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Old 11-13-2009, 06:32 AM   #1
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Question length of ebooks?

I just wondered if there was a standard length for ebooks. Do they need to be over a certain word-count?

I only ask because I have a story which I started back in 1998. I'm currently updating it but it only stands at 25,000 words and is unlikely to get much bigger.

I know with paper publishing, there are strict rules on the length of the work. But perhaps this does not apply with electronic publishing.
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Old 11-13-2009, 06:44 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by poshm View Post
I just wondered if there was a standard length for ebooks. Do they need to be over a certain word-count?

I know with paper publishing, there are strict rules on the length of the work. But perhaps this does not apply with electronic publishing.
There's no requirement for an ebook to be any particular length. The requirements of a print book - essentially that it should be long enough to make a reasonably sized bound book - don't apply.

You should price the ebook appropriately for it's length (and quality!). People won't be happy paying the same for a 25,000 word novella as for a 100,000 word novel. Unless it's stunningly brilliant, of course.

However, if you intend trying to find a publisher to produce an ebook form of your story, rather than doing it yourself, they may well have length requirements for other reasons that's aren't to do with how big a paper book it would make.
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Old 11-13-2009, 07:18 AM   #3
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Thank you well at least that clears that one up.

I wasn't sure if I was thinking of doing anything with it ebook-wise whether I'd have to bundle in other stories to get it up to a standard novel length or whether I could leave it as a standalone novella.
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Old 11-13-2009, 07:53 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by poshm View Post
I only ask because I have a story which I started back in 1998. I'm currently updating it but it only stands at 25,000 words and is unlikely to get much bigger.
I am not familiar with the policies around e-book publishing but just as a general guide I am listing the categories for the Hugo Awards.
  • Best Novel: Awarded for a science fiction or fantasy story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more.
  • Best Novella: Awarded for a science fiction or fantasy story of between seventeen thousand five hundred (17,500) and forty thousand (40,000) words.
  • Best Novelette: Awarded for a science fiction or fantasy story of between seven thousand five hundred (7,500) and seventeen thousand five hundred (17,500) words.
  • Best Short Story: Awarded for science fiction or fantasy story of less than seven thousand five hundred (7,500) words.
I have read many novellas and some have been rewritten later into a full novel, Ender's Game being just one example.

Good Luck, hopefully we'll get the chance to read it one day soon.
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Old 11-13-2009, 08:10 AM   #5
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Thanks for that guide dwanthny - that's definitely useful to know. Hopefully it will be of use to other forum readers too.

I just hope I can finally put this story to bed. I don't feel like I can really move on with writing other things until it's done.
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Old 11-13-2009, 03:46 PM   #6
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You know what? It's a new day. Just write your story, and don't be concerned about your word count. Those measurements were artificially created by publishers, and were more related to printing and paper costs than they ever had to do with story quality.
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Old 11-13-2009, 07:13 PM   #7
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I agree with Steve. Write your story and you will know when it's complete. If you force it to meet a specific word count, then you're just inserting words. The reader can tell what part came from your heart and what part was forced.
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Old 11-14-2009, 02:00 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Jordan View Post
You know what? It's a new day. Just write your story, and don't be concerned about your word count. Those measurements were artificially created by publishers, and were more related to printing and paper costs than they ever had to do with story quality.
Out of a concern over the word count of my bulging book, (back when I thought I might be submitting it for traditional publication) I pretty much eviscerated my story. In some ways it helped to make the plot a bit more mysterious and puzzling. But I can't help wondering whether aesthetically it might have been better as a single work.
(I'm using some of the bits I cut in a sequel).

Wasn't Lord of the Rings originally intended as a single book?
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Old 11-14-2009, 07:13 PM   #9
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When I wrote Evoguia, I was initially concerned that the story was coming out a bit long... so I simply broke the book into three manageable parts, and kept going.

