomes global, though…watch out!

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  15. W. H. Dean says:

    Everyone talks possibilities; I want to see some results. I’ve been searching in vain for something original to come out of the new medium for about two years now and, as Bono says, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. I’m not knocking anyone when I say this, but for all the hype about the creative potential that will be unleashed now that the gatekeepers are gone—well, I don’t see a change, I just see more. This has nothing to do with quality. I don’t think there’s that big of a difference between the best indie fiction and the best traditionally published fiction. It has to do with originality, novelty, genius.

    Maybe I’m not looking in the right places. If anyone has an answer, feel free to let me know.

    Like

    • Matthew Iden says:

      W.H. – I agree, I don’t think digital publishing has produced the next Tolstoy (or if it has, we haven’t sifted through the explosion of ebook titles to find him or her), but my feeling is that now that the gatekeepers have been removed, many of the barriers to creativity have been lowered or removed…meaning that the next Tolstoy has a better chance to be discovered than at any other time in modern publishing. It will take time to a) produce him or her, and b) find him or her; as you say, there’s just “more” of everything.

      Originality, novelty, and genius–as James points out in his comment above–have always been there, but if you wanted the world to see any of it, you had to get lucky, know someone, or get ready to spend the next ten years peddling your genius out of the trunk of your car. For every David Foster Wallace, there might be a hundred geniuses who didn’t see their works published (traditionally). The point of my post here is that I believe digital publishing makes anything viable.

      On a side note, I think it’s interesting that you wrote “I don’t think there’s that big of a difference between the best indie fiction and the best traditionally published fiction.” If epublishing is, at its best, as good as anything that can be traditionally published AND there are no barriers to format, length, or approach, then that, to me, is a sign that digital publishing has already fundamentally changed the craft.

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  16. josephine wade says:

    One method of I use with my kids (not all the time, but it has worked for some years) is to read a lot of ‘difficult’ literature in short (think 3-5 pages) bursts. You would think this would cause less retention of the material, but it in fact causes greater retention. The lag time between material allows the brain to reflect on the ideas within it. There is some modern psych evidence for this. It might depend on how focused a person is during that short burst. The idea is to use the period before the mind fatigues and to switch gears providing a mental freshening so to speak. Very young kids can understand challenging works this way. But I will say it depends largely on how quickly they can go deep in their focus.

    Just thought I’d throw that out there for those who might think short intervals mean less retention and interest in the reader. FWIW.

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    • Matthew Iden says:

      Thanks, Josephine. The apporach you mention is interesting to consider in the light of the Chinese model, considering the “short burst” nature of serials. Obviously, the readers can retain something long term, as these sagas run for such great lengths. Conversely, they must get something of short term value from the episodes or they woudln’t buy them.

      I think, whatever happens, psychologists will have a field day with both readers and writers in digital publshing🙂

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  17. Thanks for this, Matthew! Interesting possibilities. I love the idea of the end of limits — in length, in genre, in the time it takes to get one’s writing published. In the amount of profit it’s possible to reap for individual authors with talent and perseverance.

    I’ve messed with the length idea by e-publishing several short stories. I seem to write at the 3,000 word mark naturally. The challenge with my shorts is that they tend to be mild satire, which I think of as New Yorker type material or some combination of Dorothy Parker and Shirley Jackson. Hard to categorize, and thus, hard to sell to traditional markets. I’m waiting for my adoring public to… well, start adoring them!

    My cousin, Frisky Dimplebuns, is putting out a series of short installments as The Frisky Chronicles, and each one typically includes a vignette about a funny online dating encounter followed by advice on finding love — these are about 3,000 words each. It’s kind of chick-lit meets mock self-help. Again, a genre-bender. We’ll see if it flies! The first episode is currently being translated into German, Spanish, and Chinese. I had actually heard about the craze for short installments in China, and we’re trying to jump on that bandwagon.

    I appreciate your coming here to guest blog and share your wisdom. It’s one of the benefits of being part of this frontier community.

    Another end of limits — plenty of readers out there, plenty of success available for everyone, and all the “e” space in the world to publish. No shelf limit!

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    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hi Patrice – Thanks for commenting. Your work seems to be tailor made for this brave new world: non-traditional length, non-traditional subject matter, off-beat approach. You may have despaired finding a publisher just a few years ago; now, thanks to digital publishing, you might find your readershing tomorrow. Best of luck to you!

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  20. So glad my 20,000-word pieces can be published now. I love reading shorter pieces and I know others do, too. Hate it when agents get uppity about word count, never acknowledging that there is an audience for anything except their defined limits.

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  21. Pingback: More interviews, more on corporate erotica censorship, the resurgence of short fiction and other cool links | Pegasus Pulp

  22. Great post, Matthew. It shows just how outdated legacy publishing is. They have been able to get away with a producer-driven industry for hundreds of years and now face the brave new world where the consumer rules.

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  23. Pingback: Magic Under Glass « Strike A Spark

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