It used to be that publishing houses required a certain size for a novel. 90,000 to 100,000, maybe 120,000 if it was fantasy. Go over the limit and you were rejected. Short stories had to find an anthology and novellas weren’t often sold. It had to do with printing costs, space on a book store shelf and binding capacity. I know, my first book exceeded the limits and every time I tried to cut it down, it just got bigger. (A Dangerous Talent for Time). I spent two years trying to get it to the Tor submission guidelines, and failed.
With the digital age and e-books, none of this is important. You can fit an ebook of any length on your kindle or iPad…etc. and bookstore requirements…well, passé.
However, if you go and print an Amazon paperback or use Lightning Source to print, certain limitations apply.
Nonetheless, the advent of the ebook, and all the platforms now available, has opened wide a market for stories never before imagined. Novellas, short stories, large epics all hide behind the sparkling cover and it is now buyer beware.
Like we need to read the ingredients on food packaging, it is becoming more and more important to pay attention to the details of the story you are buying.
I know. I downloaded Wool by Hugh Howey. Why? It had been mentioned on my Amazon You-should-buy-list several times and it was free. Someone rated it highly, so I blithely thought to give it a try.
The story is post apocalyptic on some world where everyone lives in a silo because the outside is too toxic for human survival, or so it’s said. Any dissenters are thrown outside and it starts with the protagonist climbing spiral stairs. The first sentence reads: “The children were playing while Holston climbed to his death.”
Howey uses excellent description to get you into the story: the noises the children make, the worn condition of the stairs and the different levels he passes as he heads up to ground level. He reminisces about the past and you find out that his wife has died three years earlier, a willing volunteer to go outside. Those thrown out are required to clean the top level windows that look out onto the world with a wool cloth as the atmosphere supposedly blurs and grimes the glass that shows the landscape of their world until it becomes hard to see through.
The author jumps back and forth in time to tell the story. Three years earlier, Holston’s wife decides to research the past where there are uprisings and revolutions every two years in the silo until the last rebellion where all computer data was wiped. But Allison knows how to reclaim the data and begins to doubt the reality of what is outside.
Howey does a nice job of creating suspicion about the truth of what Holston and those who have lived in the silo have been told.
So the story line is good, the characters real, the plot keeps you turning the page until you get to page 48 and Holston learns the truth.
Well, you get what you pay for.
So buyer beware. Readers need to check the word count and not be dazzled by a fancy cover that may hide the length of a story. Still, in the end, the story was good and Howey has a whole series that is available for sale if you are hooked by his first one. It’s a good marketing strategy. Look for it in the future from many authors.
His Wool Omnibus is 550 pages and has the first five books packaged together. Each book is a different length. So Wool 2: Proper Gauge ($.99) is 106 pages, Wool 3: Casting Off ($.99) 160 pages, Wool 4: The Unraveling ($1.99) 166 pages. Wool 5: The Stranded is 220 pages. ($2.99) The Omnibus of all five books is 550 pages. ($5.99) All sizes. All prices.
This flexibility in word count and ease of publishing is giving rise to publishing houses that are dealing only with ebooks that are much cheaper to publish and require far less labor and regulations. In most cases, publishing an ebook is free…Smashwords, Kindle, Nook…many small publishers are setting up their own website and selling directly from the site. Square, Paypal and electronic transfer make this easy.
Which brings me back to the matter of size. One of my newest favorite authors is Patrick Rothfuss whose Name of the Wind is 672 pages and the sequel, The Wise Man’s Fears is 1,023 pages. Highly recommended by me. (see previous blogs). Rising to become a top best seller, the epic length didn’t seem to slow sales on this doorstopper of a novel.
However, my latest passion is flash fiction. This is telling a story in 55 words or less. Yep, I didn’t leave out any zeroes there. Check it out:
Its only 55 words and the prize is $55! Everyone should enter!
The rules are simple:
- Fifty-five words or less (non-negotiable), excluding the title.
- A setting
- One or more characters
- Some conflict
- A resolution (Not limited to moral of the story).
- The title is not part of the overall word count, but it can’t exceed seven words.
This month’s flash fiction topic is:
Any kind of FANTASY — Historical, Steampunk, Sexual, Swords and Magic…:
“Fairy Tale stories!” she sneered. “Always have some helpless, beautiful princess that needs saving, or an evil witch bent on enchanting the hero to no good.”
She flipped her hair back as she flounced on the sofa.
He smiled. “Which one are you?”
“Why don’t you find out?” Her eyes danced.
Fun, huh? Vote for me!!! Please. And enjoy the others.
So as they have always said, size doesn’t really matter…it’s how you use it.