Question: I seems like many authors I’ve found in the last few years are moving toward series that have shorter page count per book and maybe one or two “filler” episodes so that the reading experience feels more like watching TV shows. These authors seem to throw out 3-5 books a year in multiple series. Do you think this is a trend in writing due to the changes in publishing? Is it just a reaction to self publishing (I can, therefore I will)? I am sometimes waffling between being grateful authors are able to write and feeling miffed that I’m basically getting 1/2-3/4 of a story. They sell them cheap ($2.99-$3.99), but it feels like 2-3 of the books could have been smooshed together and edited to make one better book. Any thoughts appreciated.
This is what I get for asking for questions. 🙂 Thought we’d start with this one, since it’s dicey.
Disclaimer: what follows is complete speculation on my part and shouldn’t be construed as criticism of any particular author. I have no idea what motivates any individual author except me and possibly Gordon, and I’m simply making observation on the marketplace.
There are probably two forces in play here, the speed of production and the demands of the marketplace.
Speed of production.
Once an author has written something, they typically can’t wait to show it off. The traditional publishing forces the author to wait, sometimes a year, sometimes longer (cough, White Hot, cough.) There is all this pressure to share the story, but the wheels of publishing turn slowly: the story must be edited, then edited again, typeset, proofread, fitted into schedule as to not to conflict with other releases, printed, hand-sold to retailers, and finally shipped. All of this takes time.
With self-publishing, there are no imposed timelines. I know an author, let’s call her Emily. Emily finishes a manuscript, gets an edit – often paying rush fees, because it’s last minute – and as soon as she gets it back, formats and uploads it. No warning, no prepublication publicity, just boom, here it is. She doesn’t like to wait. We, on other hand, do things like make the manuscript available fore preorder weeks in advance, because we’ve been trained by professional publishing to this model and it works.
So some of what you are seeing as readers in regard to rapid publication may simply be authors who are writing at their natural speed and publishing stuff as soon as it’s done and edited. They exist in traditional publishing as well. Nora Roberts. Jayne Anne Krentz. These people simply write faster, and even though the publisher paces the releases, they often have multiple releases per year.
Demands of the Marketplace.
Self-publishing used to be more lucrative. Right now KU is kind of choking the numbers. KU customers borrow books, but the majority of people who signed up for KU never purchased a book through Amazon, something Amazon freely admits. The payout through KU isn’t as awesome as an outright purchase. We test drove KU for a bit, and we get better mileage with direct sales.
On top of lower sales, there is pressure to compete. The marketplace is glutted with fiction. There is an embarrassment of riches. When there is that much product, most of the offerings are mediocre, but it doesn’t matter. Research has shown that if a person wants a particular movie or book, they would rather settle for a mediocre book on their preferred topic than buy a better quality book in a different genre. If you’re in the mood for SF with aliens and romance, you will buy one, a mediocre one if that’s all you can find, even though an award-winning fantasy is on sale. This competition for reader attention drives the prices down.
So let’s do some math.
To get the best royalty rate from Amazon and other retailers, the book has to be priced in $2.99 -9.99 range. That gives us the royalty of 70%.
Let’s say we put out two full length book a year, a natural writing pace for many people. We price them at $4.99 to be competitive.
Our take home after Amazon cut: $4.99 x .7 = $3.49.
Let’s say we have two books a year, and each one of them sells 10,000 copies, so we sold a total of 20,000 units.
Our annual earnings: $3.49 x 20,000 = $69,800.
Now let’s say we put our 4 books of shorter length and price them at $2.99.
Our take home after Amazon cut: $2.99 x .7= $2.09
Let’s say each of these books sells 10,000 copies. We’re losing some readers due to drop in quality, but we have releases that are coming fast, and every time the book is released, the backlist gets a bump. Also, because the books are released that quickly to an existing fan base, the volume of sales remains more or less constant. When a book reaches a certain sales volume, Amazon and BN marketing algorithms shove the book in front of the readers by including it in “other customers also purchased” and “sponsored products” sections, which means the books get a lot more exposure. Exposure translates into higher sales.
$2.09 x 40,000 = $83,600.
Now, if we are mercenary, and we raise the price to $3.99.
$3.99 x .7 =$2.79 x 36,000 (we knocked off some sales because the price is slightly higher) = $100, 400.
We’re making bank now.
I’ve seen authors abuse serials before, releasing installments as short as 15,000 words, a length of a shorter novella, and pricing them at $3.99. They could do ten of these a year. And people still bought them. They complained bitterly, but they bought them because they were invested in the story. ::spreads arms:: By the end, they paid something like $40 for what would’ve been maybe two books at the traditional publishing price of $6.99 each, meaning they overpaid by about $16.
As a reader, you have to make a decision. Are the books in any particular series dropping in quality due to multiple cheap releases, and if they are, are they worth your time? Because it’s not about the money as much. We can always make more money. But you will never get your time back.
Wow. Thank you for being so honest and upfront about how this works! I had no idea.
Colleen Whitley says
Thank you for this answer. It was very interesting to read and answered some questions I had in my mind.
“I’ve seen authors abuse serials before, releasing installments as short as 15,000 words, a length of a shorter novella, and pricing them at $3.99.”
Yes. I’ve seen a (previously) favorite M/M Fiction writer do this. After the second ‘chapter’, where I got a mere 15 to 20 pages for 2,99, I stopped. I love good stories, and yes, I do get invested, but I wasn’t going to end up paying $ 30 for a complete book. These days, she prices the chapters lower, but I haven’t been back to her stuff since.
So… as far as I’m concerned, I’d rather wait for a good, finished, edited book, and be willing to pay a good price for it, than get (badly edited) bits and pieces (unless they happen to be the Innkeeper Series… ^____^) for an ultimatively higher price.
Ditto! I’ve stopped buying another author’s books because she started charging $3.99 for 82 pages! I’d much rather have a quality book that I can sink into. I hate having stories “ruined” for me because the author is just cranking out so-so stories.
The interesting thing is, there are a few authors I follow whose vast majority of “books” are short stories and priced accordingly. They have a set universe and the characters change every “book”, but each book is complete but part of the overlying story arc. Those I like, although some of them I do wish were longer, just because the story was good and I wanted more. I think the authors who start with that model probably hold onto their audience better. They still might put out one or two full-length novels a year, but also four or five of these short stories.
Very informative answer, Ilona. Thanks!
I’ve noticed this too. I think the epics of James Mitchner, Tolstoy are a thing of the past. Our attention spans have definitely gotten shorter due to tv, video games, and constant personal/business problem solving demands. Also, I don’t want to spend $14 on a 300-page download and publishers know that. In order to recoup their hardback profits, they have developed these short-story novels. Even though these books have gotten very small, it is much easier to swallow $4 as opposed to $14 thus causing us/me buy more and more. I have, though, stopped being those books that are below 275 pgs, but still cost $4.
It’s all a shell games.
I don’t agree that ‘epics’ are a thing of the past. Patrick Rothfuss is writing a pretty epic series right now and its getting lots of attention/accolades. Its a good series and well written. And he’s taking the time he needs to write it and even if its more than a year between books, I’ll wait, pay $25 for it in hardback, and gobble it up when it comes out because I would rather wait for the author to get it done ‘right’ than to get it done fast. Kristen Britain took forever to get the sequel to Green Rider out, but I enjoyed the first one enough that when I noticed the second one was finally out, I jumped on it. It may depend on what genre of fiction you are looking for, but good storytelling doesn’t have a ‘formula’ or word count. If that’s what you want, then Harlequin and Silhouette certainly sell to people who are looking for that sort of story (and please don’t think that i’m casting aspersions on straight up romance writing – there’s nothing wrong with people who prefer that kind of lit. I certainly read enough of it myself at one time). Obviously George RRM is writing epicly with Game of Thrones but his page count is shorter than Patrick Rothfuss’ (one could argue that the character life expectancy is too lol).
Do not bother with Patrick Rothfuss until he finishes the third and final novel. If it had been two or three years wait between books, I would agree epics are not a thing of the past. But, your example has not release the final book in his trilogy. It has been six years since book two was published. I can’t even remember the salient points in the story line. I do not want to cast aspersions. I know I enjoyed the first two books even if I can’t remember them now. Like any other business you need to have and keep to a schedule.
Alex R. says
Rothfuss’s books are impeccable. But I’m so frustrated with his unwillingness to finish book three that I’ve almost given up. Except, I haven’t. Always check the bookstores “just in case”. Haven’t failed to NOT disappoint me so far.
If that makes sense.
Sadly, I think Pstrick Rothfuss may have given up on his trilogy.
