WHICH GENRE?

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Mankixote

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Hi all,
Hope I'm in the right area. I have a simple question for anyone willing to answer. It's an opinion only. I have several, as yet, unpublished novels. I intend to self-publish one and have narrowed the choice down to two, which are worlds apart. One is an historical adventure set around the time of David and Goliath and the other is a detective whodunnit involving a child trafficking ring. Both are good, easily readable stories although the historical one is a much better book (my opinion). The problem is the historical book is around 170,000 words and the detective is around 81,000. According to most advisory pieces, 170,000 is way too long for an unknown author.
 

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Hope I'm in the right area. I have a simple question for anyone willing to answer.

I mean, I feel like this probably isn't the best place for the question.

One is an historical adventure set around the time of David and Goliath and the other is a detective whodunnit involving a child trafficking ring. Both are good, easily readable stories although the historical one is a much better book (my opinion). The problem is the historical book is around 170,000 words and the detective is around 81,000. According to most advisory pieces, 170,000 is way too long for an unknown author.

Yes, 170k is very long if you're querying (although epic fantasy debuts sometimes go long), but that's not as much of an issue when self-pubbing.

Personally, there aren't enough details there to really make it more than flipping a coin as far as I'm concerned, but down the road you might try to put a blurb in Query Letter Hell in the SYW forum (requires 50 posts) to see how much people react to each one.
 

Maggie Maxwell

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170,000 is too long for an unknown IF you are seeking trade publication. Trade publishers generally consider length because of printing restrictions (though very long, tightly written trade sales have happened, even from unknown authors). If you're going the self-publishing route, then there's more freedom for length. However, it is worth looking over and seeing if you can edit it down to something closer to 150k or less just to be sure that you truly need every word. No matter what route you take, there's never any harm in more editing.
 

lizmonster

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With self-publishing, the length is less of an issue. But in term of strategy - could you break the book up into three volumes, and release each a few months apart? Having frequent releases is a huge help in self-publishing - the more you can stretch out your visibility, the more time you have to ready whatever the next piece of your strategy is.

Visit the self-publishing board here on AW - there are many people there who've had great success, and who generously share their experiences.

And welcome! :)
 
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Mankixote

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I mean, I feel like this probably isn't the best place for the question.



Yes, 170k is very long if you're querying (although epic fantasy debuts sometimes go long), but that's not as much of an issue when self-pubbing.

Personally, there aren't enough details there to really make it more than flipping a coin as far as I'm concerned, but down the road you might try to put a blurb in Query Letter Hell in the SYW forum (requires 50 posts) to see how much people react to each one.
Cheers. I'll check it out.
 

Mankixote

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With self-publishing, the length is less of an issue. But in term of strategy - could you break the book up into three volumes, and release each a few months apart? Having frequent releases is a huge help in self-publishing - the more you can stretch out your visibility, the more time you have to ready whatever the next piece of your strategy is.

Visit the self-publishing board here on AW - there are many people there who've had great success, and who generously share their experiences.

And welcome! :)
I did break it up into two volumes but, the ending of the first one wasn't a patch on the actual ending and it couldn't be improved without a complete re-write which, would cause more problems than it solved. It's definitely better as a single novel.
 

Mankixote

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170,000 is too long for an unknown IF you are seeking trade publication. Trade publishers generally consider length because of printing restrictions (though very long, tightly written trade sales have happened, even from unknown authors). If you're going the self-publishing route, then there's more freedom for length. However, it is worth looking over and seeing if you can edit it down to something closer to 150k or less just to be sure that you truly need every word. No matter what route you take, there's never any harm in more editing.
You're right. Unfortunately, I've edited it three times. Anymore and it would begin to lose some of the individual stories contained within.
 

lizmonster

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I did break it up into two volumes but, the ending of the first one wasn't a patch on the actual ending and it couldn't be improved without a complete re-write which, would cause more problems than it solved. It's definitely better as a single novel.

Definitely head over to the self-pub forums, then. My own self-pub experience is still a bit new, but I'm beginning to get a sense of how it all works...and frequency is an extremely useful tool. I'd almost suggest you work toward cliffhangers, which isn't something you can get away with in trade pub, where people are waiting 12-18 months for the next book.

But I know what it's like to feel strongly that something should remain as it is. I may preach frequent releases, but do I do that? No, I do not. :)
 

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Hows about I port this thread over to Self-Publishing? :)

That'd be a much better place for the question, anyway.
 

ChaseJxyz

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You will probably see more success, both with trade publishing and self-publishing, with the mystery novel. The size of it will be more palatable to publishers, and mysteries sell more than historical fiction on Amazon (which is where most of your eBook sales are going to be)(which is going to be the format of your self-published book that is going to sell the most copies)).

Also: just because YOU think X is the stronger work, doesn't mean that's what readers (or agents/editors) will think, either. You'll be surprised what people like or what resonates more strongly with others!
 

