It’s True! Size Doesn’t Matter

Okay, the title might be an exaggeration. It’s not that size doesn’t matter. It’s that size sort of matters but only on the extremes.

What? Why on Earth are you looking at me like that?

Oh.  No. I’m not actually having a Sexy Vinyl Vixens moment.  I’m talking about the relative size of stories, you know: short shorts, short stories, novellas, novelettes, novels.

Now that we’ve made that clear, throw all those words out the window. You’ll feel much better. And you’ll make a lot more sense to the man on the street. The man on the street, you see, insists on calling anything a “book.”  “I read your book” could be a 15k word story or a 450k word goat-gagger.  They don’t care. They care that they read this book and either liked it or didn’t (and if they can get at the author, in person or by email, by gum, the author is going to be made to care, too.)

But…. but…. but… SARAH!  I must know what to call my book.

Sure you do. You call it a book. That’s what the average reader calls it. Sure you’ll find a ton of people talking about “novels” but if you probe, they’re really unclear on what a novel is. They think it’s a synonym for “book.”

To a great extent all that assemblage of words above was never very well known among the non-writing public. Nothing but maybe “short story” and “novel.”

I had a moment of startling revelation about five years ago, when I was insisting to Dan that the minimum amount of words a novel (or “book” in layman’s terms) could have was around 65k.

My husband being a mathematician wasn’t about to sit under my dogmatic pronouncements.  So he headed for the bookcase, and started grabbing books at random.  Well, not exactly at random. I no longer remember the exact titles, but they were all books I liked and had talked about being favorites. I know there was a Simak, several Rex Stouts, and a couple other mysteries.

They were all average sized paperbacks. I’d read them all and perceived them as novels. They were all printed in widely different font sizes though.

Dan counted the words, the same way we used to calculate words in a physical manuscript, before word count software.

Count the number of pages in the book. Sub-divide the count into full, 1/2 and 1/3 pages. If necessary, round the count to the nearest of the three size specifications.

Generate the overall page count by multiplying the number of each category by the category size and adding up those three numbers. For example, a book may have 155 full-pages (totaling 155) , 18 1/2-pages (totaling nine) and nine 1/3-pages (totaling three). Your total count in this case would be 167.

Discover the average number of words on a page by counting the number of words on three randomly picked full pages distributed throughout the book. Average the count by taking the total number of words counted and divide by three. This should capture the authors writing style and provide a reliable estimate of the number of words used by the author on each full page.

Multiply the average words per page by the overall page count. This should provide a close estimate of the number of words in the book.

Those books ranged from 25k words to 50k words.

You could have knocked me down with a feather. I’d experienced them as “books” and enjoyed them. I had no idea a couple of them were short enough that Analog might have published them.

Now, here’s the thing, after I found that out, I came to realize that many of the ebooks I was reading in indie couldn’t possibly be that long.

But here’s the important thing: I didn’t care. And I still don’t.

Usually if a book feels really short, it’s because there’s something wrong with the plotting or some rush in the closing. It’s because it failed on some level. It’s not because it’s actually short.

Sure, okay, there are extremes.  You probably can’t sell 2k words as a novel. In fact, when I’m making covers, I advise that everyone who has less than 10k words put SHORT STORY on the cover. Yes, on the description too, but you’d be amazed how oblivious readers can be. And there’s a contingent of reviewarati who stomp around giving one star reviews and calling everything under 10k words “not worth the money” (even if it’s 99c) or “a rip off” or, my favorite (on a story of my older son’s, which bizarrely made him almost $2k, and no, we have no idea why. To make the weirdness complete, it sold MOSTLY in England.) “a movie script.” (That one was weirder as the guy seemed to think the movie had been made. Perhaps dealing with parallel universes?)

But that’s a matter of managing expectations, and you know, not upsetting your reader.  However, if you are over 10k words? don’t use words like novelette or novella. Readers never fully got that. Those were categories for magazines and awards, not for people who actually read stories. Kris Rusch told me years ago not to put that on any description.

In fact, don’t put any words on the description that relate to the size of the novel: Not “short novel” not “long novel” not “bakers dozen half baked novel.”

