Sunday 12 May 2013

Readers: Does Size Matter?

I’ve just had another Amazon review of Beware of the Horse. The reader rated the story “very good” and liked my writing style, which makes me happy.  But her basis for giving it only 3 stars was that the book was much too short.  In fact she described it as a short story.

I’m not sure how you would define a short story but for me, 67 pages and nearly 18,000 words is not a short story.  More of a novella (according to a publisher definition this will be between 15,000-20,000 words).  The book is aimed at pre-teens and teens, and I’ve been told can be especially enjoyed by reluctant readers.  (I’ve previously had stories published in collections for reluctant readers, and most of my novels for teens are around 26,000 words).  Other reviewers have said they read Beware of the Horse quickly and commented on the length so I have revised the description to make it clear who it is aimed at and now describe it as a novella.  I don’t want my readers to be disappointed or to feel cheated. But it got me thinking.

Do readers value a book by its size?  How big it is, how thick the width, how heavy the weight, how many pages?  Of course, with e-books you don’t have this tangible aspect of book buying.  (My recent post Reading Bigger Books refers to this). Pages aren’t numbered in e-books, so how can you tell how many there are? If it’s 800 pages do you expect more than if was 200 pages? Quantity equals quality? Would you expect a book priced higher to be better than a cheap one?  You get what you pay for?  Or does that not apply to books?

It is easy with e-books to have our expectations manipulated when there are so many books for free or less than £1. Recently, the bestseller Life of Pi by Yann Martel was on special promotion for 20p (now back to £2.84).  The large publisher behind it could afford to fund this but how can smaller publishers and indie authors compete?  By lowering their prices even more?  This kind of pricing strategy will eventually devalue books completely and the wonderful opportunities offered to indie writers by the digital revolution will turn round and bite us on the bum, so to speak.    
My e-books are priced between £1.95 - £2.98. Many e-books cost just 99p.  They could have taken 6 months or several years of work to produce.  What else can you get for £1.95?  Not even a cappuccino.

So what is my time worth?  If no-one pays me, is my time worthless?  If my book is available free, is it worthless? And how much does size really matter?

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  1. Hi Jane,
    I would certainly agree that your 18000 words is a novella, not a short story, by any definition.
    Interestingly regarding your other thoughts, I read an analysis just in the last week of ebook sales (on Amazon) for 2012. Can't for the life of me find it again, but the salient points were:
    Larger books were more popular, particularly those over 110,000 words.
    The best selling price point was $2.99, while books at $3.99 outsold those at .99
    So it seems that size (and price) do matter.
    If I can find it again I'll send you the link.

  2. Aha! Found it:

    1. Hi Deborah - many thanks for link - just off to check it out!