Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.

Word Counts and Bottom Line

I’m planning to self-publish once my books are ready to be shared with readers. I don’t think that Big Six Publishers (although it is more like Big Five with Penguin and Random House joined up) bring enough to the table for me to be interested in them. I want control of my creative content – what, when, where, how, and how much. It is a lot more work for me personally, but I believe the end result will bring me more happiness and success than hanging my dreams on one of publishers’ stars.

Digital and audio versions are no-brainer formats. Ebooks are here to stay, and they are especially popular in genre fiction markets. Podcasts and audio books are great because you can listen while doing other tasks, like driving or folding laundry (I’ll get right on that load in the dryer, I promise). I think audio books are still evolving through new distribution platforms. Audible in its current state is horrible. There will be a better delivery service out there eventually to take the place of subscription fees and antiquated pricing models.

I still like paper books. I don’t think they are evil or that they will ever go away. It is like the difference between the lightbulb and candlelight for me. The lightbulb, or digital book, may become the primary form, but it is not a complete substitution for candlelight, or a paper book. If I get to the point where I can travel and meet people to talk about my books, I realized that I still want to have a physical copy to offer them.

This seems like an awkward conversation to have:
Them: “Hi, nice to meet you”
Me: “Thanks. I wrote this book. I’d like you to check it out.”
Them: “Okay. Do you have a copy I can check out?”
Me: “Er…no. You can check out reviews of it on Goodreads.”
Them: “Do you have a copy I can flip through?”
Me: “I have a sample chapter posted on my website.”
Them: “Can I buy a copy of the book from you today?”
Me: “You can buy it through the online store.”
Them: …

So, yeah, I need to have a physical copy of my book, which gets into some bottom line cost analysis. Not to bore you with the details, I figured out that printing a 200 page book (approx. 50k words) costs less than printing a 300 page book (approx. 75k words). Shocking, isn’t it? The trouble is that people don’t say, “Oh, I will only pay $4.99 for 200 pages, but I’ll pay $9.99 for 300 pages.” In paperback format, books go for $7.99-ish, doesn’t matter then number of pages.

As I am wrapping up my rough draft and thinking about revisions going forward, I don’t want to end up with a 500 page book that I’d have to sell for $15.99 to break even on printing and shipping (price is somewhat exaggerated). You don’t make money on the time you pour into writing a book, but I don’t want to lose money by storing books in my garage that I’d have to sell at a loss to move. That is bad business. I planned my book with 30 chapters. I’m considering tightening up the story and cutting it down to 20-25 chapters. Maybe a couple of great ideas or scenes can get reworked for book two, or I’ll just share them as a short story on the website one day. I want to offer a final product (book) that makes the customer (reader) happy and makes me happy (able to afford groceries) too.

How much does the word count of a novel factor into the enjoyment of that book?

3 comments on “Word Counts and Bottom Line

  1. slepsnor
    March 13, 2013

    Personally, word and page count don’t really matter. It’s quality over quantity when it comes to writing. A 600-page book that doesn’t really tell a story will always lose to a 50-pager that grips the reader.

    From personal experience, I’m seeing that e-books sell better for new authors when priced low. You can always adjust the price as your fanbase grows and more of your books come out. The trick is getting people to give you a chance, which is where a low price is helpful. I was always told that a fanbase comes first and then you can worry about making money.

    Createspace is decent for making paperbacks and connects to Amazon Kindle to give you an ebook version too. Smashwords works for all non-Kindle readers. It’s more beneficial to use all of these sites for your book to avoid isolating a group of potential readers. My book is $10 on Createspace, but I had to put it at 8.5 x 11 sizing to get it there. Otherwise, it would be $20 and I’m sure it would never sell. When starting out, you gotta do some odd things to make yourself more cost effective.

    • tracycembor
      March 13, 2013

      Thanks for sharing your insights. It’s great to hear from someone with self-publishing experience. I’m hoping to start my own trials and travails soon.

  2. Jules
    May 24, 2014

    It matters to me. I would basically never buy a thick book by an unknown author, and also shy away from it by known authors really, with some exceptions.

    I think the 50-75k words a good space to prove your worth as an author/storyteller.

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on January 18, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , .

Posting Schedule for 2014-15

Monday through Friday I will be posting about writing as business and craft, the science of creativity, all things steampunk, and progress on The Dreamless City.

Weekends are reserved for my Music Playlist.

Writers of the Future Honorable Mention

About the Author

Tracy Cembor attempts to juggle a preschooler and a baby, a full-time job, random geekery, and the writing life. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a steampunk urban fantasy novel. Come join the adventure.
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