Hollow World is the first book I’ve written that contains “explicit language.” I’m not opposed to such things, but I think context is important. Using the “f-bomb” in the Riyria world just didn’t feel right, so it’s not there. In this book, there are characters that if I omitted swearing it wouldn’t be “true to their nature.”
I thought long and hard about the inclusion of such language. I even polled my beta readers and those that participated in the Kickstarter. I also received my first harsh letter from a reader who, after reading the extended preview, thought my use of explicit language was a sign of me “selling out” to get more readers. She begged me to have the moral fortitude to keep my books clean. The truth of the matter is that I think by keeping the explicit language I risk losing more sales than I would gain. Therefore, I think I am showing a commitment to a high standard by writing the book the way I think it should be, rather than in a way to get a larger audience. To bow under her (or my own internal pressure) would be a disservice to the characters.
Still, I was concerned that there would be disappointment. Many have written and said how refreshing it was to have books free of swearing. Also, I’ve really enjoyed receiving letters of thanks from parents for writing books that they can pass onto their children without reservation. I was definitely conflicted about which way to go.
In the midst of all this deliberation it occurred to me that I didn’t have to compromise. Because I control the ebook rights, I can do all kinds of things that other publishers can’t…including having two versions of the book! So when you buy the ebook, there are actually two table of contents and two versions. One, as I originally wrote the book, and the other with a toned-down language which may appeal to readers who prefer not to run across such things when they read. Yes, there may be a “damn” here or there but no f-bombs lying in wait.
The only down side to this, is that the book will look twice as long as it really is. No matter which version you read, your percentage read will be off. For those reading the book as intended (explicit language) you should double whatever number you see. So when the e-reader says you are 40% done, you are really at 80%. For those in the “clean version” your percentages will indicate you’ve read a lot more than you have. For you, just subtract off 50%. So when you see you are at 60% complete you’re really only at 10%. I realize that doing these calculations can be annoying for some…and there are those who will want only the “clean version” (for instance to share with their children). I can understand that. So, if this is the case, just email me at Michael.Sullivan.DC@gmail.com and I’ll send you either an “original” version with the explicit language or a “clean” version with it removed.
I hope this approach is viewed as a positive (and creative) solution to this problem. I’m trying to provide the best experience to as many people as I can, and I would love to hear your feedback. So feel free to drop me a line about this approach. Your feedback helps me determine whether such a thing is worth doing.