How Long Should Your Novel Be?

I’ve written about this some years ago, but I ran across a great article detailing the history of novel lengths by Dean Wesley Smith. I’ve also praised the work and website of Dean Wesley Smith so check out his article here.

With the source being acknowledged, I would also like to add my two cents about novel lengths. In this new world of publishing digitally I feel that novels don’t need to be the lengths that you find in the brick and mortar. The reason being is you really have no reference of length from device to device. All you have is the speed of the reader. Sure, there are stories that are extremely short, but I am referring to a written story that has the intent of being a novel not a short story. In a way it is all about perception. “Am I getting my monies worth when I buy this book?” And for the publisher it was all about that…how they are going to justify the novel price. We as consumers also feel that we want more for our money. Am I going to buy this 300 page fantasy, or this 700 page fantasy adventure? More, in most cases, is better when we are holding it in our hands and our eyes are drawn to the magical art work on the cover. This, as Dean Wesley Smith pointed out, caused the story to suffer as the publisher would cause the writer to fill space in order to meet the word quota.

Now I’m not suggesting or saying that long novels are bad, but what I am saying is that a 40K word novel can be just as good as a 100K novel, and we as writers should not allow the old way of thinking guide us to writing a story that isn’t as good because of all the word padding. Dean lists in his article a number of novels that were around 40K words that would not have been published if they were held to the modern publisher demands. I never imagined that some of those stories were indeed so short! It just proves to show that it’s all about substance and not quantity.

Michael A. Stackpole has also written about this in his past posts and he laid out a brilliant pricing structure to help the buyer/reader understand what value they were purchasing. This is not his exact structure, but for the sake of this post: 5-20K word story might be .99cents. 20K-50K might be 1.99$, and it would scale up that way to any story over 100K would be 5.99$. Now this was just an example, the beauty of self publishing is you have the full control of what you price your work. However, the patron has a feel of what value they are buying when they purchase a story. They can expect a lower cost to match the quantity. Value, however can have no price, as no word limit can equate to the quality of a story. There are plenty of good and bad stories out there at all price ranges.

Pricing structure has been blogged about by many authors and there are many ways suggested to work out a price for a novel, but I must add that many authors (Indie Authors), in my opinion, have ruined it for the rest of us. Too many novels for .99 or 1.99$! I’ve also written about this in the past. Sure a good story will rise to the top, but most of us, if we are honest browse Smashwords, or Kindle bookstore and look for ratings and price to determine if a buy is worth our money. Established authors from the old publishing have an established following, if they were successful, and many are willing to pay the 6.99 or higher for their work because we love that writers stories. I do this with Terry Brooks. But if I were to come across my name on Amazon and see Dark Moon Shadow for the same price I might not buy it due to the unknown aspect. I don’t blame anyone who would do the same because I am also hesitant to spend a higher price for an unknown. But what has happened is that many of us unknowns need to get noticed so we low ball our price as a way to get someone to take a chance on our work, and what we really have done is establish a new mark for unknowns. Unknown Indie Authors are now 1-2$ products unless we can justify a higher mark with a ton of 4 to 5 star ratings. Way to go Indie community!

I bring this up to say a good pricing structure helps set a great standard for everyone, and allows us to break away from the low to high word bondage and just focus on good story writing no mater the length.

Star rating is a whole different topic I will tackle soon. So stay tuned.

Check out my short stories for YA, and my short Paranormal stories in my bookstore and maybe take a gamble on my Fantasy novel Dark Moon Shadow.

Happy Reading my friends.

High Intensity Writing Workout

If you’ve read my post for any length of time then you know that I am a huge fan of Science Fiction/ Fantasy author Michael Stackpole. I’ve learned so much from him in the past and will plug anything he has going on that is good, given the chance. I do it because he has done so much for me in my development as a writer and self-publisher. Since the podcast the Dragon Page Cover to Cover ended (sadly), he’s scaled back dramatically on his postings, but here is, what I think will be a series, of new writing posts on improving your writing skills: High Intensity Writing Workout No 1.

If you are new writer, or one just starting out this writing exercise is crucial for creating dialogue that will cause your story to flow. Often we fall into habits of writing dialogue that is choppy and full of descriptions that tell us who is speaking. One of the best tips I learned from Mr. Stackpole about writing is that you don’t need to tell the reader who is speaking all the time. How you frame your dialogue will say who is speaking without telling he reader necessarily. Writing dialogue with attribution texts as opposed to tags makes a ton of difference. Great tips for writing. Check his post out and do the exercise for a complete and better understanding.

Happy Reading.

