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.

Greed and E-Book Pricing

Did you get your money yet? If you haven’t heard about this yet…stop and read…HERE.  I received a few bucks credited to my Kindle account already. I guess Apple is next? It will be interesting to see if, and or what they will pay out. If this doesn’t make you want to self publish and take control of your own work then I don’t know what will? The dishonesty of some publishers is astonishing, yet not surprising. (I will not include all publishers…because I really don’t know, but there are quite a few in this law suite). As if eliminating retail books was not enough they wanted to drive the price of e-books upwards. Greed is all around these days. I feel the price of e-books that aren’t from Indie Authors are too high as it is. I love Terry Brooks books, and I have purchased some in e-book form simply because I love his writing. I paid just as much as a paperback print for my invisible copy made up of electrical pulses. Not really a fair trade. This is not Terry Brooks’ fault, yet he deserves the profit I won’t deny that. It’s the publisher’s greed! No paper, ink, glue, distribution cost and yet it cost the same? Huh? Seriously? Why should I pay to cover all the material cost when there is none? Unless it is a sure desire to reward the author, and his/her work is worth the price then I am o.k. with paying more. In most cases a patron is exploring and taking a risk. I have posted in the past on the pricing of e-books and what they should be. Pricing should be based on the amount of words written. Dean Wesley Smith wrote a post on e-book pricing last year…HERE…he states that $5.99-$7.99 is a good price for e-books. There is a fine line of under pricing and saying that your book is worthless instead of worth. I do agree with that part of Deans article. However, $7.99 and above is a little high for me. One thing for sure is that Indie Authors have total control of their own work and pricing. The public will have the final say if the price is right, and if the work is good.
My Fantasy Novel Dark Moon Shadow is up for release in early May! Be sure to get a copy!

Can you get your book into a book store?

So you think you can’t get your book into a book store? That, according to Dean Wesley Smith, is a myth. His book “Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Indie Publishing” Addresses this issue: Get Indie Books into Bookstores. Dean has a wealth of knowledge in this area and after reading this fantastic article he proves it over and over again. This article starts off with a history of publishing and how nothing really has changed today…only just a little. I tend to fall into the category of skeptic when this subject comes up, because I have fallen into the trap that Indie Authors are lowly and can never, or hardly ever get their books into a bookstore. That was certainly before electronic publishing. Technically I’m totally wrong because Amazon and Smashwords are bookstores, just virtual. I think we are talking about the tangible, feel the spine of a book, physical piece that we want in a physical, walk-in and browse bookstore. This I am still a doubter, but Dean walks you through the must and must not, easy yet not so easy, path to seeing your printed story sold in a bookstore. I can see that it is doable, but not for the faint of heart. I have to admit that when it comes to thinking like a publisher I get scared, passive, and dare I say lazy. It’s really the hard part of being an Indie Author. Luckily we have e-books and can stick to that route exclusively, but if we want to market our story in a way for most exposure and profitability we need to grasp our minds around, and think like a true publisher. In all reality that is what we are. Now, I’m not saying that I will actually follow this path and get my books into a physical bookstore, or even in their catalog, but what I am saying is that if I choose to work hard enough it can be done…that I have  no doubt about it. Dean, as I’ve mentioned in other posts, is a masterpiece of knowledge and his Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing is a must read for any Indie Author ( He has links on his site where you can read it chapter by chapter). Thanks Dean for another excellent lesson in publishing!

My new Fantasy Novel: Dark Moon Shadow is coming soon!

Do you really need a book agent?

Do you really need an agent to get published? That is an assumption I thought for a long time, especially before e-books came on the scene. When I researched what traditional publishing required to submit a manuscript I would often run into the (agent-only guidelines). This was a momentum stopper for me. If you are a writer and think you need an agent here is a excellent blog of advice by Dean Wesley Smith The New World of Publishing: The Assumption of Agents . I recommend all aspiring writers to read Mr. Smiths blog, as it is full of practical advice from someone who has the knowledge and experience in the world of publishing. Here he explains, in steps, why you really don’t need an agent in the new world of electronic media and the “do-it yourself” Indie publishing. He also explains what to look for in an agent if you are still bent on using one. One of the most important bits of advice I came away with was to obtain an IP Lawyer to look over your contract if you are ever offered one… by anyone. There is so much more on Smith’s blog…so jump on over and have a browse. 

