Writer Wednesday – How Long, How Much?

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With NaNoWrMo finishing up right around the corner, there are two things I can be certain of. First is that there are going to be a lot of 50K novels suddenly out there. The second is that a good number of these are going to end up as self-published works after the revisions. These two facts led me to want to make today’s posting.

At the start of the month, I went on a bit of a rant about why I dislike the NaNoWrMo for myself. It has its place, but it also has some severe pitfalls to watch out for. Among the things I stated was that the size of the first draft was woefully short and I stand by that statement. I’ve never liked trying to add more words to a completed novel and I probably never will.

Still, I am going to break down the average word counts for some of the more common types of novel and offer you an idea of what most people consider a good value on pricing of your works in e-format. These aren’t my own ideas, but are the more reliable experiences of high caliber agents and editors. One in particular is someone I suggest you keep a close eye on to learn a lot of useful information; Janet Reid.

50K and below

So what sort of works do fall into this range anyway? Well, not much. Short stories, Novelettes and novellas. Some collections of flash fiction fall here as well. Oh, and let’s not forget children’s picture books. That’s pretty much it. The only thing marketable as a full book would be a Middle Grade fiction at 50,000 words.

As for pricing these, it runs roughly as follows: 10K words or less gets priced at $.99 for an e-book release. The possible exception to this is a picture book which probably warrants a higher price tag. From 10 to 20,000 you are looking at $1.99. At that range, you probably have a single major story that is tied in as a prequel to another book.

Create a mini-novel, collection of five or so short stories, or craft an average MG work and you are looking at somewhere between 20 to 50,000 words. That one will net you an e-book price of $2.99. So now we have hit the limit of your ‘first draft’ sized work from NaNoWrMo. Assuming you add a bit more through revision, you have a few reasonable targets ahead.

Short Novels

50 to 75K word counts net you a short novel. The three that can fit the most neatly into this range are the Noir novels, Young Adult, and Romance. Young Adult and Romance novels can move all the way up to the maximum range of an Average sized novel, starting at 65,000 words and capping around 100,000 words in most cases. Noir however tends to stay soundly within this range, beginning in the same place as the Young Adult category. The absolute longest Noir is probably not more than 99K. Sometimes a collection of 10 stories or so will fall into this range as well.

For a short novel, you can expect to set an e-book price of $3.99 as fair. A lot of work goes into this many words and if you want to sell it for lower, do it strategically. Undervaluing your work hurts yourself and it hurts other authors.

Average Novels

Now we hit the average novel length of 75 to 100K. As mentioned under the last category, there can be a bit of bleed from some works into this range from the previous one. The same is not true in reverse. Science Fiction and some fantasy fall in this range starting at 75,000 and working up sometimes to around 125,000 words. Fantasy that crests 100K is generally falling into the next category however. Crime novels and thrillers both land here as well. In those cases, they share an identical range of 80 to 100,000 words.

As you might expect from the prices already mentioned, the price on these should be around $4.99. Shocker I know. Up by a dollar each time like it was a pattern or something. More work doesn’t always mean you get the same price per word. People don’t tend to be willing to pay as much for an e-book as a physical one, even when you have huge word counts, which brings me to the last set of books.

100K and up

Only three things fall into this range as a standard. Of those, two bear the word Epic in their title. The first is Women’s fiction, not to be mistaken with romance. That can be 100K and up. The other two are Historical Fiction Epics and Epic Fantasy Novels. The Historical fiction generally starts at 120,000 words minimum and goes up from there. The Epic Fantasy group often begins with a minimum of 150,000 words and can go up into somewhere between 12 to 20 novels of a thousand or more pages each.

Surprise, they go for $5.99. The up side here is that sometimes you can go a little higher if you are a superb author. It’s hard enough to get people to invest themselves in this many words from an unknown to begin with. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by adding a price tag they just aren’t willing to risk on you.

Everything Else

There are a lot of genres I haven’t really touched on here. Most of them tend to mirror one or more of the existing areas listed. More or less, this is a starter list to use for deciding if you need more words, less words or a reality check on where your price points sit. Hopefully this helps a few of you to know where you need to be on those second drafts and what you should be setting as a price that is reasonable for what you have written. I hope this has helped you in your journey to publication.

2 thoughts on “Writer Wednesday – How Long, How Much?

  1. Ajit Chaliha

    All my life I have been summarizing, 10 to 20 k words document, edit, re edit to 500(or less). I do not know how to turn around and expand a 500 words idea, story plan to 10000 or more. At 78 that’s my plan, to learn to do so, plus build up life like characters who will create strong feelings in my readers.

    Reply
    1. D. X. Logan Post author

      I understand the difficulty of expanding perfectly! It is why I decided to rant about NaNoWriMo a few weeks ago in the first place. Trying to take a finished work and expand it without diluting it is really tough. I know of two good resources for trying to work out a plot outline that you can readily expand into something larger. Well, to be accurate, there are probably a few hundred resources, but there are two I am going to mention that I know work for sure.

      One is Karen S. Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days. It has a lot of good ideas for how to create solid plot threads that weave together petty darn well. It is a good tool for mapping out how you want the story to go and to expand it before you have actually written anything official. The other Resource is the link on the side of my blog for Holly Lisle. She has a number of helpful guides that touch on the subject, but in particular there are a few that really help with creating a short idea that can expand into something larger. The first is a good little introduction under the title of Professional Plot Outline. It is a good course, if a bit small. At $.99, it is a good deal. It focus’ on creating shortened versions of your plot that you can expand into a larger story or novel. Next is the Create a Plot Clinic at a bit under $10. that is a bit more expansive and probably a great choice for someone used to writing much smaller stories with very few words. Last is the How to Think Sideways course. It is pretty expensive, but I consider it worth every penny. That one is a large number of topics and aspects of writing novels that help with the development of your own stories.

      Of course, it doesn’t cost a penny to scour the internet and find lots of useful blogs and tip sites. Go through my archives and search for Writer Wednesday articles. I have a lot of things in there about characterization. I know of others who have a lot of good advice too. I am sure you’ll discover all sorts of great ways to bring your characters that spark of life that really pulls in the reader! Good luck and thank you for taking the time to comment.

      Reply

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