writing advice, YA Author Club

Word Count Madness

YA Indie CarnivalMany first time authors struggle with word count. How long should my novel be to get published? Is my novel too long? Is it too short? What the heck is a novella and what’s the difference between that and a short story? If you’re an indie author, does it even matter?

Excellent questions. The YA Indie Carnival decided to tackle this confusing topic this week in our Indie Author Series. When I was starting out, I didn’t even know it mattered. Seriously! I had no clue about things like word count and publishing industry standards. Why would it matter how long a book is? Well, like most things, it’s all about the money. Word count in the publishing world affects both the cost of the book to print, and it’s likeliness to be sold to readers. I won’t go into too much detail on this topic because my fellow indie author club member, Bryna Butler, has already covered the basics in her article Do Word Counts Count?

I’ll tell you that I really struggle to get a book over the 60K mark. My stories tend to be action packed and fast paced. My editor always turns in a stack of notes on where I can expand scenes instead of the standard cut and slash method most authors have to endure. In real life I’m obnoxiously verbose, but in my writing I tend to race from one plot point to another. That keeps my word count down. The day I finish a book above 100K, I’ll be calling it “epic” whether it deserves the title or not!

In my opinion, this is just one of the many fabulous reasons I call myself an indie author. I don’t have to worry too much about word count. I get to tell my story, mold it and sculpt it into something I can proudly share with all of you, and then set it free. I don’t have to worry about whether it is meeting some marketing team’s standard, or the printing budget. I know authors who are traditionally published sitting at their desks right now trying to find an extra 30,000 words to cram into their story or a sum of 50,000 to tear out just to meet that industry standard for a publisher. In the end I think the reader suffers most because we don’t see the story as it was meant to be. What a shame that we let business people determine how our stories are crafted. At least if it is a professional editor, we can trust that they care about the integrity of the story, but what does a CEO or a financial team know about our stories? They’re job is to watch that bottom dollar.

Let me tell you how indies are using this freedom to do incredible things for readers in this modern age. We’re seeing the resurgence of the short story and the serial novel in the literary world thanks to indie authors around the globe. With ebooks, authors can share their work so easily, that a reader can now get shorts without having to buy an anthology or search through literary magazines to find them. Some of my favorite authors are even including short stories in their marketing plans these days, fitting them in between their longer novels in a series. For instance, Aaron Pogue has published several short stories to go along with his Taming Fire series, including back story and short stories to give more detail into side characters from the series. As a reader, I love this concept! If I’m engrossed in a world of characters, you can bet I want more of it! This is an area I think I’ll be dabbling in this year as I fill in the missing years between Seen and Wandering in The Wanderer Series.

Another concept I’ve been watching is the use of the serial novel in the ebook world. Once upon a time many of the world’s best stories were written this way and published in local newspapers or magazines. Now we’re seeing this traditional form of story telling reemerge.¬†Wool was crazy successful from author Hugh Howey, netting the author millions of dollars and a ground-breaking publishing contract. Now my friend, author Susan Kaye Quinn, has created her own incredible serial titled The Debt Collector. I’ve been watching her progress very closely as I consider how I might use that model in my own work. She’s set a crazy pace, releasing a new episode in the series every few weeks! Wow! I’m not sure I could keep up with that pace, but I’m inspired to look at my list of future writing plans and see what might work best as a serial. I especially like the value this offers both to the reader and to the writer. Readers can catch smaller chunks of a story at a low price or choose to purchase the entire series for a discount. It’s amazing how this old form is making a new comeback on the modern stage.

What do you think? Does word count matter in this modern age and in the indie publishing scene? What trends are you seeing? Do you have a word count preference? Let us know what you think and then check out the opinions of other indie authors in our YA author club.

