Major Blunder with New E-Book

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MHPHILLIPS
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Major Blunder with New E-Book

Post by MHPHILLIPS » September 26th, 2012, 2:31 pm

Over the years, I have been visiting this author blog and forum of Nathan Bransford reading, enjoying and hopefully learning a few things about the world of publishing. However, after 6 years and literally concentrating (like everyone else) all my time on my Epic Tale, I think I may have made a mistake on the format (length) of the work available for download at Amazon. In short, the work is over 1,000,000 words and to me at least, complete as I wrote it. Understanding the so-called prevailing wisdom by authors and publishers alike, I should have kept the work to three major volumes and published them each separately. However, the internet and Amazon to be more specific allows for (at least the length of this novel) to be published as conceived. The question is whether or not the buying public will purchase for download a book of this length? Several people I know have all suggested that I revise the work into a serial or a trilogy, but my heart (perhaps my ego more to the point) does not like the idea. I would very much like to know what everyone thinks regarding this issue. Some might say that the novel length of around 150,000 words is just right for a hard print publication because it can be profitable (if readers buy the book) and others might claim that a long book will present Psychological barriers to a viewer with regards to completing the work. But does this theory hold for e-books as well? So, was I foolish for daring to buck the norm, or will people figure out that they can be the ones to decide when to read the next exciting installment of the e-book? I look forward to reading everyone's thoughts on this subject.

In case you were wondering, the title of the book is Newrael: Unavoidable Detour

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Re: Major Blunder with New E-Book

Post by Margo » September 27th, 2012, 2:16 am

Speaking purely as a reader, I wouldn't buy a book of this length. I would assume (fairly or unfairly--and I haven't looked at your book, so this isn't specific to your situation) that the writer lacked a grasp and control of story structure.
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

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Re: Major Blunder with New E-Book

Post by Hillsy » September 27th, 2012, 8:38 am

The fact the wordcount moves into 7 figures isn't really an issue. There's plenty of completed series that top that figure, some many times over (I've just started re-reading the Wheel of Time in preparation for the final book in January). My issue would be: an a novel of that size that isn't split into sub-volumes (even just 3) only has one peak in the narrative arc.

The wheel of time is 14 books (4mil + words), and it has 14 KA-POW moments. You put each book down happy that a conclusion has been reached between the first and last page, even though it's just one of 14 similar arcs woven into a much broader story. If I picked up a million word book, I'd be thinking "That's an awful lot of reading before I get to a conclusion." And to be honest if there are many sub-conclusions within the full span of the book sufficient to warrent an ending in it's own right, you should be able to split it into volumes anyway.

I read almost exclusively doorstop books, so that doesn't deter me. But the equivalent of reading 3 of them before I get my HAZZAH! moment does.

Also just had a thought - very VERY few people will even consider reviewing a 1000000+ word book, thus nailing shut that window of exposure

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Re: Major Blunder with New E-Book

Post by Margo » September 27th, 2012, 12:50 pm

Hillsy wrote:(I've just started re-reading the Wheel of Time in preparation for the final book in January).
If you ever get the chance, you should get one of his editors to discuss what they really thought of that series and similiar "uneditable" work.
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

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Re: Major Blunder with New E-Book

Post by bcomet » September 27th, 2012, 1:15 pm

Just my two cents, but I find I read a lot of long books, like the Game of Thrones series or Harry Potter.

But here's the thing:

I LOVE a long book if it's good. On the other hand if it's not, it's not going to keep me.

But since you have gone the self-publishing route, and because you hold a strong vision for this work, I think you have to have faith in yourself and this decision. And too often, artists, writers, compromise on their commitment to the work for the marketplace "norms." Doing so or not doing so can be either a good or bad decision. It's a hard call. And that's why having a trusted editor or publisher helps because then there is a lot of experience and a team around the work.

But you've put it out there, so Now doesn't seem like the time to second guess yourself.

If it still bugs you, you can always change it in the future. But the souffle rule applies and you might muck it up worse.

I'd advise you to take solace in that you've now already written a million words and that's what "they" say a writer needs to churn out to become a writer. (hopefully ;) ) And, the more you write, the better you will be in the future.

If it were me, well maybe I'd pick up my next delicious project and get that cooking.

