Friday, October 27, 2017

Should There Be A Book Publishing Tax On Words?

What if authors and publishers had to pay a usage tax based on how many words they used for a book?  How would that change the book industry?

The tax could be used to stimulate the book industry to produce shorter books (a tax that caps total word usage per book).  Or it can inspire a varied vocabulary (tax on repeating a word too many times).

You may wonder:  Who would ever charge such a tax and could any government get away with such a stunt?

First Amendment defenders would say such a tax infringes on our right to free speech.  Others would claim that no one is stopping you from saying what you want to say in other formats -- blog posts, letters, speeches, etc. – just that the total amount of words in a book is capped.  One can write as many books as they want.

Some would question the purpose of such a tax.  What would the money fund?  Literacy programs?  Tree plantings?  Book sales for the underprivileged?  Libraries?

Publishers may like the idea of a cap – it saves them paper and forces authors to self-edit and to write more efficiently.  Maybe the potential for unlimited space is not what is so great but rather our ability to publish a concise book is.

Many books tend to come in at a certain length, based on genre.  A 320-page memoir is not unusual, nor is a 208-page business book or a 400-page novel.  Books tend to represent a genre based on length and size.  Kids books tend to be 32 pages.  Chapter books might range around 140 pages.  But with the tax imposed, perhaps that would change as well.

How much could be raised by such a tax?  It’s like the luxury tax in professional sports, where teams that spend beyond the league-designated salary cap pay a premium or a tax for the luxury of buying up so many players.  Will wealthy publishers and attention-seeking authors have the resources or the goals to publish books under the penalty of a tax?

How many lawsuits will be waged over such a tax?  Will consumers demand longer books – and be willing to pay for them?  How will this impact long books that get published here and sold overseas – will they get imported here with an abbreviated translation?  What impact will this tax have on books published here where the foreign rights are shopped to publishers in other countries?

Of course, no one is really going to tax words, but it is interesting to think of how something like that, if it were to happen, could alter the publishing landscape immensely.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby

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