“$ git sync murder” is out, so: how many books have I written?

The hardcovers are in stores now, so I think it’s official. $ git sync murder is out everywhere except my print bookstore. You can get it at all of the usual stores. I have the ebook in my store.

Every time I release a new book, or dare to show my face in public, folks ask me how many books I’ve written. My answer is, “define written and book.” That’s not as snarky an answer as you might think.

First, they’re asking the wrong question. I’ve written many books that were not published and that you will never read. Immortal Clay didn’t pick up a bunch of 4-star and 5-star reviews by being the first novel I ever wrote. It got those by being my fifteenth finished novel in a series of deliberate practice that continues to this day, and my first published novel. So, let’s change the question to “how many books have you published?”

Here’s the current output of the SNMP object where I keep my publications catalog. (Accessing this object is an easter egg in the Networknomicon or, if you’re still attached to your sanity, SNMP Mastery.)

SNMP table: TWP-MIB::mwlBooksTable

 titleIndex                                             title year      genre      length
          1                                       Gatecrasher 1992    fiction full-length
          2                               Believe it or Else! 1993    fiction full-length
          3                           Gatecrasher 2nd edition 1995    fiction full-length
          4                 Women who Run with the Werewolves 1995    fiction   anthology
          5                                      Absolute BSD 2002 nonfiction full-length
          6                                  Absolute OpenBSD 2003 nonfiction full-length
          7                   Cisco Routers for the Desperate 2004 nonfiction full-length
          8                                         PGP & GPG 2006 nonfiction full-length
          9                     Absolute FreeBSD, 2nd edition 2007 nonfiction full-length
         10      Cisco Routers for the Desperate, 2nd edition 2009 nonfiction full-length
         11                             Network Flow Analysis 2010 nonfiction full-length
         12                           Horror Library volume 2 2010    fiction   anthology
         13                                   Opening the Eye 2011    fiction       story
         14                               Breaking the Circle 2011    fiction       story
         15                                       SSH Mastery 2012 nonfiction full-length
         16           Vicious Redemption: Five Dark Fantasies 2012    fiction full-length
         17                                    DNSSEC Mastery 2013 nonfiction full-length
         18                                      Sudo Mastery 2013 nonfiction full-length
         19                          Absolute OpenBSD, 2nd ed 2013 nonfiction full-length
         20                       No More Lonesome Blue Rings 2013    fiction       story
         21                            Sticky Supersaturation 2013    fiction       story
         22                                          Lavender 2013    fiction       story
         23                                        Pax Canina 2013    fiction       story
         24                              Wednesday's Seagulls 2013    fiction       story
         25               FreeBSD Mastery: Storage Essentials 2014 nonfiction full-length
         26                                     Immortal Clay 2014    fiction full-length
         27                               Waking Up Yesterday 2014    fiction       story
         28                                   Calling Control 2014    fiction       story
         29                                Moonlight's Apples 2014    fiction       story
         30             Networking for Systems Administrators 2015 nonfiction full-length
         31                                   Tarsnap Mastery 2015 nonfiction full-length
         32                              FreeBSD Mastery: ZFS 2015 nonfiction full-length
         33                                     Forever Falls 2015    fiction     novella
         34              Spilled Mirovar (Prohibition Orcs 1) 2015    fiction       story
         35                                      Whisker Line 2015    fiction       story
         36                                    Wifi and Romex 2015    fiction       story
         37                                       PAM Mastery 2016 nonfiction full-length
         38                     FreeBSD Mastery: Advanced ZFS 2016 nonfiction full-length
         39                   FreeBSD Mastery: Advanced ZedFS 2016 nonfiction full-length
         40                   Kipuka Blues (Immortal Clay #2) 2016    fiction full-length
         41                                   Hydrogen Sleets 2016    fiction full-length
         42             Drowned Mirovar (Prohibition Orcs #2) 2016    fiction     novella
         43                  Butterfly Stomp Waltz (Beaks #1) 2016    fiction full-length
         44           Earthquake Kitten Kiss (Beaks spin-off) 2016    fiction     novella
         45                        Butterfly Stomp (Beaks #0) 2016    fiction full-length
         46             Forced to Talk, Like, With Your Mouth 2016    fiction       story
         47            FreeBSD Mastery: Specialty Filesystems 2016 nonfiction full-length
         48                                 git commit murder 2017    fiction full-length
         49                                savaged by systemd 2017    fiction       story
         50                          Httpd and Relayd Mastery 2017 nonfiction full-length
         51                                        Ed Mastery 2018 nonfiction     novella
         52               Ed Mastery, Manly McManface Edition 2018 nonfiction     novella
         53                          SSH Mastery, 2nd edition 2018 nonfiction full-length
         54                     Absolute FreeBSD, 3rd edition 2018 nonfiction full-length
         55                           Bedazzled by Blockchain 2018    fiction       story
         56                                         Face Less 2018    fiction       story
         57                Boundary Shock: Tuesday After Next 2018    fiction   anthology
         58 Boundary Shock: Robots, Androids, Cyborgs, Oh My! 2018    fiction   anthology
         59                         Sudo Mastery, 2nd edition 2019 nonfiction full-length
         60                            FreeBSD Mastery: Jails 2019 nonfiction full-length
         61                     Terrapin Sky Tango (Beaks #2) 2019    fiction full-length
         62                                 Winner Breaks All 2019    fiction       story
         63             Boundary Shock: Apocalypse Descending 2019    fiction   anthology
         64                      Fiction River: Superstitious 2019    fiction   anthology
         65                                 Snot-Nosed Aliens 2019    fiction   anthology
         66                        An Interpretation of Moles 2019    fiction   anthology
         67                                      SNMP Mastery 2020 nonfiction full-length
         68                      Boundary Shock: Alien Dreams 2020    fiction   anthology
         69                                The Networknomicon 2020 nonfiction full-length
         70                            Cash Flow for Creators 2020 nonfiction full-length
         71              Boundary Shock: What Might Have Been 2020    fiction   anthology
         72                                  Face The Strange 2020    fiction   anthology
         73                                  Bloody Christmas 2020    fiction   anthology
         74                              Drinking Heavy Water 2020    fiction full-length
         75                                        Final Gift 2020    fiction       story
         76                                    Woolen Torment 2020    fiction       story
         77                   Drums with Delusions of Godhood 2020    fiction       story
         78                    Uncollected Anthology: Deities 2020    fiction   anthology
         79                                    Woolen Torment 2021    fiction       story
         80               Aidan Redding Against the Universes 2021    fiction full-length
         81                            Fiction River: Chances 2021    fiction   anthology
         82           Fiction River: Dark and Deadly Passions 2021    fiction   anthology
         83                                       TLS Mastery 2021 nonfiction full-length
         84                                    Only Footnotes 2021 nonfiction     novella
         85                                   git sync murder 2021    fiction full-length
         86                        The Holiday Spectacular #2 2021    fiction   anthology

