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Old 04-26-2019, 03:42 PM   #1
Rellwood
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Open letter to Authors Regarding Page Counts

Hi there,

I just need to get this out there because I am a bit heated.

When you publish an e-book and there is a page number listed, please - please- consider your actual word count before listing the page count.

I am very disappointed to learn that 7 books I just purchased at $3.99 were listed as being anywhere from 265 and 302 pages are actually averaging 60,000 words.

If I had know they were as short as they were, I would have waited until the author compiled the books into the inevitable anthology they would become. Instead I purchased them on the basis that they were longer, and therefore would be more likely to be standalones in a series and not serials.

Thanks!

Last edited by Rellwood; 04-26-2019 at 03:42 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 04-26-2019, 09:37 PM   #2
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The page and word counts shown on reseller websites like Amazon and Kobo are not under author control. The only way that an author has to tell potential buyers about the length of their books is to slip it into the title or blurb - neither of which is terribly elegant, it seems to me.

Might I suggest you shop at Kobo? It offers both word and page count, and I for one am very grateful. What I'd like next is a filter option to hide the growing volume of short fiction and audio books - since I don't read a lot of either (and won't buy a short stories at $3 each). You cannot achieve the filter by price because there are many full length novels selling for the same price as 10k word shorts.

I'd also add that many Agatha Christie books are in the 60k range, so I'd argue that it's not an unreasonable length for a separately published book as long as it stands alone fairly well.
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Old 04-28-2019, 05:31 PM   #3
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I agree, and Amazon seems to be deliberately confusing the issue as well. I have three of my Doc Vandal books on hand in physical form and none of the print versions page counts exactly match the website-- and I have the print editions done through Amazon's KDP.

Another thing to watch out for is that word count doesn't necessarily make the difference between series and serials. All of my series novels run from 50-65,000 words apiece but each one is a standalone adventure. Yes, there are ongoing threads in terms of character development, but each book can be read on its own.
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Old 04-29-2019, 08:19 PM   #4
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This is somewhat related to the thread I posted here:

https://www.mobileread.com/forums/sh...d.php?t=316434

My complaint was about "abrupt cutoff", and your complaint is about word/page count.

But the underlying problem is the same: Authors selling short, incomplete works as if they were novels. Trying to make more money off of you by not mentioning, or even intentionally obscuring, the fact that you are not buying a book, you are buying a few pages from a book. With the expectation that you buy more and more of these small groups of pages to finally get the entire book.

Some people consider this legitimate authoring. I disagree ... I consider it a scam. A series of books where characters and other story elements continue on into new adventures in each book is one thing, small page groups sold piecemeal is totally different. Other people can of course have different opinions, I just know that I, personally, won't knowingly support authors that use this "technique".
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Old 04-30-2019, 06:22 PM   #5
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I don't think you can really even have an accurate page count (at least not in digital). After all the size of the font will alter it. If the font is large then fewer words fit on the page and so the page count is high. If on the other hand you use a smaller font then you end up with fewer pages.
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Old 04-30-2019, 08:09 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by crich70 View Post
I don't think you can really even have an accurate page count (at least not in digital). After all the size of the font will alter it. If the font is large then fewer words fit on the page and so the page count is high. If on the other hand you use a smaller font then you end up with fewer pages.
In my experience you can't-- especially as there's not just the font involved. Most reading devices also let you adjust the margins and spacing so it gets really hard to come up with a number and it really doesn't mean anything if you do.

On the other hand, marketing serials as series is a real problem. Anything from 50-60,000 words was fine for genre fiction for a large part of the 20th century, so as long as it's a complete story I don't know that there's a huge problem with short novel lengths for most people and $3.99 isn't a bad price for that.
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Old 04-30-2019, 11:43 PM   #7
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Both word and page counts for ebooks can also be distorted by the inclusion of teaser chapters from other books. It can be a surprise when reading to find that, instead of the expected 50 pages to go, you've suddenly reached the end.


If, as haertig suggests, the real problem/complaint is not wanting to buy into an incomplete story (at least until it is finished), then length doesn't really matter. You can be just as disappointed in a long book that doesn't finish as a short one (perhaps more so because of the time spent).
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Old 05-01-2019, 04:59 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haertig View Post
This is somewhat related to the thread I posted here:

https://www.mobileread.com/forums/sh...d.php?t=316434

My complaint was about "abrupt cutoff", and your complaint is about word/page count.

But the underlying problem is the same: Authors selling short, incomplete works as if they were novels. Trying to make more money off of you by not mentioning, or even intentionally obscuring, the fact that you are not buying a book, you are buying a few pages from a book. With the expectation that you buy more and more of these small groups of pages to finally get the entire book.

Some people consider this legitimate authoring. I disagree ... I consider it a scam. A series of books where characters and other story elements continue on into new adventures in each book is one thing, small page groups sold piecemeal is totally different. Other people can of course have different opinions, I just know that I, personally, won't knowingly support authors that use this "technique".
I know about this practice, and I am not happy with it at all either, but this wasn't the case in this instance.

