IWSG - Fiction's Dirty Little Secret: Size Matters

Hey, gang! Welcome to your monthly dose of hot mess we affectionately call the Insecure Writer's Support Group around these parts. Not familiar with IWSG? Click the IWSG button below for all the details!

On the E.J. news front, my New Adult contemporary novel, Perfectly Ernest, is releasing Labor Day weekend. (Less than a month away! *dry heaves from nerves*) 

I'd love to have your help spreading the word! Here's a sign up for a book blast/cover reveal. It is scheduled for the last week of August/first week of September. 



Even if you don't have openings on your blog during that two week period, I'll also send some canned tweets and Facebook messages. Any little thing you can do to help me get the word out is greatly appreciated. 

Here's what this story is all about:


From a distance, Ernie’s life seems perfect—he’s a star college baseball player adored by the student body and coveted by professional teams. Up close, he is a disaster. Since the death of his mother, he’s been trapped by a promise he made and forced to live her dream instead of his own. He reaches his breaking point in the biggest game of his young career and sets off a chain of events that will either define or destroy the rest of his life.

Ernie grudgingly joins a quirky campus counseling group that empowers him to heal himself and right his wrongs. By testing old friendships, forging unlikely new ones, and exploring an exciting romance, he begins to unravel the jumbled knot his tangled inner-psyche has become. But old rivals, mental illness, and the risk of a forbidden relationship soon threaten his progress. Will Ernie's new direction and friends be his salvation, or confirmation that he is forever doomed by his imperfections?

Perfectly Ernest is a New Adult contemporary novel with romantic elements by author E.J. Wesley. Ernest offers a smart, funny, sweet, sexy, uplifting, and oftentimes poignant perspective of one person's difficult transition into adulthood. It is a story about overcoming the demons of mental illness and struggling with the profound burden of expectations—both real and imagined. But it’s mostly a tale of friendship, hope, and love.

Add Perfectly Ernest to your TBR!

Fiction's Dirty Little Secret: Size Matters


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I have a confession: I have a little bit of a size inferiority complex. No, I'm not talking about naughty things. (Hey, eyes up here!) Nor am I talking about the fact that I'm only 5'6" tall. (Someone has to stay small enough to sit in the middle on road trips. I proudly wear that badge of shame.) 

I'm talking about the fiction I write. You see, I have a series of novelettes out. Each individual story ranges from 12-17 thousand words. They're short by design, meant to be enjoyed like your favorite TV shows or a fun-sized candy bar. A couple of delicious bites that simultaneously curb your craving and leave you wanting more.

I get the occasional complaint that the stories are too short, but those have mostly come from folks who didn't read the product description. (Or don't realize it's an ongoing series for whatever reasons.) By and large, the feedback I've gotten is that they are enjoyable stories by themselves. So no big worries there.

But then I wrote (and completed) my first novel, Perfectly Ernest. I outlined a story and wrote that story to the best of my ability. While I'd originally planned for it to be around 75k, it ended up being 60. Why? Because that was the story. Anything else I would've added would've been filler or fluff in my mind.

So what's the big deal, E.J.? Sounds like you're happy with the results. 

I'm truly thrilled with how the book turned out. It packs the emotional punch I dreamed it would when I first came up with the idea, and also has this weird ability to leave readers feeling warm and fuzzy. (I say weird, because I never planned on this being a feel good story--but I think it somehow is now.) Also, early reviewers are telling me it's a page turner, which is something I always put high on my to-do list.

The big deal is that some readers balk at anything less than 80k being worthy of the title of novel. I've known about the reader size bias for a while. Because of my experience with the Moonsongs series, I know there are readers who won't touch shorter fiction. It's just their preference.

But when an author friend did an informal poll on Facebook the other day, I had my eyes opened to a new kind of size bias: The price Vs size bias.

This friend asked her followers what the single most important factor in making a book purchase was. Many people listed positive reviews, recommendations from friends, and other common factors. But there were many who said they first look at price and word count on the product description.

Most were reluctant to pay more than .99 cents for anything under 80k--no mater what the reviews said. I guess it took me by surprise, because my first concern as a reader is if I'm going to enjoy the story. I've also loved a number of short stories and I realize size isn't going to necessarily indicative of how much I'm going to enjoy a read.

Here's a list of the word lengths for several great novels. I find myself wondering just how many great reads these people are missing out on. Is Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five worth less than a buck because it doesn't hit 50k? A chunk of Ray Bradbury's stuff doesn't hit 70k, neither does John Green's A Fault in Our Stars. The Great Gatsby is around 47k. 

