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Tog
2013-May-02, 09:31 AM
Everyone knows the cut off points for flash fiction, short stories, novellas, and novels. Not all agree on them, but most people can give you a word count range for each. That's not what I'm asking about.

Back in the BK era (Before Kindle) books were tangible things, with mass and physical dimensions that could steady a table, hold open a door, and kill most household pests. A story of... say... 5000 words wouldn't be put in a book on it's own. it would be part of a collection, or placed in a magazine.

Now that we're in the AK phase of publishing, a story as small as 2000 words can be a stand-alone item in a virtual bookstore. But is it a "book?"

Yes, I'm procrastinating again, but I've got a hotel full of "research material" and if I get into writing for real, They'll find some way to screw it up. So anyway...

My PI series so far consists of one story 7000 words long. A second one 25,000 words long. The current WIP, which will be about 30-33 KiloWords. That's three stories, but how many books?

Is the first one technically a book, because it stands alone? Is there a lower limit to this?

ToSeek
2013-May-02, 03:01 PM
For what it's worth, the Science Fiction Writers of America says a story has to be at least 40,000 words for it to be a novel. According to them so far you've got a short story and two novellas.

Tog
2013-May-02, 03:16 PM
Right, but a novel isn't necessarily a book. That's what I mean about the hard word count lines. They have values. People argue over what they are, but there are numbers attached. Eleven of the Nero Wolfe books were novella collections. Some of those individual stories were longer than Old Man and the Sea, which was only about 21,000 words, but can be found as a stand-alone "book."

If you had a box of rocks or bag of hammers, the quantity of of items would still be limited by the size of the container. It could be a box car or a match box, but it's still a box. An e-book has no container in the true sense. so how small can a story be and still be a "book?" Does it count if there's a cover and ISBN? If it can be bought or downloaded as a single story, no matter the length, is it a "book?"

It actually doesn't matter for anything. I'm just asking because this is what my mind does on nights I want to write, but can't because I have to spend my entire shift babysitting tweakers and needle-fiends.

Noclevername
2013-May-02, 03:28 PM
I don't think there are any hard and fast definitions used consistently for e-books. For that matter, early children's books are usually only a few pages, yet they are still considered books.

SphinxCore
2013-May-02, 03:37 PM
Consider a story told, in the sense the story is finished (regardless of word count) it is a book by the simplest definition.

If you self-publish you can define your book as you wish but the longer you keep a reader engaged the more likely they are to read your work again in the future.

Gillianren
2013-May-02, 04:54 PM
Depends, for me, on if it has pictures or not. A picture book can be a dozen pages, but a "real" book, a book where the point is the words, needs to be at least . . . I don't know. Fifty pages? Much less than that, and it's a big pamphlet.

HenrikOlsen
2013-May-02, 07:20 PM
For me a book requires more than one quire to not be a pamphlet, which for normal (octavo) sized books means 32 pages or more. A picture book, which because of its size is often a quarto would only need 16 pages.

But that's a definition based on my liking of real book binding as a craft and a hobby I get to do too seldom.

One quire and it isn't really a book because you can't do a real binding for it .

JustAFriend
2013-May-02, 07:21 PM
I always shot for 50,000 words, but authors like Stephen King would laugh at anything less than 200,000...

Gillianren
2013-May-02, 07:29 PM
Henrik, those are exactly the terms I couldn't remember on account of never having actually taken a bookbinding class. Thank you. That's my definition as well.

slang
2013-May-03, 10:29 PM
Funny how "doing things by the book" is a phrase to indicate strict adherence to standards, but there appears to be no real standard on what a book is.

Paul Beardsley
2013-May-04, 06:18 AM
Funny how "doing things by the book" is a phrase to indicate strict adherence to standards, but there appears to be no real standard on what a book is.

Now that's ironic. (Are you reading this, Alanis Morissette?)

I tend to think of a book as simply a collection of pages bound down one side, whether it's War and Peace or The Very Hungry Caterpillar, whether it's solid text or mostly pictures, or even the blank pages of a notebook or sketch book. In that sense it's much like a box - a box can be a matchbox or it can be a washing machine box.

