When writing an e-book, one of the biggest considerations concerning the aesthetics of the publication is that of profit. Knowing the market is important for the publication of any work -physical or electronic – but the e-book market has special considerations, including whether the length of the work effects its earnings. Overall, while shorter e-books sell the best, it is the content of the work itself that really makes a difference in e-book sales.
Length, Genre, and the E-book Market
Every genre has a different average number of pages per book. The word count depends on what the author wants to achieve with their work. The author has to both consider their audience – some audiences prefer longer books with extensive details, while others enjoy books with simple, easy to follow plotlines – and examine how much content they have to write about. According to Catia Shattuck (Links to an external site.), writer for Book Cave (Links to an external site.), “The average nonfiction [print] book is about 50,000 to 75,000 words, which is about 153 to 230 ebook pages. A minimum [word] count for a nonfiction ebook is about 10,000 words, as long as the content is solid.”
Meanwhile, works of fiction average “about 80,000 to 100,000 words, which is about 246 to 307 ebook pages.” The shortest of all the book genres is fiction novellas. Shattuck says that “fiction novellas are usually 32,000 to 55,000 words, which is 100 to 170 ebook pages. Short stories are even shorter (of course), but are often 99 cents or free because readers will feel cheated otherwise.”
I have personally felt that I can read e-books much quicker than I can read physical print books – though this may be because e-books tend to be shorter. Derek Haines (Links to an external site.), writer for Just Publishing Advice, said “By chance, I was looking at the Amazon Kindle Store and clicked on an ebook listed in the top twenty bestsellers. I scanned down the book’s details and was surprised to note that the ebook was listed as being only 105 pages in length.” (105 pages is about the length of an average fiction novella.)
Shorter e-books tend to sell better because of the nature of e-books. People carry their e-readers with them almost everywhere they go, and can quickly take them out in the airport, coffee shop, wine bar, and doctor office waiting room. Haines writes,
All of these situations though are prone to interruption, unlike reading a long work of speculative fiction while in bed or lazing on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon. In these situations, light, short reads would make sense and would give a good reason as to why short ebooks are popular and sell well. Sure, there are reasons to publish long, but it appears that there is definitely a new reading market, for selling short stories. For authors, it creates new possibilities. It opens the door to write short story collections, novellas or prose fiction.
There are quite a few other factors when it comes to pricing of e-books, including the popularity of the author. A Stephen King novel is obviously going to be more popular than a Kha’Doe Crosby novel, which explains why Stephen King’s new novel is priced at $14.99 in the iBook store while a run-of-the-mill book is priced around $9.99.
Even though popularity plays a big part in pricing, length is still a major consideration. Most customers will feel ripped off if they were forced to pay $15 for an e-book that is only 32 pages. Fiction books prices tend to vary from author to author – at the moment the average price is $9.99.
Non-fiction books can be slightly more expensive than other genres. “Nonfiction ebooks are often shorter than fiction, and yet are generally more expensive,” Shattuck writes. “This is because they require more research and fact-checking and can become valuable resources to readers.”
Overall, when writing a manuscript for an e-book it’s important for writers to remember not to let a designated word count get in the way of their content. Rather than obsessing over the length of a work, writers should look at whether their manuscript has a detailed and cohesive plot, interesting characters, and an introduction and ending that keep readers hooked and looking for more. Though the aesthetic and physical factors of the novel shouldn’t be ignored, ultimately, it’s the content that will sell the e-book to audiences looking for their next literary journey.