That’s 86 things with my name on the cover, excluding articles in periodicals and web sites. (I don’t have the energy to go through all that stuff.) So, I’ve published 86 books.

Except some of these are stories in anthologies. Anthologies are written by multiple authors. They’re only partially “by me.” Excluding those, the catalog has 70 entries. I have published 70 books.

Except some of those are basically chapbooks: single stories, put out on their own in print. I have many more stories than these, by the way, but they’re electronic-only. I ran out of energy before I collected all that information.

47 things with my name on them that are classified as either “full-length” or “novella.” This categorization is incorrect, however. The word “novella” means “a short novel.” The definition on “novel” has bloated over the last one hundred fifty years, driven by manufacturing concerns. Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, is about 43,000 words. Publishers would laugh at Doyle today and tell him to try a chapbook publisher based on the length alone. In the 1920s, a 20,000-word tale was considered a novel and might be published as such. I have a great big stack of Rex Stout mystery novels, and many of them contain fewer than 40,000 words.

Let’s take a nonfiction “novella.” Ed Mastery. It is a short book, but it’s unquestionably “a book.”

Alternately, consider Drowned Mirovar the second Prohibition Orcs tale. It’s over 30,000 words. In the era it was set, it would be a full novel that would appear first in a magazine, then as a standalone book. Today, it’s a prologue. As it’s packaged, it’s “a book.” It would look just fine on the shelf next to any of my 1950s novels.

Then there are collections. Vicious Redepmtion is a collection of my short stories. Aidan Redding Against the Universes collects short stories and novels. They’re listed here as “full-length,” which they certainly are. Should I could those as books?

Surely there’s a culturally-accepted standard or industry standard on how to count the number of books you’ve written?

Er… no.

Isaac Asimov established a standard that “if I appear in it, it counts.” He counted anthologies. He counted chapbooks. By that standard, I’ve published 86 books. I am uncomfortable with this definition.

I know authors who won’t count anything shorter than 60,000 words. By that standard, I’ve published 22 books. It excludes all of the Mastery titles except SNMP Mastery. That’s clearly not right for me, either.

For me, the original question is about milestones. It’s about accomplishments. I want to be able to say “I made this thing” and stand by it.

My preferred definition is, if I whack you with it, will it leave a mark? Bystanders would object, however. And I have created some titles that, while they’d leave a mark, I don’t consider them independent books. An example would be the Bail Bond Denied edition of FreeBSD Mastery: Jails. It is literally the exact same text as the regular FreeBSD Mastery: Jails, but with a cover drawn in crayon by yours truly. It is a thing. It gets offered up for charity auctions. I have a small amount of pride in it. It’s not really a discrete book.

So I’m trying this definition.

a) 15,000 words or longer
b) requiring distinct and discrete effort to create
c) something I’m not embarrassed to call “a book.”

