“I’m sorry my last book was so long, but I didn’t have time to write a short one”

[Click on image to activate animation etc.]

This is one of the cooler “Social Object Factory” mini-projects we’ve done lately- a little animated Gif for Seth Godin’s lovely little book, Poke The Box.

[Yes. I know. We didn’t use my drawing style this time. The Factory is really about Social Objects, not about Hugh etc.]

One thing Seth and I always had in common, is that we both believe in writing short books. My personal rule is: All my books have to be short enough to be read on a plane ride between Miami and New York. And they are.

A book that makes you feel hopefully really inspired and really excited, that you close and put away satisfied, just as they’re dropping the landing gear, coming into La Guardia. It’s simple enough goal to aim for; certainly a lot less deluded than “Write the next ‘Sun Also Rises’ or ‘Ulysses'”.

Seth talks about his “short format” philosophy some more in a brilliant post, “Tracts and Books”:

The Communist Manifesto is 80 pages long. Certainly long enough to make an impact.

It has never taken me beyond a hundred pages to be persuaded. Sure, there are times when the pages after page 100 help me pile on, give me more depth and understanding. But a hundred (and usually fifty) is enough to get under my skin.

Or to steal heavily from George Bernard Shaw, “I’m sorry my last book was so long, but I didn’t have time to write a short one”.

It’s dirty little secret that most of my business-book author friends (and I have more than a few) will freely admit off the record: Most business books are lucky if people read more than the first hundred pages.

So why write more than a hundred pages? You tell me…

It’s never quite that simple, of course. There are as many ways to write a book as there are authors. If you want to spend the next seven years teaching junior college in order to be able to write the next Great American Novel in your spare time, that works too, go for it.

But if you’re just trying to get ideas to spread- if it’s the ideas that actually matter, not the book itself- I’d pay attention to what Seth is up to, very carefully.

Like I’ve said many times before about Media, we’re now living in the era of #CheapEasyGlobal. And thanks to that, I do honestly believe, it’s never been a more exciting time to be a writer.

Make of that what you will.


  1. I really hate long books with really small print. They just drone on, are bloated and self serving. I remember reading Rework which makes this point and says how they halved their booked to 27,000 words. What makes people write 100,000 words of repetition and boredom. If you have that many words why not write 4 books. Didn’t someone once say “Small is Beautiful.”

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Hugh MacLeod is a genius.  Genius.

Seth Godin
Best Selling Author

His work acknowledges the absurdity of workaday life, while also encouraging employees to respond with passion, creativity, and non-conformity...   MacLeod’s work is undeniably an improvement over the office schlock of yore. At its best, it’s more honest, and more cognizant of the entrepreneurial psyche, while still retaining some idealism.

The New Republic
Lydia Depillis

Last year my State of the College address was 76 slides loaded with data. This year it was 14 cartoons that were substantially more memorable.

Len Schlesinger
Former President, Babson College

"There are only two daily newsletters that I look forward to opening and reading every time they show up to my inbox: Seth Godin's and gapingvoid."

Tony Hsieh
CEO, Zappos

In moments of indecision I glance at the wall [to Hugh's work] for guidance.

Brian Clark
  • Seth Godin
  • The New Republic
  • Len Schlesinger
  • Tony Hsieh
  • Brian Clark