I don’t agree that epics are a thing of the past. Perhaps in some literary fiction but it is still very much alive and well in genre fiction. Patrick Rothfuss has been brought up, but a better example is Brandon Sanderson. His epic fantasy Stormlight series is cranking out every 2-3 years ( with multiple releases of other books in between those years) and landing anywhere between the 300-400k word count. Good solid plotting and storytelling in each book and his fans ( of which I am one obviously) don’t hesitate to drop $14-15 for an ebook. Even his novellas tend to error of the side of “short novel.” It can take some wading through the mediocre stuff to find the gems but those authors are totally worth wading for. That’s one of the reasons I really like kindle unlimited – even though it’s not as fantastic for more established authors who already have a fan base. I read probably 4-5 books a week. I can’t afford to buy them all- even if they are only priced at 99cents. But with KU I can blow through a tin of mediocre books and not feel guilty about it until I hit on that rare gem author. When I find the Gen author I will go ahead and buy the book even though I read it on KU because I know I will read it again and I want to support their work. This happens rare enough that I can buy it without feeling guilty for spending money because I know they are worth it. I found Annette Marie this way. Her UF series are fantastically well written and even though she has them on KU where I first discovered her I went ahead and bought all her stuff because she is totally worth it but I would have never found her if I hadn’t had the freedom KU gives me to sift through the mediocre.
Jeannette K says
It is funny, I have in the past paid big money for hard copy books in a series because i couldn’t wait another year for the soft copy. some of those series I later felt were an attempt to stretch the series instead of actually moving it along. with one book a year i had several years invested in this series and by the final conflict i was disappointed. While the filler books were good they were complete stand alone stories.
My current buying habits are if I like it I will buy it within reason (because i blow through so many a month). i do KU hoping to find a new author i like sometimes it works other times i don’t finish the book. Many times one or two of their books are on KU and when i search for more they are on the pay to read site. Guess what if i like there style i pay for it. until it gets to about $10.00 then i go in search of something else. At 3 to 5 books a week I just cannot go over that.
I was skeptical when E books first came out and now I love it and cant imagine not having them I read whenever there is a lull in my life, waiting for new tires, lunch and bereak time at work, doctor or dentist office, not driving but i do love the audio books for at work and driving if the add on is $2.99 or less I will listen to a book i have already read multiple times.
you and Gordon keep writing and i will keep buying!!!!
I am not near being a 30 book a month reader. I will purchase any book written by a favorite author, but I will only purchase 1 book of a series if I don’t care for the story. One of my favorite authors seems to have started on the route of long stories sold in very short spurts. I don’t like it, but I like the story and the way the author writes. I buy the books even though I am paying 1/2 to 2/3 more for the number of pages.
I’m so glad you explained how this works. Now I can buy my books more conscientiously and critically. I prefer edited quality but the escapism I’m looking for lowers my standards. I sometimes feel frustrated that it’s so hard to find books these days that have good characters and good plot. I find myself rereading a lot. I’ve given up on UF except for a few authors. I’m glad I now understand why the market is flooded with quantity over quality.
I am a lot more cautious about self-published ebooks than about dead tree ones. The upside of ebooks is that you can try a new author more cheaply than in dead tree. However, in my experience, the qualities I want are often not there, especially with authors who self-publish exclusively or almost so. I am perfectly happy to pay for short stories or novellas by authors I would buy anyway. For other authors, they’ve got one shot, and so far most of them have blown it.
I think that you are missing something. Yes, the $2.99 specials are fast to produce and easy to sell, but then, after a while, you find them offered for free at Amazon’s “hundredzeros.com” or even advertised a bit as come-ons for the next too-short installment. A decent book by a favored author is premiered with the best sales it will ever have and then will gradually be pushed to the back of the shelves to wait in the land of slow but steady sales. After a few years it will be dusted off and re-issued for a new spurt of better sales. This cycle can go on several times. In the meantime you will have issued new works with pride in craft that furthered your book series and enlarged your reputation to the point where new readers will buy your old books just to catch up. The $2.99 specials die in the backfield and are never seen again. Readers get so ticked off at inferior writing and the high price of the few pages misnamed “book.” that they quit buying anything by that author. I know that I have gone that route. I keep a list of authors that I know turn out an inferior book and refuse to buy them even as I check Amazon to see if they are free, yet, or able to be borrowed at KU. So, in answer to your first question, I would rather pay more for a decent book with a complete story even if I have to wait a year or more for the next update on my favorite characters. This is not to say that I don’t relish the odd, well-crafted, short story now and again. These are often in anthologies where I often find other stories by authors I haven’t encountered yet….thereby enriching them as I buy their back issues.
“I think that you are missing something. ”
Not really. I didn’t say I personally subscribed to quick and cheap philosophy. What I outlined above is an accurate presentation of basic principle behind rapid releases.
“After a few years it will be dusted off and re-issued for a new spurt of better sales. ”
If it takes a few years, the book will be out of print, unless it’s a classic. We are reprinted typically every 6-8 months.
“The $2.99 specials die in the backfield and are never seen again. ”
Not all of the $2.99 specials die. Both of Dali novellas are $2.99 Penguin Specials and they consistently sell a respectable amount of copies.
Paul Davis says
And some of us would love to see a full length Dali novel. 😉
and Andrea too (again)
Alex R. says
Yeah, buts it’s DALI!!!
I love a long, good book. I don’t want a single chapter. Don’t you dare go down that route. I’m a student, I don’t have that much money to spare, and since you are my favourite autors I eould be forced to spare it somehow. Probably from my food allowance. So please stick to what you’re doing now, cause I think you’re doing everithing right
Absolutely, and a book I will read multiple times. There are several cheap books that I love and have discovered new and wonderful authors that way with less financial risk. Darynda Jones’s Charley Davison series I Love. Her books are always on the high side, same with Chloe Neill’s Veil series.
But I love these like I do Kate and Curran (Dont get me started on Mad Rogan and Nevada) and I’m always gonna buy these. If my budget won’t allow, I ask my library to get it.
I agree, I love a good long book from an author I love about characters I’m invested in and love, and will always find some way to get my hands on it.
I would love short stories for $2.99 in a known universe (maybe with an intro, this took place during …., i.e. Magic Tests, or not). But I always want to read more from favorite authors. And a bunch of short stories and novellas while a wait for the major book, would be great. Waiting so long for White Hot, I would have liked more “Of Swine and Roses”.
I have noticed this in several of the authors I read consistently. I have a few “novels” of fewer than 100 pages sitting on my Amazon wish list that I WILL NOT pay 2.99 or more for. (And, yes, at least one of them is priced at 4.99.)
I also no longer trust these authors to give me good value. Assuming a misprint on the page count line, I once paid 2.99 for fewer than 10 large print pages. (You will find my appalled review on Amazon.)
Eventually perhaps these short stories will be combined into a collection or put on sale. I would like to have them, but I will not be gouged.
I am a guy who reads probably 30 to 50 books a year, not all of them new though. I will re-read a series when I have nothing in the queue. If it is $4.99 or less on Amazon I might give it a shot, but I have to be interested in the story blurb. I like long books, so most of the time I have to splurge on a $4.99 book. I have to admit, I am really put out when I have to spend $13.99 for an e-book, but if the author is somebody I am invested in I will throw the money out on the table. When I am buying a new book, I always look at how many pages are in the book. I like long books that are part of good series, if the book is less than 275 to 300 pages, I won’t spend my money on it.
I read mostly fantasy, but I also read SciFi and action/adventure. The current series I am reading is at book 16 so far. The Author pumps the books out about every two to three months. They are all around 300 pages. Editing is just OK, the story sometimes gets lost on itself, but overall it is a really fun series.
And this is why you guys and one other author are the only ones on my “auto buy” list. I don’t care about the price, if your name is on it I will buy it. Your writing is guaranteed to be top notch and I’ve never been disappointed. Thank you!
Now that you explain it, it is all logical and makes a lot of sense. I have found an author that I really like. I started with full length books for her, but she recently put out an entire new “series” of 1 book every roughly 6 weeks. It irritated me greatly as it reads like an old style cliffhanger. “Stay tuned till the next exciting episode….”
I normally try new authors off of BookBud when they have a free book offer. If I like the book I will go buy something else from them at regular price. If I love them, like I do you, I will buy everything they have. I have almost 1000 books in my library at B&N. I also do a lot of rereading. I find about the 3rd time I read a book, I really pick up small details that escaped my notice before. Those details really flesh out a story.
You are also right about readers having to decide how best to spend their book money. For instance, several author I follow (alright, stalk) have set up patreon pages. One of those authors used to use her blog to spin sections of a side story she might be thinking about — not as formal as Innkeeper but you still ended up with a short story or novella. But now she says that she will serialize the next such novella on Patreon for $3 per month subscription. So, I love her work and am crazy to learn more about these particular characters but do I want to pay, when all is said and done, $36 for an e-novella that you can’t even download as a complete entity? A tough decision either way.