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Re: Major Blunder with New E-Book

Post by Margo » September 27th, 2012, 2:21 pm

You know, Hillsy and bcomet and I are just speaking theoretically, since none of us have read the book. It might be really helpful to get some professional feedback from people who have actually read at least a portion of it. Perhaps you could submit it to a workshop or a conference where you'd have access to professional writers, agents, and editors who would actually read part of it and a synopsis and suggest the best way to present it based on actual experience with the story.
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

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Re: Major Blunder with New E-Book

Post by AnimaDictio » September 28th, 2012, 11:28 am

Too long for me.

I'm reading the Gulag Archipelago right now at 1200 pages because it's an "important" work, but I'd never read such a long work of fiction from an unknown.

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Re: Major Blunder with New E-Book

Post by Sommer Leigh » September 28th, 2012, 12:27 pm

Too long for me personally. I would never even consider it for a few different reasons and these are not meant to be an attack against your personal writing style. Having never seen the book I can't make a quality judgement on it, but this is what I can comment on:

1. Time. If the average reader gets through even 1 book a month that hits the typical 100,000 words, your average reader is going to need almost an entire year to read your one book. Do you really think the average reader will forgo all other books for yours? The number alone will make readers feel like the reading is work and not fun. The pay off won't seem worth the battle.

2. Story structure. Your writing might be great, but based on the typical story structure, it will take 500,000 words to get to the mid-point twist. That's mind boggling and that means you've only got one in all that. Even if your prose is great, this throws serious question into whether or not your structuring is ready for professional publication.

3. Average. I've been using this word a lot and that's because readers know and understand averages and when something falls outside the averages they are suspicious of its quality unless something else is selling it to them. Oustanding reviews, major news coverage, or a big name can sell exceptions to the average. Stephen King can write books that are 1000 pages long because he's got name recognition and a catalog of books readers have already come to accept as quality. They figure he can pull it off. Notice, however, that his early books? The first five or six or seven? They are all very short. Average. They aren't all THE STAND (which, by the way, King was forced to publish abridged by his publisher because the original size, some 1400 pages, would never sell. It wasn't until years later there was a limited release run of the complete and unedited version.)

4. Money. So if the average reader expects to spend an average of $9.99-13.99 on an adult ebook from an established writer with a professional publishing house behind them, you would be hard pressed to charge anything over that and expect people to buy it. J.K. Rowling is catching major backlash right now for charging $19.99 for her new adult ebook and she's one of the most established writers currently publishing. If the average adult ebook is 100,000-130,000 words, that would mean you'd have to more or less give away 900,000 words. Breaking it up at least allows you, the author, to be paid accordingly for your work.

5. I'm not going to make many friends with this next comment, but I don't care. Writers, especially debut writers, need to come to terms with the reality of the business they are working in. Your heart, your ego, and your vision have no place making business decisions. This has nothing to do with the value of long books verse short books. There are some places in the marketplace that support epic length books, but you won't find any single, successful book out there clocking the number you've thrown out. Don't take our word for it - listen to the professionals in the business if you need to. If they all say a book of this length won't sell, why run the risk when you know it's likely to fail? Forget your vision, think of your reader. How will they want to read this book? How will they enjoy it? When will they get the time to read the whole thing? Respect what they want over what you want. Sure you can publish it as is because you can, but what's the point if they won't read it and no one will review it?

6. Hire an editor. It's going to be very expensive with that size of a book, but writers are not the same thing as editors, we don't have the same skills. An editor with a background in your genre will be able to nail you for things you don't even realize you're doing. You need that objectivity if you want to sell.
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Re: Major Blunder with New E-Book

Post by MHPHILLIPS » October 3rd, 2012, 9:59 pm

Hi to all replied to this post...

I am very thankful for each of your responses and have to come to terms with the reality of the situation of having e-published a rather long story. There may yet be a reason to make this a serial, but why can't a reader just do that on their own? For the record, I placed the book at $4.99 hoping a potential buyer would say, "Wow, what a deal?" Of course, like every author, it is my hope that both critics and readers alike will enjoy my writing effort based on its own merits. Whether or not my e-book is successful only time will tell. For now, I may just plow along trying to get the word out that my story exists. This is a long path to follow, I just pray it is not as long as my story.