I must be honest, Dean makes it look easy. I can only say that, it is for him, because he has spent so much time learning his craft and the business side of things that makes it look so simple. I personally, still struggle with the daunting thoughts of the business side, and am still trying to grasp the trade as I embark with my writing aspirations.  We Indie authors MUST take time to learn the business in order to succeed, as well as pen a good story. I appreciate authors like Dean Wesley Smith who share their experience and knowledge to those of us who are swimming with the sharks of the business. 

Pennerstories update: Art work for Dark Moon Shadows is in production. I look forward to sharing that with you all very soon. As I mentioned before in an earlier post, I will be migrating this wordpress blog into a hosted website that will enhance the reader experience and will focus-central into a fantasy theme. If you look in the bookstore tab and the side bar I have already begun preparation by removing the non-fantasy related ebooks/ books and have kept the two ebooks that will make it on the new website. Hang with me and keep checking back for the upcoming announcements and changes. 

As for Dark Moon…It is going through multiple edits to fine tune the reading experience once it is launched.

Once again I am looking for reviewers…if you are interested please reply and I will contact you. I will blog more in detail when the book is ready.

Have a great day.

PENNERSTORIES NEWS

The first month of 2014 is almost complete and its been a productive one at that. I’ve done more writing this month than the past 12 months all together. I can credit that to having full-time employment. Not worrying about the paycheck certainly gives one quality writing time.

Dark Moon Shadows is nearly finished. If you notice my progress meter the book should house around 110K words. I hope to finish the manuscript in the next week and then begin a line by line proofread before finding someone to do a proof/edit. By the time my edits are complete I should have a cover made. I’ve recently been in contact with an illustrator whose work, I think, looks amazing. Assuming I get the cover and edits complete I will then format my book for upload/sale.

However, before I announce a release date I will be in search of REVIEWERS. This is an approach I’ve read about and would like to give it a chance. When the time nears I will blog/tweet/ and reach out to various author sites in search for Reviewers. For those that are willing, I will give a free copy of my Fantasy Novel for review with hopes that you will in-turn post your thoughts on Amazon.

I will also be launching a new website (powered by WordPress) that will be suitable for e-commerce and other plug-in features that this free blog page cannot support. A new look…A new book.

If you are interested in being a Reviewer…feel free to leave a comment indicating that you are interested and I will be in touch.  As I mentioned before, when the time is closer I will make some noise about it.

For some side notes: I read a post from Dean Wesley Smiths site about a Q&A by Joe Konrath and a CEO from Kensington publishing. If your interested in the business side of traditional publishing and self-publishing its worth a look.

 

 