Let it be. the readers don’t care. If it makes you feel better, price it cheaper if it’s short. But be prepared to get emails going “Why is your latest book only $2.99.”

READERS DON’T CARE. They care that it’s a fun read. That’s it.

I know, I know, as a writer, we want to know “But how long does it have to be?” But the readers don’t. And if you’re indie, you’re writing for the readers.

Honestly, the only thing I’ll say is that if you’re printing your books, don’t make anything under 35k words a 6×9 trade paper back. Make it the smaller Mass Market Paperback size.  Why? So it has a bigger spine. Putting titles on that tinny tiny spine is a right bugger.

Well, that or make your type REALLY big. 😀

Other than that, yeah, I’d put “Short Story” on the cover of anything under 10k words, but anything over that I’d keep my mouth shut on size.

As the actress said to the bishop, ultimately what counts is not the size. It’s the experience.

91 comments

  1. It’s that thing of using technical terms that writers learn versus the general word that the public use. I’m guilty of using novelette etc. In future I shall check my writer privilege and omit said terms. 😉

  2. Hmm. Perhaps I should abandon my idea of making my series a certain number of “books” and just start releasing a greater number of “short stories?

    1. And maybe do a “collected series” in one bigger volume when you have enough of them. That’s what I’m doing with the Luna City series. They are all relatively short (for me!) at about 60,000 words, so three of them put together in a single volume make a very respectably-sized book. Eventually, I will only carry the collected volumes in my own direct sales inventory.

      1. For e-books, I love these– if I’m willing to give the first book a try, but there’s a “collected series” option, I’m willing to pay more to have all of them in one bunch.

    2. It has been my experience that the collections sell better than the individual short stories. (Though enough of the stories sell to put them out individually.)

  3. I’ve been reluctant to start any goat-gagger-sized novels in recent decades, because I hate to quit before finishing, and too many of them, to put it as kindly as possible, needed a lot more work before the editor gave up and forwarded it to the printer.

    Like many readers, I used to favor longer books as “more value for my money”. But in the end, too many of them turned out to be a poor value.

    A story is whatever size it is.

  4. Count the words in a preschooler’s book and get back to me on whether wordcount actually defines ‘book’ or not.

    1. Not even preschool– I just checked the “horrible harry” books my kids read, that’s about 5k, words on the high end. (they have a few basic illistrations that are basically modern block-prints) The Bad Kitty books are similarly sized, though with more drawings. I’d say that’s aimed at roughly first to third grade interest levels.

      The Wings of Fire books that my eldest inhales are Scholastic publishing goat-gaggers, at about 70k. (if the kids aren’t that advanced, older third graders to junior high; I am trying to wean her off of them to something more positive, like the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I dislike the characters. #minireview)

      The first goat-gagger I remember reading– Salamandastron, from Ace– is something over 100k.

      All of these examples tell a story. My kids like them BECAUSE they’re a complete story.

      1. Wings of Fire was very helpful in getting Vincent to read. He still enjoys them, reading the latest at a leisurely pace of an evening, interrupted by chores and dinner.

        Google not helpful, so I need to ask what a goat gagger is. ^^;;;;;;;

        1. “Goat gagger” = “A book big enough to gag a goat if it tried to eat the book”. 😉

        2. One of those really big, thick books.

          Pretty much anything where you’ve got all the normal books lined up on the shelf, k, yeah– and then there’s one that’s two to five times as wide. 😀

            1. This is true! in the Corps we used to call these stories a “no-shitter.” (Marines can be a bit off-color. It comes with the uniform.)
              Several decades ago, I bartended at one of Houston’s largest and busiest singles clubs, yclept “Cooter’s.” FWIW, Playboy magazine selected it as one of the Best Singles Bars in the nation two years in a row. On a good month, (one with five weekends) we’d do well over a half-million 1985 dollars in business.
              Speekina uniforms, men wore black jeans, black tux shirts, and purple suspenders. We were allowed, encouraged even, to collect and wear the most ribald, raunchy, and suggestive buttons we could find.Example: “You look different with your clothes on.” “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but whips and chains excite me.”
              That Linda Lovelace Button was my pride and joy then. I do wonder what happened to it.When (if I ever) finish my series, my next book will be a semi-autobiographical retelling of those days, in tragi-comedic style. I’ll have to file off the serial numbers, or at least make sure the statute of limitations has expired.
              It wasn’t all wild debauchery. I met my wife there. The fruit of that marriage is 30 now, and pregnant with my second grandchild.
              In an eerie foreboding way, one of the things we said commonly to describe a particularly unusual and pleasurable experience was to describe it as “One for the book.” Who knew?