Trish Henry says
Wowzers! That’s a new one! Although, throughout history rich people have been patrons to artists and scientists. Giving them food, lodging, materials in exchange for status and work done on their behalf. Like Leonardo and so many others.
So maybe with Patreon, if you art supporting the artist/writer, maybe don’t think of it as $36 for a short work, but as part of a support system that allows the artist to eat while they create a masterpiece and the short novella is just a thing they do on the side to appease and enhance the status of their patron while they work on the real project?
At least, I think that’s how that site works. Hard to get behind something like that if you’re not well off or the cause isn’t critical.
Really interesting – thanks for sharing! I also have seen/ experienced this trend. Some of my favorite authors have published these short stories – to the point where it feels like it could be one huge novel. I’ve always pre-ordered bc I want to know what happens but it doesnt seem worth it…..
Eva M. says
What a wonderful view of the publishing world! Thank you.
I can’t even begin to say what anyone else things and does. But what I buy myself?
1st: Is it well written and edited? (Sigh…I will admit. If Silver Shark had been my first Ilona Andrews book, I would never have become a fan. The DDS/DSS snafu drives me nuts. And it has my favorite IA character in it!)
2nd: Is the page count decent?
3rd: Do I know and like the author? Or does an author I like give them a good, honest review? (Grace Draven was suggested by Ilona! Total score!)
4th: Have the last few books produced been satisfying? (Goodbye Dark Hunter Series! Hello Eve Dallas!)
5th: Can I afford it?
I think that is it for me. I do have a few authors I preorder, (Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, J.D. Robb & Grace Draven come to mind) but most authors I try out first from the library. I would prefer bigger books myself. But I buy small ones also.
Yeah, I have to agree.
That was a faulty copyedit. It went to upload like that and I don’t really have the time to pull it and work on it.
Eva M. says
I know. (Snicker) But my mind desperately wants to take a pen to the book and change them all to DSS! (You created Claire, so I am happy, happy, happy!)
I agree with this also
But I’m not sure I would say “I like bigger books.” I like any length, as long as its not a cliff hanger.
Eva M. says
Yes, but I can read a 400 page book in one night. So small are okay, but “bigger” books are more satisfying. Saying that, Silver Shark is my all time favorite IA! ?
I too love Silver Shark and it is my all time favourite IA title. Like you, the DDS/DSS snafu annoys me every time I reread it. It probably will be less annoying next time because I now know Ilona is aware of the typo.
I keep hoping the IA writing team will return to the world of the kinsmen with a third story so that, hopefully, we hear more about Claire & Venturo and Meli & Celino and their world. I believe Claire would have assumed a leadership position in the Uley refugee group having been adopted into the Nagi family and proved her leadership abilities. I also wondered if Kosta ever learnt self discipline as he matured.
Plus I keep hoping that if our Authorlords wrote a third story then perhaps they would consider packaging them together as one volume and making print copies available.
My goodness, I wish all my annoyances were as trivial as DDS/DSS. Gotta read this one.
Eva M. says
You know? You are right. Knowing that they authors know about the mistakes make them less annoying!
Patricia Schlorke says
The longest book I read (not including textbooks) is James Clavell’s Shogun. I have it electronically and paper. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it over the years. The book is over 500 pages but the writing is such that it feels like you’re there. Authors who bring their readers into the story and can keep my attention is a good thing regardless of cost.
Eva M. says
Ha! My favorite all time novel is the unabridged Count of Monte Cristo! I have read it so many times my book is coming apart. And it’s well over 900 pages! 😉
Thanks for sharing!! Also I had to snicker (and double check previous posts to see if anyone caught the reference 🙂 “you can have two but not all three…” from our fav Alpha Strain Werewolf…Cheap, Fast & Good – only two not three!
Aaah! That’s why it seemed vaguely familiar ? (I’m really bad with quotes/references, I know they come from somewhere but never recognize them… unless it’s Harry Potter!)
A lot of authors I read write novellas in between books, so you end up with “books” that are labeled 1.5 or 4.5 in addition to the normal 1, 2, 3, etc. I have decided to ignore those stories & don’t read any of them. They just don’t give me the satisfaction a full length novel does. What really annoys me is when authors who write a series also write graphic novels and/or RPGs for the same storyline. I don’t read or play those either, & it seems like they spend more time writing those than the actual novels (yeah, I’m looking at you Jim Butcher) so that the people who are willing to spend money on their books, don’t get any books.
YES! THIS! It will be YEARS before his next book because he’s farting around with games and graphic novels. Added to that, I felt like his last couple “Dresden Files” books were kind of phoning it in, and he’s moved from my “must buy. must buy NOW!” list to my “the library will have this” list.
The last book I read of his is when Harry got shot. Could not get in into anything since then.
Ericka, I laughed at your “must buy. Must buy NOW” to ” the library will have this” categorisation because you have articulated what I find myself doing as authors slip off my autobuy list. Being a rereader and sort of book collector, l have, in the past, bought ebook, dead tree copy and audiobook of favourite stories/ authors. Now the list of auto buy authors has decreased because, like you, I thought some authors were kind of phoning it in, or the series seemed to have ” jumped the shark” and outstayed its logical conclusion, or the price of the ebook is way too high ( $16-$17 for an ebook is just publisher greed).
Needles to say IA is an author I download to read on the day of release ( roll on May 30 so I can finally get my hands and eyes on Whitehot) , then buy a dead tree copy ( even if the covers are yuk) and, because Renee is such a great narrator I download the audiobook to listen to while I do chores.
I thought Ilona’s explanation about earnings etc above was excellent and if anyone wants to read more about earnings and the state of the book business google author earnings and read some of data guy’s reports. He very generously includes his slides from industry presentations eg the one he gave to RWA.
heh. exactly. except I don’t do audio books. of course, my company just announced that my job is moving to another site, 50+ miles away so i’ll have commute time before too much longer…
Angela Shikany says
I’m a voracious reader and rereader. I also have always read very quickly. I read or reread about sixty books a month. I love my tablets and the benefits of buying Ebooks on line. An author I was very fond of pulled that serialization gig, charging by the chapter. I waited till the book came out in it’s entirety a year later saving about thirty dollars. It was an excellent book but the process left a bad taste in my mouth.
I’m willing to support authors by buying their work instead of going the KU route but I won’t stick with a writer who doesn’t respect her readership.
The respect you show your readers and your commitment quality is a beacon of light in a swirling sea of poor writing, poor editing, and overpriced cliffhangers.
Mary Beth says
I’ve been taking writing classes for a year now, and one of the important things I’ve learned is the value of a good editor. I stopped buying certain authors because their work wasn’t good, and it wasn’t edited more than once, and it made me frustrated. Why didn’t the author care more? Why put it out there half done, when a little more time would have made it better? I’ve quit reading certain authors who’ve caved in to fan pressure and turned in lukewarm stories with bad editing. (And I do mean worse than typos.)
I’ll pay more for an anthology of several authors if one of them is a favorite. That’s how I find new authors to read, over being nickel and dimed and frustrated.
It is about the time investment. I recently met an independent bookstore owner and while chatting, I reluctantly told her that I sometimes do not finish books. Usually not because life is busy and it just doesn’t resonate. Sometimes I want to throw the book at a wall because of how crappy it is – subpar plot, little editing, or lack of interesting characters. I rarely want the money back. I want my time back! I found out that I’m not a bad reader. She actually gives a book less pages to capture her interest than I do!
That’s the hardest thing about reading books on my kindle app on my phone – I can’t throw the bad ones at the wall anymore.