Rules for writing

I’ve been catching up on my blog follow readings, mostly about e-book publishing and writing, and found a brilliant post on how to approach fiction writing. As a self-publisher I am always confronted with the cumbersome task of balancing work/family life/ and my writing. We writers that haven’t been able to sustain a financial income to support our livelihood from our book sales certainly need to balance our writing and work. Those of us with family have it even harder, but the drive to write is in our blood and to pen a story is ever-present. I’ve blogged about Dean Wesley Smith before and here is another link to some great advice to contemplate if you are a writer: Dean Wesley Smith Blog Here Dean talks about Robert A. Heinlein Rules for Writing. Personally I’ve never heard of Robert A. Heinlein or his rules for writing…and you know what? His rules make perfect sense. I’ve heard similar ideas of advice from other authors and writing blogs before, so no doubt his philosophy is well received. You can find a listing of Robert A. Heinlein rules from this link also found on Dean Wesley’s blog here: RulesFor many the first two rules will be easy to follow just as long as you can set a time to write daily. No matter how many words you get in, just get some writing done and keep moving forward. This was the best advice I ever heard on writing and I used it when I penned The Fifth Gospel (Deception Rising) in 2005 and many of my short novels. I set a goal of time each day and just wrote. Some times I would only get 200 words or less and other days 3K or more. I was extremely disciplined and I accomplished a ton by keeping to my schedule. For whatever reason I have had a hard time going back to that place that brought me success, but as I apply rule number 1 again I feel refreshed. If one can keep to a reasonable schedule to write a little each time each day, achieving rule number 2 will fall into place. Rule number 3 is not hard for me personally, but I know it will be difficult for many. The perfectionist in some writers will cause one to never get anywhere. How perfect can a story really be? After all we writers are telling a story that comes from our soul, our imagination. It is exactly what we want it to be. Sure there are many steps and rules for writing that should be followed to create good characters, develop them, and solid plot lines etc. But all in all the story is exactly as it is meant to be the first time. So my advice to (myself) writers is to leave your/our finished product alone after you’ve edited all the grammar and spelling. Lastly, get that work available for folks to read and enjoy! This part may come easier to some than others, but there are many e[book distributors out there that with a little time spent you can have your book digitally formatted and ready for sale. Bottom line…stick to it and if it works apply Robert A. Heinlein Rules for Writing.

Ebook’s and Social Media

I read an interesting blog the other day about social media and the relationship between the sale of ebooks. I won’t bore you with all the findings, but the truth of the matter is massive tweeting, facebooking, and whatever media doesn’t really make a whole lot of difference in sales. The stats were pretty clear that that was true. I can back that up with my own experience in ebook promotion. When I first started writing with regularity almost ten years ago, I was told that the best way to get noticed was to just keep writing. After I completed my first and only full length novel to date, I then began writing short stories in a few different genres to build up inventory. I produced a short story ready for publish about every two months. I know, that seems a little slow, but hey I work full time so shoot me. Ok, don’t shoot me, but you get the idea. Once I felt I had enough inventory to hold me while I write my next novel, I bought into the idea of self promotion. Keep in mind that during the whole time, even until now, I still self promote using social media.

At first my sales were modest and consistent while I put one ebook up and then the next and the next. Each time I added an ebook I promoted it and then wrote another one. My sales were steady the entire time. Just incase you are wondering, I am not rich, nor did I make a serious amount of money with these ebook sales. My sales are really dismal to say the least, but I am satisfied that people are buying my works. Every time I promoted anyone of my ebooks via twitter, facebook, or gather I would only get a few hits on my website or blog post. I cannot really attribute any of those visits to actual sales. Most of my sales are from Kobo and I really have no idea why. Amazon was steady and now is extremely slow, Smashwords is the same (Although they are the medium that Kobo has my material), and Barns and Nobles was rocking for a time and now it’s like watching grass grow. Seriously, grass is growing on my ebooks at B&N. CreateSpace where my novel is available in paper back has never had a purchase other than my own purchases for promotional give away. My conclusion is that all my tweets, status updates, and gather posts have resulted in little or no sales. What really created sales was a little bit of luck by shoppers searching for a good read, and the fact that I was actively putting out new material. I still don’t know how that works. I am virtually an unknown author; no one knows who I am, and yet I had modest sale spikes on most of all my works when I kept putting up new works every other month. My favorite blog site is by Dean Wesley Smith and he preaches this topic all the time. The best promotion you can ever do is keep writing and putting out new material. I made a case on another post about authors with pervious publishing experience has a head start in the digital world because of their traditional notoriety. Dean makes his case that his name has nothing to do with it because many of his writings are under pen names where no one knows that it is him behind the writing. It would be interesting if the pen names he writes digitally under where ever published traditionally prior. I believe him though, so I would contribute that to the “luck” category. As I press on with my second novel I am perplexed at how to market this book as every other digital author asks for their own work. I really don’t want to rely on “luck” but so far that’s all that it is. Another author site I frequent claims that if your writing is good enough it will sell. I agree with that, but I think you still need that “luck” factor to get enough of word of mouth to sell a great deal of books.

Bottom line…don’t spend too much time on social media to push your ebooks because it falls mostly on deaf ears.