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Re: Major Blunder with New E-Book

Post by Hillsy » October 4th, 2012, 6:40 am

MHPHILLIPS wrote:There may yet be a reason to make this a serial, but why can't a reader just do that on their own?
For the same reason TV series don't just realease an 18 hour TV program and ask viewers to just pause it whenever they want, rather than breaking it into 24 x 45 min episodes. Why? it's nothing to do with having the time to sit and watch in one sitting, it's to do with pacing and arcs. Every 45 minutes you progress and introduce some minor arcs, close a couple of minor arcs, move further along the Main arc. BUT most importantly you complete a major arc in one sitting. It starts at the start, ends 45 mins later. Ocasionaly for 2 parters you'll get dropped in a MASSIVE cliffhanger and the major arc will run for 90 mins instead of 45.
(There's a brilliant podcast on this from a couple of total masters. Type "The story board ep 3" into google - it's a 80 min podcast with Bransdon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Cherie Priest and Terry Brooks all about pacing and arcs and multi-book series and so on....in it they talk about when to let a reader put a book down for a time and the payoff of multiple arcs and so on.)

Readers are more patient, but if you delay that completion of a total, self contained arc for too long (or as inferred by your description for 3 times the normal length) they wont stick with it, they can't survive on just minor arcs for that long. They need a start and completion of a story sized arc.

Now! With e-books in this manner there is a possibility that the lengths of these arcs don't have to be inherently book sized. 1 million words (using the Night's Dawn Trilogy as a guage) is about 3000 pages, but you don't necessarily have to chop it into roughly similar sized chunks as you would a paper book. You could do 2 x 800 pagers and a monster 1400 to finish. Or whatever. The point being you have greater flexibilty there compared to print, but the reader will still need a managable plot arcs. (Stephen King's Dark Tower comes to mind where "the Gunslinger" is about 80K words I think and the "Wolves of Callah" is nearly 400K)
MHPHILLIPS wrote: For the record, I placed the book at $4.99 hoping a potential buyer would say, "Wow, what a deal?"
Err unlikely I'd say. I think a large chunk of self-pubbed e-books are between .99 and 2.99. But it's still ONE book. If you picked up a DVD and it was 10 bucks. It's still a film. If you picked up a DVD and the cover said "a 5 hour epic for only 20 bucks!", the brain still goes "it's double the price for 1 film". Now if you pick up a triple pack of films for 20 bucks, the brain goes "that's 3 for the price of 2 - good value!".

I'd speak to a marketter personally, but my tuppence worth would be: Find 3-5 key moments throughout the piece, rearrange a few scenes to beef them up and close off segments of plot and arcs, basically to give a bit of a POW factor, or payoff. Split down those lines into self contained (ish) novels. Then if you want to keep them together, only sell them as a set - it gives you the opportunity to give out "book 1" for free as a sample.

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Re: Major Blunder with New E-Book

Post by MHPHILLIPS » October 10th, 2012, 7:11 pm

While I ponder splitting the story up, I wonder if it is the publishing world and those who abide by centuries old writing concepts that holds back the writer who wants to do something out of the norm. There may be wisdom in a serial, but that is not what this particular author had in mind. Those that suggest splitting up this story may be wise from a marketing stand point and financial standpoint, but what about the original concept and application? How would a potential reader feel knowing that the actual vision of the story was as a whole and not broken up into 5-7 shorter serials?

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Re: Major Blunder with New E-Book

Post by Sommer Leigh » October 11th, 2012, 8:51 am

MHPHILLIPS wrote:While I ponder splitting the story up, I wonder if it is the publishing world and those who abide by centuries old writing concepts that holds back the writer who wants to do something out of the norm. There may be wisdom in a serial, but that is not what this particular author had in mind. Those that suggest splitting up this story may be wise from a marketing stand point and financial standpoint, but what about the original concept and application? How would a potential reader feel knowing that the actual vision of the story was as a whole and not broken up into 5-7 shorter serials?
I think this is a misconception a lot of writers have that somehow the publishing world is at fault for not being flexible enough to champion their particular dream. The standards, for what it's worth, are not centuries old. Books now do not have the same standards they had 100 years ago. I mean, they don't have the same standards they had 10 years ago before digital books became so normal. That's not a fair assessment of a solid industry. Yes, the publishing companies set standards but those standards are based on reader expectations and needs. They don't readily embrace styles outside the norm because it's not financially sound to do so. There are books out there that do things differently, but they are notable exceptions, usually created by someone with a built in fanbase that can absorb the shock of doing something *different*.