Tog's BK/AK distinction is key to what a book is now. I think we'll continue to use the word "book" for an already existing book that has been transferred to Kindle, and for newer works that were written with this model in mind. But we are not obliged to do so. I like what the Kindle is doing to my (and presumably many other people's) relationship with books, and I look forward to seeing what experiments people will perform with the still-quite-new medium. A series of stories or unequal length is part of the fun - actually reminiscent of 20th Century Doctor Who in which each serial could be anything from two 25-minute episodes to 7, 10 or even 13* episodes.

*Yes I know Trial of a Timelord was 14 episodes but the first 12 episodes were clearly three distinct stories with linking material.

HenrikOlsen
2013-May-04, 12:35 PM
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is special by being a bound book (printed on very thick paper with a special binding to accomodate that) though it's only 22 pages long.
I'd call it a book, but that's because of its special binding rather than its length.

Gillianren
2013-May-04, 03:30 PM
The copy I just got the other day is a "board book"--a book designed to be chewed on by infants, essentially--but I'm pretty sure the copy I read as a child wasn't.

danscope
2013-May-04, 08:41 PM
Some books are quite small, though they contain much needed and specialized information.
I have one here on the design and construction and typical faults of Early American fireplaces
by Count Rumsford.
Also, to keep handy, is a copy of "The Tawny Scrawny Lion ", a little Golden Book, and a favourite of my grandchildren. They are all a joy forever, great and smal, these books
Read well and prosper.
Dan

Paul Beardsley
2013-May-04, 08:44 PM
actually reminiscent of 20th Century Doctor Who in which each serial could be anything from two 25-minute episodes to 7, 10 or even 13* episodes.

*Yes I know Trial of a Timelord was 14 episodes but the first 12 episodes were clearly three distinct stories with linking material.

Do you think you could try to talk about something without resorting to Doctor Who analogies?

Paul Beardsley
2013-May-04, 08:48 PM
Do you think you could try to talk about something without resorting to Doctor Who analogies?

Ironically, I'm not that into Doctor Who these days. And this isn't the "argue with yourself" thread!

On-topic, there are clearly emotional resonances to the word "book". These can relate to religion, fate, the verb "to book" (both in the sense of "reserve" and "report") and possibly other things. Is this why we feel averse to anything that might trivialise the concept of "book"? Hence a problem with short books?

ASTRO BOY
2013-May-04, 08:53 PM
I can remember with the advent of the first home style computers [Commodore 64] it was said that one day this technology would see the making and reading of books as defunct......One prediction that I'm glad to say I don't believe will ever come about.

Ara Pacis
2013-May-04, 09:31 PM
Should we make a distinction here between a book and a codex? A book can also be a scroll, if what I learned in Sunday School is any indication.

Paul Beardsley
2013-May-04, 09:50 PM
Should we make a distinction here between a book and a codex? A book can also be a scroll, if what I learned in Sunday School is any indication.

Funnily enough I did think about scrolls when I gave my broad definition of what I understand to be a book. Personally, I don't count scrolls - there are scrolls and there are books - but I wouldn't have a problem with anyone who disagreed on this point.

beskeptical
2013-May-04, 11:05 PM
...
Now that we're in the AK phase of publishing, a story as small as 2000 words can be a stand-alone item in a virtual bookstore. But is it a "book?" ... So anyway...

My PI series so far consists of one story 7000 words long. A second one 25,000 words long. The current WIP, which will be about 30-33 KiloWords. That's three stories, but how many books?

Is the first one technically a book, because it stands alone? Is there a lower limit to this?80-120K is the number publishers tend to accept from new writers. If you're an established writer, of course you can vary from that. I heard a recent discussion on CSPAN's Book TV where a panel of editors noted e-publishing might influence that with shorter pieces being seen more commonly.

What you're really asking is, "what do I do with these pieces I've written?" Either they are complete stories or they aren't, and that's more important than what you call them. I would think a 7K story needs to be in a collection of short stories if you are looking to publish, even if you are self-publishing.

