Numbers…

To some degree, writing is a numbers game.  Of course, making money off of writing is a numbers game; we’re all familiar with the “how much do I charge per book versus how many books I sell,” debate (and if you’re not, see Zoe Winter’s blog, Dean Wesley Smith’s Blog, and J. A. Konrath’s blog for some different perspectives).

For the record, I tend to favor the mid-list price position: $.99 for short stories (which I almost never write), $2.99 for novellas (my bread and butter) and $4.99 for full-length novels.  Why?  Because that’s still a bargain compared to a bookstore or major publisher, but it’s not selling myself short, sending my book to the “Everything’s a Dollar” must-go-fast bin from the get-go.  Like Zoe Winters said, I want to attract fans who’ll buy my work for a reasonable price, not bargain hunters who’ll buy anything that’s cheap, but won’t pay more than $1.

But writing is also a numbers game when it comes to how much you write.  As a writer, you have to balance your life outside writing, your psychological and emotional well-being (which, in my case, is strongest when I write fiction every day, but can be hurt by writing too much.  Anything over 3,000 words a day and I’m wringing blood from a creative stone), and your desire to finish the books you start.
My writing goal for the present and near future is 1,000 words per day.  I arrived at that number because I think it is achievable, with some effort, in my current situation, and because I feel better emotionally and mentally when I write that much.  I’m not a full-time writer.  I’m just starting out, and I have a “day job” that takes up a good bit of my time (actually, it’s more of a night job these days, but I digress).  I have a wife, and I like spending time with her.  I have friends and church and something of a social life, and I’m not willing to burn all that to get an extra few hundred words a day in.

1,000 words a day is good, though.  It will allow me to write a novella a month, or a full-length novel in three or four months, even with a few sick days and other crises.  That’s twelve novellas or three, maybe four, novels a year, part-time.  It makes me wonder about full-time authors who only put out one book every year (or less).  What do they do with their time?

Publish more books under pen names, if they know what’s good for them 🙂

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3 Comments

  1. This is interesting. I have been curious as to how people choose the price for their books. I have a question though, how do you differentiate between a novella and novel? Is it just the word counts that separates them?

    • ScarletKira, thanks for commenting!

      As far as content differences between novels and novellas, are some literary descriptions on the Wikipedia page, but in the world of indie publishing, word count is all that matters (in the world of New York publishing, if it’s not right around 100,000 words, forget it).

      The Nebula Awards lay out Short Stories as up to 7,499 words, Novelettes as 7,500-17,499 words, Novellas at 17,500 – 39,999 words and Novels at 40,000 or more.

      Those are pretty good guidelines, except that almost nobody knows the term “Novelette.” So the Novella sort of picks up the top half of the Novelette range, and the Short Story picks up the bottom half, in practice. Most of my Novellas are within the Nebula Awards word count, but I’m pretty comfortable calling anything over 15 or 16 thousand words a Novella.

      • Oh, I see. The word count is the dividing factor between a novella and a novel. I was always being confused between them but now I know. Thanks.


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