I used to read a lot more, but with 2 young kids and too many hobbies, my free time is suddenly at a premium so I’ve found myself very picky about picking up new authors. Often I’ll go the Audible route since that allows me to multi-task. However, i find myself sticking to a very short list of favorite authors; only adding 1-3 new names per year but also dropping a name off the list if quality starts to slip. For example: I used to buy everything that LKH wrote, but the plot and character development got shabby and the books started reading like fluffed up short stories with not enough substance to make it a ‘satisfying’ read; so I dropped her off my list. I love the InnKeeper chronicles and I will take the time every friday to read every installment, but you’d already ‘established’ yourself on my list beforehand. Jim Butcher has some short-story compilations of stuff about Dresdan that I’ll buy because I love that character, but I wouldn’t buy the short story by itself most likely for $2.99. I’m buying the compilation because I know that there’s one story I’ll like (i trust him to write a quality piece) and I’m hoping that there will be authors who write similar stuff that I Might like along with it. Now, because I use Audible, I look at the read time of the book before I use my credit ($14.99/month which is less than I would spend on a brand new hardback from a favorite author). If its less than 10 hrs, I consider it a waste at that price. My preference is at least 13+ hrs. If i was reading it myself instead of listening to it, I would hope for at least 4 hrs of reading time. If the book is shorter then I consider it a ‘snack’ read and I don’t buy those often unless the author does a really good job of making it fun and interesting (or super steamy if I’m in the mood for more explicit content) even if brief because I simply don’t have the time for those anymore and I only get them in paperback or ebook and will often shop for them at a discount store and pass it by if I can’t find it for a price I consider reasonable for something that will only take me 1-2 hrs to read. But for me, in order to feel satisfied with a book, I need plot, character development, and decent writing skill (too many grammatical or ‘flow’ errors distract from the story) to drive the story along and carry me from one book to the next in a series. If an author can give me all of that in a short book, then I’ll take the time for a quick read rather than a longer ‘listen’. Andre Norton managed good short books (Forerunner and Witch World series were only about 200 pages in paperback) while Tamora Pierce’s young adult series range from 280-400 pages depending on the book. I would pay the same price for either in paperback. But the quality of storytelling is there in both for me.
I think the above is very well said and covers everything pretty well. The only thing I’d add is that a lot of self-publishers right now are really feeling the pressure from Amazon’s visibility algorithms.
Those algorithms give your book more visibility for the first 30 days and then somewhat less visibility for the first 90 days and then after that there’s basically no visibility.
By publishing every 30 days you keep all of your books at the top of their visibility at all times and by publishing every 90 days you do a slightly lesser version of the same thing.
I noticed that your own publisher seems to be doing something similar with the white-hot publishing date by having another book scheduled to follow-up within a few months. I’d assumed they were putting the algorithms to good use to get higher sales. Is there major first book free at the same time they might get an even bigger bump in sales. If you followed up at the 90 days by releasing a very short low cost or free novela in the same series then you’d extend that higher visibility period for the series even longer.
I strongly suspect part of the reason that book lengths have been getting a little shorter is because it’s quite difficult to put out a quality book in that abbreviated length of time unless you make it a shorter book.
Also among self-publishers low cost novellas are strongly recommended right now, especially free ones, because if you have a back list they are a great way to pull readers into your series without making one of your longer books free.
Thanks for having such an awesome website and talking about so many different things on it. I really enjoy reading it. And good luck with your yarn projects. Thank you!
Maybe I should be ashamed but…. I don’t even look at those “serials” >.< … I feel like it's too risky for me (I know I'd give up at one point… Usually, after the fourth/fifth book of a serie -the length doesn't matter- I tend to get bored and drop it… I don't know if it's just my disease or a lesser quality of the story) and too frustrating (I'd rather wait a whole year than wait every month). Although,I don't mind fillers at all when they are sidestories of a big one.
Thanks for sharing and for this peek into the publishing (?) world !
I can get through 250 pages in a couple of hours. Would love a full book to read but then again I love to read❤️❤️
Joseph Delinski says
I think 3.99 is fair, and I don’t hesitate because it is more than 2.99, don’t even give it a thought, it is under 5 bucks and with you I know what I am getting. From time to time I get UK, it is unusual for me to finish a book I get through them so I discontinue my UK. The difference between reading most of the published urban fantasy writers and UK is night and day. Some of it is editing and publisher feedback. Most of it is experience and talent. I enjoy your pre edit “snippets” as much as your finished product. Most of the book length thing is artificial (padded), The shorter books read really good, and you put out more of them, giving me more to read. I remember as a kid buying all the ace sci-fi double paperbacks (35 cents). Novels were shorter back then, and of course cheaper. I think the things you learn getting published contribute to me finishing every one of your books as opposed to what I do with UK. I don’t know how the writers going straight to self-publishing can get that level of polish. It is incorporated in how you write now so self publish (with editing) is the way to go, go for the bucks.
What is UK, or did you mean KU, Joseph?
Likewise, what is the KU that Ilona mentioned?
Kindle Unlimited, I believe.
I think they are referring to Kindle Unlimited – the person receives a one-month free trial and after that it’s USD9.99 per month for “unlimited freedom to explore new genres, authors, …” There is an analysis of pro’s and con’s here https://ebookfriendly.com/kindle-unlimited-ebook-subscription/
KU = Kindle Unlimited
It’s paid access to a library of books, the lineup of which changes often.
Thanks, guys. Ilona has used that acronym before, but I don’t subscribe(?) to KU, so it never occurs to me. A few more references and it’ll sink in.
Very clear explanation, thank you for taking the time to lay this out.
Nowadays i sedate my reading addiction with Chinese-Japanese-Korean web translations. “Free, Very Fast, Mostly Average”
Donna G says
I read a book every day and will read a book more than twice if I like it, what I hate is a cliff hanger when you have to wait months for the next book. What I love is a good well written book with the same main characters and a few new ones every now and then. Yourselves,Nora Roberts, Laurel K Hamilton , Christine Feehan seem to be able to do that along with a few others and I am usually in the book store ordering them when ever they come out in paperback. Here in the U.K. a paperback is about £8 but worth every penny.
I have found a lot of fun stories on Kobo which are not published in the UK and are less expensive that a real paper book and the first in one in a series is often free.
Please keep up the good work as the best things in life are worth waiting for.
I won’t do serials even if they look interesting.
1. I dislike cliffhangers.
2. I resent paying that much for a piece of the story.
I will buy a mediocre book over a highly rated serial.
Erin Burns says
Oh sheesh do I generally hate serials. I even wait till Innkeepers are done. The single exception for me was Meljean Brook’s Kraken King. But those were published rapidly, she was up front that she was publishing them in full together at the end, and the heroine was herself a serial writer, so there was a “hook”.
I would rather have to wait and to have a well written book with a good plot and
storyline. I buy a lot of books but even some of my favorite authors I have stopped buying books because it seems to be a repeat of books in the past. And self publishing is nice when you start because it get your name out and people start looking for you . But at some point you need a publisher to refine your writing and edit your books. I have gotten to the point that I don’t necessarily buy a book just because of the author,not including you. Already pre-ordered your guys next book. In fact a lot of times I will skip over a book if it says 2.99 because it’s usually an 100 pages or less. I know the book industry seems to push these authors to do the stuff because I can’t see most authors put out something that they’re not proud of. Unfortunately we are a culture that wants everything now and are unable to wait for anything. Hopefully your publisher has not started doing this to you I enjoy your Books greatly and even though you have been torturing us for the last year and a half I cannot wait until your new book comes out . Keep up the great work I love you guys your work is awesome.
Tiger Lily says
If I am reading a new author one of the things I check out is number of pages. If it is under 250 pages I won’t buy it. If it is an auto-buy author then I will buy a reasonably priced short book. I have all the elder races novellas because I like the world and characters. I have all of Ilona Andrew’s shorter pieces because I love the writing. I have to love you as an author for size not to matter?
I am buying most of my books electronically these days, because reading on my phone is WAY easier than having a dead-tree book with my toddler.
I’ve found that you generally get what you pay for with free or $0.99 stories – unless it’s some great sale, they usually pretty much suck.
I may be willing to buy a new author if someone (i.e. you) recommended him/her. I’ve found some good ones stalking other people’s lists on Goodreads. Best for me is that “look inside” feature on amazon. I’ll read the sample, and if I’m into it, I’ll buy the book. Within reason. There is one particular author who has priced herself over $10. I enjoy her stories, but I don’t feel that they are worth $13.99 for an electronic version. I don’t think ANYONE’s books are worth that much for the e-version, in part because I expect the format to become obsolete and I’ll have to repurchase at some point.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting old and crotchety, but I am less patient with mediocre writing than I used to be. Now, I’ll pay more and wait longer for someone that I really enjoy. Sadly, my favorite author list has dwindled to less than 5. *sob* But you have several books coming out this year, so I may survive.
I’ll say that the respect an author has for his/her fans makes an impact on me too. (Note: drawing boundaries and sticking to them does not equal disrespect to me.) Someone who used to be a favorite author has lost her d*mn mind over the last few years and not only has she become very rude and disrespectful of her readers, but her writing has gone to crap. She went from a “stand in line to get the hardback at midnight” buy to “meh, eventually the library will get it.” And part of that was she sells “short stories” that are actually the first chapter of the next book, and “novellas” that are brief scenes. She’s the one that taught me to pay attention to word count and also, read the amazon reviews before I buy.