    1. From the movie “Amadeus”

      EMPEROR: Well, Herr Mozart! A good effort. Decidedly that. An excellent effort! You’ve shown us something quite new today.

      [Mozart bows frantically: he is over-excited.]

      MOZART: It is new, it is, isn’t it, Sire?

      EMPEROR: Yes, indeed.

      MOZART: So then you like it? You really like it, Your Majesty?

      EMPEROR: Of course I do. It’s very good. Of course now and then – just now and then – it gets a touch elaborate.

      MOZART: What do you mean, Sire?

      EMPEROR: Well, I mean occasionally it seems to have, how shall one say? [he stops in difficulty; turning to Orsini-Rosenberg] How shall one say, Director?

      ORSINI-ROSENBERG: Too many notes, Your Majesty?

      EMPEROR: Exactly. Very well put. Too many notes.

      MOZART: I don’t understand. There are just as many notes, Majesty, as are required. Neither more nor less.

      EMPEROR: My dear fellow, there are in fact only so many notes the ear can hear in the course of an evening. I think I’m right in saying that, aren’t I, Court Composer?

      SALIERI: Yes! yes! er, on the whole, yes, Majesty.

      MOZART: But this is absurd!

      EMPEROR: My dear, young man, don’t take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It’s quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that’s all. Cut a few and it will be perfect.

      MOZART: Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?

      EMPEROR: Well. There it is.

      “My story has just as many words as are required (to the best of my poor ability to determine anyway), neither more nor less.”

  5. Off topic question, if someone can help me here:

    I’m working on getting the book out, and I’m finding myself tripped up on the copyright page of all things. I need to give the owner of the copyright, but I’m using a closed pen name, and I don’t want to give away my real name by someone just looking at the copyright page. Can I just put my pen name there, do I need to make my pen name an actual legal identity (i.e. a DBA) first, or is there no way to deal with this other than my actual name?

    I’ve looked at the copyright pages for Sarah and Amanda’s books, which use their real names, but of course they both have open pen names, so I don’t know if that choice was the only one they could have made.

    Can anyone give me some guidance?

    1. I’ll sell it for the price I got it from an IP lawyer. Remember I’m not one.
      If you want to use the pen name on the copyright page there are two things to know: FIRST, you must (MUST) get some kind of legal relationship to the name, like a DBA (though a certificate of same person different names MIGHT work. But do ask a lawyer.)
      The thing to consider though is that if you DO put an assumed name on the copyright page, it’s considered write-for-hire and ONLY lasts 90 years.
      Now, for me at this age that’s a massive plus.
      For you, I don’t know.

      1. “The thing to consider though is that if you DO put an assumed name on the copyright page, it’s considered write-for-hire and ONLY lasts 90 years.”

        IANAL, but if that’s considered “write for hire” in one sense, how will it play with the AB5 nonsense? Given the greed of the CA bureaucracy, I’d ask about that if you talk to a lawyer.

          1. I agree…. but having done an engagement with the LA County Assessors office, I’ve been exposed to how they think.

        1. “Doing Business As”. It’s a way of registering “Business names” for sole proprietorship and partnerships which (unlike corporations) don’t have a legal existence outside that of their owners.

        2. Doing Business As. An official document linking a trade name to a specific individual. For example, if you had a booth selling fruits and nuts, you might wanna call it “Shadow’s Fruit and Nut Emporium.” Since that isn’t the name on your birth certificate, you gotta file a document telling the gov’t who to chase down when it comes time to extract tax revenue from you.I know, I know, there are other reasons, but IANAL, and this is intended to be a kiddy level quick answer.