Now, I realize these are certified classics, and that Unknown Indie Author X (ME) is in a different class. But lots of someones have to read these stories before they become classics. Seems like a shame to miss out on something possibly great because of arbitrary things like word count and/or price point. 

Ultimately, this all leaves me feeling a touch vulnerable when it comes to Perfectly Ernest. How many people are going to walk right by it because it's not going to take them a month to read, or because the author had the nerve to charge $3 for it? 

If they saw how much time, grief, and money we spend writing these things, it would probably make more sense. I'm thinking about putting that info in the product description from now on. 

"This book took me 8 months, 3 lost friendships, 17 marital fights, 1 disgruntled dog, 2 neglected children, and $2,500 to produce, advertise, and distribute. Thanks for parting with $2.99 and being entertained for hours. Sorry if my blood, sweat, and tear stains slow you down!" LOL (Actually, not a bad idea...)

What do you think? Does size matter when you're browsing for new reads? What about price? 

~EJW~


53 comments:

  1. Size Matters Not! In this new digital age I think it realy shouldn't matter.
    When I was young I would judge books by their size, but mostly because I had to do a report on them.

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    1. LOL I was the same, David! I had a knack for having the shortest book reports ever. :)

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  2. Great news! I'll be glad to Tweet and put your cover up on fb, but I've booked my blog to the hilt. So sorry. Still fb and twitter attract a lot of attention.

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    1. Thanks, CL! Any little thing is appreciated. :)

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    2. I'll be looking for your info. And if I can do something else, I will. Good luck.

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  3. I've never looked at the size when deciding whether or not I want to read a book. Surprised that it is or can be a deal breaker for so many. For the record, only one of my novels made it to the 80k mark.

    Can't wait to read your novel, EJ.

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    1. I was shocked, too, J! I mean, we're all aware of the guidelines put in place in traditional publishing, (like average length for a YA, Adult, etc. novel). But those tend to have more to do with the investment from the publishers. (A 100k book just costs more to produce, warehouse, and distribute.) Reader expectations have followed suit. I guess I just believe the story is what holds the value.

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  4. E.J.,
    Added on Google and all signed up. You won't get away people who don't stop long enough to see what they're buying and then complain afterward. I've gotten a few 1-star reviews for a compilation of short stories that clearly said what the book contained. These people didn't like short stories

    I've been able to write shorter books with added experience in writing. Plus, some books demand 80k words and more while others are just fine at 60k. It's all in the story.

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    1. Thanks, JL! And I want this, "It's all in the story." on a poster above my writing desk. :)

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  5. When I talked to an agent about the contemporary romance I'm working on, she said to aim for 70K. That seems to be my sweet spot, anyway. People will enjoy story well told at 60K more than one that got padded to make it to 80.

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    1. Totally agree, Kristen. I think the benchmarks and averages are relevant. There is no denying readers in certain genres, etc. come into it with certain expectations. But there's always a decision to be made about what best fits the story. I guess that's where we have to believe in our abilities and the process. Then hope the readers agree! :)

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  6. I guess I don't qualify since only one of my novels hit 80,000 words. My publisher still charged 4.99 for all three when they came out though.
    When it's close to 50,000, that's a novel to me. Don't charge less than three bucks, EJ. You worked hard on that novel.

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  7. Don't hate me, but...
    I'm one of those people who prefers longer works, and I admit to glancing at page count before buying. (A big part of this is that, if I'm going to invest time in getting to know a group of characters and their setting, I want the story to be long enough to make it worth my while.) I also gauge price -to a certain extent- by it, too; but mostly as it relates to novellas vs. novels. That said, I don't think $2.99 is too much for your book.

    One of the other things I look at when I'm considering price is how it relates to the prices of the author's other works. Looking at it from that angle, it would seem you could even go a bit higher.

    Bottom line, look at other comparable books in the genre and take the quality of writing into consideration, then price yours accordingly. (Don't you love how newbie little me speaks with such authority. hahaha Feel free to ignore me. :P)

    IWSG #184 until Alex culls the list again.

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  8. Well, hmm. If someone tells me they wrote a 150,000-word novel, I'm guessing that person needs an editor something fierce. Size matters: bloated is bad; anorexic is bad. Tell a good story with just enough words, and you'll hook me.

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    1. I love that attitude, Bob! I have read plenty of books at 150k (and above) that didn't feel overwritten at all. But part of that has to do with an author's style. I like to write dialogue-heavy page turners. I don't write epic fantasy or science fiction that requires a ton of world building. That helps me keep things simple.

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  9. When buying, I don't look at the size. I buy and read as I like. I read short stories, novellas, but I also read 200+K novels. They are particularly my favorite. But I know there are people who judge a book's quality based on word count without reading a single word. It makes me cringe because I cut down my 200K novel to 171K. It scares me to death because it fits my genre, but since it's over 120K, then it must be bad. I'm sure these people would hate my novella, totaling 25K, just as much.

