What’s in a length?

I do love Charlie Stross. And I love reading his takes on the publishing industry and the future of the book. His CMAP series should be required reading.

In fact, let’s make it some required reading right now, shall we?

Why books are the length they are.

This is a great post on why books have evolved to be the length they are particularly in genre fiction. But the part that really catches my attention is way down the end – here, Stross makes a prediction about what’s going to happen with book length when the eBook industry really takes off.

Going forward, I speculate that if we make a successful transition to ebooks — that is: if ebooks become a major sales channel and authors are still writing professional quality work for money, and readers are finding some way to pay them — we may see a revival of other formats: novellas for one (they’re undergoing a renaissance in SF publishing among the smaller publishers), the Dickensian serial for another, and the gigantic shoebox-sized monster for a third. The corsetting of the modern novel to fit between the tight constraints of binding costs and price elasticity of demand will be unstrung, or replaced by bras, or some other over-stressed metaphorical construct.

Sound familiar at all? Oh yeah. Once again, we’re seeing that the digital publishing revolution isn’t really all that revolutionary – we’re going back to the roots of mass-sale publishing through these forgotten or discarded avenues, like novellas.

And serials. Oh, serials. How I love thee. I can’t wait to get my hands on a manuscript that lends itself to serial format and distribution. Anyone got one? Pretty please?

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3 Responses to “What’s in a length?”

  1. Raev Gray May 10, 2010 at 9:07 pm #

    Erotic publishing houses are way ahead of the game on these realizations, IMHO. Novellas and monster-novels abound in that genre. Researcher that I am, I think it would be really interesting to do a study on those houses simply from a business angle.

  2. Kate May 10, 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    Erotica houses are way ahead of the curve in general, in publishing. It’s amazing how the Big Six are continually bickering over format, price, DRM, etc., and insist that eBooks aren’t a viable model, yadda yadda…when places like Ellora’s Cave and Noble Romance and Samhain prove that digital sells, and sells well, and that you can assuredly have a sustainable model for digital-only. Yes, even without DRM. It amazes me that no one from the Big Six has even looked at them, let alone done a case study.

    I would read that case study, by the way. I would read the hell out of that.

    Also, novellas? Absolutely in the works for Candlemark & Gleam.


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