Thank you for the explanation! I’ve gained understanding. 🙂
Looking back on Goodreads in the past I’ve normally bought and read about 80 books a year. But over the last three years that has dropped off and last year I only bought and read about 50, and this year it’s going to be even less. I have been finding it harder and harder to find new GOOD books so I’ve resorted to doing a lot of re-reading. I prefer romance, all genres within, but I’m thinking I’m going to have to expand out of that just to find a good book. Too many books coming out, too hard to find quality, and too hard to find them as 5 stars on Goodreads seems to mean nothing these days. I don’t care about the length of a book so long as it is good but, yeah, they seem to be getting shorter than they were in past years. I’ve seen many, many complaints on GR people saying books are too long. Good Lord people have the attention span of a gnat these days. I miss those big epic books, not done much anymore in the romance genre.
So with the explosion of ebooks and self-publishing there have been amazing authors I’ve discovered that would probably not have gotten published in the old days, so that is fantastic. At the same time there is a total glut of rubbish books, and wading through them to find the good ones is getting harder and harder. So I rely on my friends at Goodreads heavily for recommendations, but a lot of my older friends with similar tastes are dropping off. And a lot of them are reading authors I’ve never heard of. It used to be everyone was reading nearly the same authors so you got a good number of reviews to study before buying, but now barely any of them read the same ones so it makes it harder again as you’re constantly trying out new authors, which can be hit and miss with the dollars.
I tend to rely on my fave authors (although some of them are just not putting out books at all or as much) and am wary about wasting my money on new authors. Sometimes on GR I’ll see a book has so many 5 star reviews so it must be good, right? But then it turns out they are cliche ridden, badly written pieces of rubbish and I think OMG how can anyone like this, let alone 5 stars?! Everyone seems to give 5 stars these days just because they like something, which makes it hard to suss out the top quality books. I do more and more re-reading than ever just to keep a book in my hands and a quality book.
I love when authors have a series they do one long book a year, and a few little shorties in between to keep you in the world and give us little stories of non-main characters, as long as they are not overpriced.
Something that bothers a lot lately are people ranting on GR and marking books down in rating because they want a book for a particular couple and the author doesn’t do it, for whatever reason. I’m all for authors listening to their public, but only so far. It has gotten to the stage I don’t even scroll down past my friends and people I follow because it’s just crazytown. I love change and advancement, but people are just getting nuttier and scarier and ruder!
In the end I’d rather have a good quality book once a year … if they do smaller side character short stories in between, I love that, so long as they are the right price for page count.
Actually KU has become my go to site for books to read. I no longer have any author on my auto buy list due to multiple issues with multiple authors. I am so tired of a book series that drags on and on with the same villain or a series where the author takes forever between books( yes Jim Butcher). The Eve Dallas books were great for the awesome interactions between characters and the development of those characters which is sadly lacking in the most recent books. Then you have the author who took 4 chapters of a previous book and put them in the newest book as a flashback. I have not purchased any of her books since then. I have found that most of my favorite and top selling authors have just gotten lazy, sloppy or bored and are simply not worth the high price cost of their books.
I have found quite a few good authors through KU. I try out dozens every month and if I like them I can then support their efforts by purchasing their books.
So maybe the short books are the only way these authors can sell their stories.
I am a Bibliovore and work at a Public Library. I will read what I call short fiction, but only if the Library owns it. Thank goodness for the Library to feed my reading habit.
I do still buy books, but only from a few certain authors. I just do not have room at home.
Certain authors, IA for sure, I am slowly getting the ebooks to supplement my worn physical copies.
So I recommend your Library for some stuff. I can be surprising what you might find on Overdrive or Hoopla.
I’m on the fence about this one. It’s all relative. I do enjoy my Starbucks every other week, but I get much more enjoyment from a short read at the same price so the $3-5 price points don’t bother me, but the cliffhangers and lack of free sample (kindles 10% of a short story) do. Maybe I’m dating myself (still in my 30s) but I remember having to pay close to $20 for a hard cover book when it was just published as I didn’t want to wait for it to come to paperback. So, if an author I enjoy is asking for more, I am certainly willing to pay it. For the unknown authors, it’s more of a gamble.
I don’t necessarily think it’s a polarizing issue – not love or hate. Maybe in part it is convenience. My mood for what I want to read changes. The longer books are certainly the staples, but I do like to supplement with short stories when I don’t have the time or resources to devote to more than that. I would never want to lose out on the possibility of Silver Shark or the Julie stories or some of the darker ones. I also love the Innkeeper series and am willing to follow along both weekly and for the full book. If it’s well written and relatable, I’m all in.
Every piece of work you have published, I have loved. I highly doubt you could produce any written content that I am not willing to devour. While I appreciate your willingness to appease us readers, I hope you are able to find a place that makes you happy, as you provide us with so much more than that.
Pam Uphoff says
Some ideas simply aren’t complex enough to need a novel’s worth of verbiage to deal with.
And you can’t just squash three stories together to make a single novel! A story needs a problem to solve and if you’ve got multiple threads, a high percentage of them need to have the same problem and come together at the end to deal with it..
Now splitting a single novel length story into multiple releases isn’t playing fair, but separate stories, each complete, priced according to their size and, umm, density of meaning, is fine.
I mostly buy proven-author books but lately I have found myself waiting for the library book especially if I know I will not reread the book. Lately I have been rereading a lot. I especially listen to the same audio books. The CD player in my car died so I signed up for Overdrive today. I have desperately missed listening to audiobooks instead of station jumping on the radio. I get a lot of free books and samples through Amazon and have found some authors to purchase. Thanks for the economics lesson and how the business works.
I’ve read about authors who pointed out that writing is a time-consuming and not always viable job (in terms of regular salary) but this explains why in clear terms.
Writers who publish short novellas repeatedly throughout the year may have their troubles too but quality can never really be replaced. It’s probably also the reason why there have been a glut of recently published books that are kinda badly edited or worse are filled with almost repetitive plots. (I have lost count of how many vampire-love story variations of Twilight I have seen on bookstore shelves recently. I have nothing against the original book, but seeing piles of books in the same genre with almost identical plots just different names for the characters and places is annoying and very lacking in originality.)
So please, continue with your writing! Quality is always better than quantity! (Have bought every one of your books so far, bar the ones that have yet to come out or are out of stock, no matter how much stalking I do at the bookstore.) ( >.<;;)
Wow, this was fascinating! Thank you so much for the lesson on ‘doing the math’! I love these posts!
Wow, this is awesome. Firstly, thank you so much for actually tackling this query. It’s definitely one of those discussion points that people get fired up about, and many PR people would recommend you not touch it with a ten-foot pole.
Having said that, your perspective on it is a necessary newsflash for many of us who are locked into the reader why-isn’t-everything-cheaper-and-more-NOW mindset. It’s easy to forget authors have to make a living, and it’s easy to sit back and judge authors for reacting to the marketplace pressures. Amazon is Godzilla-ing the literary industry, leaving destruction and chaos in its wake, and authors are scrambling to figure out how to survive in the new world.
I personally think there will be a place for serials, but they will need to redefine themselves and stop trying to compete in the same places as full-length novels. False advertising hurts everyone. Certainly there are markets for both serials and novels. France is doing interesting things with serials on public transport that I’d love to see more of.
I have much more to say but I’ll leave it there. Thank you again for your perspective, and thanks to everyone else for your comments. 🙂
I <3 Ilona.
And she has explained in a way that I now understand why I don't buy the cheap ebooks.
Also explains why when I'm undecided, I donate to my local library, asking them to buy the book, and let me borrow first. Yay for ebooks from the library!
Susan Linch Ravan says
Don’t like serials and won’t get hooked on them. The idea of paying 1.99-2.99 for 15 books just rubs me wrong. I will read novellas but I know what I am buying. I love snippets, but they are excellent snippets! And then I read the entire book and listen to it on audible as well.
Anton Hajducek says
Illona, I love your books, but I understand your query as a business person myself. There is, however, a third track you can take.
You have the ability to create your normal book that goes to your publisher, contracted of course, and its associated profit. Once you have created this series and have the readers, you can then offer a paid website access to offer more chapters that fill the space between the books, or from another point of view in the storyline. The Publisher, if intelligent, will push this website as it does not actually compete but instead enhances the readers minds with the details that make a series one that lives through the generations. Then at the end of each series, you allow the publisher to create a compendium of your unedited text from your website. As long as you allow public reader interaction and possibly also fanfics to be posted to your site you should make as much from the site and you do from the publisher. On the subject of Fanfics, I have a few times seen ones I thought were better written than the original book so you need to have some type of contract with anyone who uploads one.
I have looked at this in two ways myself. 1st as a reader/fan (because that is what I am first and foremost) I noticed the shorter novels/books in the self-publishing model, but also in some of the traditional publishing. I made a rule for myself, IF the book is shorter, it better be awesome. For instance I am totally cool with paying full price for a short novel by Neil Gaiman because I know the quality will be there. However, if any author does not give quality for my money, then I tend to leave them as an author. Quality does not equate to pages, but to substance. Use the amount of words to tell the story.