7K is not a "book", but whether it is marketable is another story. The benefit of being able to charge 99 cents for a Kindle ebook on Amazon suggests a person might be able to sell it, but I don't think it's a very marketable commodity. Rather, it's something a writer would either put in that collection of short stories, or give away free as a promo.

I wouldn't try to put out a 25-35K story as a "book" but you could still publish them in e-format. If these are stories in the same genre, I'd put them in a single publication.

Ginger

beskeptical
2013-May-04, 11:24 PM
Funny how "doing things by the book" is a phrase to indicate strict adherence to standards, but there appears to be no real standard on what a book is.That depends on the context and circle you are in. Excluding children's books, if you saw any of these short stories published as a stand alone piece in paperback or hard cover format, unless the author filled the pages with artwork and put one sentence or paragraph on a page, most people would not consider such things to be 'books'.

Certainly books can be out of the normal range. No writer wants to fit a story into certain proscribed number of pages it doesn't fit into naturally.


For what it's worth, the Science Fiction Writers of America says a story has to be at least 40,000 words for it to be a novel. According to them so far you've got a short story and two novellas.It makes sense to have some minimum standard. 40K is pretty short.


I always shot for 50,000 words, but authors like Stephen King would laugh at anything less than 200,000...At 200K, it might be time to make it more than one book.

I'm working on the first of a duology. I wrote out 134K rough draft that had a number of sections that were only outlined. Now I'm 3/4 done with actually writing the first of the two books. It's going to end up being between 80-100K. I didn't do it on purpose, it just ended up that length. I do have the option of splitting the story at slightly different places, but the two stories are independent of each other. They are connected by a main character (not the protagonist) who is in both books.

Ara Pacis
2013-May-04, 11:31 PM
Also, how do you count volumes? IIRC, The Lord of the Rings consists of 6 books bound into three volumes. Would, Could and Should they be printed and bound separately?

I'm currently laying the foundation for a septology (7 books?) that consists of 3 volumes with one narrative over-arcing all of them. (It's an epistolary type of story. Come to think of it, the references themselves will eventually consist -if I actually write them- of dozens of books.)

HenrikOlsen
2013-May-05, 02:28 AM
As can probably be inferred to some extent from my previous answer, I think "a book" is something someone though it was a good idea to publish as a unit. This is distinct from word count as different types of works have very different size requirements for when publishing as one thing makes good sence. For e-books, even for one genre/style, it's way shorter than for paper books.

Tog
2013-May-05, 09:12 AM
What you're really asking is, "what do I do with these pieces I've written?" Either they are complete stories or they aren't, and that's more important than what you call them. I would think a 7K story needs to be in a collection of short stories if you are looking to publish, even if you are self-publishing.
No, I'm not asking that. I know what I'm doing with them. In the case of the short one, it's been out for over a year as an e-book, and the second will be out in July.

What I'm asking is now that literally any length work can be published as an e-book, has it changed the distinction of what "book" really is? I don't know that "book" has a set size, though the binding method makes a lot of sense. This is more of a philosphical question, like how much does "heavy" weigh?

The publisher I use will make a print copy available for anything over 40,000 words, but they accepted anything over 3000 until recently when it went up to 10,000. A study of book sales showed that the best selling length of an e-book was around 80,000 words.

SphinxCore
2013-May-05, 01:18 PM
No, I'm not asking that. I know what I'm doing with them. In the case of the short one, it's been out for over a year as an e-book, and the second will be out in July.

What I'm asking is now that literally any length work can be published as an e-book, has it changed the distinction of what "book" really is? I don't know that "book" has a set size, though the binding method makes a lot of sense. This is more of a philosphical question, like how much does "heavy" weigh?

The publisher I use will make a print copy available for anything over 40,000 words, but they accepted anything over 3000 until recently when it went up to 10,000. A study of book sales showed that the best selling length of an e-book was around 80,000 words.

I would tend to say e-publishing hasn't changed what a book really is as the concept may be subjective to the person asked.