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    1. I never look at size, especially in the digital age. And great point about the other side of size bias. You're definitely right that some people view anything over 100k as bloated and indulgent. But I've read a bunch of stories in the 150s that I think are amazing. So much depends on your own writing style and the types of stories you're telling.

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  10. I usually won't read a novelette because the first few that I came across it was hard for me to emotionally connect with the characters, but I love that yours are in a series so I can continue on with the story. There's no problem there for me, plus they are great books with amazing characters. I love R.A. Desilets novelette, Hipstopia, as well. The real kicker is that when you love the story, you just want more.

    I enjoy the shorter books in a long series sometimes for a 'quick' read to get between two other books. I honestly have no issue with it. Contemporary isn't a genre for me, but I would love to tweet for you. Jaclyn @ JC's Book Haven.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Jaclyn! :) And you bring up a great point about past experiences. I've had so many people tell me something similar about not wanting to read novellas because of a bad experience. (Same goes for some who won't read an indie author.) It's something I have to keep in mind when marketing my short stuff for sure.

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  11. I go for the blurb and reviews to decide if it's a book that interests me, not the length of the tale.

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    1. Blurb is a big one for me as well. And I like the preview you feature so I can read the first few pages to see what the author's style is.

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  12. LOL. Sure. Why not? Maybe you'd get some pity purchasers. You never know what will work for a marketing strategy!
    I've heard that about book lengths going up - again - in the wake of all the indie novellas. I wonder if after wading through lots of boring description and pointless narrative, that will ever cycle back around? Who knows. That reminds me of this B&B I was at where I wanted oatmeal and fresh fruit for breakfast and the host was like - most people go crazy at B&B's to get their "money's worth" with massive amounts of cholesterol - and all I could think was ... yeah, because vacation is about getting my money's worth, not having fun. Now I'm thinking about oatmeal and fresh-sliced bananas. Train of thought. I'm sure sooner or later people will remember they want good books more than anything. Maybe they need people like you to remind them? ;-)

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    1. It's definitely interesting to see how different people value different things. I'm with you, fresh fruit and good oatmeal sounds like an amazing breakfast! :)

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  13. I adore books with smaller word counts. With how little time there seems to be anymore, if something seems small enough for me to actually finish, I tend to gravitate toward those books more, haha. Refusing to read something because it isn't a brick in size is such an alien thought to me!

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    1. I do, too, Heather! If the author can tell a good story in a shorter space, I love it. I'm a slow reader (I don't skim--if I've invested in a book I read every word), so it takes me forever to get through the 100k+ books--even the ones I love.

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  14. Is that really what people look at??? How depressing. I want to read a book that is the RIGHT length for the story it's telling, not a book that's padded with 30k extra words just to make the price seem 'worth it'. Sigh. Well, I'm not one of those people, EJ, and I'll happily read your book!

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    1. Sadly, some people do. I definitely get that some readers like to get wrapped up in the story world, but certain stories just aren't meant to go there.

      Thank you btw! :)

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  15. It is rotten how people are such size queens. I actually have the same insecurity as you. I have novellas published, and the novel I'm querying barely kissed 60k. Yet to add 20k to it would make it feel false to me. Your book is a novel, IMHO. It's not the size that matters but how you use your words. ;)

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    1. Use your words! LOL I think it's more prevalent in certain genres. Romance and paranormal romance are big on word count. There's a real expectation there that a novel hit the 90-100k mark. And that's a reader expectation that I've seen voiced on blogs, reviews, etc., not an arbitrary publishing industry thing. I guess all we can do is try to convince that our stories will be the exceptions to the rule. :)

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  16. That's an old standard. The new novel is only 40k words. A story should be as long as it is: no longer, no shorter.

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    1. I think if the new standard in pricing is .99 cents, then 40k should also be the new standard length of novel. And I definitely agree that a story should be as long as it needs to be.

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  17. Good luck with the cover reveal EJ. So awesome to finish a longer novel. But yeah, a story is as long, or short as it needs to be. I read all different sizes, the story is what matters, and sometimes I don't have time for an epic tome.

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  18. Congratulations on the new book! And kudos to you for writing shorter stories; those have always been difficult for me to write, because I want to keep (almost) everything. I took a class once on writing flash fiction; it was fun and it definitely changed my perspective on shorter stories.