Take a few minutes to hop around to the authors’ sites and find out their preferences as well as their rationale behind them.
1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. Bryna Butler, author Midnight Guardian series
3. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series 4. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga
5. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog 6. K. C. Blake, author of Vampires Rule and Crushed
7. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 8. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
9. Ella James 10. Maureen Murrish
11. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 12. A Little Bit of R&R
13. Melissa Pearl 14. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy
15. Heather Sutherlin – YA Fantasy 16. Melika Dannese Lux, author of Corcitura and City of Lights
Writing, YA Author Club

Advice to New Authors From the YA Author Club

YA Indie CarnivalThis week the YA Author Club is sharing insights into the editing process. All the authors in the YA Author Club are indie authors, so our experiences apply most especially to those authors looking into self-publishing. I’m a few weeks behind thanks to my little sabbatical, but I’ll do my best to catch up now. Here are my quick thoughts on formatting and editing:

 Editing

I hate editing. I really do. However, an author who wants to be taken seriously will invest both time and money in the editing process. Even the most famous authors you could name have been through rigorous editing and may have worked with multiple editors before their books became best-sellers. My first search for an editor landed me a fabulous developmental editor who worked with me on the fundamental story structure and character development of A Light in the Darkness and To Light the Path. She was very thorough and I ended up with a line-by-line edit of my final work. She is incredibly talented and I came away from that experience a better writer. THAT, above all else in my opinion, is the mark of a gifted editor. Then again, it only works if you are paying any attention to what they are doing and actually taking their advice. Many writers want to fight every step of the way which is immature and ultimately bad for your business. Stop fighting and trust the person you are paying. If you don’t trust them, then find someone you can trust and then soak up every word they shower upon you and your manuscript. Even the criticism I found most painful and hard to swallow I ended up using to strengthen my book. For example, my editor disagreed with the premise of my second book, arguing against the very point I was trying to make with my main character’s actions and beliefs. I literally sat and cried over her comments, frustrated and confused about how to move on and doubting my own conviction in the power of my story. I sat trapped in this doubt and dark depression for weeks before I was finally able to move forward. I began to see that her comments were exactly what I needed to strengthen another character, Justan, who was himself doubting the validity of the main character’s plan. Justan is the character I least identify with and so his dialogue is always the hardest for me to write. When I realized that my editor was asking the same questions he would be asking, I knew just what to do. I followed her train of thought, her emotions, her frustration, and I used it to build a stronger character, intensifying the drama. When I’m writing the rest of the series, I’ll be able to come back to those conversations and see a bit of his side peeking through. That is invaluable!

In the end my editor and I discovered that we didn’t have the same vision for my work. She couldn’t appreciate the direction I was going with it and I respected her enough to not force her to see it my way. Books, like so many other art forms, are subjective. What inspires me may not inspire you. So, we parted ways and I moved on in search of an editor who could embrace my hopes and dreams for the series. I agonized over that decision, but in the end it all comes down to “who will help me reach my goals?” That is a question you must always ask as you choose cover artists, editors, graphic designers, marketing people, and a slew of other people who will become your team on this journey.

If you are looking for an editor, I happen to know a fabulous freelance editor who is available. Jessie Sanders from Stormy Night Publishing is a very talented editor with experience in small press and self-publishing. Maybe she’ll be the right fit for you!

Formatting & Self-Publishing

I won’t say much about formatting because I am still learning. Here’s my advice if you aren’t naturally gifted in this area: Use Draft2Digital. It will cost you nothing to sign up with them and you can thank me later for introducing you. Many self-published authors use Smashwords because they were the first big guy on the scene to hold authors’ hands as they made the leap. However, Smashwords is messy and infuriarating! Skip the style guide headache and the weeks/months of waiting for your work to be approved by Createspace and iTunes. Go straight to Draft2Digital and you will be so glad I sent you. Seriously! I upload my file, fill out a short form online, review my document and click approve. Done! Within 48 hours my book is live and available across the globe. Amazing! And I didn’t have to know a thing about formatting to do it. They have complex computer coding that cleans up my messes for me. I love that! Also, their reporting is beautiful! Real-time charts show me how many books I’ve sold across all titles and they’re adding more sales charts/graphs as they go. Tax time was easy with Draft2Digital thanks to their accounting system. Do I sound like a paid advertiser? Sorry. I just really love them and can’t imagine trying to do this all without them. They make it easy and I love clicking over to my account and watching my sales numbers climb.

Curious what other authors are saying about editing? You will find other experiences, tips, and advice from the YA Author Club. Just click on the links below. Best of luck finding what works for you!

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. Bryna Butler, author Midnight Guardian series
3. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series 4. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga
5. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog 6. K. C. Blake, author of Vampires Rule and Crushed
7. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 8. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
9. Ella James 10. Maureen Murrish
11. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 12. A Little Bit of R&R
13. Melissa Pearl 14. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy
15. Heather Sutherlin – YA Fantasy