Open letter to Authors Regarding Page Counts
#11  gmw 05-01-2019, 11:11 PM
Quote Rellwood
Unfortunately, my Kobos have died, and I am pretty much stuck in Amazon's ecosystem. (I need to update my devices lists).
Ah, but you can still look around and use their site. I do this quite a lot in reverse: I shop at Kobo but any books I'm not sure about I will look over at Amazon because it has the greater volume of reviews.

#12  Pulpmeister 05-09-2019, 02:20 AM
I regard word count as the only usable guide to ebook length. Provided of course the publisher doesn't include pages of promo for other books in the count. The physical size of a printed book is sometimes misleading too: thickish paper, wide margins, increased 'leading" (line spacing) and even blank pages between chapters, can bulk up an average book into a commercially acceptable doorstop. The opposite was true during WW2 and the paper shortage. Narrow margins, thin paper, and tiny type reduced a doorstop to a slim volume.

Some authors always wrote "short": the Perry Mason series by Erle Stanley Gardner typically ran to 50,000 words or less per book. Maigret novels are in the same zone. Penguin used to publish them two at a time, bringing the book up to a commercially respectable 80-90,000 words.

Christie as mentioned can be as short as 60,000 words. In her autobiography she notes that she personally preferred about 45,000 words but her publisher wouldn't hear of it. "So I added a second murder..."

There was a time where an action novel, eg Bagley or Innes or early Jack Higgins or Alistair Maclean, was 80,000-ish, but now publishers demand 100,000 words plus for that genre, as Lee Child has noted. Higgins' later novels are bulked up to fit this editorial requirement.

Sometimes when I post a book in the Library here, I note in the blurb if it as an unusual word length.

#13  Pierre Lawrence 05-09-2019, 06:28 AM

Thanks for an interesting and informative post! Do you have similar observations to make re: short stories?

P. Lawrence

#14  Hitch 05-09-2019, 04:24 PM
Quote Rellwood
I know about this practice, and I am not happy with it at all either, but this wasn't the case in this instance.

Fortunately, many authors today have been more upfront about cliffhangers in their book descriptions.
I definitely agree. I bought a few of the Cirque du Freak "novels" for a nephew; and he complained, so I read them myself. Absolutely crap nonsense; not a really complete storyline amongst them, and those are priced OUTRAGEOUSLY. I think I was paying $11.99 or so, for what is indubitably a short novel, say, 40K words or so. I consider that highway robbery, and when you throw in the fact that it's a serial, not a series...infuriating.


#15  Pulpmeister 05-14-2019, 03:03 AM
Short stories are rubbery when it comes to word count, as there is less room to maneouvre.

10,000 words or fewer is normally thought of as a short story; then there's a wide grey area and you have the novelette, or novella (both words diminutives of "novel") of 20,000-40,000 or a bit more, and then you blur into novels. But there are no hard-and-fast boundaries.

It was quite common in the sf and other magazines of the 40s and 50s to have a cover brag: "Complete full length novel"; but it was maybe 20-25,000 words.

W Somerset Maugham published "Up at the Villa" as a book in 1953, which ran to 30,000 words. He described it as a "novelette". I guess that's a professional's opinion!

#16  gmw 05-14-2019, 03:52 AM
Quote Pulpmeister
[...] W Somerset Maugham published "Up at the Villa" as a book in 1953, which ran to 30,000 words. He described it as a "novelette". I guess that's a professional's opinion!
Well, a publishers opinion. In the '80s, Stephen King produced three very long paperbacks containing four novellas each. The first, Different Seasons, was a 560 page paperback which, at a guess, places the stories around 35k, maybe 40k, words each. The next books (The Backman Books and Four Past Midnight) got progressively longer (860 pages, 930 pages).

But in all these examples the stories were complete and stood well on their own. No one would complain, now, of buying these individually - at the right price. But, as crich70 noted, no one is going to be happy buy the 1954 published The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R.Tolkien (which is, what?, 140k words or something) and discover that they only have 1/3rd of the story.

My current work-in-progress, which has been a work-in-progress for far too long now, suffers from the too-long-for-a-single-novel problem. With ebooks it may not matter on a technical level but matters very much as to what you can market. What I consider to be the first book (approx 90k words, there is a definitely break at this point) is obviously not the finish of the story, but it's definitely novel length in print terms. Marketing this - if it ever gets finished - is going to present difficulties.

#17  Pulpmeister 05-14-2019, 06:00 AM
In the preface to the book, Maugham wrote, as the first sentence:

"Up at the Villa is a novelette."

And my modest expertise would concur. But in marketing ebooks the physical size as per printed book is unimportant. In the absence of a physical book, though, I do like to have a rough idea on books "size" by wordage, and the however vague "novel", "novelette" and "short story" give you a rough idea.

As for buying a book that isn't complete: I bought a copy of Tom Clancy's last book, The Teeth of the Tiger, and imagine my shock after labouring through well over 100,000 dull and improbable words (much of them pure padding) to discover that it was only half the story! It was finally completed by someone else some years later.

#18  gmw 05-14-2019, 08:03 AM
I have to disagree about length being unimportant in ebooks. The first part of the disagreement comes because I also publish in paper so have to consider that (and would prefer not to maintain separate editions). But the biggest factor is that people can be quite reluctant to buy a 300k word novel, even if price wasn't an issue, but most especially when pricing might be around 3 x 100k novels - if we were going to price it close to fairly. (Of course, book pricing doesn't really work like that.) Size really does affect your marketing and pricing options, even in ebooks.

#19  Pulpmeister 05-15-2019, 09:00 PM
Serendipity: last night I was reading P G Wodehouse's book "Performing Flea", collected from the many letters he wrote over many years to his great friend Bill Townend. In a 1934 letter he touched upon story lengths.

"I am now faced with a difficult job-- a 16,000 word story for the New York Herald-Tribune, to run in four parts. But I can't seem to get the right idea. A short story of 7,000 words is simple, and a novelette of 30,000, too., but this in-between length is trying. I haven't room to build up an elaborate plot, and yet the story must not be thin and must have at least a passable curtain for each instalment. Oh well, I suppose it will come."

#20  Dr. Drib 05-19-2019, 09:05 AM
His problem was thinking that a word length of 30,000 falls into the novelette category. (Novelette: 7,500 - 17,500)

Most editors (and writers, too, I imagine) would consider that length to be in the novella category. I know I do. (Novella: 20,000 - 40,000)

There is no exact word count, as you know, for any category, but still....

Off-Topic for a new thread: Why is the Writers' Corner so moribund?

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