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    1. Thank you! :D I constantly fight the battle of "what does the reader need to know Vs what do I want to say". My editors make sure the readers usually win out. LOL

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  19. I'm glad to help with a shoutout beginning of September. Who did they survey? The trend for the 21st century reader is shorter. Most romances aren't longer than 50K, the biggest selling genre. YA is usually a lower word count too. With ebooks, who looks at size? Maybe we did with paperbacks once upon a time, fatter was better, but people don't have as much time. Most times people drone on and on about stuff I skip. So I'd rather have the concentrated version.

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    1. Thank you, MP! It was just a Facebook question with random people responding. (Although most were readers.) I keep hearing how attention spans are shortening as well, and in some cultures (like Japanese) short fiction is king. But I definitely see lots of anecdotal evidence (dealing with bloggers on tours, etc.) that indicate not everyone is on board.

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  20. I read what looks interesting. Period. Actually, I prefer to mix it up with novellas and novels, but you won't find me paying more than $1.99 for something less than 30K. Likewise, I won't pay more than $3.99 for an eBook. Just won't do it. I'll just get a copy at the library or watch for a sale.

    I don't have any space on my blog until January, but I'll be happy to tweet or facebook links for you. Definitely hit me up when it's release time!

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    1. You're definitely not the only one with firm price limits, Crystal. I'll say this: I saw a traditionally published (big name author) Kindle e-book going for $14 on Amazon the other day. Who in the world is paying that much for an electronic book? LOL (Apparently someone, right?)

      Thanks for any and all help! :)

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    2. Utter insanity. I mean, you might as well buy the print book at that price and have a nice prize on your shelf for afterwards.

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  21. I don't pay attention to length vs. price for ebooks or print books. For me, it's all about the author and the story....and I'm willing to support both until I run out of book money. At that point, I request my library stock the book and I borrow it there.

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    1. The funds factor is huge! But I'm with you on supporting other authors when I can. I realize the $1 purchase makes a big difference to their rankings, etc.

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  22. I read what captures my attention. Who cares about length/price. I'd rather pay more money for a novella/novelette that I'm going to be happy reading, than less money for a 100,000+word novel that I might not be satisfied with.
    Anyway, with the shorter-attention-span-syndrome that seems to be on the rise, who has that much focus to apply when reading tome after tome?

    And I read your Moonsongs 1 - brief but filled with such energy... totally captivating... and I thoroughly enjoyed it. No's 2 & 3 are waiting patiently in the queue on my Kindle... just need to get to them.

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    1. I'm the exact same, Michelle. Price and size really don't factor much into my buying decisions. I just want to be entertained and have my thoughts and emotions stirred. That can happy for me just as easily in 10,000 words as 100k. It's really about how the author handles the story.

      Thank you so much for giving Moonsongs a shot! (And the kind words. :)

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  23. First of all, thanks for stopping by and reading my IWSG post :) I don't care how long a book is; in my opinion, the longer the better! BUT, if the author says everything that needs to be said and the book is compelling, the story fresh, and the characters make me care it doesn't matter to me if it's a 100 page book or a 100,000 word book! Congrats on your new novel! Best of luck with it! ~ Jen

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  24. Oh EJ… I'm SO VERY excited for Ernie to be out in the world!!!!! You know I read it and LOVED it. Loved. You're so very, very talented, and it's a fabulous story!!!!

    I'm way stoked to see the cover too… gaaaaah…

    And 60K is a great length. I think the novel I just finished was only 62K… the story is what it is… and there's NO reason to add words when they don't belong there. Again, SO HAPPY about you and everything that you're doing. :) :) :)

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  25. Oh never worry about size. Every story is a gift.

    I will be happy to share your cover on facebook and twitter! Can't wait to see it.

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  26. First of all, best wishes on the upcoming book release.

    For me, quality and content are the primary draws concerning what I choose to read. When I purchase a book it's because it sounds interesting and never because of book size. Granted, in my current economic state, I do look for bargains, but even then there has to be something about the book that grabs my interest to be willing to invest my time reading. Time is money as they say and time is probably the most valuable commodity to consider when choosing a book to read.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  27. I'm so excited for you and your book!!! :) I totally get the dry heaves thing ... but we can do this! :)

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  28. First, congrats on your upcoming book!

    Size does matter, even though it shouldn't. I get the "too short" in reviews of my shorter work, even though I try to make it clear in my description the book is really a novelette or novella. I wouldn't balk at paying what you're thinking of charging for a novel. Yes, 60k is a novel to me. The only time I do balk is if I'm paying more than $0.99 for something that's a short story. Of course, if I really want to read it, then I'll fork over the money.

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  29. Hey, you might be the tallest board member at NA Alley!

    Maybe...

    We'll have to investigate Steph. LOL

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  30. Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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    ReplyDelete

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