Friday, June 19, 2015

Do You Add Words To Your Novel So It Will Sell Better?

The topic of Word Count is popular on message boards for self-publishing authors. How long is a novel? Novella? Short Story? Short Short Story?

The word count for each can vary widely depending on who you listen to. Wikipedia tells me a mystery novel (60,000 to 80,000) is typically shorter than a thriller (100,000+). A Novella could be anywhere from 7,500 to 40,000. A Short Story is between 1,000 and 20,000. Shorter than 1,000 words is now called Flash Fiction or a Short Short Story.

A popular commentator for Writer's Digest says any novel under 70,000 words is "too short" and the ideal range is 80,000 to 90,000. I can't buy these numbers because they would rule out many of the greatest novels ever written. For example: Fahrenheit 451, The Great Gatsby, As I Lay Dying, The Scarlet Letter, The Sun Also Rises, The Stranger, and probably every single one of the ~400 novels written by Georges Simenon.


On the message boards, writers talk about an ideal word count that sells better than shorter or longer books. So each book is then written with that word count in mind. If the count is too short, more words are added until you arrive at the "sweet spot" that sells so well.

Is this really true? People who buy books are looking for a certain page range and word count? Books of a certain length sell better for no other reason than the word count? I can hardly believe it.

How do you have any integrity writing primarily for a certain word count because you think you need that many for the most sales? Or am I thinking in the wrong terms? How can your book be worth reading if you padded it with an extra 25,000 words that were completely unnecessary for the narrative but might help it sell better? Aren't you just writing a load of crap?

It seems to me from reading those self-publishing author boards that a fair number of writers do this. Write 125,000 words, for example, and that sells better than a mere 100,000. It all sounds silly and ridiculous to my ears. 25,000 words of garbage because you think a longer book will sell more copies?

In which genre do they write? Erotica? Romance? So many authors who self-publish on Amazon are writing for no reason than to make a profit, not because they have anything to say or want to write a good book. But how do you acquire that kind of mindset where your only concern is sales and not the internal qualities of your narrative? And how do good books become noticed amidst all the trash? No one seems to have figured that out yet. The answer is well off in the distance.


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