Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Should size matter?

Today's post is one of a more personal note. Opinions come a dime a dozen, I know, but this one reflects my view personally as well as professionally.
As you may know, I am a writer. The jury is still out on how good I am. But, that isn't what this is about.
Today, on my publisher's loop, a discussion was circulated about sales and book sizes and how they relate to each other. (I know it wasn't the topic you probably thought it was when you read the title line, but since you're here anyway you may as well stay)
I've stressed over this subject all evening. It seems that consumers... hello, that's you and me both, prefer getting a good deal. No knowledge of rocket science necessary to figure that one out, right?
If money is no object, then kudos to you, but the rest of us want a lot of bang for our buck. Unfortunately for me, that means that my 65,000 word novel may be passed over by someone browsing the web looking for an inexpensive read and may choose one cheaper no matter the content. I won't even mention that the second and third installments of the trilogy are even longer... okay maybe I will mention it.
Allow me to break it down.
Let's say I want to read a good book. Do I still get in the car, run down to the library and check one out? I could, but I have no idea where my library card is and even if I found it I probably have a warrant out for my arrest for some book I checked out in 1992 and forgot to turn in, (remind me to get that all sorted out someday)
Anyway, I may be tempted to run on over to my local mom and pop book store or maybe Hastings or B & N and purchase the book from anywhere around $15.99 to $24.99 (prices will vary)
Or, I could get online, order it and read it a few days later when it comes in the mail.
But, no. See nowadays I want it right now and for next to nothing. You remember that instant gratification button in our brains that impulsively leads us around, right?
While this trend is growing, and believe me, I'm counting on that, it seems that longer books aren't as popular as shorter ones. Why, you ask? Price.
We aren't cuddling up in our favorite comfy chair, sipping hot chocolate or iced tea and reading War and Peace anymore (not that I ever read it before, my apologies to Leo Tolstoy).
It seems we want our books the same way we want our dinner; cheap, fast and preferably delivered.
So, chances are, nothing I write will ever be on your dollar menu (this blog excluded... it's free).
Personally, when I download directly from my publisher's website, or buy other books for my Kindle app from Amazon, I look at genre and content before I check the price. The truth, for me, is that I already know I'm getting the least expensive price by purchasing the book electronically. (half off or better in most cases)
According to statistics, shorter sells more because it's cheaper.
If that's true, does that mean I'm as good as dead in the water before I even take off? I don't know. If you have a crystal ball, may I borrow it?
Will I start writing shorter books? Probably not just yet. I should at least sell one copy before I throw in the towel, shouldn't I?
Will all of this downsizing we're doing with our lives result in the downsizing of quality literature? I certainly hope not.
I mean, look, we all know that bigger isn't always better (yes I know, I live in Texas where everything is bigger) but, in this case, you should get what you pay for. Longer costs more.
It's becoming a matter of money now not content. Are longer books better? NO! Absolutely not. But, the same is true for shorter ones. It's a toss up.
I guess what it all comes down to is what we, as consumers, really want. If you want "War and Peace" and are wiling to pay for it, even as an e-book, then by all means, buy it.
If you want a quick download for $1.99 you can read in one day, then read away and enjoy.
Just keep in mind that $6.99 for a book that would cost twice that or more, even in paperback, is still a good deal either way you look at it.
To ensure you're satisfied with your purchase, no matter the size or price: kick the tires, raise the hood and read the specs before you click that download button.
And, most of all.... Happy reading!!

1 comment:

  1. While I'm sure price is an issue, I think folks buy shorter for another reason. Time. They just don't have the luxury of time they once did to read a book in one sitting. Shorter books mean they can finish it sooner and not dwell on the story line while they're supposed to be focused on their boss in some bigwig meeting.

    I decided to go with an e-book publisher after reading an article about Japanese businessmen downloading books onto their phones to read while they were stuck on a train for a 2 hour commute. Those guys probably want shorter so they can finish it in those 2 hours if possible. Just a thought.

    Me? I'm with you. I don't do short very well but I'm still doing okay with my longer novels and most of mine range from 80,000 to 100,00 words. Great topic.