ChandraStorm

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The main reason that trad publishers are unwilling to publish overlong books of debut authors is that there is a bigger financial risk involved. Editing, formatting, printing a book of 600 or more pages (which is what the 170000 words amount to, even in a large trim size and with a small font) is way more expensive than a 300 page book. 170000 words are not outlandish or unreasonable for a historical novel, but they are a very hard sale for a newbie author. Most agents will probably pass on the wordcount alone, even if they like the premise.

The problem is, that those same costs hit you as a self-publisher as well. Getting the 170000 word novel professionally edited and formatted will cost you twice as much as the 81000 word one. If you want to publish a high-quality book, it will easily set you back a few thousand dollars. Also, the printing costs will be high, forcing you to set a relatively high price point for the paperback (or even hardcover) book. And most readers are very reluctant to buy an expensive book by an author they've never even heard of. It does not matter so much for the ebook, because the extra cost is minimal there (the delivery costs for ebooks depend on filesize, but they are usually negligable unless you have loads of image files in your book).

Another thing you should consider is: what kinds of books do you plan to write in the future? Where does your heart lie as an author? Do you want this book to be a starting point for a career as self-published author? How do you want to brand yourself? If you publish a historical novel, and your readers like it, they'll want more of that from you in the future. If you pull in the mystery crowd, on the other hand, it is unlikely that they will be eager to read your historical novel next.
 

lizmonster

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The main reason that trad publishers are unwilling to publish overlong books of debut authors is that there is a bigger financial risk involved. Editing, formatting, printing a book of 600 or more pages (which is what the 170000 words amount to, even in a large trim size and with a small font) is way more expensive than a 300 page book. 170000 words are not outlandish or unreasonable for a historical novel, but they are a very hard sale for a newbie author. Most agents will probably pass on the wordcount alone, even if they like the premise.

Eh, length is more about genre expectation than cost. Print gets more expensive with a longer book, sure; but trade publishers have options there self-publishers don't (paper weight, for one). They also get economies of scale.

Trade publishers have a fair amount of data on what readers of various genres will or won't buy. 170K would not be out of line for epic fantasy, for example (assuming the book is indeed tight enough, and they wouldn't offer on it at all if it wasn't). No idea what the genre expectations are for HF, but I suspect for trade 170K is high there.

Also, the printing costs will be high, forcing you to set a relatively high price point for the paperback (or even hardcover) book. And most readers are very reluctant to buy an expensive book by an author they've never even heard of. It does not matter so much for the ebook, because the extra cost is minimal there (the delivery costs for ebooks depend on filesize, but they are usually negligable unless you have loads of image files in your book).

This. But I did hear an interesting opinion from a relatively successful self-publisher: he sets the price for his paperbacks so he makes a good profit. He sells almost none of them - but when he does sell, it's a nice surprise. In contrast, I priced my paper copies as low as I could, and I've already had to raise the price on one of them due to an increase in production costs. I was hoping to ease the burden for people who prefer paper, but ebooks make up the vast majority of my sales.

TL;DR: There's something to be said for expensive hardcopies when you're using POD.

Another thing you should consider is: what kinds of books do you plan to write in the future? Where does your heart lie as an author? Do you want this book to be a starting point for a career as self-published author? How do you want to brand yourself? If you publish a historical novel, and your readers like it, they'll want more of that from you in the future. If you pull in the mystery crowd, on the other hand, it is unlikely that they will be eager to read your historical novel next.

Another good point, and it's not just academic. Success in self-publishing, much more than trade, depends on frequency. There are marketing knobs you can turn even if you span genres, even if you're not multiple-novels-a-year quick; but their effectiveness attenuates with time (and most of them are not free).
 
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Nether

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Eh, length is more about genre expectation than cost. Print gets more expensive with a longer book, sure; but trade publishers have options there self-publishers don't (paper weight, for one). They also get economies of scale.

It's also about shelf real estate at booksellers. There's a opportunity cost for retailers, since bigger books take up more room.
 

lizmonster

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It's also about shelf real estate at booksellers. There's a opportunity cost for retailers, since bigger books take up more room.

I'm not convinced there's a clear cause and effect there.

Based on what I heard and what I experienced - publishers buy space in bookstores. If you've seen "New in Paperback" tables or "New Authors to Watch" displays - those are paid spaces. (There is, as I understand it, no hard obligation for bookstores to follow publishers' requests, but in general they do, at least at places like B&N.) If a publisher wants a bookstore to stock a 170,000 debut novel, they will have calculated the cost of that marketing before they bought the book, and it'll be part of their business plan. It may cost them more, for various reasons, to get favored display space for the 170K book - but you can bet if a publisher wants that book shelved at B&N, it's shelved at B&N.

And again, it's probably genre-dependent. In SFF, my local B&N has entire shelves filled with nothing but different editions of Dune, GoT, Tolkein, and Warhammer tie-in novels. They are not lacking space for publisher-supported books, thick or thin.

