Does size matter in today’s book industry?

The book industry is undergoing changes like never before. It’s a brave new world for first-time authors who are finding more and more opportunities to put their work out there for all to see.

Self-publishing and the explosion of e-reader gadgets mean that old market-entry barriers are crumbling for wannabee writers. The sky appears to be limitless.

As a result we are seeing all manner of books hitting the e-shelves with new genre descriptions and classifications constantly entering the publishing lexicon. The last time I looked Amazon has 1,384,268 books listed in its Kindle section, of which 833,279 are labelled as non-fiction and 551,963 as fiction.

Don’t ask me what accounts for the missing 363, but if anyone knows I’d be grateful for an answer!

I want to concentrate on fictional offerings. The classifications and sub-classifications are constantly changing, though it will be of little surprise to most that the runaway genre leader in terms of title numbers is Romance (79,408 titles are currently on offer).

The total titles in the other main classifications are:

Crime, Mystery & Thriller     73,053
Children’s Fiction                      62,376
Erotica                                            56,027
Fantasy                                           37,818
Action/Adventure                     37,474

Beneath this you’ll find another dozen or so classifications, all with impressively high numbers, including lists for Fairy Tales, Religious Fiction, Family Saga, Gay & Lesbian, Movie Tie-ins, Political Fiction etc. etc.

One other group interests me the most. It is the Short Stories classification which currently has 23,839 titles and is growing at a fast rate of knots, mainly due to an increasing awareness by authors of its potential to market their individual brands. It is being used more and more so by established writers as well as by newbies.

On top of single short-story titles there are 4,351 Anthologies, comprising anywhere between 10 and 40 shorts. I was recently included in an anthology with 36 other authors and was surprised by the growing popularity of this medium.

Now that I’ve set the background, I need to try to answer the question I started out with – does size matter?

The statistics outlined above prove there is a demand by readers for all types and flavours of books. When we think of novels we automatically assume them to be 300-400 pagers that will keep readers going over a holiday break or at least for a decent few long nights. That is no longer the case.

However, whilst the clamour for bite-sized offerings cannot be ignored writers need to have some consistency in what they offer. Readers need to know what they are buying and whether it represents value for money, in terms of size.

Amazon is being increasingly helpful in its individual book descriptions. Not all books are described as ‘shorts’ or ‘novellas’ but one glance at the “File Size” or “Estimated Print Length” will alert potential buyers to what they are getting.

Size should be reflected in the cover price – and to be fair to most authors it usually is.

There are no guidelines on the subject but I have my own personal take on what should constitute the various descriptions of book lengths. I blogged previously on the subject (See: What’s the Best Length for a Novel).

What is important is that writers, both old and new, are responding to market trends in a way never seen before. As you read this piece there are literally hundreds of authors slaving over keyboards to bring readers the next wave of literary entertainment.

Whatever they produce should be judged solely on the merits of quality over quantity.

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4 Responses to Does size matter in today’s book industry?

  1. Louise says:

    Great post Joe – I agree barriers are coming down all the time, and hopefully what will emerge will be quality rather than anything else winning our in the end.

  2. Jane Carroll says:

    Great post as always! I do appreciate when authors set the price according to the length of the work and agree that most of them do. Thanks!

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