Thursday, December 22, 2005

Word count and e-publishing

The Smart Bitches reported on Harlequin's new word count guidelines, and how the books were all going to be significantly shorter, which was met by a lot of anxious discussion. Diana Peterfreund countered with the explanation that Harlequin is actually changing the way they calculate word count, not the actual word count itself, so this was all a tempest in a teapot.

Either way, I have to comment that this is one of the great things about e-publishing. No one really cares how long my books are. (And most e-pubs go by computer word count, which is by far the easiest way to calculate word count.) In the past couple of months, I've turned in two novellas. One was 19,500 words; the other was 38,000 words. Both stories were exactly as long as they needed to be. And both times I underestimated the length I'd need to write the story. I told the first editor I was aiming at 10,000 words, and the second that I was aiming at 30,000 words. Neither editor cares that the stories ran long (as my stories quite often do). It simply doesn't matter that much in e-publishing.

The first novella was published more or less without changes. The second hasn't gone through editing yet. Of course editor #2 may well require me to edit the story, either making it shorter or longer-- but it'll be because she thinks the story isn't quite right the way it is, not because she wants me to aim at some arbitrary word count guideline.

Now, to be fair, there are some e-publishers for which an author really has to watch her word count (EC's Quickies have a pretty firm word count guideline). But NCP and Samhain don't seem to worry much about it, which is nice for those of us who tend to write odd lengths. I should also mention that a book has to be a certain length in e-publishing if it's going to be released in trade paperback. But if a publisher has a short book they want to release in print, they will usually just bundle two or three novellas together in an anthology. This flexibility is definitely one of the best things about e-publishing!


  1. Actually, the only point where word count is really a strict issue with Ellora's Cave is the Cavemen anthologies to keep the stories and volumes consistent. Otherwise, if you go long on your Quickie it becomes a novella. Go long on your novella and it becomes a category length. And so on. : ) - Charli

  2. Oh, okay. For some reason I thought EC had a minimum of 40,000 words, so if a story fell between the Quickie upper limit (which is 15,000 words, right?) and 40,000 words, they wouldn't publish it. I guess that's wrong, huh? Thanks for the clarification!

  3. Hi Nice Blog .data conversion services indiahas rapidly become the technology of choice for delivering structured data on the Web, working hand-in-hand with HTML, which is used as the presentation format.