Smart Girls Read Romance -- so do the bestselling and award-winning Authors who write this blog.
Join them as they dish about Books, Romance, Love, and Life.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Marketing as an Issue

While as a writer, I might like to think my issues are all about creating good stories, exciting characters, and finding inspiration for unique romantic plots, the reality is what I write has to fit a market-- if I want to sell. Before ePublishing, when I wrote, I didn't think  about a market; since then, my learning curve regarding it has been steadily ginned up.

Lately, a subject of interest has been length of book. Except for novellas, my books have ranged from 80,000-130,000 words. 80,000 words used to be considered the minimum length for the romance genre. Often, romances I would buy were considerably longer. Recently, however, when I have purchased novels by other romance authors, their lengths were less—sometimes much less.

Books have defining labels based on genre, of course, but also length: novel writing help (a novel is over 50,000 words; novella 20,000 to 50,000 words; novelette under 20,000 but over 7500; and short story anything under 7500). Some argue anything that isn’t a novel is a short story.

So, in the nitty-gritty world of marketing, if making a living is a consideration, a novel of 50,000-60,000 words generally will sell for the same price as one over 120,000. Many writers could create two shorter novels in the same time they would have produced the long one-- maybe more than two, since longer books have considerably more complexities for plots and characters. 

Marketing experts used to claim that bringing out a new eBook every three months kept your list active, benefiting your rankings. Now they are saying, if the writer can do it, once a month is better. Clearly, shorter books offer writers important benefits with the main drawback not having the satisfaction found in developing more complex stories.
How does the reader fit into this? If many of the best selling romances are becoming shorter, perhaps the readers are why. People today are running on tight schedules and have to fight for time to read. Where the world seems to be spinning faster, shorter books have their pluses.

For myself, a novella tempts me to read, where I’d hesitate to start a longer story. I can settle back for an hour or two, move into another world, enjoy the interaction of the characters, arrive at a satisfying conclusion, and still have time to get my work done. Time considerations are also a plus with anthologies, like Rawhide 'n Roses, made up of short stories or sometimes novellas.

I frankly like this freedom. When I begin writing a new book, I don't have to arrive at any set count. The story is finished when it's finished. Novellas were part of that shift as before eBooks, novellas, other than in an anthology, weren't encouraged by publishing houses. The Wild West of ePublishing changed a lot of things. Story length is one of them.

When I wrote three paranormal romances (When Fates Conspire, The Dark of the Moon, and Storm in the Canyon), set in contemporary Montana, I wanted each to be a complete love story and stay at novella length. Then, because my novellas leave out most of the heat, I expanded each into a hotter, three-part, anthology, titled Diablo Canyon Trilogy (enabling a paperback). Having the three novellas still available had its own complications, but that’s another story.

Links to Rain Trueax books: 

Cover for Diablo Canyon by Charlene Raddon


  1. You wrote a terrific article, Rain. Writing is an artsy craft, and production dogs us all. If you can write 80k to 100k per month, then putting out a full-length novel would be quite nice. Most of us can't. My next series (not romance) will likely be around 50k. If the books are over or under, I'm not going to sweat it. My current manuscript will probably end up around 89k or 85k. It takes what it takes. I think that's wonderful and certainly serves the story better.

    As for story length, it should be the length of the story. The final manuscript never could be a random length before, unless the story coincidentally fit the publisher's word count guidelines. So many books went on and on after they should've stopped--but I knew the author had to meet her word count. The opposite, where the story seemed chopped off at the end, was the same issue. I read mostly indie authors now and that's one of the glories of self-publishing--the story takes however many words it takes, and doesn't have to be mashed into a mold. I just love it. That one aspect alone has certainly increased my reading pleasure. My writing pleasure, too.

    I don't think most readers care about terminology for length. Mostly I hear they say book, short, or medium. That gives a lot of leeway. What they do care about is whether or not the story is completely told, in whatever form.

    1. Thanks, Jacquie, and that is what I have come to feel also. This gives writer and reader something they never had before indie publishing. They can choose what works for them. It seems like a win/win to me.

  2. Very well written post, Rain, plus I agree with Jacquie. We are able to write the story we want without worrying about meeting a publisher's goal. I have been with a traditional publisher, with a small press, and now indie. I am so much happier as an indie writer. I don't think readers care one way or the other as long as they have a good story.

    1. Thank you, Caroline. As a reader, I always note the book length before I decide on a purchase whether it's a word count in the blurb or the size of the file up above. I had never read a novella until my Kindle but now I like them when I have limited time to read. When I get a longer break, that's when I'll read some of the longer books, which I do buy when they look good and they are waiting for that break. I agree, it's great to have the freedom for the writer and the reader :)

  3. Interesting post. As a reader, I rarely read 500+ page books. Too much of a time commitment! As a writer, it's nice to have the flexibility to make a book as long or as short as it needs to be to tell the story. I can't imagine writing a book a month, can you?

    1. I agree, Sandy and definitely I like time to have ideas germinate and then comes editing. I might write a rough draft in a month but it'd never be out until months later after looking at it again and again. I do like the advantage of writing and reading shorter books. :)

  4. Great post, Rain. I like how you packaged the paranormal romances to capture more readers. And I agree that with the this new age of Indie publishing the reader has more choices and the writer also can fit their book to the length that best serves the story. I still keep my historical romances to at least 70,000 words. With the historical info that needs to go in the books it takes that much time to tell the story. I love writing my mysteries. They are 50,000 words and tons of fun! It does seem that people like having the shorter, quicker reads with their busy schedules.

  5. That's true, Paty, and you can also change genres and keep your name. I like this indie publishing world and to me it works better for readers as they can find a favorite author in a new story type.


Thank you for commenting on Smart Girls Read Romance. We love readers and love their comments. We apologize that due to a few unethical spammers we've had to institute comment moderation. Please be patient with us... we DO want your genuine comments!