Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Pulp Speed in Indie Publishing

Indie vs Traditional Publishing and Speed…

There are still writers working today who hit Pulp Speed, or very close to it in traditional publishing. You have to be a master of the business, have an ability to write anything, and the skills to work for many publishing houses to publish that much in traditional publishing.

Just do the math. Pulp Speed is about a million consumable words per year. Say you do 300,000 words in blogs, short stories, and other misc stuff, that would leave 700,000 words for traditionally published novels. That’s ten 70,000 word novels per year.

I did that for about a decade during the 1990s and there are writers doing it still today. You just don’t know who they are, just as most had never heard of me either. Far too many pen names.

Pulp speed started back in the pulp era, when a lot of writers were approaching that million words per year on manual typewriters. And those writers got pretty rich for the time at that pace.

Pulp speed writers continued without much problem up until the 1990s when it got tougher.

But with the advent of indie publishing, speed of production again, as it was back in the pulp days, became a positive thing that didn’t have to be hidden from the gatekeepers with pen names. The more consistently a writer could produce sellable, consumable fiction of high quality, the more money a writer made after time.

So now, for a writer to break into traditional publishing and write at a pulp speed, it would not be possible. There are only four companies left, although a few old pros still manage it. But very very few.

The number of indie writers writing at pulp speed of a million consumable words per year or close would be far too many for me to count. Indie publishing is a mecca for it, actually.

So if you have a desire to write at that kind of pace for years and years, indie is your only way at the moment. Maybe in 50 years that will change again. Seems to change about that often in publishing.


  • Sheila

    Love the pulp speed posts!

    I was getting into the grove of being able to imagine doing pulp speed, but life had other plans. I’m finally getting back to the writing, with the goal of next year being Pulp Speed One. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll see my 65th birthday early in the year, and I may make myself some sort of challenge, as you do. 🙂

  • Kevin McLaughlin

    It would be just about impossible in Big Five/Four trad.

    But what about in neo-trad, or whatever we’re calling the swarm of small publishers which are currently rocking things? 🙂 I know a good number of authors who sell 6-12 books a year to LMBPN Publishing, for example; in terms of raw titles launched per year, LMBPN is the largest publisher of SFF in the world.

    Other places like Variant, Aethon, Shadow Alley, CKP, MountainVale, etc… All will pretty much take as many good books as you want to give them. They all generally pay about 35% of list on ebooks. They all generally pay monthly or bi-monthly. It’s almost like indie publishing, just without having to worry about the marketing end of things – because these neo-trads all excel at marketing (the good ones, anyway!).

    Obviously not great for everyone, but new options are always good. 🙂

    • dwsmith

      Lets just say we totally disagree on this one, Kevin. Watch out for scams, people. And always remember, if you want someone in 2022 to take care of you in publishing, they will, but not in the way you want them to. It’s a new world. Someday writers will finally shake the 1980s thinking. But I am not holding my breath.