    2. That was a fun thing to search for. ^.^

      https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-register.html#realname

      Do I have to use my real name on the form? Can I use a stage name or a pen name?
      There is no legal requirement that the author be identified by his or her real name on the application form. For further information, see FL 101, Pseudonyms. If filing under a fictitious name, check the “Pseudonymous” box when giving information about the authors.

      Will my personal information be available to the public?
      Yes. Please be aware that when you register your claim to a copyright in a work with the U.S. Copyright Office, you are making a public record. All the information you provide on your copyright registration is available to the public and will be available on the Internet.

      It was below the “how do I copywrite my sighting of Elvis” in the FAQ, so the search engines did nothing.

      1. Well, that makes it non-trivial to penetrate a closed pen name, anyway.

        However, you still would need a way to link your legal name to that pen name and that publication, in the event that someone challenges your ownership. DBA really won’t do that and keep the anonymity – DBAs are public record, so if someone went to that much trouble to “out” you, it’s right there.

        About the only way I can think of to hide it entirely is to have an actual corporation with several shareholders, among which any attacker cannot choose to identify the actual author. (Like Harlequin.)

        Too much trouble and expense for too little return.

    3. Just wanted to say thanks to everyone for the advice; it sounds like I might be right to be tripped up here and really do need to find a lawyer to answer the question.

      Thanks again.

    4. I’ve always seen pen names revealed on the copyright page. Mystery author Elizabeth George’s first name is Susan, romance author Victoria Alexandra is really Cheryl Griffin. Pseudonymns aren’t protected by copyright.

      However, the “Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern is copyrighted by “Night Circus LLC.” I remember an IP lawyer said she might have done this for taxes and accounting purposes. Her second book is copyrighted under her own name. Peter Straub’s books are copyrighted by “Seafront Corporation,” which is what you would do for a pseudonym. Stephen Fishman covers this briefly in “The Copyright Handbook: What Every Writer Needs to Know.” He specifically says to create a company, transfer your copyright to that company, and use that company’s name, e.g., Seafront Corp. for the copyright notice.

  6. That’s what the average reader calls it. Sure you’ll find a ton of people talking about “novels” but if you probe, they’re really unclear on what a novel is. They think it’s a synonym for “book.”

    ::Huffy Outrage!!!11!!::

    That’s not true! It means story book!
    ::hair flip::
    ::flounce::

    8p 😉 8D

    1. You’re actually right. 😀 Though you’d be surprised how many people are unclear on the difference between fiction and non fiction. AND keep in mind I’m talking READERS. 😛

      1. I’d say “you can’t surprise me, I was taught by two different teachers in Social Studies that Sinclare’s The Jungle was a documentary book,” but I have learned to NOT hand Murphy a blanket challenge like that!

      2. Amazon used to have a search classification for how long the average reader would take. Apparently no longer, although they will auto-fill the bar for “short reads.” (Not for “medium” or “long” reads, though…)

        While putzing around there, under “novelettes,” I had a result (only if you search for “novelettes” under “Books,” though) that is “Cham: The Best Comic Strips and Graphic Novelettes, 1839–1862”

      3. The number of times I have heard “fiction novel” and “non fiction novel” being used as descriptors is…painfully non-trivial. And, like you say, the people doing this are READERS. Sometimes I despair. Then I go back to reading my book to feel better.

      4. I can’t really blame them. I’ve read both “current events” and “history” books that were more “alternate universe fantasy” than non-fiction…

  7. One of the more common complaints I receive in reviews/ratings of my books is the brevity. My unsaid response is generally…”but…that’s just how long the story was.”

  8. “But how long does it have to be?”

    Does it reach the end satisfyingly? That long.

    And I am reminded of this:

    “That dog has short legs.” “They reach the ground, don’t they?”

  9. I have some book size collections of shorts. At $3.99 and $2.99 they never come anywhere near selling as well as the more expensive novels. Last month “Common Ground, and other stories” sold five copies and page views for $23.11. “Going Up?…and other stories” sold one plus page views for $2.99. Out of a $15k month. Your mileage may vary – but they are not a financial success for me. They were fun however.

