Can You Edit Your E-Book While Amazon Is Reviewing It E-Publishing Basics: How Long Does an Ebook Have to Be to Make Money?

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E-Publishing Basics: How Long Does an Ebook Have to Be to Make Money?

I run a blog on ebooks, with an emphasis on writing and e-publishing fiction for the Kindle, iPad, Nook, etc., and one of the questions that often comes up is this:

How long does an eBook have to be?

If it’s fiction, does it have to be novel (and, if so, how long should a novel be anyway?) If it’s non-fiction, does it have to be a whole book or can it be a report or shorter work?

The short answer is… there aren’t any rules when it comes to length. It’s not like a school report where there’s a required page count for your essay or story. You just have to meet your readers’ expectations by giving them a good deal for the money.

Length Considerations for Non-fiction Ebooks

I interviewed Kate Harper over on my blog, and she makes money publishing articles or “booklets” to the Kindle Store. Now, these are more than the 500-word articles you may see on a blog post or article syndication site. Many of her pieces are in the 8,000-10,000 word range, but they’re much shorter than a non-fiction book, which might ring in at 75,000 words or more. She cuts out the fluff and just gives readers what they want to know, and she charges $0.99 to $2.99.

At Amazon, for ebooks priced at $2.99-$9.99, independent authors take home 70% of the royalties, meaning about $2 per sale. (Royalties are similar at Barnes & Noble and other major book retailers.) While that’s probably not going to make anyone rich, she pointed out that she’s done very little for promotion and has sold quite a few ebooks! That’s because Amazon is such a huge marketplace, and the number of Kindle owners keeps growing. They’re hungry for fiction and non-fiction they can download at a good price.

Length Considerations for Fiction Ebooks

When it comes to fiction, there aren’t any rules for length either. Novels used to have to fall into a certain word count due to the economics of printing books, and shorter works (i.e. short stories and novellas) just weren’t published unless they were bundled together into book-like lengths.

With ebooks, it doesn’t cost any more to create a 150,000-word epic fantasy novel than it does to put together a 7,000-word short horror 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 readers will enjoy.

If your story is on the short side, you should make sure to include the word count in the product description or “book blurb” so readers won’t feel disgruntled because they were expecting a novel and got a short story (this is true for non-fiction as well). Disgruntled readers leave poor reviews. Even if you’re only selling your eBook for $0.99, people will want to feel they’ve gotten exactly what they were expecting. If anything, it’s good to over-deliver on what you promise.

If you feel your story is too short to sell (i.e. under 5,000 words) for $0.99, which is the minimum price you can list your ebooks for with Amazon, B&N, etc., then you may consider bundling several stories to create a collection. Though anthologies aren’t the most popular thing out there, this can work well if your short stories all 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 does fairly well considering how little I do to promote it. The stories are about the same characters as are in my (higher priced) novel. At $0.99, the short-story eBook offers a cheaper option for folks who aren’t certain they want to buy the novel yet, though I suspect I sell more copies to readers who got the novel and wanted more adventures with the main characters. Either way, it works for me, because I’d originally written the stories before thinking of e-publishing, and they were just sitting around on my hard drive, collecting virtual dust. If you have some stories like that, then e-publishing them may be the ideal route.

Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, there are no rules for length when it comes to ebooks. Please your audience, make a little extra money, and enjoy being an independent author!

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