Watch Your Word-Count

Watch Your Word-Count

There seems to be some confusion about what is and isn’t a novel. Hopefully, we can clear some of that mystery up. I’ve seen titles being marketed on Amazon as a novel when they’re barely even a short-story. If you’re misleading your reader, they won’t trust future offerings from you. You can’t give someone twenty pages, no matter how solid they are, and call it a novel. It’s not how this works.

I won’t name any names, but I think we’ve all seen a few that were dubiously called novels when they weren’t even qualified to be a decent novella. Let’s go over a few of the types and discuss a bit, just for clarity and understanding on the subject.

First off, let’s talk about a novel. At a minimum, a novel should be at least Forty Thousand words. That’s right, 40,000 words. And that is a bare minimum. Good storytellers will just be getting warmed up at 40k, and some others are only getting warmed up at 100k. I like larger books. My original incarnation of the Ragnarok Rising Saga were all around 150k each, in a five book series. I had to change that when I signed with J. Ellington Ashton Press because their publishing model was based on 50 to 70k words. I wasn’t really sure about that when I first signed with them, but I understand it now. It’s all about marketability.

Most people today have busy schedules and lives. Committing to a larger book might be a bit difficult for them. I understand that. I also know that if the book is strong enough, people will read it no matter how long it is. Conversely, I have slogged through massive books only to be completely dissatisfied at the end, finding myself thinking “why did I just waste all that time on a lousy book?” So, if you have to split a manuscript in order to keep it manageable, I get it now. A lot of publishers don’t like taking a risk on a large book from an unknown Author. Stephen King can sell a large book. Joe Schmoe probably can’t.

Print costs are prohibitive, too. Publishers don’t want to spend so much money printing a large book from an author that can’t recoup the investment. That, unfortunately, is the reality of the print industry. However, if you only plan to release in e-book, then size isn’t really an issue. You’ve just got to be able to convince the reader to take a chance on such a large book, which takes us back to the earlier issues. Target your books in the 70k (that’s seventy-thousand) word range and you’ll find they’re easier to market. It’s also quicker to get a 70k book to market, even if it was intended to be more than that. Make it a series, instead. Historically, a series sells better than a single book, anyway.

Novellas are less than 40k words. They might go to the ballpark of 20k or a bit lower. Much lower and you’re getting into short-story range. Novellas are a good place to be if you aren’t telling a story large enough to be a full novel. I’m not suggesting you pad words to the story to make it long enough to be a novel, just understand what it is you’re writing. If your story is in the range of a novella, you should be fine with that. There is a good market for novellas. People have shorter attention spans than they did, years ago. Novellas are an easy read and can be done in a single session. A lot of people love the novella because it doesn’t require a long commitment. If that’s your target range, embrace it. Just remember you want to change your marketing strategy. You can’t market a novella the same way you market a novel.

Look for you audience for you novella, both in topic and in groups that specifically read novellas. It’s not all that difficult, actually. Facebook groups exist for practically every subject. Use the search bar on Facebook and search novella. You might be surprised with what you find. Also, let’s say you’re writing a romance novella, search specifically that. Your marketing target audience might just be at your fingertips.

That brings us to short-stories. I wouldn’t push beyond the twenty thousand word mark with a short-story. Actually, you might shoot a bit lower. Once you hit 20k, you’re really in the novella range. Short-stories are easily contained stories that can be told within that range. There are lots of ways to market and publish short-stories. There are online and in-print magazines that look specifically for short stories. There are publishers that are always holding open calls for anthologies. You can enter dozens of different short-story contests. Or, you can even create your own compilation of short-stories, all written by you. There are advantages to each of those. You’ll have to decide which one is right for you and your work.

Magazines can get your work notices through the established readers of that magazine. If the story is good, it will stand out and the readers will remember your name. Then, when you publish other works, they will see it and hopefully buy that, too. Magazines are great for exposure for a new writer. Anthologies are good, too. They can get your name alongside some much more well-known authors. That notoriety alone can get your name in front of a large audience. If they like the story, then you have just gotten the notice of an entire audience that follows a bigger name author. That’s a marketing win.

Competitions can get you noticed and awards and awards mean notoriety. Award Winning authors catch the attention of readers who want to see why your work earned an award. It can help launch your writing career. Lastly, the compilation of your own. The real advantage here is that you get all the royalties for the sales. As part of an anthology made up of a long list of authors, you only get a percentage. That’s just how it works. Magazines usually pay you for the story and buy it outright. Then you get no further royalties.

There are pros and cons in each of the methods for publishing short-stories. Explore them before you decide. Maybe pick up an online or in-print magazine and see what kind of stories they publish and how large their readership is. If doing an anthology, look at the list of authors involved. If you’ve never heard of any of them, then you might not be getting the exposure you thought you might. Do a little research and look into them all before deciding.

There are lots of other types of story/writing project. I only discussed these few because these are the ones you’re most-likely to encounter in the modern writing world. Take a creative writing course or read into the different types of stories and you’ll find the different types that are out there. Not all of them have much marketability in the modern world. Only you can decide what you want to write and how long it needs to be. This was just a brief discussion to show you your options and what you can look into.

If you have any questions, you can shoot me a message or if you want more than my word for it, check into the marketing of writing and the different types that you can expect to find markets for. Sales drive your ratings and you need to know your audience and marketing before you can decide. As usual, information is your friend. Take the time to learn and understand your craft and your audience. It will pay off, in the long run. I hope this helps. If so, let me know.

Thanks,

DA

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