Friday, October 28, 2005

Book length again

I run into length issues with my ebooks all the time. Someone will say, "I loved All I Ever Wanted, but I just wish it wasn't so short." I answer, "It's 104,000 words." The reader shrugs. "But it was only two hundred pages long."

Which leads to me trying to explain about word count, how typesetting can alter the length of a book, and that pdfs often look very short when compared to a print book. This is a problem that affects a lot of e-authors-- so many readers out there are convinced that ebooks are all short. Word count doesn't mean a lot to readers, unfortunately, and they tend to go by page count. A two-hundred-page book looks short to them, regardless of the word count.

The other day I was perusing Gina's blog, and she said, "Last night, I finished reading Never Love a Stranger by Ellen Fisher. It took me a bit of time to read it, even if it is a short read coming in just under 200 pages as a trade paperback." (She said she loved it, by the way-- thanks, Gina!) Never Love a Stranger is in fact slightly short by New York standards... it's about 88,000 words, and most New York romances range from 90,000 to 100,000 words. So it's only very marginally shorter than most New York books. My historical Love Remembered is 250 pages in its current edition, and 110,000 words. In the first printing (which never hit shelves) it ran a full 400 pages. So you can see that page count really means almost nothing and can vary wildly depending on font and other factors. (And let me add that no criticism of Gina's comment is intended here... it just made me think about what readers see when they pick up my books.)

My publisher made a deliberate effort to keep page count (and thus cost) down on trade paperbacks by using a small font, small tabs, and no page breaks for chapters. This helps keep the price down. On the down side, it creates very slim paperbacks that don't look terribly substantial compared to the fat New York books next to them. I really worry that people are picking up my books, looking at the price, and thinking, "Gosh, that's a skinny little book for so much money." I wonder if it wouldn't have been better to charge a couple dollars more (putting them in the same price range as Brava and Red Dress Ink) and make the books thicker. Then again, people are hesitant to spend a lot of money on authors and publishers that are new to them, so who knows, maybe NCP's idea of keeping costs down is the right decision. I don't know. But I do know that readers are going to look at skinny books and perceive them as "short," no matter what the word count is.

No comments:

Post a Comment