Step 13: Book Length, Release Scheduling and Pricing

Setting up a release schedule to optimize your revenue.

In this section, I discuss setting your book length to be able to charge $2.99 for your book while meeting genre expectations. I also discuss release strategies so that you can implement the best strategy for your book series.

Measuring Book Length in Both Words and Pages

The most meaningful measure of your writing output is word count.

250 words = 1 page

Readers think in pages while writers think in words.

Word Count in Microsoft Word 2016

Word count for your current document is displayed in the lower left-hand corner of the Microsoft Word 2016 window right after the current and total number of pages in the document.

Figure 14‑1Word count display in Microsoft Word

Word count for the current selection (if there is one) will also be displayed before the word "OF".

Figure 14‑2 Selected word count display in Microsoft Word

Industry Standard Book Lengths

The following table shows standard lengths for various traditional forms of writing:

Traditional Classification Words Pages
Long Novel 100k 400
Standard Novel 80k 320
Short Novel (e.g. Mystery) 65k 260
Novella 30k 120
Technical Guide 20k 80
Short Story 5k 20

Figure 14‑3 Industry-standard word counts

Write as Short as Possible

Whenever possible, write short. Why? To optimize the revenue, you generate from your time spent writing. You should write as short as genre expectations will allow while writing just long enough to justify a $2.99 book price.

Remember, scoring a $2.99 paycheck as many times as possible should be your monetary goal as a self-published Amazon author.

Fantasy novels may indeed need to be 100k words long and longer to satisfy readers, while cozy mysteries are typically much shorter (30-40k). Technical Guides should be in the range of 20k words, especially if you expect to charge $2.99 for your labors, but can be as short as 10k words (which is closer to the length of this book).

As a professional writer, you're being paid to write. Try to sell your time in blocks that warrant a sales price of $2.99.

Don't let this general rule cramp your writing style. If a work needs to be longer or shorter, then that's what needs to happen. However, while I have you in the planning stage, I hope you'll trust this advice to plan the length of your releases into $2.99 release blocks.

And another thing…

Write a Series of Books

Whenever possible, write a series. The most difficult part of distributing your work is marketing it to find an audience. Books in a series can tap a readymade audience; namely, the readers of the previous books in the series. Note that with a series, you can also bait customers by selling the first book in the series for $0.99 and the rest for $2.99 (and later 3-book-bundles for $5.99).

Determining Your Personal Writing Speed

Determining your writing speed as well as your release schedule can be fast and easy. Here's how…

Make a note of the number of words that are in the manuscript you're working on at both the beginning of the day and the end. Subtract the first number from the second to calculate how many words you write per day.

Another thing you might want to record is the time you start writing and the time you stop. You can then divide the number of words you write in a day by the total number of hours you spend writing to calculate your hourly word count. Such a calculation can be difficult to compute if your writing time is spread across too many writing periods, so try to stay focused and write for blocks of time.

The following is a summary of the calculations I just discussed. Of course, I use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to track such information, but you can just as easily use pencil and paper along with a calculator or Notepad and the Windows calculator.

Starting Word Count – Ending Word Count = Daily Word Count

Starting Time – Ending Time = Daily Hours Spent Writing

Daily Word Count / Daily Hours Spent Writing = Hourly Word Count

Committing to a Writing Schedule

During the writing of this series, I determined my release schedule of a 15,000-word book every week and committed to writing 3,000 words per day to maintain this schedule.

It's very important that you determine a writing schedule and stick to it. I like to write every day. It's also important to have a comfortable and quiet place where you can write without being disturbed. So, set a number of hours and a time during which you're going to write and stick to your schedule to maintain your release schedule. I also think that it's important to write every day, even if it's just spending a half-hour writing in your journal.

The key to becoming a better writer is to write as much as possible.

Common Book Release Strategies

Common book release strategies include what I refer to as the standard release strategy and the serial release strategy. Here's what these two strategies look like in practice.

Standard Release

The standard release strategy involves releasing a series of standard length books, using the first book as an inexpensive lead magnet, bundling every three books after the first and charging a premium for the latest book. It looks something like this:

First Book, $0.99

Second Book, $2.99

Third Book, $2.99

Fourth Book, $2.99 Bundle 1, $5.99

Fifth Book, $3.99

This is the release strategy that I chose for this series, even though the books in the series are rather short, averaging 14,500 words.

Serial Release

A serial release schedule, used by Stephen King and Charles Dickens to release books, involves releasing a series of inexpensive books frequently and bundling those books. It looks like this:

First Book, $0.99

Second Book, $0.99

Third Book, $0.99

Fourth Book, $0.99

Fifth Book, $0.99

Sixth Book, $0.99 Bundle 1, $2.99

Such books would have to be very short indeed (e.g. 10,000) to justify releasing them for only $0.99.

Your Personal Release Schedule

After determining your writing speed and how many hours per day you're willing to commit to writing, you should establish your personal release schedule and stick to it. Your goal should be to produce a lot of books as fast as possible.