Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ask A Simple Question, Get A Simple Answer?

You know, there are so many helpful posts being done on this blog that I thought I might try my hand at it. Keep in mind I am not an expert, but it was my experience, and this blog wasn’t around to help me at the time.
Many questions face the first time author when they write then decide to try to publish their finished work. One of the first is how long should this thing I’m writing be anyway?  A simple question that should have a simple answer.
Not exactly.
Because when I researched my simple question I found that in regards to length there are options, and when you want a simple answer to a simple question options can tend to confuse more than rather enlighten the situation.
For example, in the case of book length it literally depends on who you ask. I would suggest you do an internet search on the subject but since I’ve already done it I’ll save you the trouble. Here’s a simplified, kind of, version of what I found.
Novels can run anywhere from 60,000 to well over 100,000 words that is unless someone wants you to go down to 50,000. Novellas, short books, can also vary in size, however, the general consensus seems to be under 50,000 words, although there are some who say they can go as high as 70,000 words but then wouldn’t that make them a novel? Short stories are 1,000 to 2,000 words, unless you go to 3,000. Then there’s something called a novelette, really, which ranges in size from 7,500 to 17,500, or longer.  Then different genres can have a whole different set of requirements…Are your eyes glazing over yet?
Ask a simple question…
Now you may wonder why I’m even bringing up novellas, novelettes and short stories. Does anyone even publish those anymore? In regards to traditional publishing not really, that is unless you a major best-selling author. There is good reason for this. Due to the cost of publishing a book and the price that has to be charged to the consumer to make it profitable these shorter forms just aren’t long enough to justify the cost. It seems that publishing a book is expensive. Check out the cost of self-publishing your own hard copy and you’ll get an idea of what the publishing industry is up against.
Personal Reflection. When I read about this I almost gave up on the idea of publishing at all. I can’t afford to pay for hard copies, and my books always seemed to come out at about 40,000 words pretty much ruling out a traditional publisher. Okay I hear you asking why I don’t just make them longer? Because when I tried that it was to the detriment of my story because I was just trying to make a word count. My books are just short. I don’t know how novel writers do it, but I can’t. I am a novella writer. Okay, personal reflection done, back to simple questions and not so simple answers.
After some more research I found all was not lost. It seems that novellas and short stories, and I suppose novelettes, are becoming extremely popular in the e-publishing market. This is because some readers of the electronic format actually prefer shorter books. Obviously novels are still popular as well, but it does give me, who never did manage to color within the lines so to speak, an option for publishing my short books.
So the easiest way is to determine how long your book should be is to decide which direction you’re going in regards to publishing. Traditional or Indy. Hard copy or electronic. Now this particular topic has already been expertly covered in a previous post on this blog, To Indie or Not to Indie--That is the Question by Linda P Kozar. Also, in another of her posts, The Club of the Pubb’d, she points out that in traditional publishing the publishing house you choose will tell you how long they want your work to be.  If you go the self-publishing route, whether hard copy or electronic, you basically decide, along with everything else, the length of the book.
So really, the choice is up to you. Which is a simple sounding answer, to which I say…CLOSE ENOUGH.
Anyway, that’s my attempt at being informative. You search, you see what’s out there, and you read this blog because there are a lot of people who know a lot more than me who post here and can enlighten you.
Just remember, if you want to find out anything all you have to do is ask a simple question. Will you get a simple answer? Well there's always hope.
Mystery writer C.L. Ragsdale is the author of The Reboot Files a Christian Mystery Series. A California native, she loves to "surf" the web to research plot details for her fun, quirky stories. Working in various fields as a secretary has allowed her to both master her writing skills and acquire valuable technical knowledge which she uses liberally in her plots. She loves to embroider and knit and is a big fan of the old Scooby Doo cartoons.
Current E-Books
THE REBOOT FILES:  The Mystery of Hurtleberry House, The Island of Living Trees, The Harbinger of Retribution, and The Wrong Ghost.


  1. Barbour Publishing is known for publishing novella collections. They group four authors together with a theme and each author writes a novella that ties in together with it. They are still doing them, so I assume there is a level of success associated with the novella format.

  2. Your novellas are like eating a box of chocolates! Can't stop after one...maybe it's because they're short and sweet. Not so much with ebooks, but if you're doing a paperback it's better to keep it to about 60,000 words, otherwise you have to charge over $10.00 to make a good profit. I write 20 chapters, 10 pages each and it's just about right.

    Great post, C. L.!

  3. I wish this blog had been around at the time I was starting out. You guys know so much! I really hope novellas are making a comeback, I love to read them as well as write them. Although I like novels too sometimes you just want a short, sweet read. (By the way thanks Nancy Jill)
    It's kind of weird, all of my books always tend to end just a little over 40,000 words, and I'm not even trying! 60,000 words? I'm impressed, how do you guys do that?

  4. Very interesting post Cindy. By the way Jill has been bragging on your books so much I had to order one for my Nook. Can't wait to read it.

    Debbie Malone
    Death in Dahlonega