How Big is a Book?

When I finished the first draft of my first novel ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ it was 325,000 words long; considering it had started off as a short story you may wonder how that came about. Much editing and removal of sub plots later and it was reduced to the final 225,000 words. As it also adhered to no known genre, the chances of finding an agent were even less than they are for most new and unknown writers. As I sent off chapters, letters and synopses to agents, I started writing ‘Quarter Acre Block’ in which nothing strange happens. This time I planned to stay under 100,000 words and aim for the family drama market. But even as I wrote about 1960s England and Australia, a character who had walked uninvited into Brief Encounters was nagging to have his story told.

Even as ‘Three Ages of Man’ was being born I had decided to try the self publishing route; on Amazon Kindle there is no limit to how many words you can publish, after all a Kindle device can hold thousands of books and trillions of words.

This year, as I have written in previous blogs

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/reinventing-the-printing-press/   

we started turning all my books into paperbacks. With four collections and Quarter Acre Block published and copies handed out as gifts to various friends and relatives, whether they wanted them or not, it was time to start on the Brief Encounters Trilogy.

But would the magic printing press cope? ‘Three Ages of Man’ is 195,000 words long, and the preparallelequel to  Brief Encounters. Don’t look the word up, I made it up and have trouble spelling it myself; Three Ages is second of the trilogy, but is also a stand alone novel. Not a lot shorter than the first novel, but it seemed logical to experiment with it first.

How long is a novel, how big is a book? First time writers are often quoted 80,000 words, certainly not over a hundred or under fifty. But the truth is, a story is as long as it takes to tell; some readers like a quick read while others enjoy something they can get their teeth into.

When Cyberspouse ‘accidentally’ joined Amazon Prime, perhaps a ploy to get the Amazon Firestick, we were happy to enjoy the benefits of free delivery. ‘Three Ages of Man’ arrived and I put it on the kitchen scales, just under three pounds Imperial. It is nine inches by six inches, no thicker than other paperbacks we have in the house, with larger print and a generous margin on the inside edge of the pages so the reader won’t need to prize it open to read. I was happy.

Now to turn our attention back to ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind.’

 

 

Reinventing The Printing Press

The printing press was invented nearly 600 years ago, Gutenberg credited with the birth of mass communication; but of course the written word goes back much further. Has the invention of the E-book been as important as the invention of the printing press? Not in terms of mass communication; radio, television and the internet surely qualify for that.

Have Kindle books revolutionised our reading habits? Real paper books have survived radio, television and the cinema so are unlikely to suffer a demise. But e-Books have brought new delights; reading in bed in the dark still gives me a wicked thrill when I recall my childhood self trying to read with a torch under the covers without being caught. Packing one slim item for holiday reading, or on the commuter train with nobody knowing which book you are reading… But people still love the feel and colour of real books and I never dare take my precious Kindle on the bus or to the beach hut, paperbacks still have their use.

But for the Indie writer Amazon Kindle provided a tempting doorway into self publishing with a worldwide audience, not necessarily translating into world record sales, but with the opportunity for your aunty on the other side of the world to download your wonderful novel onto her Kindle in seconds.

Self publishing is not new; famous writers in history have published their own novels or pamphlets of poetry. In the modern world unknown writers must first find an agent, who in turn must find a publisher who in turn may let months slip by and still reject the precious manuscript. No wonder lots of writers have turned to what used to be called vanity publishing. They have the advantage of real books to show friends and take to local bookshops for signing events. They may be very successful or could end up with boxes of books in the garage.

Print on Demand is another development which is an attractive proposition. When I first started reading writing magazines one editorial suggested we would soon be wandering into bookstores with a memory stick and downloading our novel, returning later in the day to collect a printed book. That hasn’t happened, but recently Kindle Direct Publishing announced that authors could now create paperbacks as well as e-Books for free. Of course the publishing costs come out of the book sales, but at Chez Gogerty Publishing House it seemed an opportunity too good to miss, as I was just editing a collection of short stories, Tides and Times. Even if we only produced one real book to give my 91 year old mother it was worth a try.

Cyberspouse is always willing to face a technical challenge if it involves no financial outlay. After several attempts at downloading his own  cover design, the book was accepted, then we had to wait for it to go ‘live’, then we ordered one copy…

We were not disappointed, it looked and felt good, we ordered five more. One of the reasons why Amazon is so successful, why we can’t help using them for everything under the sun, is that they always deliver in all senses of the word; they tell you it’s on it’s way, they tell you when it will arrive.

After four years of extolling the virtues of Kindle books to my writers’ group, mostly to no avail, the five copies were snapped up. So now to finish writing my next book with renewed vigour and to turn my back catalogue into paperbacks.

How does all this work? Obviously by magic. In a mountain cave somewhere are lots of little Amazon Elves beavering away at a printing press. I just hope there is not an international scandal involving zero hours contracts and mistreatment of Elves, so that we are all expected to boycott Amazon and sign petitions on Facebook…