As someone who writes, and hones their own writing, I looked at both means of publishing. I have not self published because when my stories are ready, I will take them to an agent, then to a mainstream publisher (if I am that lucky). I believe the editing process will only help my stories (my ideas) become clearer and more concise. And I believe in the publishing industry.
As a fangurl, there are certain authors that I will buy without care. I can afford to give my cash to these people as they have given me hours of enjoyment. I will buy their product no matter the format, however, I would not have discovered them if they had not been in a format that I used already/advertised in the media. (For instance I discovered your work because of audible. The first novel showed up over and over on my “recommended to you” list. And I have been so happy I took a chance. ((I also cheer on authors like yourself who do a yearly ‘serial” via website, with the caveat that this is the rough draft. Mary Robinette-Kowal also does it in November with her nanowrmo / novel of the year. I find that it helps me to see another’s writing process.))
I agree with everyone that you get what you pay for. There can be some great discoveries of new authors, tasty tidbits to keep you going between storylines from known and loved sources and some serious disappointment in the short book format. I do want to add that I appreciate the opportunity to buy novellas as independent works rather than in an anthology. I get so frustrated paying more for a collection of stories that were largely meh trying to get to the one I have to have. Like any industry being cognizant of how our purchasing dollars drive the market is important.
I’ve actually become really jaded with $.99-$2.99 range books. If they aren’t from an author I trust, I’m reluctant to buy them. If they don’t have a decent page count, I pass them up (*.99 for 33 pages? No.). The sample has to really sell me, or I’m gone. My standards are completely different for K.U. though. I expect the work to be more shoddy so I can accept poor editing and sloppy plot holes in return for a truckload of product. Above all, I still prefer a good book by a good author (Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, Faith Hunter, Michelle Sagara, etc.) and will happy wait a year to get it.
Katie S says
I agree with you and your list of authors. However, I’d add Jim Butcher to the list. I’ve been waiting something like two years for Peace Talks to be published…and I’m losing my mind! Still, I KNOW it will be worth the wait.
Oh, yes! Thank you for reminding me. Jim Butcher is one of my ‘buy without needing to read the summary’ authors. I have yet to be disappointed, except maybe by the wait! If you haven’t tried it yet (and want something different-ish) aeronaut’s windlass by JB was very good.
Again, you get what you pay for. I, for one, love what you do, and I am probably not wrong suggesting most of the people who read your blog, and your books, feel the same. While I certainly buy $2.99 books from Amazon just to try new authors these are not the books for which I wait anxiously. Yours are. I’m currently on a wonderful cruise and would love a new Ilona Andrews to read but…. not until May (cough). I can live with that.
More than anything your post makes me appreciate the way you do the Innkeeper series. From your post it seems some authors would sell chapters while you post for free. So, I guess all the addicts owe you a thank you for that. THANK YOU!!
There are also some well known authors, who, if you have read one of their stories you have kinda read them all. Same story line, but places and names are different (no offense, it seems to work for them). You, on the otherhand, create worlds….there are few authors whose books I have re-read, your books are ones in that category. Thank you for the quality stories.
Dear Ilona and Gordon.
Your books are PERFECT just as they are. You are our favorite author(s) for a reason. Your books are everything, and I really mean everything, we (speaking of my family and friends) could ever want from an author, quality content, interesting plot, humor, just to name a few. Other authors write interesting things too, but, and there’s often a but, they can’t keep up their quality. I’ve lost respect for some because I felt like they wasted my time reading something that was written for the sake of writing and selling more books. It felt like watered out wine. I will repeat myself, what you write is PERFECT as it is. One shouldn’t try to alter perfection because it can’t get better and it may risk going the other way. You both are fantastic authors and fantastic, caring, generous people. We just love you just the way you are and we love everything you write. Do what you think you should do, the way you feel you should do it and it will come out PERFECT.
Katie S says
I agree. There is one series of books I was reading a couple years back. In a series of something like 6 books, two of them had the exact same language for a shower love scene. A third book in the series almost copied the scene a third time. I won’t even touch this author’s books anymore. I felt like I was watching Groundhog Day…only in book form!
I love everything you two have ever written! That said I also get so tied up in your books that I neglect sleep, work, eating, family – all the things I shouldn”t (sigh)!
So shorten & more frequent (no matter the cost) would probably be “healthier” for my world! LOL!
I may be going against the grain but I have to say I think traditional publishing is very outdated. I HATE waiting for an author to publish once or twice a year. I’ve started to not buy from them until an entire series is finished which could take years. By then often the $ is lower too. I don’t mind shorter stories if the editing and quality is good – these are often easy, quick reads that I can fit into my daily schedule whilst longer stories I need to set time aside for. Your work is great but I have to admit I am frustrated with the enforced wait between books imposed upon you by a publisher. If you self-published I think you would be able to release faster and still maintain your customer base since you already have a really strong following.
My two cents as a voracious KU reader and self-published author publishing with KU (yeah, there’s a bit of irony there): since so many readers are moving towards the KU system, it almost seems necessary to put out lots of short stories in quick succession or one risks being forgotten/disappearing into the avalanche. Some readers can go through 5-6 books a day (that’d be me) and if you don’t keep yourself at the forefront of the reader’s mind…welp. More exposure means a higher likelihood of making enough bank to keep doing things, and taking a year to write a book might mean that an author becomes less competitive in Amazon’s jungle.
For what it’s worth, I’ve noticed that some authors have started leaning towards more serializing, but some others seem to be using the system to build up enough of a readership to start putting out longer novels with more depth. It’s simply how you play the game.
And to be brutally honest, Ilona and Gordon are on another level entirely. Spending more time doesn’t necessarily mean achieving what they do with their stories, so sometimes it’s better to just push out what you can and get what you can.
Patti Connelly says
This was really interesting…I wasn’t aware of the reasons an author might choose to self publish, or to go with traditional publishing. I’m kind of all over the place. I have favorite authors, and series….and I don’t care how they are published…I will purchase them! Your books are at the very top of my list, along with Elizabeth Hunter, Nalini Singh, and several others. I admit to being really disappointed about White Hot….but I have already pre-ordered it, so my disappointment didn’t hold me back. 🙂 I belong to KU, and have found some really good authors/series through this, but I have (and still do) spend hundreds of dollars for books on Amazon. I ask for gift cards for every possible holiday from my husband and kids, and I hoard my gift card balance for books only! I found Elizabeth Hunter on KU…because her fist book in the Elemental series was there….but I purchased every other book she has ever written, and don’t regret a penny of it! No matter how you and Gordon choose to publish, I will purchase, because yours are the only books I have ever read more than once. I want to own them, so when I have nothing interesting to read…I will always have Ilona Andrews series on my Kindle! Thank you for your amazing worlds!
I’m a KU fan because I like to read several hours a day and was spending too much monthly in books to feed my habit. But, some of the books are just not worth reading or keeping. Many of these books have that churned out feeling.
There are also certain authors that I still watch for and purchase their books as they come out. Those are the books that I know I will enjoy and re-read several times.
I would rather wait for the full-length, properly edited book. I hate books with huge typos etc in them. It is distracting to read. I’m now much luckier with the cheaper priced books – I check page count, read reviews, and often get the sample. It is very rare that I buy that book now. Even though I have to wait longer for a book, it is so much more rewarding. I appreciate the Innkeeper series because it is my bite-sized treat for waiting so patiently! I always buy it after it is published because then I want to support your effort in bringing it to us during the writing process. Plus I love reading it altogether as a finished product. I handle the long wait between books by looking for authors to add to my “favorites list”. I’m picky there too, but once I choose one I buy everything in their catalog!
You sound exactly like me. I do the same process.
One comment I would like to add is the current trend is almost a reversal of what was happening about 20 – 30 years ago in category romance novels. Authors starting out in this genre usually wrote for Harlequin and/ Silhouette (although I think these are now the same company). Once they established a fan base, their sales were outperforming others, they then “struck out on their own” and wrote longer novels. Harlequin was very regimented in format and length. I can remember as a teenager reading one in the morning, one in the afternoon and one in the evening during summer vacation. But did I remember any of them later – not really unless it was an author like Nora Roberts. Some authors seemed quite happy to stay with Harlequin and that is great if it works for them. I have found that the quality of stories being told by those who grew beyond Harlequin improved. They weren’t bad to begin with but reading their Harlequin output after reading their later novels really shows how much they have grown.
So to me this KU trend or others similar to it seems like Harlequin romance novels. Not good, not bad just easily digestible and easily forgotten. Like the snack you had to keep you going between lunch and dinner.