This definition lets me exclude titles like the ZedFS version of FreeBSD Mastery: Advanced ZFS, the Beck and Provost editions of Terrapin Sky Tango, and the Manly McManface version of Ed Mastery. Only Footnotes might have brand new footnotes in it, but it wasn’t hard to make. It’s excluded. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of these, but only because they polish my reputation as the good sort of troll. I knocked them all off in a morning. (They’re still in the pic of me with one copy of every edition of everything I’ve written, because that picture is only for fun.)

It lets me include works like Ed Mastery and Cash Flow for Creators. I spent three weeks writing the cash flow book, and thirty years learning how to write the cash flow book. It include volumes like the Networknomicon, because producing that required a whole bunch of work. It was a different sort of labor for me, but that unspeakable tome fine educational work is clearly a discrete, unique book.

I’m also counting collections. Again, the “how many books have you published” question is about milestones. Writing enough of A Thing to create a collection is a milestone. Aidan Redding Against the Universes is the closest thing to a Brandon Sanderson doorstop I’ve produced on the fiction side. (Also, that hardcover has two different covers, one on the dust jacket and one on the laminate, and they’re both lovely.)

Applying this definition leaves me with these titles.

          1                                       Gatecrasher 1992    fiction full-length
          2                               Believe it or Else! 1993    fiction full-length
          3                           Gatecrasher 2nd edition 1995    fiction full-length
          5                                      Absolute BSD 2002 nonfiction full-length
          6                                  Absolute OpenBSD 2003 nonfiction full-length
          7                   Cisco Routers for the Desperate 2004 nonfiction full-length
          8                                         PGP & GPG 2006 nonfiction full-length
          9                     Absolute FreeBSD, 2nd edition 2007 nonfiction full-length
         10      Cisco Routers for the Desperate, 2nd edition 2009 nonfiction full-length
         11                             Network Flow Analysis 2010 nonfiction full-length
         15                                       SSH Mastery 2012 nonfiction full-length
         16           Vicious Redemption: Five Dark Fantasies 2012    fiction full-length
         17                                    DNSSEC Mastery 2013 nonfiction full-length
         18                                      Sudo Mastery 2013 nonfiction full-length
         19                          Absolute OpenBSD, 2nd ed 2013 nonfiction full-length
         25               FreeBSD Mastery: Storage Essentials 2014 nonfiction full-length
         26                                     Immortal Clay 2014    fiction full-length
         30             Networking for Systems Administrators 2015 nonfiction full-length
         31                                   Tarsnap Mastery 2015 nonfiction full-length
         32                              FreeBSD Mastery: ZFS 2015 nonfiction full-length
         33                                     Forever Falls 2015    fiction     novella
         37                                       PAM Mastery 2016 nonfiction full-length
         38                     FreeBSD Mastery: Advanced ZFS 2016 nonfiction full-length
         40                   Kipuka Blues (Immortal Clay #2) 2016    fiction full-length
         41                                   Hydrogen Sleets 2016    fiction full-length
         42             Drowned Mirovar (Prohibition Orcs #2) 2016    fiction     novella
         43                  Butterfly Stomp Waltz (Beaks #1) 2016    fiction full-length
         44           Earthquake Kitten Kiss (Beaks spin-off) 2016    fiction     novella
         47            FreeBSD Mastery: Specialty Filesystems 2016 nonfiction full-length
         48                                 git commit murder 2017    fiction full-length
         50                          Httpd and Relayd Mastery 2017 nonfiction full-length
         51                                        Ed Mastery 2018 nonfiction     novella
         52               Ed Mastery, Manly McManface Edition 2018 nonfiction     novella
         53                          SSH Mastery, 2nd edition 2018 nonfiction full-length
         54                     Absolute FreeBSD, 3rd edition 2018 nonfiction full-length
         59                         Sudo Mastery, 2nd edition 2019 nonfiction full-length
         60                            FreeBSD Mastery: Jails 2019 nonfiction full-length
         61                     Terrapin Sky Tango (Beaks #2) 2019    fiction full-length
         67                                      SNMP Mastery 2020 nonfiction full-length
         69                                The Networknomicon 2020 nonfiction full-length
         70                            Cash Flow for Creators 2020 nonfiction full-length
         74                              Drinking Heavy Water 2020    fiction full-length
         80               Aidan Redding Against the Universes 2021    fiction full-length
         83                                       TLS Mastery 2021 nonfiction full-length
         85                                   git sync murder 2021    fiction full-length

This makes $ git sync murder my 45th book.

Could this definition be gamed? Sure it could. But I don’t care enough to game it. I stopped counting my releases somewhere around 17 or 18 books. I counted titles on my brag shelf at one point a few years ago, using my gut as a definition, and got a number like 31 or 33 or something like that. I haven’t cared enough to count until today, when I’m putting off doing real work. Now that I’ve counted, I suspect I’ll maintain a silent count until I break 50 and then lose count again. 50 is a milestone, after all.

If you want to argue about my definitions, please find someone else to argue with.

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