    1. Yeah. I usually make 1k off my collections, and that’s it. So I’ll do them as long as they’re “reprints” but will do short novels instead of shorts, if I can.

  10. Off Topic (but matches the subject line).

    As a former Comic Geek, I remember one X-Man comic where the X-Men (after defeating “clones” of DC’s Legion Of Superheroes) face this short (2-3 feet tall) alien guardian.

    Wolverine laughs at him and gets knocked into orbit.

    This alien guardian almost defeats the full X-Men Team. 😆

      1. What’s funny is that sometime after that, in the Legion Of Super Heroes there were cameos of the civilian identities of various X-Men.

        IE We’d see these civilians who looked like the Marvel characters and often the civilians referred to themselves by their civilian names. 😀

  11. So help me, I first read the title as “Its true size doesn’t matter” and was wondering what was masking the actual size…. but nothing needs to (and with e-book, it’s kind of automatic). And the mistaken reading… doesn’t really make the title any less accurate to the post beneath it.

    1. As I recall, male bovids rarely have feelings about “inadequacy” as far as size is concerned. One wonders how well endowed the bull was that Zeus transformed himself into, eh? Come to think of it, I’ve never heard of centaurs complaining in that department either. 😉

  12. I recall from my high school English classes that the definitions of the various lengths of stories have more to do with structure than word count.

  13. I find it’s the same with cosmetology. Taught to never say “roots”, after all the “roots” are INSIDE your skin, if you are seeing roots, that’s not good. But, the layperson pretty much always says roots, and they mean the area of new growth. There are other phrases like that. So, unless you are in school and need to pass a test, you use the words that are commonly understood.

    Not to mean that you don’t use big words in your stories if they are needed! But, like you said, short story or novel or just story.

  14. I rarely notice until I hit the end. I mostly read ebooks, so there is no heft. I mostly read KU, so I don’t notice the price. I mostly read by author, so I just get whatever is new without paying much attention to descriptions, blurbs, or reviews.

    Pam is the author who most surprises me. She does change the pricing, but as I said, I don’t pay attention. All of a sudden the book is over. Everything wraps up, but I ask myself, “didn’t I just start reading that? What am I going to do, now?” Some of them are brilliant – and the rest good – so please don’t stop, but it does surprise me.

  15. “Why? So it has a bigger spine.”

    This is sage advice.

    I’m doing covers right now, arranging the cover to Unfair Advantage. Unfair Advantage comes in at 414 pages in 6×9 size. That 130k words. (They wouldn’t stop having the adventure! I’m like “are you done yet” and they’re all “Noooooo!”)

    Spine size according to their Kindle Create tool is 1.035″. With the required clearance (0.0625″, aka 1/16th”) on both sides for the folds, my maximum type size is 0.91″

    What they don’t tell you about book titles is that you have to fit that thing on the spine of the fricking book. Mine’s pretty short purely by luck.

  16. I care as a reader *only* as it relates to price. The people who think a short story or novelette is “not worth the money” at $.99 are weirdos. But a novelette at $2.99? I will pass. A novella at that price I’ll look at, but I agree that “average readers” aren’t going to know what the heck those terms mean. I just go by Amazon’s page-count.

    For book price, the more the ebook costs, the bigger the page count must be. I don’t do beer, so for me the financial test is a DLC / expansion pack. If a DLC for a game can be sold for $5.99, and give me 10-20 hours of enjoyment, a book at $5.99 must offer the same at minimum (I read fast). I see the price, I scroll down to look for the page count. If the gap is too wide, pass. Trad publishers frequently fail to pass this test, naturally.

    I’ll bet those 25k books were thin, and cost less than a dollar? The average YA novel I read back in the day would have barely been more than 40k words, and were priced at $2 or $3. Very reasonable. They were thin little mmpb. But now I’ve noticed that several YA series books from my youth have been repackaged as omnibuses, and reformatted as digest-sized trade paperbacks. They’re selling for $9.99. I have no idea if the make-it-bigger trend in YA is because of economics, or if the tradpublishers just wanted to compete with longer books like “Twilight.” They no longer seem to put out little mmpb YA books anymore.