BTW there are some authors (Cindy Dees) who seem quite happy with Harlequin/Silhouette and still I am always on the look out for a new release by them.
Susan McKinney says
As a Librarian, I’m disgusted in this trend. It’s annoying to have to buy 3 books for the library when it could have been 1 good book. It also means that I really, really have to stay on top of distributer catalogs to make sure I buy the whole series for my patrons.
Personally, I also feel cheated by this trend as a reader. You’re giving me a partial story. It’s like waiting a month to read a few more chapters.
Once in a while, maybe, but there are way too many authors now doing this, Wanda Brunstetter and James Patterson, to name a couple.
Karen Duenas says
I agree. I prefer to wait for the book, the whole book, to come out. I’m of limited income. I didn’t realize how much I spent on all these $0.99 to $3.99 ebooks until I received my credit card statement. This lasted for several months. I no longer spend nilly willy on these low cost books without 1st checking the reviews and page counts. I then check each book of that whole 6 book series. The minute I read from a reviewer that it ended as a cliffhanger or a vague ending or that after reading books 1-3, of this $2.99 or $3.99 each book, that it could have been made into 1 complete book, I decide not to buy the 1st book (even if it’s free.)
With my favorite authors that does the old ways, I buy Both their ebooks and paperback books.
Karen Duenas says
I forgot to add, I am soooo very happy that Ilona Andrews team have also made their Audibles affordable! I also have all their audio books.
These serials end up costing the reader at least twice if not three times as much as a full book, plus there’s the wait between releases, even though it’s less than a full book (and especially less than White Hot). I will not buy serials. If it’s written by an author I really like I may buy it once it’s complete and they sell the complete “set” for a fraction of what the individual pieces add up to. I pay less and get the whole shebang at once which I prefer.
To me, a short piece of fluff is a short piece of fluff. You don’t get character or world development, you don’t get insight into thought and feelings. You don’t get emotionally invested. You can get low quality for free.
I’ve lately discovered the joy of the online lending library. They don’t have everything, but they make it easy to fish through unfamiliar authors until I find one that I like. I can then read the rest of what they have available in the library, and if I really like them, I can buy their books.
I currently have a very short list of writers for whom I save my pennies and always buy their new books.
C. J. Cherryh, Wen Spencer, Ilona Andrews, and Patricia Briggs. There are about two dozen more I buy when not desperately poor, but these are the authors for whom I give up ice cream and white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.
Having said that, there is still a place for short, and in the way you are already doing it. I Love it when a short story is written that gives us more about the characters we love, but don’t see to much of. Seeing the world we love from the perspective of another character we love is a treasure.
I am right now rereading about Dali and Jim for about the fifth time. I would be happy to pay two or three dollars for a short story like Dali’s, or Julie’s, or any of the others. I would pay a lot more for one from Erra’s perspective. She is just so over the top that it would be like riding a roller coaster in a hurricane.
Keep doing as you are doing. I suspect that within the next decade someone will write a program to automatically generate the fluff reads. The stuff is formulaic anyway; it’s only a matter of time, and then that glut of writers will melt away.
As for making enough money not to struggle, you clearly need a clean sweep movie or TV show. Let’s start nagging and petitioning Hollywood. The market is ripe for it, And the inn is absolutely perfect to be the next wagon train in space, but in reverse.
The TV show idea is really appealing to me. We could get Helen Mirren to cameo! At best you get something like early seasons of True Blood, at worst Dresden Files. In between you have Forever Knight and Tanya Huff’s Blood books.
Regardless of how it turns out, it leads to a very nice chunk of money for the authorlords, and a ginormous boost in reader base.
Is it worth it even if they want to change the story around? I have thought about this a lot, and I think that while it is fine to be purist when you have lots of money and no stresses, it is quite different when you have to struggle to support family and art. I think that if Hollywood is willing to produce some gold-plated fan fiction that pays off the mortgage and the college loans and the doctor bills, then it is all for the good.
And I found this site that looks legit for getting in touch with the right people.
I am a voracious reader, but I can’t see spending $10/month for KU, when I can download e-books from the library for free. I still have authors that are on my must buy list, IA is at the top of that list. Those are the authors that I reread constantly (right before the next release, when I’m in the mood for the story again or when there’s nothing else to read). Some series I have given up on and gone the library route with later books (looking at you Janet Evanovich and George RR Martin), either because the series is getting too repetitious or taking too long to finish. So far, I haven’t gotten bored with any IA book. Her series could go on forever due too the quality of writing, but they move the series forward and you can see that an eventual conclusion is coming. That said, I would love to see more stories from the Kateverse with other characters (Gray Wolf, Dali/Jim, Andrea). Of course, I would love to see more stories from Bahachar (sp?) in the Innkeeper series. IA has been so creative with their multiple universes that I can’t imagine ever getting bored with them.
Melodi Harrison-Whitaker says
I enjoy both approaches. I read a book a day and I have reread my favorites multiple times when I had nothing new to read. Since I have been using KU I have read several dozen books by authors that were new to me, and have discovered some new favorites! I like having a new book in a series quickly, so I always have new, good stories to read and I also like looking forward to a new book by long time favorites like you, Patricia Briggs, etc.
It’s the best of both worlds for me.
I am also a voracious reader of well written books. I buy most of my books from Amazon and I have a kindle. I do not have KU as I played with my friend’s Kindle with KU on a group vacation and decided it was not worth the monthly fee.
I have many of what I call “my authors” and will buy their books on pre-order even without a blurb. Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, Nalini Singh, Eileen Wilkes, Catherine Coulter, Laurell K Hamilton, Lauren Dane, Sherrilyn Kenyon, C. J. Cherryh, Keri Arthur, Jayne Ann Krentz/AmandaQuick/Janye Castle and, Lora Leigh are a few of these authors. I will buy anthologies with one or two known authors plus several unknowns that the known author is willing to have in a book with her/his name on the cover.
I peruse the self-published authors for the occasional hoped for gem, but I often cringe at the writing and copious grammar mistakes – having said that – auto-correct has done me in a time or two so I try to be understanding.
On the other hand, I love your Clean Sweep serials. I do not mind the occasional typo etc as you warn us it’s coming and I appreciate getting the story quicker. I also buy the full book and re-read the story start to finish.
I love your short stories of known characters – like your stories from your Kateverse. I love the shorts you do from different character perspectives of something from one of the Kate books. And I am willing to pay for these.
You guys are one of the authors — ones of the authors? — from whom I will buy your books any way you publish them. I think you should publish your books in whatever ways you can make the most money. I want you to keep writing books I love to read! And I will read authors you suggest because even if I end up not really caring for the story, I feel like I will be reading something well written.
Cheap, Fast and Good.
As you know, you can only have two of the three at any given time.
Your books are worth waiting on, please just keep doing what you do.
We’ll wait. <3
Katie S says
Lets suppose you were superwoman and published two books (two different series) on the same day.
Let’s say, I retire and am on a fixed income and could only afford one book. I know I’m going to love both stories, because I trust you and the work you’ve always put out has been superb. If everything is equal, it will come down to the book that is longest. That is because you give us both quality and quantity. I also know I will pick up your books and re-read them every year or so.
If, on the other hand, Jane Doe is self-publishing cute little cozy mysteries and they are very short. I may just start borrowing them from the library since they are worth a quick read-through, but I will probably not desire to read them again.
Right now I’m still working and buying books at will. In four years I will probably retire. I will then only spend my fixed income on the very best quality books. The rest will be borrowed from the library.
Yes, the thought of not earning a salary for the first time in my life terrifies me even though I’m told I will have a decent pension to fall back on. Great question!
I am annoyed with it all. Not that self-publishing is a bad thing (I am sure there are a few decent new authors out there in the muck) but Amazon and others are pushing it way to hard. There needs to be a way to filter them out. I don’t mind the Inn Keeper type that you do here, mostly because at the end I can buy the full book. I tend to read fast and will also reread a series I enjoy many times.
If you decide that you want to move your work in that direction I will still purchase your books. As authors you do amazing work.
Helen Wawrejko says
I will not pay for a serial release. Too much money. I need to read the whole thing and not wait. I even wait and buy the Innkeeper series, that is free first, when it is done because I hate stopping and waiting to continue. I’d never pay 2.99 for something 33 pages long. Not even my favorite authors. I have never seen them offer something like that as a general rule anyway that I can think of. Honorable, that.
Kris Ten-Eyck says
Personally, I have stopped reading several authors because of quality issues once they have gone to self-pub. Mostly because of quality issues, but also because of length of story. If I get an ebook that I read in less than a half hour and am charged more than $.99 for it, then something beyond spell check needs to be performed. And a warning needs to be in the description that this books is very short, and often not a complete story.
