Size matters; just ask the G’Gugvuntt and the Vl’hurg (a Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide reference, see here). Size also matters when you’re writing – even if books are no longer physical, word count is an easy to use measure when considering a title. I have some theories about what this means in an electronic world, but evidence is against them.
Market’s have certain expectations, and if you scan around you can find any number of suggested word counts by genre, all derived from publishers and experience. One post I’d like to summarise is the post Word Count from the blog Literary Rejections, a site well worth exploring for many reasons.
A summary table would include:
|Genre||Word count range|
|Literary / Commercial / Women’s||80,000||110,000|
|Mystery, thriller, suspense||70,000||90,000|
There is a lot more information in the article I refer to; my main take away is in most cases aiming at 90,000 words gets to most categories.
My thoughts have centred around the move to electronic books would mean buyers might be less inclined to focus on size. This is why I have put various short stories and novellas on Kindle (including Three Drops in Time and The Marylebone Magician). I also have a hope buyers might collect cheap short stories, such as they did in the weekly / monthly magazines in Victorian times. If it worked for Conan Doyle and Dickens, who knows?!
Sadly the evidence is size sells.
The Smashwords survey
If you want some credible, quality (and free) insight into sales of electronic books, there is an annual Smashwords survey. I’ve read the 2014 Survey (and there is also a 2013 Survey and 2012 Survey). I think these are all well written, and should encourage us all to read the free book The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.
The nutshell is longer titles sell better. There is also some interesting material on price points that don’t sell as well as they should.
Derek Murphy on CreativIndie has a contrary view: go for volume of 10,000 word books to get a portfolio on the go. As ever his post is worth a read: How to Write and Publish a Non-fiction Book This Week.