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Longer books sell better! — 14 Comments

  1. I’ve recently put a novel on Amazon: “That Thing She Did”. It’s about 75.000 wds. It’s my first. I’d heard that “a first” should not be too long. I’ve questioned my own “readers”, all literate, and have been told the length is good. I’m 20,000 wds into sequel and planned about 100,000. Would appreciate an opinion. Thank you, Michael McDonnell

  2. Hi Michael,

    I may be a lone wolf. I was pleased to see Mark’s stats fromSmashwords. I would try for 100,000 plus. The worst thing to do is take an excellent 180,000 novel and break it up into a three-part series. I see that all the time. Of course, I’m spoiled by Clancy’s books. The books I blogged about are about 60,000 each and all four would have made one good book.

  3. This is good news for Zinovy’s Journey. It’s my first novel and I was worried about the fact that it was 165,000 words long, even after massive slash and burn tactics. Its length made it hard to pitch to traditional publishers. They don’t like investing in expensive first novels, for sure, Michael. The longer the book, the more money they have to risk publishing it.

    But I once had a chance to query Diana Gabaldon about proper book length. Her bestsellers (and there are many of them, in a series!) are each very long. She said, “Don’t worry about length. Just tell the story you have to tell.”

    I’ve self-published and am happy with the result. And it’s good to know serious readers aren’t put off by length.

  4. Excellent! It’s supposed to be about the reader. Short novels are all about the publisher. They make a lot more with 3 or 4 $10 novels than they do with a really excellent full-length (long) novel for $20. I’d much rather buy one excellent book than feel like I was tricked into buying 3 or 4 partial books.

  5. “…just tell the story you have to tell.” There are times when I find myself “overthinking”; but wisdom always brings me home. Thank you, Ginny. And thank you, David. What have I learned? That the marble block has a form hidden within it, and authors need to allow the books to write themselves. That’s what happened with mine.

  6. And because I published it myself, I was able to keep the price of my 600-pager down to $15. You’re right, David. It’s all about the reader.

    Well, not totally. Even at that price I’m making $8 a book on sales. It would work wonderfully if I could make lots of sales! I put my book in a bookstore on consignment today. The manager told me the books they display sell, on average, only one a year! There are too many good books out there.

    I’m going to send him your blog post, David. He was already aware that electronic books outstrip him now.

  7. Where does Amazon Shorts fit into the discussion on sales? Does that work because it’s for readers who know going in that it’s a snack as opposed to a meal? So, when the book just ends, they don’t feel surprised? I love your blog. I’d love to hear your opinion on Amazon Shorts in the context of this post on longer books. Many thanks!

  8. Good question! I don’t see any problem with writing shorts or novellas. [I don’t buy them, but that’s just a personal foible.]

    My complaint is the books which are almost arbitrary divisions of a single book into 3 or more books. The books I was complaining about just stopped with a cliffhanger—much like the stereotypical season finales we commonly experience this time of year. AS an example, what a joy it was to watch Blue Bloods plan a family summer vacation to rebuild, recover, and renew the family bonds. What I was talking about was an ending like NCIS in the first season where the major female lead (who we really liked) was killed in the final scene of the spring finale to one of their first seasons. I see stories which end like that as vicious. I see no reason why a short couldn’t even have a brief epilogue to tie things up.

    But a short is a complete package. If it is a free come-on with a vicious ending which can only be resolved by buying the first book in a new trilogy, then I have a real problem with it. Then it’s a nasty, cynical attempt to force readers into buying the series. The series I was writing about was like that. The first book in the series was a free Kindle book with a storyline which built and built while you came to know the characters, then it was cut off mid-stride leaving everything hanging unresolved. Suddenly, without warning, it was an intense introduction to a much larger book. As I quickly bought the second book in the series, and then the third, the author did it to me two more times. It was nasty—especially for a so-called Christian book.

    There was a contact email at the end of the book and I wrote him a note explaining why I thought it was such a nasty thing to do, to young adults especially. It was a YA crossover series. Actually, as I told him, all four books would make one single novel. I don’t really know. My book budget ran dry before I could get what I hope is the conclusion of the book.

    My wife is currently buying an Amish romance by one of her favorite famous authors which has been broken up into six very small books at $4.75 each. So, she’s paying $28.50 for the series plus another $24 for the six different shipping charges. So, she’s paying $52.50 for the series. My wife is more than a little irritated by it. She’s decided to not read anything until is is all here. It better be a tremendously good series or this author has lost one of her fans. The six books all together are smaller than a typical trilogy. I can already see the six-in-one book advertised in a year or so. I’m saying nothing, but it seems a bit greedy to me.

  9. Thanks for this reply. It does point out a writer’s responsibility to their readers! And it seems like more than a bit greedy to me!

  10. It also strikes me as not just being greedy- but insulting in a way, being disrespectful of a reader’s intelligence! Thanks agin – this was such a great post.

  11. Pingback: Top 10 Best-Selling Books in Self-Publishing for April 2013 | Self Publishing News For Self-Publishing Authors | Hey Sweetheart, Get Me Rewrite!

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