Daily Archives: June 25, 2012

The Number 10,000

Just recently I’ve become preoccupied with the number 10,000. It’s a nice big round number, isn’t it? Not huge, not small, just about within range of the human mind’s ability to visualise, the number of people you can get into the average football stadium in fact.

The number 10,000 also has a tendency to crop up in history (terrible Roland Emmerich films notwithstanding). The size of Xenephon’s army during his famous march across Persia in 399 BC? 10,000 men. The length of the Vietnam war (from a US perspective)? 10,000 days.

It’s also the number of neurons each individual neuron in your brain is connected to, and roughly the complement of a modern army division or even a Roman legion (including auxiliaries and support elements). It also has a name, the Myriad, and when expressed in Roman numerals it comes out as a pleasingly contemplative MMMMMMMMMM.

Another reason for this present fascination is that I’m currently reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, a study of the various elements that make for a human success story. It transpires from numerous psychological studies that developing the muscle memory and experience needed to become truly proficient at a given task requires a lot of practice. How much you ask? About 10,000 hours. In my previous post about the Secret to E-Book Self-Publishing Success I estimated that it had taken me about 100,000 words before I felt myself reasonably proficient at writing prose. However, after reading Gladwell’s chapter on the importance of practice, I did a rough calculation of the actual amount of time those 100,000 words represented: I’ve been writing fairly regularly since the age of fourteen, despite some lapses, and my usual writing stint, up until recently, lasted about one to two hours. So, adding it all up to the point where I’d started on the first draft of Blood Song, accounting for occasional periods of inactivity, take away the number I first thought of… carry the two… The  answer? About 10,000 hours. How about that?

The number 10,000 is also of considerable significance in the publishing industry. The average advance for a single book? $10,000 (maybe a little less these days). The average number of copies an individual title will sell before it goes out of print? 10,000.

But perhaps the most salient reason for my current preoccupation with this  seemingly magical number is the fact that, as of this morning, l sold over 10,000 copies of Blood Song (10,042 to be exact).

I know cynics may look on the above post as just a contrived way of boasting about selling 10,000 books, and they’d be absolutely right.

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who bought a book, left a review or told their friends. I literally couldn’t have done it without you, or those 10,000 hours.