The page count problem…

Wheather you self-publish or go the traditional route page count is a problem for a writer. The reasons page count matters are different, but the result is the same. But for a writer, unless you’re one of those rare ones that ‘just does it for the money’ rather than someone deeply passionate about your work, the page count isn’t really a consideration. You’re telling a story, the story is as long, or short, as the story needs to be. No writer wants to cut something short to fit in with a length prescribed by the industry, and no writer is going to pad for the sake of padding to achieve the same result.

Sometimes, when you self-publish, you have to wear a different hat for a while. the writer has to go have a coffee and a breath of fresh air while the publisher takes charge. then the publisher has to take the writer to one side and ‘explain’ to them why they need to put a little thought into their page count. At least with traditional publishers, you’re not arguing with yourself at this point…

Let me try to explain why this matters. Normally, as a writer, I talk in word counts, not page counts, but a publisher needs to think in page counts. A traditional publisher wants a novel between 250 and 400 pages long. Unless the writer is well established when the rules are different. The reason is simple economics, the more pages in a book, the more it costs to print, and the more it costs to print the smaller the profit to be made. Sure you can charge more for a longer book, but if you’re trying to sell a writer that’s not an established name you want to keep the price’s reasonable and minimise your risk…

A self-publisher has exactly the same concerns but from a different angle. Print on Demand costs more or less scale directly with page count. For example, ‘Passing Place‘ is more expensive than ‘Cider Lane,’ not because one is a newer novel, or that I believe one is worth more than the other, but because the base cost on POD for ‘Passing Place‘ is almost twice that of ‘Cider Lane‘, and that is purely down to page count. Print cost leads to minimum list pricing, ergo Passing Place is expensive in print.

And yes, of course, Passing Place is worth the cost, and I would not have cut out huge swathes of the novel to make it cheaper to print, it is the length that it is, but all the same page count matters…

Because of this with, my next novel ‘A Spider in the Eye’ I have increasingly found myself worrying about the page count as it keeps growing with the final (ish) edit I’m working on. While I don’t wish to trim for the sake of trimming, I find myself doing so anyway. Trying to work out if I can cut whole sections just to meet a page count… While not wanting to cut anything for any reason other than literary ones.

‘If its good for the story to lose something fine, but for page count, sod that… ‘

So It was time to put my publisher’s hat on and have a really good think before talking to the writer, explaining the options and some of the home truths about publishing…

‘A Spider in the Eye’ is too long, and while that doesn’t matter if it was only published as an Ebook it does matter if it is published in print, and I always want my books to be available in print. Sorry but I am a bibliophile, I want to hold the damn thing in my hand, they are not real to me until I do… If, however, it keeps growing through the edit as I suspect it will it will end up a good hundred pages longer than ‘Passing Place‘ Or twice the length of ‘Cider Lane‘. The POD cost would be too much and print copies would have to be priced too high, and the only person to ever hold one in their hand would probably be me.

There is, however, one solution to all this. ‘Spider in the Eye‘ has always been planned as the first book in a series. There is a natural point, just over halfway through the current edit, where I could split it into two novels…  Which given I will probably add a good 10000 words more before I get to that point in this edit would make it about the same length as ‘Cider Lane‘.. the second book would probably run to a similar length.

So there you go, thanks to my publisher self, repeatably shouting at my writer self I am not now close to publishing my next novel… Instead, I am close to publishing my next two. Which only leave me with the issue of thinking up another title…

(yer, of course, I have already thought up the title for the second book, I am just keeping it to myself for a bit…)


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This entry was posted in Hannibal Smyth, indie novels, Passing Place, self-publishing, writes, writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The page count problem…

  1. brad217 says:

    Great post. My 1st novel was 460 pages. Book #2 – 261 pages. And like you – I didn’t make the decision so as to affect the story – but I was mindful that readers are put off by 460 pages. It’s just a fact – unless – you are famous. I always think of Patterson and his book shots.


  2. lynnefisher says:

    Hi there, I can relate to this worry. I’m there now with my second novel which I was determined to make shorter than my first one (483 pages) for all the reasons you’ve outlined – but annoyingly I’m getting into the same situation again! But I’ve decided to just get to the end and see if I can edit effectively – other than that it will be a case of ‘it is what it is’

    Liked by 1 person

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