This Friday I’m happy to be joined by my good friend, Dan Humphreys. He’s best known for his Dragon Award nominated zombie series, but he also does really cool urban fantasy work with Fade, his recent book out by Silver Empire Press. He stops by to talk about word counts for indie authors, and how long your book should ideally be.
For regular readers of Jon’s blog, it should come as no surprise that he has strongly held opinions, and that he’ll stick to his guns.
On one particular issue, he and I don’t agree, and as much as he’s tried, he’s never been able to change my mind.
Lest you think this is something serious, I’m talking about word counts.
Not too long after we met, Jon was absolutely flabbergasted when I offered him a copy of my first book, A Place Outside The Wild. At just shy of 180,000 words, Wild weighs in, literally, at over 600 pages in trade paperback.†”Dude. Write shorter books,” Jon said. As I recall, the larger conversation was about publication speeds. Since Wild came out in September of 2016, I’ve put out three novels, with a fourth due next month. All in all, that works out to two books a year, which is pretty solid if I do say so myself. In the release aspect, obviously, writing shorter books is the way to go if you want to go quarterly or more frequently.
I grew up reading Tom Clancy and Stephen King. If a book wasn’t a doorstop, more often than not, I didn’t regard it as worth reading. That more than anything probably informs my predilection for epic tales, but for me, at least, I usually feel like the story demands what it demands in terms of space. Could I have trimmed a bit from Wild? Possibly. Being honest, probably. As a reader, long books always struck me as a better value proposition. And growing up in Phoenix, I wanted to make those trips to the library on my mountain bike†count. There was less opportunity to melt into the pavement if I got enough big books to tide me over for a week or two.
The funniest part, of course, is that I’ve gotten better. My novel Warhawks, will never be for sale because I have no desire to go back and put in the work that it needs. It’s the first book in what I always planned to be a space opera trilogy, written over twenty years ago. It’s also almost a thousand pages wrong. I’ve been serializing it and poking fun at myself with the moniker #FreeAwfulNovel over at my own blog. On the bright side, scanning it to PDF is letting me recycle a†lot†of paper.
So in that regard, darn it, Jon is correct. Writer shorter books. The sequel to Wild, A Place Called Hope, is a mere 130,000 words for a total of over a quarter-million words of zombies, explosions, and heroic deeds. My urban fantasy series is a hiccup in comparison–the first two books in the series combined are only a bit larger than Hope. Somewhere, Jon pumps his fist and declares victory.
The real question is what you, the audience, thinks. Do you prefer shorter, more frequent works, or waiting a bit longer for something hefty? The tradpub model has long been one release a year for established authors. The indie revolution has turned that notion on its ear, and writing teams like Nick Cole and Jason Anspach, or Chris Kennedy, Mark Wandrey, and their crew, are pumping out new releases every other month if not more. I’d love to hear your takes in the comments.
–The first book in Daniel Humphreys’ Paxton Locke urban fantasy series, Fade, is available now from Amazon. Book two, Night’s Black Agents releases June 19, and the third book, Come, Seeling Night, will be available early 2019. (Sooner, if Jon can keep pushing Dan to ‘write shorter books.’)