Okay, so it may sound like I’m back peddling, but comments by Catana to yesterday’s post gave me reasons to reconsider my plan for a whole series of books from my original novel. She provided links to a couple of blogs that suggested that the ideal length for a novel is more like 80K to 110K words. Those are reasonable figures and I could certainly split my novel into a trilogy. Based on my novel’s current word count, if I combine the Books 1-5 I’ll have 78,730 words. A minimum of 80K seems doable. It just so happens that there is a natural break at the end of Book 5.
The publishing industry still seems to be driven by the paper paradigm. The other thing I noticed in links (here and here) Catana provided was that while the ideal length for a novel may be 80K to 110K words, there don’t really seem to be hard industry definitions, except what the market seems to decide based on sales. And when it comes to novels that will only be eBooks, the maximum figure is sort of out the window since the price of paper is no longer a concern.
I guess that’s one of the main reasons I’m going eBook. I’m tired of having someone tell me that they won’t consider my novel because it’s not what’s selling today. Of course, I may get the same message when my number of sales for the Kindle is zero, but that’s a message from the readers. The readers are who you write for, not for an agent or publisher. If it’s a sign of rebellion against authority, so be it.
By the way, my trusted companion, the OED online, defined “novel” as: a fictitious prose narrative of book length, typically representing character and action with some degree of realism. The Merriam-Webster dictionary online was more specific: an invented prose narrative that is usually long and complex and deals especially with human experience through a usually connected sequence of events. Neither one actually defined a novel’s required length. “Book length” and “long” would not stand up as metrics.
Does the label (novel, novelette, novella, short story, or flash fiction) matter? Sure it does. We like things in boxes, prepackaged, and shrink wrapped so we can be sure we get our money’s worth. Whether you let someone else set your requirements or if you decide for yourself, the bottom line is that you need to meet your reader’s expectations for content and value while remaining true to the story you want to tell.