Might one ask the name of the publisher?

HenrikOlsen
2013-May-05, 01:56 PM
I can't remember which of my favorite authors it was who noted that word for word, novels earn more for the author that novellas and short stories, so I'm not surprised.

Ara Pacis
2013-May-05, 06:45 PM
I can't remember which of my favorite authors it was who noted that word for word, novels earn more for the author that novellas and short stories, so I'm not surprised.

Was that from the market differences or from differences in their publishing contract?

beskeptical
2013-May-05, 06:57 PM
No, I'm not asking that. I know what I'm doing with them. In the case of the short one, it's been out for over a year as an e-book, and the second will be out in July.

What I'm asking is now that literally any length work can be published as an e-book, has it changed the distinction of what "book" really is? I don't know that "book" has a set size, though the binding method makes a lot of sense. This is more of a philosphical question, like how much does "heavy" weigh?Seems like a meaningless question then. Sorry, but what's the point? Does fan fiction being posted online and people who post their books online, rather than as a "book" one buys or at least downloads to a reader device, change what a book is? Did the publication of comic books, or novellas?

Why does it matter? We have a broader selection of things one can read, call each one what you want, call them books or don't call them books. The point is, electronic works and means of exchanging works has gone well beyond print. New vocabulary accompanies technological change. Old vocabulary will be inadequate.




The publisher I use will make a print copy available for anything over 40,000 words, but they accepted anything over 3000 until recently when it went up to 10,000. A study of book sales showed that the best selling length of an e-book was around 80,000 words.Which tells us the public still has certain expectations of literature, and that change is slow. That was the consensus of the publishers in the panel, e-books will likely change how people view books, but they haven't yet.

HenrikOlsen
2013-May-05, 08:48 PM
Was that from the market differences or from differences in their publishing contract?
No reference was made to possible causes, only the result.
Incidentally it was an observation made in a collection of short stories which makes me convinced it was either Zelazny or Gaiman.

beskeptical
2013-May-05, 10:23 PM
@ Tog: How well has your 7,000 word story sold?

Book Length & Pricing


Short Stories
3,000 - 4,000 = $0.99
4,001 - 5,000 = $1.99
5,001 - 15,000 = $2.50

Novellas
15,001 - 25,000 = $3.50
25,001 - 35,000 = $4.50


Novels
35,001 60,000 = $5.50
60,001 AND UP = $5.95
A quick search shows they don't stick to this pricing but at least they note the length of the pieces. I just looked at the first one that came up in a search for short stories, A Christmas Sleeping Beauty. The story looks intriguing, but paying for a 6500 word short story has a psychological barrier to it. Maybe in a generation that barrier might disappear.

Tog
2013-May-07, 07:18 AM
@ Tog: How well has your 7,000 word story sold?


Not well. Not even poorly. At last statement 14 copies and I'm betting I personally know over half the people on that list. I thought it was priced too high, and the list you have looks like it came from the same place that put mine up. Part of that is the price barrier, as you said. The second one, though maybe not the second "book", was something like 24,985 before the editing, but it gained about 75 words and crossed over the 25 k line I was really hoping to stay under to avoid going up to the next price point.

I think another part is my personal difficulty in marketing that first one, and that was part of the reason for this thread.

It's a stand-alone E-book. It can be bought as a single unit. The three reviews I got were all from people I don't know, and all were favorable, though two commented on the length. My problem marketing it is that all the sites that had a come and promote your book here option had that word "book" in them. I didn't feel that 7000 words qualified as a book. For the most part I still don't. But I do think a novella qualifies, and I wanted to get opinions on that from a few different places. Unfortunately, there seems to be a hard link between a physical book of novel length and a book as I was asking about it. One of the first replies everywhere I asked was the word counts to qualify as a novel.