Try stepping away from your story as a piece of art or vision that can't tolerate modification for reader expectation. Pretend you never wrote it. Would you as a consumer take a chance on a never before published self-pubbed author and buy and read a nearly 3,000 page book? I mean, I like Stephen King, he's a great writer, but even I didn't buy his Under the Dome at almost 1,100 pages and that's slim compared to your book. Go to the store and check out Under the Dome and conceptualize the fact your one story is almost three times that length.

Breaking up a book of that length also has little to do with just finding places to pause. Hillsy said it well already, but serializing long works requires serious editing to make sure each slice stands on its own with a beginning, a first plot point, a midpoint twist, a second plot point and climax. It requires each volume have character development, minor story arcs, and one major story arc that propels the overaching plot of the entire body of work. Most importantly it gives satisfaction and closure at the end of each volume because readers need this above all else. Reader fulfillment should be at the very top of your priority list, way above art or vision. Storytelling should be about the reader, not the author.

In the end, we can give all the advice in the world but the only true test is whether anyone buys and reads your story. This is a test for all writers, not just you. If people buy it and you're happy with the number who will, then great. If they don't buy it, then it's time to ask yourself what's more important - keeping your work as is or making it accessible to readers. That's when you'll know what to do going forward. And with a work of this magnitude I strongly, strongly, strongly suggest hiring a professional editor.
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.

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Re: Major Blunder with New E-Book

Post by Margo » October 11th, 2012, 1:24 pm

Yeah, pretty much what Sommer said. I've compared this issue before to intellectual masturbation. Are we as writers just there to wank off for our own amusement (OUR vision, OUR story, OUR ego, etc) or are we trying to make it good for the reader, too? We tend to forget there has been a rhythm to storytelling for so long it was old news when Aristotle wrote about it. It's established in our psyches, and we experience extreme departure from that as dissonance.
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Re: Major Blunder with New E-Book

Post by MattLarkin » October 19th, 2012, 4:12 pm

Um... what? A million words? :shock:

Yeah, that's too long. I've read all the books in the Wheel of Time and greatly enjoyed them. I would never have bought the first one if it included everything all in one work. I prefer to consume things in bite-size chunks.

Besides, what do you sell that for? That sounds like about 10 books. So... about a $50 price tag? If so, I won't pay that on a new author (or any author). If not, then you deprive yourself of revenue by smashing your story into a single volume?

You must have climaxes and breaking points somewhere in a million words. Even three 333,000 word books would be too long.
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Re: Major Blunder with New E-Book

Post by luci2also » November 11th, 2012, 8:37 pm

Hi,
Let me say wow that's huge.

There are some traditional publishers that go for long works - this one might try their patience.
I think- well written and with proper attention to spelling, grammar and punctuation it might still have a place.

I checked out amazon and they let me read a fair piece of your work. For the size the price is not that bad.
I am presently trying to finish book two of my trilogy and might not be able to tear myself away for an intense read.

I know long... my original draft for my first book was 1,700 pages. Everyone who worked with me on it said it need to be shorter. I couldn't figure out how. But I finally managed to get it to 620 pages at around 250000 words.

I saw that yours predictably seemed "to me" to plod along. Don't get me wrong I liked your writing style. It's just predictable in the same way my first draft plodded along. I didn't totally cure that. I only say that because one person who critiqued it had little bad to say about it but managed a sly comment about how it was a long book but lent itself to being able to put it down and come back to later.

I constantly ask myself which do I want a book that they can't put down or one that they can leave and come back to any time. It's a toss up but one thing is certain with the mass of our books it would not bode well for us to keep them locked in a chair that long. So maybe the book they can come back to is not so bad.

I think if you could find the places to split the book into 4 that would be best but here's the thing; If there are no major plot points in those spots then this is going to end up longer than the original after being split. Since you would need to contrive some climatic moments in the various cuts, which could involve extra plot development.

I was fortunate because I had 4 even space events that I found could easily be expanded to facilitate the cut.

Still this left me with something that has one review that states.

"That really sucks it leaves you hanging." That's the full review. Upside is this person read it all the way through.

The length normally can be a plus with a certain segment of readers.
It's out there and no sense in writing it off too soon. See what happens.

best of luck with it.

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