Many 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.