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.

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E-book Pricing: Are .99cent e-books good for authors?

I read a couple of articles about cheaply priced e-books lately and I am shocked at the consensus that this cheap price of .99cents is actually a good thing. Sure there is the occasionally low priced book to draw customers in, or as a blitz promotion. I have no problem with that, that actually makes marketing sense. However, that is not what is going on in the world of e-book publishing today. The mass of Indie authors have so cheaply devalued their work that the $2.99 and below is a bench mark price for the casual shopper, and anything above that, I feel, has become too much for most. After all who can resist spending .99cents on a bunch of unknown authors and fill up their e-reader with a lot of material that one can get to later on down the road? The argument in favor of this is that with more patrons dropping a dollar multiple times in the pot spreads the wealth around for all authors. What a stupid argument. Let me ask you Indie author, “How much is your book worth to you? How much did you scrape to pay that illustrator for that awesome cover? How much did you pay that editor? (I hope you had an editor) How much did you pay for that proof print if you developed a copy for print? How much did you drop down on a website? How much time did it take for you to create your world and put ink to paper (type to document)? How much does all that total? If you have done most of the above, how much e-copies will you have to sell to just to break even? Mind you your royalties from Amazon are only .35cents a copy if sold for .99cents. Tell me where that makes any kind of sense? We have had this great opportunity to be Indie Authors and avoid the big house publisher to go it our own way, and what we are doing is shooting ourselves in the foot! Sure there are some books that are worth .99cents, and sure there are books that aren’t even worth that much due to the careless Indie who is putting out garbage, but for the rest of us who take writing seriously, we are getting screwed by those that buy into the cheap is more philosophy. For many of us that are unknown there is no way to distinguish our work from the rest, but only by price and cover/blurb. If we are lumped in with the rest, who is going to take a risk on a $5.99 e-book over a .99cent ebook with the same quality cover and blurb? Bargain shoppers are now driving the market, and in most cases filling their bins with low quality writing and therefore just affirming the stereotype of the Indie author as poor writing, no structure, bad formatting, and no editing.

I’ve learned a pricing structure from successful author’s Michael A. Stackpole (Price isn’t the point) and Dean Wesley Smith (Ebook Pricing). Research them out if you want to learn about how they come up with e-book value and pricing. I can tell you it’s not .99cents.

Not sure if it was Joe Konrath who said this, but nothing says Cheap like a Cheaply priced book. If it wasn’t you Joe than sorry about that. The point is Indie authors are saying all their expenses and hard work is only worth .35cents in royalty and if they don’t believe their stuff is worth more, then what does that say for the rest of us? It says that we are overpricing. The norm is now bargain bin pricing. Read the above articles and learn about what is a reasonable price for an e-book. If we play this thing smart we can all make money selling e-books.

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!