Fortunately, many authors today have been more upfront about cliffhangers in their book descriptions.
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Old 05-01-2019, 05:00 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
The page and word counts shown on reseller websites like Amazon and Kobo are not under author control. The only way that an author has to tell potential buyers about the length of their books is to slip it into the title or blurb - neither of which is terribly elegant, it seems to me.

Might I suggest you shop at Kobo? It offers both word and page count, and I for one am very grateful. What I'd like next is a filter option to hide the growing volume of short fiction and audio books - since I don't read a lot of either (and won't buy a short stories at $3 each). You cannot achieve the filter by price because there are many full length novels selling for the same price as 10k word shorts.

I'd also add that many Agatha Christie books are in the 60k range, so I'd argue that it's not an unreasonable length for a separately published book as long as it stands alone fairly well.
Unfortunately, my Kobos have died, and I am pretty much stuck in Amazon's ecosystem. (I need to update my devices lists).
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Old 05-01-2019, 05:16 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
Both word and page counts for ebooks can also be distorted by the inclusion of teaser chapters from other books. It can be a surprise when reading to find that, instead of the expected 50 pages to go, you've suddenly reached the end.


If, as haertig suggests, the real problem/complaint is not wanting to buy into an incomplete story (at least until it is finished), then length doesn't really matter. You can be just as disappointed in a long book that doesn't finish as a short one (perhaps more so because of the time spent).
I remember reading a book about writing where the author complained about that. He/she had read the 1st book of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and didn't realize it was only the 1st third of a long novel that had to be split into 3 parts due to length. Now days of course with digital tech that isn't such a problem. I've found at least one book that was in 3 parts. I bought the epubs and joined them together in Calibre.

Another problem with ebooks is when a person initially offers a book for free and then down the road decides to charge for it. I understand that it is their right to do so but at the same time if you add such a book to your library over at a site like Smashwords and then it becomes a book you have to pay for you suddenly have to pay for a book that was already in your library. That's one problem at least that you don't have at sites like Amazon. If you buy it during a period when it's offered for free it still stays in your library even after the price changes.
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Old 05-01-2019, 11:11 PM   #11
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Unfortunately, my Kobos have died, and I am pretty much stuck in Amazon's ecosystem. (I need to update my devices lists).
Ah, but you can still look around and use their site. I do this quite a lot in reverse: I shop at Kobo but any books I'm not sure about I will look over at Amazon because it has the greater volume of reviews.
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Old 05-09-2019, 02:20 AM   #12
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I regard word count as the only usable guide to ebook length. Provided of course the publisher doesn't include pages of promo for other books in the count. The physical size of a printed book is sometimes misleading too: thickish paper, wide margins, increased 'leading" (line spacing) and even blank pages between chapters, can bulk up an average book into a commercially acceptable doorstop. The opposite was true during WW2 and the paper shortage. Narrow margins, thin paper, and tiny type reduced a doorstop to a slim volume.

Some authors always wrote "short": the Perry Mason series by Erle Stanley Gardner typically ran to 50,000 words or less per book. Maigret novels are in the same zone. Penguin used to publish them two at a time, bringing the book up to a commercially respectable 80-90,000 words.

Christie as mentioned can be as short as 60,000 words. In her autobiography she notes that she personally preferred about 45,000 words but her publisher wouldn't hear of it. "So I added a second murder..."

There was a time where an action novel, eg Bagley or Innes or early Jack Higgins or Alistair Maclean, was 80,000-ish, but now publishers demand 100,000 words plus for that genre, as Lee Child has noted. Higgins' later novels are bulked up to fit this editorial requirement.

Sometimes when I post a book in the Library here, I note in the blurb if it as an unusual word length.
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Old 05-09-2019, 06:28 AM   #13
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Pulp,

Thanks for an interesting and informative post! Do you have similar observations to make re: short stories?

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Old 05-09-2019, 04:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rellwood View Post
I know about this practice, and I am not happy with it at all either, but this wasn't the case in this instance.

Fortunately, many authors today have been more upfront about cliffhangers in their book descriptions.
I definitely agree. I bought a few of the Cirque du Freak "novels" for a nephew; and he complained, so I read them myself. Absolutely crap nonsense; not a really complete storyline amongst them, and those are priced OUTRAGEOUSLY. I think I was paying $11.99 or so, for what is indubitably a short novel, say, 40K words or so. I consider that highway robbery, and when you throw in the fact that it's a serial, not a series...infuriating.

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Old 05-14-2019, 03:03 AM   #15
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Short stories are rubbery when it comes to word count, as there is less room to maneouvre.

10,000 words or fewer is normally thought of as a short story; then there's a wide grey area and you have the novelette, or novella (both words diminutives of "novel") of 20,000-40,000 or a bit more, and then you blur into novels. But there are no hard-and-fast boundaries.

It was quite common in the sf and other magazines of the 40s and 50s to have a cover brag: "Complete full length novel"; but it was maybe 20-25,000 words.

W Somerset Maugham published "Up at the Villa" as a book in 1953, which ran to 30,000 words. He described it as a "novelette". I guess that's a professional's opinion!
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