Category Archive: Books

Other Books

May 26

Melodee’s Rule for Authors — Number Thirty-One



Number Thirty-One

Size Matters


And it matters in more than one way, too.

People tend to make up their own definitions, but let me give you the industry-standard ones right up front…

Flash – Less than 1,000 words
Short Story – 1,001 to 7,499 words
Novelette – 7,500 to 17,499 words
Novella – 17,500 to 39,999 words
Novel – 40,000 to 79,999 words
Long Novel – 80,000 to 119,999 words
Jumbo Novel – More than 120,000 words

These are the lengths used throughout the publishing industry. Some publishers may have others like Super Flash (less than 500 words) and Super Novel (more than 160,000 words) but the above are pretty well universal.

The size of what you write makes a huge difference in your sales and income.

At first glance, it would seem bigger is better…after all, in general, a Long Novel will command a higher price than a Short Story. This first glance is true in terms of the dollars per sale, but there is more to the equation.

If we are talking about a fairly typical author, the general rule is you will sell fewer longer works at a higher price than you will shorter works at a lower price.

This implies shorter books may very well make more money for you, but there is a point of diminishing returns. That is, at some point your books become so short and are priced so high (in terms of cents per word) that no one will buy them.

Just a few caveats here…first, there are some authors who are known for long books. Stephen King could write a 2,000,000 word novel and price it at $300 and it will sell about the same number of copies as any of his (slightly) shorter works. Second, there are some genres where longer books are very popular. Hard science fiction comes to mind. Many publishers in this and similar genres won’t accept manuscripts below a certain size. Thirdly, readers come to expect works of a certain length from an author. This means if you are known for writing (let’s say) Long Novels, don’t be too surprised if your new Novella flops like a fish on the beach. And fourth, for ebook-only releases, shorter books (Novella or smaller) often sell very well because many readers will view the book on a mobile device while they have a few minutes of spare time, like waiting at the doctor’s office.


For most of us in most genres in today’s world of simultaneous print and ebook releases, the magic number is in the range of the upper half of Novella to the lower half of Novel as defined above. For those who don’t want to page up, that’s about 30,000 to 60,000 words.

There is one final money issue to keep in mind, especially if you self-publish…Amazon (and others) are kicking around (internally) the idea of charging higher fees for both very long works (they take up more server space and bandwidth to transfer) AND very short works (they still need a certain amount of storage and administration). There is a chance ebook publishers may jump on this bandwagon as well by paying (or at least offering) lower royalties on similarly-sized ebooks.

But the real bottom line for most authors is going to come down to finding a story length that both sells well and that you are comfortable working with. If either of these things is missing, you’re going to either go broke or crazy.

Maybe both!

Keep Loving!



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May 23

THWT Question for 23 MAY 2017



Today’s Two Hundred Word Tuesday question is:


Are there certain minor characters from your prior stories you would like to go back to?


Keep Loving!



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May 19

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Thirty



Number Thirty

Thou Shalt Not Snark


(This Rule was triggered by a production meeting I attended in Los Angeles where the other two writers on a project were nipping at each other like a pair of chihuahuas.)

Isaac Asimov said in The Foundation Trilogy: “Violence…is the last resort of the incompetent.” I believe this applies to physical and verbal attacks equally.

Since I started writing professionally back in 1986, I’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry. Not so many in the readers and what they want, but still a few. There is, however, one constant, and it’s the one thing that bugs me—and this one really bothers the crap out of me:

The snarking I see between authors not only in one of the several hundred private forums I participate in but even in public settings. Sometimes the attacks are very personal and I can’t help but wonder if these two people just plain hate each other for some reason. If so, perhaps the best solution would be 12 rounds with a three-knockdown rule and no saving by the bell.

But often the snarking is because one of the writers feels that the other (or others) is somehow picking on them. Usually it’s over something trivial like, “I love MS Word [insert version]” and someone else says, “If you don’t use MS Word [insert a different version] then you’re not doing it right!” In this case, both sides need to take a step back and see if they aren’t overreacting a bit.

Bet they are.

Frankly, most of these arguments are because one or the other side is envious (or even full-on jealous) of the other. In more than a few cases, the two sides feel that way about each other. The exact dynamics are, of course, variable and detailed.

But there are two simple facts that apply in all cases…

(1) Both sides need to look at their behavior, act like adults, and stop the nonsense.

(2) The readers (in the public forums) and the other authors (in the private areas) find no end of amusement in the childish behavior of the combatants.

It’s easy to stop…

Unless one person says something like, “And you, Betty-Lou, are a terrible author because you use a lot of split infinitives…”, then do NOT assume the poster is talking about you.

In other words, you are NOT the center of the universe and all creation doesn’t revolve around you.


More to the point, and perhaps more politically correct (not my strong suit), is to actually understand, believe, and apply the concept that everyone finds their own way in this world. Don’t just pay lip service to the idea…you see that a lot, too.

You and the other person will be much happier this way.

