If you’re an industry nerd like me, you probably know all this. If you like spreadsheets and statistics and read the Smashwords blog religiously, you definitely do.
You know Smashwords, right? It’s a distributor of indie ebooks. The site’s founder, Mark Coker, tends to be really transparent and stands up against censorship and all that good stuff. He also genuinely seems to want small-potato authors like me (and you, maybe) to succeed.
To that end, he shared the results of a study Smashwords conducted, analyzing over $12 million in sales of 120,000 titles between May 2012 and March 2013. You can read his analysis of the results here: http://blog.smashwords.com/2013/05/new-smashwords-survey-helps-authors.html (and you totally should, especially if you’re a publishing nerd!), but I want to focus on just one point he raises. It’s actually the second “key finding” he addresses:
Longer books sell better.
Uh-oh. They do? Crap.
Yuppers, the top 100 bestselling titles at Smashwords averaged 115,00 words. The lower the word count, the lower the sales. True story.
I did a stupid thing, without even knowing it: I wrote a series of short ebooks. It’s called “Wedding Heat” and, actually, the series isn’t even complete yet. As of now, it’s ongoing. And it’s been going on since last summer.
The Wedding Heat series takes place over Maggie and Ed’s wedding weekend at a luxury woodland resort, but it features more than just the bride and the groom. In fact, most of the stories follow wedding guests–the couple’s family, friends, co-workers, even resort workers. The series is every bit as queer as I am. Some stories are vanilla, some are so viciously kinky they could make a person faint. Some feature happily married older couples, some feature menage encounters and stranger sex. Some characters are bi, some straight, some gay, lesbian, trans, 2-spirit. You want it, Wedding Heat’s got it.
And the survey saaaaays… XXX!
If you want sales, a series of short stories is not the way to go. To quote directly from the Smashwords analysis, “Often, we’ll see an authors with a single full-length novel break the novel into chunks to create a series of novellas, or worse – they’ll try to serialize it as dozens of short pieces.”
“When you consider that readers overwhelmingly prefer longer works, and you consider that bestselling titles sell exponentially more copies, reach more readers and earn more money than the non-bestsellers, you can understand how some authors might be undermining their book’s true potential.”
So, the smart thing would have been to publish my Wedding Heat series… well, not as a series at all, but rather as one big book.
I’ve seen a lot of publishers re-releasing novel-length works by other authors as a trilogy of short novellas–exactly as the Smashwords analysis mentions, above. You’ve probably seen this too. If you’re an author, maybe one of your publishers has split up your work in this way. Or, if you’re self-published, maybe you did it yourself. (Did you? How did that work out?)
When I started writing my Wedding Heat series, I wasn’t really thinking about marketing. Actually, I began the series because there was nothing good on TV. I missed looking forward to some of my old favourites, like Frasier and Seinfeld. Ooh, and The X-Files. There’s nothing I anticipated anymore, so I thought, hey, maybe I should write a series that readers could look forward to. I could release the ebooks every two weeks and provide a touch of anticipation. Every story would be somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 words, so ideally a person could read the new installment in the same time they would otherwise spend watching a TV show.
That’s how it all started. Seemed like such a good idea…
Not so, according to the Smashwords survey results. When all is said and done, my Wedding Heat series will have an aggregated word count of well over 100,000 words. There are already… oh, I’ve lost track… 13 ebooks in the series? Should I have waited and published the stories all together?
If you’re an author, tell me if you’ve split up a longer work and sold it in smaller portions. If you’re a reader, tell me what appeals to you more: a series, a trilogy, or a long work?
And for more information about my Wedding Heat series, you can visit its devoted website: http://weddingheat.wordpress.com/