        1. Yeah. Look. People are free to buy/not buy what they want, according to their notions of value, but saying “Those were selling much cheaper” isn’t true. Most of them were published at a time you could get a whole meal for that amount. Maybe not great or fancy, but…

          1. Yeah, they’re about the price of a Burger King/Hungry Jack’s Stunner meal.

            TBH, I wasn’t too happy when the price climbed up from what used to be six AUD. But the one author whose books are the only reason why I even read Harlequin at all I enjoy, as she is my mental potato chips and I can count on the emotional response when I need to destress and cry. So, much cheaper than a therapist, especially since the last times I tried to seek out therapy for my traumas were rather useless. Thus worth it to me.

            Not sure what the equivalent size is though in ebook/wordcount is.

      1. Yes, the 1950s – 1970s is the era I’m referring to, when adult books in the 25-50k word range were routinely published. The $2-$3 YA books I mentioned were first published in the 80s-90s. And I noticed a 196-paged teen horror novel was $3.99 when I bought it in 1992. The cover price of a 70s era 380-page fantasy novel says $3.95. I gave the author more than that when I bought it from her in person in 2001. Because her royalties should benefit from inflation, too 🙂

        But the 90s is when I started seeing more books get into the “goat-gagger” range, and prices go further up. Now the *exact same,* formerly-svelte mmpb YA books from my “childhood reads collection” are packaged as omnibus trade paperbacks to look like goat-gaggers, and hover around $10. They’re doing the same thing with the print versions of some of the “Golden Age” mysteries, hence my curiosity about the print-pub world moving away from “short, sweet, and under $10.” Even the mass market paperbacks have changed sizes. They’ve gotten oddly taller, yet the same width.

        That size / price change was my point; especially in relation to my expectations with ebook pricing. I’ll pay more for a story that will last a plane or train ride, plus the wait at the airport or station to boot. Especially if Amtrak breaks down (yet again), or the flight is delayed. I’ll pay less for a story that wouldn’t last the ride, and leave me bored in the station.

        1. Sure, and you can buy whatever you want. I no longer worry about size, because I have a kindle, and can buy.
          I was just pointing out your price points are WAY low.
          10k and above, from a known author I know will deliver? $2.99 is fine.
          To put this in perspective, that’s a cup of coffee practically anywhere.

          1. I don’t game, so my price point comparisons are set at: $ 3.99 is a mocha. $13.99 is a mocha, a bagel with egg and lox and herbed cream cheese, and a small gelato.

            $2.99 is a bagged salad that includes dressing so I can just grab and go for work, instead of prepping my own ahead of time. $5.99 is a ceaser salad with chicken.

            I don’t go to the coffee shop for a full breakfast very often; that’s a treat. On months that I’m being tight on the budget, that’s going to take a whole lot of contemplation. But a $4.99 book is splurging on fast food lunch instead of bringing leftovers… much easier to justify.

            1. I go to the coffee shop maybe once a month. Considering I have KUL that’s how often I buy a book. So 3.99 is coffee, if it gives me as much pleasure as a coffee…
              And 6.99 is coffee for me and one of the guys. So….

              1. I bribe myself on the days I really, really, REALLY don’t want to go to the gym with a coffee afterward. Some days, by the time I’m done I don’t feel I need the reward, or I’m in too much of a hurry, but the rest of the time, I go dutifully reward myself so I don’t run out of motivation.

                Let’s just say when I got to the advice by Jordan Peterson on treating yourself like someone you loved, and rewarding yourself for doing things that take a lot of willpower, I thought “I already do; my weightlifting progress (and therefore my avoidance of physical therapists) can be measured in mochas.”

                I didn’t think I went there that often, right until I walked in, and the barista introduced me by name to the new trainee. Um… Okay, maybe I’m a regular?

                1. I’m betting that you have character, and treat them like human beings.

                  It’s amazing how much that makes folks remember you.

                  1. Dan and I go VERY OCCASIONALLY to our local Mexican restaurant. VERY occasionally because it involves cheating on carbs, almost bye definition. Like…. once a month.
                    So we were shocked to find they knew us and said “see you next month!”

