Ebook Golden Age: Diversity Returns

The response to my last series of posts has been fantastic. One of the subjects a number of folks have asked me to talk about is how ebooks will change the nature of what we write. I think it will have a huge impact, and a wonderful one. It’s this aspect of the Golden Age of Ebooks that has me the most excited.

One Size Does Not Fit All

The reason I have the image for Tricknomancy to the left is because it covers three aspects of what the revolution means. First off, the initial trio of stories in there are all in the 6500-7500 word range because they were written for conventional, print anthologies. The last four all run between 17,500 and 22,500 words. I never even tried to market the stories because novellas are a hard sell at the best of time, and outside of anthologies edited by friends, my ability to sell short fiction sucks. The simple fact is that not all stories will fit in the smaller format; and all of the novellas were things I initially projected to run about 12K words. They grew as the story and characters did.

Serial Storytelling At Its Best

All of the stories in that set pick up characters, conflicts, themes and growth arcs and carry them forward. Because television is the dominant storytelling delivery mode today, and because their serial, episodic format can be traced back to the earliest of storytelling traditions, we do well to look at the best series and make sure that what we’re delivering is compatible with the way most folks have learned to understand story. One aspect of this is the “soap-opera” story-arc that holds a series together, while each smaller part has a self-contained story which comes to a satisfactory conclusion. Thus, each story stands on its own, but fits into a grander story line. The larger line pulls readers back, and if that larger story line encompasses 80,000-100,000 words, we have a conventional novel’s worth of material in which to allow characters to grow.

Timely Tales Told in a Timely Fashion

Two stories in Tricknomancy, The Devil Within and ‘Til Death, are based on ideas I got from news stories. In the world of traditional publishing, if I were to get the idea this morning, and have the story ready to go by the end of the week; I’d be looking at somewhere between six and twelve months before the story would see print. In today’s world of the 24 hour news cycle, the story that inspired me would be long forgotten.

Now authors can generate stories quickly—not to cash in on a hot story, though some will do that, but to perhaps provide perspective or catharsis. A good story won’t be exploitative, and a bad story written just to exploit the moment will vanish without a trace. The immediacy with which writers can present work, however, benefits them and readers because by approaching issues through a fictional lens, we can provide perspective and information that can help shape debate and opinions.

Playing Well With Others

Writers are readers, and we’re every bit the big old fans that our readers are. I recall, back almost twenty years now, when Roger Zelazny invited me to collaborate in a project he was putting together. Talk about thrilled. I don’t think my feet touched the ground for the better part of a week. That project, which was part of Forever After, took so long to produce that it only saw print after Roger’s death nearly two and a half years later.

Now, our ability to play with other writers through collaboration in any number of ways is unfettered by having work with publishers and on their schedules. Robert Vardeman and I have tossed little cameos of characters back and forth into each other’s stories. In the past, with Timothy Zahn, I’ve co-plotted stories and then we each run off and do our own parts. (Those stories were conventionally published, but we were working with a magazine, had a short schedule, and put them together pretty much the way we’d do that today.) Other authors are creating whole worlds to share with each other. Because these stories don’t have to be tiny and yet don’t have to be full novels, the opportunities to work together abound—and we have the added benefit that these collaborations allow our readers to discover these other writers and vice versa.

What it all boils down to is this: writers can now write whatever they want to write, at whatever length is appropriate for the story, and work with other writers to create huge bodies of work in which readers can become fully immersed. It is a completely fantastic time to be a writer, and to be a reader. The diversity of what we get, and the speed with which it can be delivered, means we’ll all have more of the entertainment we want, all of it hauled around in devices that need be no bigger than a deck of cards.

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Writing up this series of blog posts is cutting into my fiction writing time. If you’re finding these posts useful, and haven’t yet gotten yet snagged my latest novels, please consider purchasing a book. Nice thing about the new age of publishing is that you become a Patron of the Arts, letting writers know what you’d like to see more of simply by voting with a credit card. (Authors charge less when they sell direct, so you save, we make more, and that frees us to write more.)

My latest paper novel, At The Queen’s Command, is available at book retailers everywhere.


Tricknomancy is a braided novel. That’s author for a serial story told through a number of shorter pieces that all come together as a novel. Think of it in terms of a television series. This is series one, consisting of seven episodes. The stories feature Trick Molloy, a magick-using, ex-cop who left the force because he was framed for being a dirty cop. He now works as a bouncer in a strip club, helping friends, solving murders and dealing with an insane family, most of whom would like to see him dead or worse. It’s available for the Kindle, and for sale directly off my website for any epub compliant ereaders

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One Response to “Ebook Golden Age: Diversity Returns”

  1. I always felt with some stories, especially from less experienced writers, that they had problems with “timing/pacing”, especially at the end of the story, creating a rushed or overly extended ending.

    You also wrote once, that you had a problem with Talion:Revenant(I hope I don’t confuse it with another book), that it had too many words and went unpublished because of that for a long time.

    Well, I hope that ebooks create more freedom for writers and give us better stories by that. The constraint, to need “exactly” a set number of words must be detrimental to quality, at least for inexperienced writers.