But I reiterate: Book length has generally been managed by publishers who were more concerned with printing costs than what was good for the story. Editing the copy down is fine, if you think the story could benefit from being less wordy... but that's the only reason you should be doing it. If you think those words made the story a better one, leave 'em in, and don't sweat the word count.
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Old 11-15-2009, 04:28 AM   #10
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Hi Poshm: There's no lower word-count limit on ebooks (at least not self-published ebooks and those running through many small ebook-only 'publishers'), though as has been said, you should play fair and price accordingly.

Novellas by 'unknown' authors are unattractive to trad publishers for various reasons, so if you find there's a treebook demand, you're likely to end up self-publishing using a PoD press. In this case, you'll find that the minimum of 100 pages applies; a lower limit set by the printers themselves for various technical and costing reasons. (Page signature [the actual size and shape] of pages also comes into play, but there's no need to consider that yet.)

I've known folks get around this by legitimately padding their novella work with their own short stories or another novella and perhaps a few shorts by other authors. If your sales are likely to be mostly author-circle, this will increase circulation, of course, but the profit will be split among co-authors.

The advice given here is good -- NEVER pad a story itself. A piece of fiction should never be made to carry more weight than it can comfortably bear. Word economy is always the way to go. If you've self-edited, I can almost guarantee that your piece might still benefit from some judicious pruning.

My own house published a novella a few months ago because I thought it was of particularly high quality, and I made up page count to 160 with the addition of three short stories (about 5K each) by the same author and some superb inside artwork, which produces a respectable package of satisfactory heft.

If you'd like to take a look to see how it worked out, just drop me an email and I'll send you the ebook version of Allakazam! by Daniel Abelman. You can see details on our website at www.bewrite.net to see if you're interested.

I'm afraid I only have a PDF version until our titles are converted to other formats next year. Because we had to play with different fonts in this piece, it doesn't lend itself to easy conversion to other formats for ereader use, but it'll give you an idea of what can be achieved, even if you just flip through the pages on your PD or laptop.

Cheers and good luck. Neil
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Old 11-15-2009, 05:26 AM   #11
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Word count IS important, I think, just so that you can categorize the book. I've read a number of short stories, novellas and novels, and I must say that I always felt that novellas left me wanting more. Short stories have a different type of feeling, things go fast. Novellas quite frequently feel like novels, and then they're finished

So ... I like to know what I'm getting myself into.
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Old 11-15-2009, 06:42 AM   #12
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Of course, Mores, the attraction of the length of a work as much as its genre is down to reader preference. Publishers and printers, sadly, often weigh up other considerations that have little to do with quality.

Rather than scratch my own head (when it's supposed to be my turn in the kitchen), I just lifted this short list of novellas that certainly hit the spot just to show that works falling between the short story and the 'full' novel do have reader appeal (there are hundreds more):


Aphra Behn's (1688) Oroonoko, Charles Dickens's (1843) A Christmas Carol, Robert Louis Stevenson's (1886) Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Kate Chopin's (1899) The Awakening, Anton Chekhov's (1900) In the ravine, Joseph Conrad's (1902) Heart of darkness, Thomas Mann's (1913) Death in Venice, Franz Kafka's (1915) Metamorphosis, Ernest Hemingway's (1952) The old man and the sea, George Orwell's (1945) Animal Farm, Muriel Spark's (1962) The prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Cheers. Neil
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Old 11-15-2009, 06:55 AM   #13
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One of my favourites of all time "Double Indemnity" by James M. Cain weighs in at 35,000 but feels more substantial than a lot of novels four times its length. I fall on the side of smaller novels being better most of the time. As a writer, the shorter novel appeals to me also, because you can write more stories that way

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Old 11-15-2009, 09:10 AM   #14
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Hey thanks for all the help - very grateful.

At the moment I think I'd better concentrate (as others have suggested) just on getting the story done as that will be an achievement in itself.

I don't see how I could turn a 25,000 piece of work into a novel without adding a load of useless padding and fluff! Or, conversely, if I trim it to much it will lose any character it has. I guess it will end up being the length it's meant to be.

A novella it seems isn't going to appeal to everyone but I think I will plump for distributing it freely as I'm an unknown with no credentials.
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Old 11-15-2009, 09:40 AM   #15
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First time around, Poshm, so was every single author we've ever read. Neil
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