Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How Long Should Your eBooks Be? [Writing]

There was a time before e-publishing when the length of a book was all about page count. It was generally accepted that 240 pages was the minimum length of a novel. If your novel wasn't 240 pages, authors and even publishers would enlarge the fonts and spacing to make the text bigger so the book would achieve 240 pages. With the arrival of e-readers, these rules went out the window. e-readers like Kindles allow the reader to adjust font size and spacing so pages don't matter. It's now all about word count.

I've seen other authors charge ridiculous amounts for very little work; $2.99 for 10,000 words or $4.99 for 12,000 words are some true examples. When I started writing new works for e-readers, I asked myself how long my books should be. How short was too short? How many words would be a short story and how many words would be a good size for a novel? Really, as a self-published author you can do whatever you want, but I felt I needed guidelines to provide a standardized experience for the reader. I didn't want to publish a short story and have my readers feel it was too short to sell on its own, and I didn't want to promote a novel that readers felt was too short to call a novel. To answer the question, I turned to the industry itself.

Let's start with short stories. Amazon sets the standard for e-publishing, in my opinion, and they have a program called Kindle Singles. Amazon describes these books as "writing that doesn't easily fall into the conventional space limitations of magazines or print books." Sounds like short stories and novellas to me. Amazon says, "Kindle Singles are typically between 5,000 and 30,000 words." That means my short stories should be at least 5,000 words long, and novellas around 30,000 words.

As for novels, I found a good guideline in BookBub's guidelines. Their listing guidelines read, "BookBub promotes full-length works, so we do not typically accept listings for books under 150 pages (" or roughly 50,000 words)." That tells me that a novel should be at least 50,000 words.

Now I should mention these are by no means a standard. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America specifies word lengths for each category of its Nebula award categories as:
Novel - over 40,000 words
Novella - 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novelette - 7,500 to 17,500 words
Short story - under 7,500 words

What do you think? Are these good guidelines for book length? Do you use different guidelines? Would you buy an ebook that was shorter than 5,000 words or a novel for less than 50,000 words? Let me know in the comments.

18 comments:

  1. I downloaded a Peter F. Hamilton e-novel to my tablet and I swear it feels heavier.

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    1. I know the feel, bro. I tried to download the encyclopedia to my smartphone, and I couldn't even pick it up.

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  3. Hmm, my novellas are around 20K and they are ebook only. My novels are 80 or higher, so I guess I'm meeting these guidelines without even knowing it. ;)

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  4. I don't know how long it is, but I downloaded Rusty's short story, War Angels. Only 99 cents and it was worth it.
    My novels clock in between 75,000 and 82,000 words, and I know that's about the smallest my publisher will take for fiction.

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    1. As long as you think it's worth it, then it was. I know novels aren't a big question of word count, so you're good

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  5. I pretty much run the gamut between short and long. I try to price accordingly, so any novellas or shorter are 99 cents and the rest are more expensive. There's no way I'd pay $9.99 for a short story no matter who writes it. But then I never pay $9.99 for ANY ebooks.

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  6. Ditto.

    I'm planning an article on ebook pricing. That's a whole other topic I feel strongly about. Publishers who charge $50 for an ebook should be arrested.

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  7. My children's novel Tokka Tuomela: Sixth Grader At Large is roughly 8,000 words. When I was reading about book lengths on a blog recently it said that children's novels should no less than 30,000 words.

    What does that make my 8,000 word children's book? A short story? An easy reader?

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    1. It's different with children's books. If it's targeted to pre schoolers, it can be shorter. Some of Dr. Suess' are only 100 words. But for young adult, it would need to be longer

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  8. I totally agree with those numbers.....
    I always thought a novel should be aim. Of 50K...

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  9. I seem to remember reading that the definition of a novel was a work of fiction greater than 50,000 words. I try to land between 50 - 60K, but I've got three that are 78, 84, and 104. I will likely charge more for the print versions of the longer ones. I've not made a decision regarding the Kindle version pricing.

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  10. I've been concerned about this recently. I don't mind the fact that novellas are becoming popular due to readers' short attention spans, but it's different if I write a YA at 80k, and then some epubber says, "It's great! Now just cut it down to 60k." If the story could be told in 60k, it would be 60k. (This hasn't happened, but I'm worried.) Short story-wise, I think writers can charge what the market will bear. I doubt many will pay $4.99 for 12k though.
    Great topic. :-)

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    1. I agree, especially with novellas. Too many novellas passed off as novels. I hadn't heard of publishers cutting books though. That's crazy

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