Thursday, August 2, 2012

Is Your Novel "Long Enough?" By guest Blogger Michael K. Rose. Does size really matter?

The Long and short of it - Does size really matter? Welcome to Guest Blogger and Author Michael K. Rose.

As you may know, I've recently released Sullivan's War: The Complete Adventure. It collects three novellas (called Sullivan's War: Books I, II and III) which were released individually but make up one story line. Those novellas, usually priced at $2.99 apiece, have been selling fairly well. But The Complete Adventure's sales have been fantastic, selling in twelve days nearly as many copies as Book I, even though Book I's price was reduced to 99 cents near the beginning of the month.

I had suspected that I would see an increase in sales once I released The Complete Adventure, and here's why: I'd read long ago that many readers prefer to read only novels. They do not particularly care for short stories, and novellas? What the hell is a novella? The unimpressive sales of my collection Short Stories seems to support this idea. Even though Short Stories has a good number of positive reviews and I promoted it as heavily (if not more heavily) than Sullivan's War: The Complete Adventure, I sold nearly 7 times as many copies of Sullivan's War as Short Stories during July. And remember, Sullivan's War: The Complete Adventure was only available for the last twelve days of the month.

Now, I'm one who has always been a champion for short stories. I write them, obviously, and I even wrote a blog post called "Why I Love Short Stories." Another post I wrote as a guest on ME Franco's blog is called "Short Fiction is Dead?" In it, I propose that the eBook revolution will see a reemergence of shorter fiction. One thought is that a short story or novella can be published without the concern of making sure a "book" is of a profitable length. Now that printing costs are not a factor, any length can be a profitable length, assuming the story is sufficiently attractive to readers. Well, the three Sullivan's War novellas have been profitable, as have a few of the short stories I released individually. But my experience these past two weeks with Sullivan's War: The Complete Adventure has convinced me that full-length novels are going to be even more profitable. And while profit should not be a writer's sole consideration, it is unavoidable if one wishes, as I do, to make a living at it.

So is your novel long enough? What is long enough? The dividing line between novels and novellas ranges from 40,000 words to 60,000 words or higher. Will readers be "unsatisfied" with a 40,000-word novel? Does the word novella scare some people away? And what can one reasonably charge for short stories, novellas, short novels, long novels? I've been publishing my fiction for less than a year, and I'm still trying to work all of this out. But the sales of Sullivan's War: The Complete Adventure have convinced me that, for now at least, I should probably not focus on writing short stories quite as much. Novels are what readers want, and I have about a dozen novels waiting to be written. I just hope I can make them long enough.

What do you consider to be a minimum length for a novel? If you prefer novels over novellas or short stories, why? I'd love to hear any thoughts on this topic; just leave a comment below.

Michael K. Rose - I am a writer of science/speculative fiction. Please feel free to friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. E-mail me at:

Michael's Blog - HERE
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If you have enjoyed this blog post, please Tweet or facebook. Many thanks. Patti Roberts.


  1. I try to hit 60,000. In the past, I've had to cut, but it is going slow right now. I did one short short, under 1,000, which I put in a contest, on my blog, Algonquin's Table, etc. don't know how I did that. Wish it would happen again. I love it.

  2. I nominated you for the Versatile Blog Award! Check out the deets:

  3. There is a market for short story ebooks. The more titles you have available for readers to discover, the more likely you will get a sale. Unless you're a compulsive short story writer, you won't ever gain the critical mass needed to make a living as a writer. (I'm still working on that.) From my experience over the last few years, previously published short stories sell much better than original short stories as ebooks.

    Also, 3,000-word personal essay ebooks - reprint or original - sell much better than short story ebooks.

    The minimum word count is probably 60,000 words for a novel ebook. As for the maximum word count, the only practical limit is the file size limit (i.e., IIRC, 20MB or ~1.25 million words). If you're the next Stephen King, knock yourself out.

  4. From a reader point of view, I don't know anyone who makes buying decisions based on word count. Everyone I know look at the page count, with 200 pages being the usual minimum.

  5. I have three mystery novels. All are around 100,000 words (300 or so pages). Their prices have ranged from $2.99 to $3.99 e-book/$13.99 paperback. I also have a short story collection (66 flash fiction/short stories at 140 pp) that is a bargain at $.99 since many short stories are only about 20-40 pp at the same price. Online, the novels sell better than the collection; face-to-face, the collection outsells the novels. E-books may be the future, but my paperbacks have outsold the e-books 6:1. I've read a dozen or more articles recently about short stories making a comeback. BOTTOM LINE: No one has a clue whether it is better to write long or short. Write what you know, then write it better the next time, then the next, next.


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