Fantasy and Television

Most of us love fantasy. That is why you’re here on this web page and on other pages like mine. I love fantasy…I read it, write it, and watch it. But why is fantasy so successful on written page as opposed to television? I ask myself that all the time as I thirst for more quality fantasy on television. On the big screen fantasy is a hit and miss sort of thing. Either you get a quality showing like Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and I dare say the Hobbit. Some others speak out such as Harry Potter films, The Princes Bride, and Narnia films. The rest of movie fantasy are usually animated films. I might add Sci-Fi fantasy such as Star Wars and Stargate into the mix, but I mainly want to focus on pure High Type Fantasy. Although I wish there were more quality movies involving fantasy I desire for more on television. Here are some that I watched in the last recent years:

Merlin: I loved Merlin. Although it wasn’t this high budget/ CG sort of fantasy it was a show that quenched my thirst for fantasy and magic. It was a very predictable show, but the characters were well written and I fell in love with them. That is usually what makes a series successful. There was humor, action, adventure, and magic. All that makes a great fantasy. This series lasted five seasons.

Legend of the Seeker: Legend of the Seeker was a series I had much anticipation for when I heard that it was going to be made. This television series is based off of the novels by fantasy author Terry Goodkind. Mr. Goodkind writes doorstop fantasy books. I read only one of his and this is the one that was made into a series. Although it started well, it ended poorly and was canceled quickly after two short seasons. I was not surprised that it was canceled as I lost interest in it. This is one example of how hard it is to put on a great fantasy television series. I was sad that this one ended because the author is so good and I think this series did not portray the written page to screen very well.

Revolution: Revolution is a post-apocalyptic fantasy in the realm of steam punk that had little magic, but I fell in love with almost immediately. NBC had a good thing going and cancelled this show way to early. The story was just beginning to arc when he show got the axe. As with most television, ratings drive everything. There is not much love or connection front he network to its viewers. NBC yanked our hearts out when they cut the show short and rushed a lame ending. As I get older I am learning not to get attached to what I am watching… a lesson that is hard to learn.

Grimm: Currently I am twelve episodes behind on my DVR for this series, but that doesn’t mean I lost interest. I love Grimm. Although there some lagging story lines I still love the show and the characters. The next twelve episodes may change my mind, but as of now it still holds a place in my fantasy loving heart. Since the show is still on it has proves its salt in longevity. What I love about this show is the loosely Grimm brothers tales that are used as story line anchors.

Game of Thrones: This is by far the best and most successful fantasy on television. Hands down. Characters!? who needs them? If you get used to one they die. The production value is top notch and no cent is held back and it shows. It has a movie feel with quality acting, gruesome death scenes, and well as a well written story line that follows the novels somewhat closely (so I’m told…I’ve never read the novels as of yet). The leg up that this series has over the others on my list is production value. It has no cartoonish or comic book features to it as do the others, but instead a real medieval old world reality. I love this series.

Lastly, Shannara: My favorite fantasy author is going to get his shot at television as the world of Shannara is going to be played out on MTV of all places later in 2015. I can hardly wait, but have much fear that it will wind up as Legends of the Seeker and Revolution did. I hope not as his books are full of quality fantasy and deserve a play on television.

In summary…it is hard to sell and put a good fantasy series on television. Most of the ratings suggest that the average person in not that interested in fantasy as they are in reality shows, and crime solving shows. Even if there is not much in the way of motion picture and television fantasy there is plenty for the movie of our minds eye in print. Never a shortage of fantasy for sure.

For a new fantasy fix help support fantasy by purchasing my latest novel Dark Moon Shadow. I thank you for being a Patron of the fantasy arts.

Happy Reading

Robert Penner

Setting Writing Goals

Well, the New Year is upon us once again. 2014 will soon be left behind forever and 2015 will take over. For many of us this will bring about a renewal of sorts and cause us to think about how we can improve upon the last year and make better strides in the year to come. For me its writing, and for you it may be something else. Here is a great article on this subject for writers by Dean Wesley Smith. Click here.

As I read Dean’s article I am reminded about how life did get in the way of my writing success this past year and also how human I really am. With each passing day the task of writing doesn’t get any easier, and in most cases requires a greater ounce of discipline to stay on track. Dark Moon Shadow was my first fantasy novel that I released in 2014, and benefited from some sales, but not nearly what I had hoped. I had to experiment with pricing to find where the right response was, and found out, what I already knew really, how hard self marketing is. Being a self publisher is not for the faint of heart! Without the help of professional marketing and the cost that goes with it, it is extremely difficult to stand out amongst the social media noise.  As Dean Wesley and Michael Stackpole preach…nothing says marketing than getting more material out there. Some of the hardest, but best advice. From 2005-2012 I release a bunch of Young Adult and Paranormal short stories in ebook format, and the more I released the more I saw sales trend upward. From 2012- present I’ve only completed Dark Moon Shadow the lack of writing released has proven their point.

So as this Year comes to an end and new one begins, I , like many other writers will set new goals and try to stay on track, hitting our mark. Good luck to all of us writers out there and have a safe and happy New Year!

Rob

Getting ready for the New Year

Hello fantasy readers. I’ve been on a blogging hiatus since late September for a variety of reason unrelated to writing, but highly effected it. I updated pennerstories.com with some photos, short story, and poetry sections for your enjoyment.

I am hopeful to at least begin Tears soon, and more insightful fantasy blogging. I am also looking forward to author Terry Brooks series on MTV. Lots to talk about this coming year.

Have a safe and happy New Years my fantasy reading friends.