I may also be biased, because in the last 50 years SFF books have become substantially longer, and I don't think bookselling has become more profitable.

IMO, the recommendation for new writers to avoid the Really Long Book has more to do with aggregate experiences. It's like the No Prologues rule - prologues aren't a problem, but new writers often get them wrong. Long books aren't a problem, but long books from new writers are often in dire need of an aggressive edit. A lot of agents will indeed auto-reject based on length - not because they think the publisher won't want to print that many pages, but because they assume, based on past experiences, that the book is bloated. If an agent with the right contacts takes a 170K book to an acquiring editor and says "Yes, it needs to be this long - just read it," it'll have a chance.
 
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Tocotin

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Hello,

Please consider the historical one.
1. Historical fiction isn’t as popular as mystery, but that means you’ll have less competition.
2. Historical fiction readers will understand if your novel is on the longer side.
3. Historical fiction means you get to do a lot of world building, but with the secret help from your ancestors and/or other fascinating people of the past.
4. Historical fiction about biblical times is probably of high interest to many people.
5. There’s not enough historical fiction in the world.
[6. There’s not enough historical fiction writers around here. Come visit us in our historical corner!]

:troll
 

Brigid Barry

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Basically seconding everything that Lizmonster has said. My knowledge of self publishing is very limited, but fwiw, I do agree that splitting the historical into three parts will be of great benefit to you. This is outside of my wheelhouse, but even with a much shorter fantasy novel a small publisher asked if I would do this. There should be two good places to stop without having to do rewrites.

Stupid question from me...why do you have to choose between one or the other? Why can't you self-publish both? You can use a different name for each if that's your concern?
 

Al X.

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This. But I did hear an interesting opinion from a relatively successful self-publisher: he sets the price for his paperbacks so he makes a good profit. He sells almost none of them - but when he does sell, it's a nice surprise. In contrast, I priced my paper copies as low as I could, and I've already had to raise the price on one of them due to an increase in production costs. I was hoping to ease the burden for people who prefer paper, but ebooks make up the vast majority of my sales.

TL;DR: There's something to be said for expensive hardcopies when you're using POD.

That is an interesting tactic. I price my paperbacks to sell, and they do sell. Looking at the historical sales reports, slightly under 10% of my total revenue has been from paperback sales. I make roughly $1.70 on the sale of a $9.99 paperback. If I doubled the price, that would get me an extra $6 a copy. Would that result in more revenue? I doubt it, since I would likely also, sell almost none of them.
 

lizmonster

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That is an interesting tactic. I price my paperbacks to sell, and they do sell. Looking at the historical sales reports, slightly under 10% of my total revenue has been from paperback sales. I make roughly $1.70 on the sale of a $9.99 paperback. If I doubled the price, that would get me an extra $6 a copy. Would that result in more revenue? I doubt it, since I would likely also, sell almost none of them.

I make $0.12 on each paperback sale. The vast majority of those sales were preorders; since the book was released, print has accounted for ~7.5%. So obviously for me print isn't as much of a going issue as it is for you. :)

I could always try bumping the price a buck or two to see what happens, but the data's so scant I honestly don't know if it'd be worth it. Maybe when I have more books out I could try it with one of them, just as an experiment. (An awful lot of self-publishing seems to be tweaking and seeing what works, doesn't it?)
 
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Mankixote

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You will probably see more success, both with trade publishing and self-publishing, with the mystery novel. The size of it will be more palatable to publishers, and mysteries sell more than historical fiction on Amazon (which is where most of your eBook sales are going to be)(which is going to be the format of your self-published book that is going to sell the most copies)).

Also: just because YOU think X is the stronger work, doesn't mean that's what readers (or agents/editors) will think, either. You'll be surprised what people like or what resonates more strongly with others!
Sorry I took so long. I was out all day yesterday. You're probably right, it's exactly what I was thinking. Cheers.
 

Mankixote

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Hello,

Please consider the historical one.
1. Historical fiction isn’t as popular as mystery, but that means you’ll have less competition.
2. Historical fiction readers will understand if your novel is on the longer side.
3. Historical fiction means you get to do a lot of world building, but with the secret help from your ancestors and/or other fascinating people of the past.
4. Historical fiction about biblical times is probably of high interest to many people.
5. There’s not enough historical fiction in the world.
[6. There’s not enough historical fiction writers around here. Come visit us in our historical corner!]

:troll
Cheers. Very positive. I'm new to all this. Where is your historical corner?
 
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Tocotin

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Where is your historical corner?
Here is the forum for general discussion about writing historical fiction: Historical Writing (please click on the link).

Here is the forum for posting excerpts: Historical Writing SYW (please click on the link). A few words of explanation: SYW means Show Your Work. You can post excerpts from your own writing after you make 50 substantial posts. You can, however, read the excerpts and comment and critique even before that, and we will love you for this. We have a small but friendly group there, and even though our areas/periods of interest vary, we read and comment on pretty much everything.

:troll <--- a friendly orc