Gillianren
2013-May-07, 04:09 PM
I think that may at least in part be confusion about what question is being asked. Personally, I found it quite clear--you knew how many words made a novel, etc., but you were trying to figure out the difference between, as I phrased it, a book and a pamphlet. However, it's such an unusual question that not everyone picked up on it, I think.

beskeptical
2013-May-09, 05:21 AM
Not well. Not even poorly. At last statement 14 copies and I'm betting I personally know over half the people on that list. I thought it was priced too high, and the list you have looks like it came from the same place that put mine up.It is the same. I tracked it down from your homepage. :)


Part of that is the price barrier, as you said. The second one, though maybe not the second "book", was something like 24,985 before the editing, but it gained about 75 words and crossed over the 25 k line I was really hoping to stay under to avoid going up to the next price point.I noticed they didn't strictly stick to the price levels on everything for sale on the site. Can you influence the price?

Does Museitup Publishing sell on Amazon or only on their own site?


It's a stand-alone E-book. It can be bought as a single unit. The three reviews I got were all from people I don't know, and all were favorable, though two commented on the length. My problem marketing it is that all the sites that had a come and promote your book here option had that word "book" in them. I didn't feel that 7000 words qualified as a book. For the most part I still don't. But I do think a novella qualifies, and I wanted to get opinions on that from a few different places. Unfortunately, there seems to be a hard link between a physical book of novel length and a book as I was asking about it. One of the first replies everywhere I asked was the word counts to qualify as a novel.It's my inexperienced opinion that people aren't ready to buy really short stories though they may in the future. I think Museitup offers the reader the choice to buy stories of shorter lengths. That may be unique, not sure. At least they tell the buyer how long the story is they are buying.

Again, my inexperienced opinion, if I had a 7,000 word piece, I'd put it up free somewhere like Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/) and use it to promote my longer pieces.

I'm a novice. I'm writing a 2 book novel as I said, and I think it will be good when it's done, but then I'll have to tackle publishing. If I can't get a publisher interested, I'll go the self publishing route, probably Amazon's free Kindle publishing. But I've not reached that bridge yet, let alone crossed it.

SphinxCore
2013-May-09, 01:02 PM
I'm a novice. I'm writing a 2 book novel as I said, and I think it will be good when it's done, but then I'll have to tackle publishing. If I can't get a publisher interested, I'll go the self publishing route, probably Amazon's free Kindle publishing. But I've not reached that bridge yet, let alone crossed it.

I've got two books agents dithered over even though test readers on different continents liked them -- and if you're going through a publisher be prepared to wait a long time to hear back from them.

I'm formatting mine and likely going through Lulu to get them out.

Tog
2013-May-10, 11:07 AM
I noticed they didn't strictly stick to the price levels on everything for sale on the site. Can you influence the price?

Does Museitup Publishing sell on Amazon or only on their own site?
I'm not sure if I have any influence or not.
Muse also sells on Amazon as well as many other e-book dealers. The cut from those sites is brutal. The publishing house gates about 35% from Amazon. So, if you buy a book from the publisher for $2.50, the publisher gives $1.00 to the author, and splits the remaining $1.50 among the editors, convert artists, and house. The same book that sells for $2.50, the publishing house gets $0.88 total.

I'm not sure how it breaks down from other services or how Self Pub breaks down.


It's my inexperienced opinion that people aren't ready to buy really short stories though they may in the future. I think Museitup offers the reader the choice to buy stories of shorter lengths. That may be unique, not sure. At least they tell the buyer how long the story is they are buying.

Again, my inexperienced opinion, if I had a 7,000 word piece, I'd put it up free somewhere like Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/) and use it to promote my longer pieces.

I'm a novice. I'm writing a 2 book novel as I said, and I think it will be good when it's done, but then I'll have to tackle publishing. If I can't get a publisher interested, I'll go the self publishing route, probably Amazon's free Kindle publishing. But I've not reached that bridge yet, let alone crossed it.

I really didn't want to start out trying to Self Pub. I've got a couple of other really short ones that I'd never sent to a publisher, but I still might try to get it in a magazine. Now that I have an actual publishing credit, it might make that easier.

Another thing is that part of the contract is that any stories set in the same "world" or with the same characters has to go to them first. If they don't like it, then I can shop it around.