    1. I do know that an indie author recently lost a sale by pricing a book that was probably around or under 10K at 2.99. I would’ve liked to have read it, but right now i need to make my money go further, and this was an unknown author, so the hesitation quickly became a no.

      But not everybody’s in as straitened circumstances financially as I am right now. So it’s quite possible that person can make money on that book at $2.99, since the royalty is higher at that price point than 99 cents.

      1. Sure. And in my case, I have it in KUL too. most people as tight on money as I am RIGHT NOW are on KUL because $100 over a year (Actually $50 bought on black friday sale) is way cheaper than if I buy everything I want to read.

      2. Will there be more sales at $0.99 than at $2.99. In most cases, yes. That’s basic economics (the higher the price, the lower the quantity demanded–there are occasional exceptions which we need not get into here). However, at $2.99 Amazon pays 70% which means the author gets $2.09 per sale. At less than $2.99, Amazon pays 35%. So that $0.99 book pays the author $0.35. The author would have to sell nearly six times as many as he would at $2.99 to make the same revenue.

        I’m not seeing that happening, not in my fiction. I tend to keep the shorts at $0.99 even though that’s not the “best” price from a revenue standpoint because I’m trying to build a readership, to become the “known quantity” author that people can trust to provide good value. If I ever build a larger readership I might look at higher prices but now I’m looking more for market penetration than immediate revenue generation.

        1. Actually no. There aren’t more sales at 99c. And there is a reason. All of us who read a lot of indie, unless it’s first book at 99c, then all others up, have learned to be wary of the “99c slush.” It’s where people with no pride in their work and just trying it on put their books.
          So, yeah. I did it with one book and had almost no sales till I raised the price.

          1. I did a brief 99 cents for one of the Luna City books – just as a lead-in for a month, IIRC for the first in the series as a promo for the current. I pretty much agree – 99 cents is a valueless slush-pile, otherwise.

          2. All I can say is that has not been my experience. Maybe there are other factors (like, maybe, I just suck that badly) but more people seem to be willing to try out the “unknown guy” at $0.99 than at $2.99. (Haven’t tried an intermediate price, for whatever that’s worth.)

          3. I use my rebate for slower Amazon Prime shipping to try out first books from new authors that are 99 cents. If I like the series I start buying in paper.

  17. For a while, Larry Niven played around with the idea of providing graphics, so he could give full value to his readers. At one point, I had a copy of his “The Patchwork Girl” in that format. I am NOT the audience for that approach.

    Okay, all of us are informed about what we like to read NOW. But, what did you like to read when you were 7, or 8? THAT’S when I discovered short stories. I think they came just after the Bobbsey Twins and the Hardy Boys, where the was an illustration on every other page.

    I LOVED to get collections of short stories. I read the short stories in the women’s magazine my mom had at the house. And there were collections of the short stories that had been published in Boy’s Life. LOVE LOVE LOVE!

    Maybe it wasn’t a common experience; maybe it had to do with having undiagnosed (heck, UNINVENTED) ADD, in the late 50s & early 60s. But I think it MIGHT be worth it to bring more young kids into our wonderland if there are a lot of short stories out there.

    Just a thought.

      1. I hated the pictures with a flaming passion. They were *wrong*, in that they didn’t quite match the story, or (more importantly) my vision of what was going on. And they were almost always the lowest possible “quality” and printing that the publisher could get. Insultingly so, in most cases. Much like the woodcut-like inside “art” in pulp SF magazines, that was usually both incomprehensible and so generic it could have been dumped into any of the stories.

        No. If you want art, get an art book. No no no no no…

  18. I write short… and I thought readers were complaining that my stories weren’t 160,000 word size like some in the genre.

    Then I learned, after a while, that what many of them meant was “I want more story; I like these characters and want to follow them through more adventure.”

    So now I don’t worry about it, and focus on writing the best story I can, and it will be as long… or as short… as it will be. And sooner or later, I’ll figure out how to write a sequel, and finish it, and that’s when I’ll finally make some readers happy.

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