I’m currently writing my fifth novel, Starveyors. It will primarily be an ebook only novel. There will eventually be a paperback version, but most readers will read it and purchase it as an ebook. So it doesn’t have to be a certain length to look hefty enough on a book shelf. One of the reasons that most novels are around 100 thousand words long, is because that length makes for a hefty enough book for the reader to feel like he’s getting a decent story.
But if you can’t really heft a book, does it matter how long it is? I think price and length will be less associated in ebook sales. All of my ebooks are now priced at $2.99. That’s less than a good coffee at Starbucks. You can get two of my ebooks for the price of a paperback and three for the price of a hardback book. Most of my novels are over 60K words long. One is even over 100K words and they’re all priced the same – $2.99. Personally, I think that’s a great value. For my money, ebooks should always cost less than a paperback version of whatever book you are buying.
So now back to the length of a book. As I write this post, Starveyors is around 51K words in length. The goal I’m shooting for is 80K for the first draft. I usually write pretty sparse first drafts, so I expect that number to increase with the second draft. But what happens if I only make it to 50K? Do I panic? Nope. I just proceed with the second draft and know that I will probably add more words before it’s finished. I don’t think the reader really notices that a novel is only 65K words and not 100K words. As long as the story is complete and fulfilling, they really don’t care. I know that as a reader myself, I never worry about how long a book is. Unless I’m reading a huge Epic Fantasy. Then I pretty much know going in that it will take me longer to read.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that when you are writing your novel you should have a goal for end length. But unless you fall shorter than 60K, you shouldn’t worry about the length too much. Unless your SF novel is sitting at 200K words. Then you’d have to consider breaking it into two or more books, if only to keep your reader happy.
As a reminder, you can follow along with my word count in the sidebar on this blog. Now that I’m in the final stretch, that number should change daily.