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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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.

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.

Vampire Down by Steve Montano

Today is the release of the final book in the Blood Skies Series titled Vampire Down. If you are into Vampires, but seek a fresh and unique approach to this genre, then Steve Monatano’s Dystopian apocalyptic world will feed your desire for a thrilling Vampire story. Get your copy today! vampire_down_final_rgb (1) AMAZON NOOK SMASHWORDS STEVE MONTANO If you love fantasy as well as Vampires then check out DARK MOON SHADOW by Robert Penner. Plenty of Wizards, Magic, Elves, Gnomes, and fantastic fantasy adventure!

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.

Indie Publishing

In this new world of Indie publishing it is always my pursuit to find the best tips and productive advice to stay on the cutting edge of self-publishing. As an Indie author of Fantasy it is especially hard, I think, and need the best help I can get. I assume you are the same way if you are a writer. In my efforts to stay informed I am committed to sharing with you anything I learn and can be interpreted as valuable. If any of you haven’t visited JA Konrath website I recommend it. His blog is full of gems that can help you carve your niche in the Self-publishing market. Here Konrath lists a top eleven points on how to “Tend Your Garden,” or in other words “Tend your e-book.” You can view his blog HERE. All of his tips are valid and deserve a go if you haven’t tried any of them yet. As an Indie Author you have total control of your book and the power to tweak your methods of marketing. I will point out my experiences with Konrath pionts…here we go:
1.) Change prices. Konrath says to “Don’t be afraid to wield that power…” This is something I’ve tried in the past with little success. I will admit that I haven’t tried this to the point that will prevent me from giving it another go, but unless your book is totally FREE I found that sales related to a price adjustment made little difference. Example: When I had my Mysterious Knight e-book for sale I started it at $1.99. It is a short story by the way. I experienced very modest sales at first and then hit a massive lull. I dropped the price to $.99 to give it a kick. I saw little to no change. Then I made it free. Tons of downloads. I have become very skeptical to price changing as a method to increase sales. I think there are a lot of e-book buyers that search for nothing but bargain and free e-books. I am of the mindset that you should get paid for your work. The best advice I’ve found on this subject is to price your book to equate that it is worth reading. Dropping your price might give buyers the wrong impression about your work. Now if you are pricing your e-book at an unreasonable market price then you might want to consider this option.
2.) Newsletter…I agree completely. Let anyone who is a fan of your work have some way to get the inside scoop on what you are doing and when your next book is coming out.
3.) Sales. KDP sounds great and I’ve thought about going exclusively KDP, but as of yet I’m still sticking with other advice on making my work available on as many sites and platforms I can. It is hard to beat 70% royalties though.
4.) Advertising. This is the hardest and most annoying part of writing…the editing part is not far behind. Since I am not a huge success yet as an Indie author, and I lack the minimum star reviews required, I really can’t speak on Bookbub. There are many advertising sites out there that want to keep a reputation of finding the best priced and quality ebooks out there. In order to do this many will require that you have a minimum of ten reviews of four stars and above to be included or considered. On top of that you have to pay them. I would dare to say it would be worth it, but getting the reviews is a tricky and hard process. The tricky part is doing it honestly. You can pay for reviews, but I would not recommend it. Many other advertising sites will only list your book if it is bargain priced or free. Here again, I think many Indie authors are hurting the market by offering their work for free. Unless it is part of a kick start campaign or something you guys are killing us!
5.) Change your cover art. Konrath has a good point. A good cover is a good advertisement. A bad one says, “I’m cheap and so is my work.” Your writing is the best advertisement, but if you can’t get someone to at least try you, what good is it?
6.) Web presence. Have a blog or a website…It’s a must.
7.) I use as many platforms as I can. Here Konrath is saying see what other platforms are up to. I say use them too. Although you can’t be a part of KDP program while using other e-book distributors.
8.) Stop worrying about how other authors are doing. Excellent advice by Konrath. Konrath has made a ton of money and he is very transparent about it. His writing is also what keeps his fans and patrons. What I and every other Indie author need to worry about is our own writing. His success, or anybody else’s success is from their own writing and hard work. Use them as inspiration and gleam any bit of advice they might have to offer, but don’t get down on yourself because of anyone’s success.
9.) Experiment…all the time.
10.) Share…This is an ever changing animal and we as Indie authors do best to share what we learn with other Indie authors. It only helps us get stronger. I appreciate Konrath and the likes for sharing what they learn to help all of us.
11.) Lastly, stop complaining. Agree. How does complaining help you sell books?

Dark Moon Shadow…Get your copy now!…Don’t miss the fantasy!

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!