Also, get Dark Moon Shadow at its low price of nearly free before it price normals back to $3.99. Please visit my website’s bookstore for the free and low pay options.

Rob

Steve Montano Author Interview

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to interview Steve Montano author of the Blood Skies Series among other Dark Fantasy novels. Steve, in my opinion, is a success in Indie writing and an example for all of us Indie writers to emulate when building our own writing dreams.

Thanks for joining me today Steve:

1. I’ve read you bio and know that you’ve been writing for some time. But it really wasn’t until Blood Skies that really put you out there. Tell us about how you came up with the idea and a little about the story that set the whole series in motion.

While BLOOD SKIES is ultimately made up of bits and pieces of a bunch of different ideas I’d had over the years, the real catalyst for writing the novel was a dream I had about a nightmarish forest where a bunch of women were being chased by black unicorns. The dream had quite an emotional impact on me and remained fresh in my mind even weeks later, so eventually I decided I needed to figure out a story to go with it.

2. Indie publishing is extremely hard work. From your viewpoint how has the experience been so far? What made you stay and stick with being an Indie Author as opposed to going the traditional publishing route?

Ultimately it comes down to a love of writing. I tend to be somewhat high-strung in the first place, and rather than continue to fill my time with online gaming and Dungeons & Dragons I decided to try out the Indie Author route. I’ve attempted traditional publishing, which is every bit as frustrating as it’s cracked up to be. When Amazon opened the floodgates for self publishing via the KDP program I decided I really didn’t have anything to lose, and 3 years and a dozen or so releases later I’m still enjoying it.

One of the best parts of being an Indie is the interaction I’ve had with other authors, readers and book bloggers. I’ve met some truly fantastic people and built some great relationships, and though my lack of free time lately has made maintaining some of those ties a bit tough I’m still extremely grateful for all of the people I’ve (virtually) met.

3. I’ve written about ebook pricing and hide no thought that the .99cent and below is setting a standard in pricing that is not helpful to the Indie Author. I feel that .99cent and Free should be for extremely short stories and as a promotional tool only. What is your take?

I was fairly opposed to the notion of ultra cheap books at first, but I’ve had a great deal of success offering the first book of the Blood Skies series for free as a way of inviting readers to check it out. Does it devalue the book? Maybe. Does it just get lost in the free shuffle? Most likely. But it also allows me to take advantage of advertising services like BookBub and I hope shows the readers that I’m willing to make a commitment to them (offering a free product), and if they like it they’re welcome to commit back by leaving reviews, recommending the book, or purchasing more from the series.

So I guess I agree with you, since I use free as a promotional tool…it’s just one I use all the time. ;D

4. Thanks to you I was able to get some fantastic artwork done for my novels by Artist Barry Curry II. For those of you who don’t know Steve turned me on to Barry. How did you find him in the first place? Tell us how you get a cover concept done.

I met Barry through one of my wife’s knitting friends (his wife Paula, who owns a comic book store), and we realized we had a mutual love for comic books, role-playing and weird music. It was only later I learned what a great graphic artist he was, and since he was looking to get into book covers as a way of building his portfolio everything just worked out. I regret not having spent more time with Barry before we moved out of Washington (and it wasn’t from lack of effort on his part, but my continual inability to find free time).

I tend to think in very visual terms; I often have some sort of cover concept in mind before I even start writing a novel, often purloined from bits and pieces of other book covers, movie posters, album covers, etc. Barry and I have a good rapport, with me being able to send him sample images and fairly vague ideas and he being able to turn them into something great.

5. I know you are a family man, work full time, among a ton of other things. How do you keep it all together and manage to put out such detailed and fun novels. Do you get any sleep at all?

Not much. LOL. My writing/editing/blogging productivity has gone down since we moved to Michigan, largely because of an exceedingly demanding work schedule. That being said, the trick for me is to set realistic goals (whether daily, monthly, or whatever) and stick to them no matter what. I usually don’t get more than an hour to actually work on stuff in a day, so I do my best to be as efficient as possible and get as much done as I can in that limited time. That means making sure I have a good place to work, that I set time aside, and that I make sure I have all the tools (like privacy, a good playlist, etc.) to get tasks knocked down. Some days are more productive than others, and sometimes I have to lower my expectations a bit when I need to put in an eleven hour shift, but I try to keep those contingencies in mind when I initially set my goals.

Lastly, tell us what you have coming up next now that Blood Skies is over.
Next up is THE BLACK TOWER, Book 3 of the Skullborn Trilogy, which itself is the first of three epic fantasy trilogies I’m working on. I’m also drafting a paranormal thriller called BLOOD ANGEL RISING as well as COLDER (a mystery novel), both of which I hope to release in 2015.

Once again, Thanks Steve for joining me today and I wish you continued success in the world of Indie Publishing, and more importantly keeping the great art of story telling alive.

Steve’s website is: HERE Be sure to check it out.

If you love Fantasy be sure to check out my novel Dark Moon Shadow! Don’t wait! secure your copy today, and thanks for being a patron of the arts.