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Are Shorter Books Better?

As I began editing Part 2 of The Duke of Eden,  the book I'm currently putting out as a serial exclusive to Amazon's Kindle, I'm thinking ahead to Part 3 and the overall length of the book.  And I've decided that this time I have a grand ambition - it's going to be a shorter book than the ones I've published previously. 

Why is that such a grand ambition?  Because for writers like me, the ones who get caught up in our own characters and their story, keeping it shorter is much harder than letting it conclude at its own pace.  But I'm gonna try to keep Eden shorter because I've decided that these days, there are a bunch of readers who prefer shorter books.

I was already thinking about this issue a few days ago when I read a post on Dear Author titled "Is Our Attention Span Getting Shorter?"  The author of the post noted that Harlequin category romances had started appearing on the USA Today bestseller list.  As we all know, Harlequins are shorter romances.  Within the Harlequin family of imprints, word counts range range between 50k to 75k, but generally hover between 55k and 65k.  Dear Author noted that one of the things the bestseller list appearances reminded them of was that more shorter books are being sold in the digital age.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good meaty, long ole' historical, but when I read the piece I realized that I've been reading a heck of a lot more Harlequins lately.  I've always enjoyed the books, but I have never bought as many of them as I do now.  Why?  Well, maybe shorter books do read better in an e-world.  You get in, you get the story, and you get out. 

From an author's prospective, shorter books being preferable would be a very good thing because you could write books faster and build up an inventory. So you'd sell more books.  It's like with a restaurant.  If it takes 2 hours to turn over a table, you won't seat as many guests and you won't sell as much food.  If you get the food out faster and turn over the table in 1 hour, you'll sell more food and make more money. 

I think the trend toward longer books will continue for paperbacks that people buy off the rack in the store.  If books have a physical presence, you'll compare how thick book A is verses book B.  If both cost about the same, you'll buy the longer book.  With physical books, more is definitely more.  But digital books don't have that same presence.  I don't think that many people stop and check file size and go to Google and calculate how that translates into pages.  So with digital books, the snappy description and the catchy product sample people download are gonna be where the book sells or doesn't sell. 

My earlier books were written before the digital age arrived.  100k was basically the standard length for a novel that would go to a traditional publishing house.  And before the digital age, Harlequin was to books what Dollar General or Wal Mart was to retail.  These days, in the digital world we're in which is growing every day, physical presence and the 100k standard have gone by the wayside.  And in the current economy, a lot more folks are shopping at DG and WM.  Consumers are creatures of habit.  So when the economy improves, I'm betting that DG and WM will continue to sell because folks will know they can spend some of that extra money for better vacations (or more ebooks). 

I've gotten the critique from someone who read A Faerie Fated Forever. The buyer said it was a good read overall but that it would have been a great read if the book had been shorter.  Getting that review really made me think.  I do listen to my readers and I'd like to give 'em what they want.  It sounds like what they want is shorter books that they can read faster.  And if that's what readers want, then its what I'm gonna try to give 'em.   

Part 2 of Eden should be up at Amazon next week.  Like I mentioned earlier, I'm editing it as we speak.  Later today it'll go to Mr. Quack who performs all the computer formatting magic.  If he can get to formatting it today or tomorrow, I hope to have it submitted to the Great Wizards at DTP by Tuesday - which would make it available for purchase around Friday of next week. 

I've already started writing Part 3, which I'm gonna try to make the last part.  That also makes sense in terms of economy.  Each section sells for a scant 99¢ on Kindle.  If there are 3 serial sections and I put the book up and sell it for $2.99, then the economics equalize.  Lots of indie writers have been raising their prices on Kindle.  I think $4.99 may be the "new" $2.99 there.  I'm not positive whether I'll put Eden out for $2.99 or $3.99, but right now I'm inclined to the lower price. 

I'd rather give my readers good value especially in these tough times, because I look for good value when I buy anything these days.  Maybe when times are better I'll raise those prices, but for now I've been sticking to $2.99 on Kindle.  Some of my SW stuff is priced at $3.99 but that's mainly because it gets distributed to other vendors (thanks so much) but the vendors tend to discount.  And Amazon picks up the discounts.  To all the Kindle owners, you should know how very hard Amazon works to be sure their Kindle peeps get the best value out there for everything.  It makes pricing a little challenging for authors who publish in different venues, but it keeps prices low for Kindle owners.  I give Amazon real props for that. 

So, Part 2 of Eden should be out and about by next week, and I hope to have the series finished around Christmas to early January.  I'm aiming to keep it short and sweet and bring it in at around 60k words.  I really hope to get Part 3 and then the full book out there soon, because I want to see how the combination of the shorter length and the erotic cover image help the book with marketing. 

A lot of the big, NY publishing giants have been busy shrinking their companies as their sales tank more and more.  Those folks used to sneer at category lines like Harlequin.  So it's a little - a lot - funny to me that these days those sneers have turned to envy and admiration.    

In the new digital world, Harlequin may be the Wal Mart or the Dollar General of book publishers.  You know what?  I'm guessing they're okay with that.  And if the shorter length works for me -- I'll be just fine with it too.

I'm spending a lot more of my dollars at DG lately. The family Graham was there just yesterday.  And if  Mary Anne Graham could one day turn out to be the Dollar General of romance authors, she'd be a pretty happy lady.