And it really bothers me to pay $4.99+ for a novelette where it is obvious that only a computer check was done – the grammar is often iffy, and absolutely wrong words were used. Granted, the words were spelled correctly, but there is a heck of a difference between withering and whispering. And don’t get me started on not using their, they’re and there correctly. That is one of my biggest pet peeves. And one of the few reasons I will post a bad review. If I don’t like the story, but it was well-written, I won’t pan the book.
One of the things I look for in a book is for it to have some heft to it. That doesn’t mean it has to be the equivalent of 700+ pages, but the story has to have some meat to it, the main and often supporting characters have to be well-thought out and not shallow, and the setting has to be well-constructed. And, if it is the length of the old Harlequin Romance series books, then don’t try to charge me $4.99 for the ebook. Even Harlequin is only pricing ebooks that length at $2.99.
And I am probably not answering the question as you asked it, but the long and the short of it is, if I like the author, I will probably buy shorter books, but won’t like it, as long as the cost is reasonable and the quality of writing and editing is good. But I do prefer longer stories, because there is nothing quite as disappointing as waiting several months for a book and then reading it in one evening.
Yup! This is why I gave up on “The Arrangement” and “Ferro Family stories” because I felt the author abused the serial process. I don’t see any raving reviews about it on my favorite fiction blog review sites so… I guess I’m not missing out. I did however buy 5 serials before coming to that conclusion and spent waaaaaay too much money. Also the books were not tagged/listed as a serial but a novella. I felt each one was too short to even be classified as a novella. But also on the flip side. I will spend big bucks on Darynda Jones, Patricia Briggs, Richelle Mead and Ilona Andrews without batting an eye because the length and quality of content, storyline and world building is worth it: priceless.
I love Amazon for the ease of browsing through their “library”. I do not believe nor have ku since I believe it’s a waste. I like books and I like owning them.? While I love self published authors I learned the hard way to be more discerning when getting books that are .99- 3.99. Why ? Because they are just not good enough half the time. That maybe exaggerating but when you pop books too often it can quality in the meat of the story and in the editing/proofreading. Before self publishing and ready availability when I selected a book and read it, I read the whole book never considering not finishing. Now I’ve had to actually do this because there is some crap work being published or is just not good enough (boring). The idea is great but execution not do much. I’ve to the realization that it’s really do to bad editing and proofreading. Plus nobody told the author : hey you may wanna rewrite this. So to answer your question, while I would love the authorlords to publish more, I can wait for it because you give us our drug?: A great kickass story that I will not be Able to put down.???
I subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. I read every day. It is a cost effective decision for me and I enjoy finding new authors. I recognize that the majority of the books in the Sci/fi fantasy KU are not that varied. There are some strange hybrids that make me cringe at times, and then there are the gems, the diamonds in the rough, the ugly shaped but delicious cookies that make the day brighter and happier with their discovery.
Is it ridiculous to pay a dollar for 35 pages? “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty ” by James Thurber is 32 pages long. I would snap that up in a nanosecond as well as buy copies for all my friends at a price of .99. After such a purchase I would then engage in a whoo- aww yeah- life- is good- shimmy-shake dance.
However, if it is32 pages of a story by new up and coming author, Ima Haute, ‘similar to -insert your choice of name here- ‘, writing about orphaned hipster vegan yogi billionaire griffon shifters who happen to be in a biker gang, then no.
Self-publishing can be a vanity press move or a smart business decision to get the attention of larger publishing houses. But few authors are successful with just self-publishing and I imagine it is pretty difficult. I admire those who do things despite the fact they are difficult as it often takes time and thoughtful work. I do not admire gouging the general public for the privilege of reading something not well thought out or not following the basic rules of writing.
I am a very avid reader, so bad in fact that I call myself a bookaholic. Translated that means I buy hardbacks, paperbacks, e-books, subscribe to KU and read 30 or more books a month. I also re-read my favorite authors. I much prefer content over speed of release. I admit I get impatient once in a while (White Hot) but I know the book will be worth the wait.
When we start talking price for a book, I believe you get what you pay for. For me the author has to be outstanding to buy the hardback. You are one of about 6 authors that I buy in hardback. Authors I still really like I will either buy the paperback or the e-book when the paperback comes out. My expectations for KU are a lot less than the other. I have authors that I read regularly on KU but there are only a couple of them, that I would actually buy their books. I have also found a few new authors there. They are authors who have the first book of a series on KU and the rest are regular ebooks. I do appreciate the lower cost of finding new authors on KU, after all I am a bookaholic.
Having tried it, I severely dislike authors who sell chapters rather than an entire book. The reasons 1) Most of them are poorly edited which drives me nuts 2) A lot of them I end up paying more than I would have, if I had bought the entire book 3) I don’t like surprises and I want to know if the book I am paying for is going to be a full length novel or a short story.
On the other hand I read your Sweep novel segments as they came out and loved them. No complaints about editing or being left hanging because they were free. I also bought them as e-books after they came out because I loved them so much.
I love your books, short stories and even serial. Your stuff, I don’t think about buying, I just do it there are very few authors I do that with anymore. I read a lot, bookaholic, fits me very well. Some authors I liked have started leaning more to the serial format, I hate wasting money on a book that isn’t complete, being sold as a series is one thing, but book one, is the beginning book 2 is the middle, and book 3 the end. each barely 100 pages at 3.99 each. The author losses my trust. Mostly will fall off my buy list and will soon be replaced by someone else. I hate wait times between books, but I’m more then happy to wait for an excellent book, (like yours and a few others) a year or two won’t cause you to fall forgotten. I can’t say the same for some of the new authors, I’ve read, their stories just don’t have enough meat to them to make me keep an eye out for their work, or their cost is just not worth what story I had gotten.
I confess, as a reader, there are a couple of authors (good authors) I stopped reading once their output per story dropped. After a few times being caught out paying $2.99 and $3.99 for what I thought were novels but turned out to be short stories or novellas (20-90 pages) I don’t buy them any more.
I still occasionally get caught out, but most times I check the page length of a story now. No matter how interesting it sounds, or how cheap it is, if it doesn’t have a reasonable word count, I won’t buy it.
30 Book A Month Reader says
I’m a little late to the party on this string, but had to comment. There are some really really dreadful Indie authors out there. However, in that bunch, I have found some priceless gems, i.e., Elizabeth Hunter, Laura Jo Phillips, Bijou Hunter, Jacqueline Rhoades, Kirsten Ashley – these ladies rock. If you like heavy erotica, Renee Rose is another gem. However, I will not support anymore the authors who write little novellas/serials and sell them for 2.99 to 5.99 and barely write 150 pages. This means if it is a trilogy and the books are priced at 4, you have spent 12.00 to read them. I gripe when I pay that amount for beloved authors, i.e., Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, Anne Bishop, etc. I refuse to be taken to the cleaners with substandard writing and pay more for it then I do authors who take their crafts very seriously. Hard work and ethics should be rewarded.
Trish Henry says
I’ve noticed one of my favorite authors is doing this. A few years ago Lois McMasters Bujold talked about retirement and what that meant as an author as she was of an age to retire. I think this is part of her response to that question. I think she still will publish the massive novels when she is inspired to tell a story, but I suspect the ebooks are an experiment with a new format. She once wrote a whole series (Sharing Knife), she said, as an experiment to be right on the line between adventure and romance because conventional wisdom said you had to pick one or the other to reign supreme in a book. So I can see her experimenting with how to make the shorter serials work without annoying readers.
She is writing lovely novelettes about a character, Penric (set in one of her established worlds) starting as a teen and each installment he grows older and his magic/life changes–I think there is an overall story arc so there may be a couple more installments (there are currently four out) to complete the story. Sells them as little ebooks for $3.99. I enjoy them and will always buy her work because I love her work so much! But after seeing this post, I do think serializing for fun and profit is what she is doing. I find I don’t mind at all when she does it because she is such a master at what she does.
Cindy M. says
For me when an author starts serializing a book I drop that author & will never buy them again. I don’t like these books that are being put out or I should say novellas that are 30 or 50 pages in length at a price of 2.99 to 3.99. Then the author puts out 13 of them. I’m not one of those that bitterly complains & still buys. I just move on. I am very happy to say my main authors that I’ve followed for years haven’t done that. So big kudos to them & I will continue to wait for my good quality full length books with the occasional sweet novella thrown in. Thank You Ilona & Gordon for not going that route I’m extremely happy with you guys just the way you are.
I prefer quality over quantity. Even if I have to wait for a book, I want to read it and truly enjoy it, find it special. Otherwise I may end up dropping the series due to lack of satisfaction in the story telling.