I have a blog on eBooks, with an emphasis on fiction writing and ePublishing for the Kindle, iPad, Nook, etc., and one of the questions that often comes up is:
How long does an eBook have to be?
If it’s fiction, does it have to be a novel (and if so, how long does a novel have to be anyway?) If it’s non-fiction, does it have to be a full book, or can it be a report or shorter work? ?
The short answer is… there are no rules when it comes to length. It’s not like a school report where a page count is required for your essay or story. You just have to meet the expectations of your readers by offering them good value for money.
Length Considerations for Nonfiction eBooks
I interviewed Kate Harper on my blog, and she makes money by publishing articles or “brochures” on the Kindle Store. Now these are more than the 500 word articles you might see in a blog post or article syndication site. Many of her works are between 8,000 and 10,000 words, but they are much shorter than a nonfiction book, which could be 75,000 words or more. She cuts the fluff and only gives readers what they want to know, and she charges from $0.99 to $2.99.
On Amazon, for eBooks priced from $2.99-$9.99, independent authors take home 70% of the royalties, which means about $2 per sale. (Royalties are similar at Barnes & Noble and other major bookstores.) While that probably won’t make anyone rich, he noted that he has done very little for promotion and has sold quite a few eBooks. This is because Amazon is a huge market and the number of Kindle owners continues to grow. They are hungry for fiction and nonfiction that they can download at a good price.
Fiction eBook Length Considerations
When it comes to fiction, there are no rules for length either. Novels used to have a certain number of words due to the economics of book printing, and shorter works (i.e. short stories and novellas) were simply not published unless they were bundled together as books.
With e-books, it costs no more to create a 150,000 word epic fantasy novel than it does to put together a 7,000 word horror short story. Of course, it takes longer to write and edit a longer work, but the distribution and production costs are the same. You just have to make sure you have a complete and professional eBook that readers will enjoy.
If your story is short, you should be sure to include the word count in the product description or “book blurb” so that readers aren’t unhappy because they expected a novel and got a short story (this is true for not fiction too). Disgruntled readers leave bad reviews. Even if you only sell your eBook for $0.99, people will want to feel like they got exactly what they bargained for. In any case, it is good to fulfill what it promises.
If you feel your story is too short to sell (ie less than 5000 words) for $0.99, which is the minimum price you can list your eBooks for on Amazon, B&N, etc., then you may want to consider bundling several stories to create a collection. Although anthologies aren’t the most popular thing out there, this can work well if all of your short stories feature the same characters or are part of a similar theme.
I have a three-story collection of fantasy stories (the ebook is about 17,000 words total) that I sell for $0.99, and it works pretty well considering how little I do to promote it. The stories are about the same characters as in my (more expensive) novel. At $0.99, the short story eBook offers a cheaper option for people who aren’t sure they want to buy the novel yet, though I suspect I’m selling more copies to readers who bought the novel and wanted more adventures with the main characters. . Either way, it works for me, because I had originally written the stories before thinking about ezine, and they were just sitting on my hard drive, collecting virtual dust. If you have a few stories like that, publishing them electronically may be the ideal route.
Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, there are no rules for length when it comes to eBooks. Please your audience, earn a little extra money and enjoy being a freelance author!