In our trivial MS Word example, wouldn’t it be easier for the second person to accept that the first writer does things differently and just move on? By the same token, author #1 needs to understand that what works for them isn’t universal and never can be. There is no need for any disagreement at all.

Unless you either: (A) Are envious (jealous?) of the other person, or (B) Enjoy having a victim mentality hanging out to show the world.

In many cases, the attackee will simply ignore the attacker, and you would think the attacker would just quietly stop the nonsense. Sadly, with authors, that rarely happens because the ego of the attacker will force them to continue to act poorly.

Oh, and remember the bit about the readers and other authors finding it all amusing? Well, also remember that publishers, producers, directors, and a slew of other professionals are likely reading along, too. At some point, the readers and professionals will get tired of the snarking and write one or both of you off as being incompetent kooks.

Problem is neither of you will know it has happened until it’s too late to save your sales.

Keep Loving!

(Oh, in case you’re wondering, the two writers were arguing because one thought the other was attacking his professionalism because he said, “Wow…all this red ink makes my eyes cross after a while.” And it was the producer who put the red ink on the draft script.)



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May 16

THWT Question for 16 MAY 2017



Today’s Two Hundred Word Tuesday question is:


What tools are must-haves for writers?


Keep Loving!



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May 12

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Twenty-Nine



Number Twenty-Nine

Have Book, Will Travel


Yep, just like Paladin on TV.

Well, sort of…

For most writers, there will come a time in their career when they will need to travel. Sometimes it’s to a convention. Others it may be to do a business meeting. And there may come a time when you’ll need to actually do an appearance tour.

Yeah, yeah…you can do a lot of that electronically. Sure you can. If you’re willing to give up a huge part of the impact and effect. Then again, if you’re making $10,000 a year and figure a tour to NYC will result in a 25% increase in sales, and the trip will cost you $5,000 to make, just stay home. Again, maybe.

People love to meet “celebrities”, and like it or not, we authors are celebrities in the eyes of our readers. I used to go to Comicon, Dragoncon, and a slew of other you-name-it-cons as a number of my pen names. It was fun and you get to see and meet a lot of fun people. You also get to see and meet a good number of absolute nut cases. But the simple fact is you will see a dramatic spike in sales after such an appearance.

The same goes for less, um…esoteric conventions. An appearance at the RT convention will boost sales. Ditto for other similar gatherings. Even a single signing at a single bookstore will usually pay for itself.

And don’t forget the college lecture circuits…you can easily get $25,000 plus expenses for a two-hour lecture to a group of grad students who can’t string more than seven words together into a coherent sentence.

What this means is you need to get out there and pound the pavement and press the flesh. Oh dear God…I’m channeling Zig Ziglar!

If you’re thinking of making some appearances that are more or less local to your area, that’s something you can probably set up on your own without too great an effort. For more ambitious outings, you’ll likely need some sort of help. A good personal assistant can usually do it, but as I’ve said, good a good PA isn’t cheap.

Also, if you are traditionally published, talk to your publisher about kicking in a few dollars to help with expenses. If you’re doing an appearance at a bookstore, the publisher and store will often pick up the tab for signage and such, and they will make sure the store has a good supply of books on hand. And yes, there will come a time when the publishers and stores will pick up the entire tab for you.

Besides, if you ask, the worst thing they could say is “no”.

And never forget that writing is a lot like sex…

At first you do it because it’s fun and it feels good.

Then you do it for people you really like.

But if you’re any good at all, you end up doing it for money.

Keep Loving!



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May 09

THWT Question for 09 MAY 2017



The Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for 09 MAY 2017 is:


Is there any subject you particularly liked in school?


Keep Loving!



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May 05

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Twenty-Eight



Number Twenty-Eight

Get Thee A Pen Name…Or Several


If you don’t have at least one pen name, you really need to get a few.

Pen names do a bunch of things for you…they protect your identity from the crazies out there (and there are plenty of them…I have the scars from a butcher knife on my back to prove it). They allow you to have a more interesting name than Jane Doe. And, perhaps most important, they let you work in a range of genres.

An author’s name tends to be associated—by readers, publishers, and the industry in general—to a specific genre. In short, would you buy a horror story written by Dr. Seuss? How about a children’s book by Dean Koonce? Probably not. Neither will the rest of the market. There are those who say this isn’t true these days, but frankly, they’re kidding themselves. I know a number of well-known authors who have submitted works to publishers under one name only to be told to use a different name because the publisher knows they will lose sales. It happens to me on a regular basis. Another issue is that a certain “profile” for an author (things like age, gender, marital/relationship status, and much more) will sell better in one genre than in another.

In the print world, most contracts have clauses prohibiting both parties from revealing connections between pen names and real names. This is because the publisher may have a ton of money invested in a book and anything that might reduce sales will hurt their bottom line.

The e-pubs have yet to start worrying about this. I really don’t know why other than the herd mentality at most e-pubs…if they have 10,000 writers in their stable, who cares if one isn’t selling?

The self-publication outlets don’t worry about it because they make their money other ways instead of selling books. Another factor is that, according to contacts inside of Amazon, just over 1% of the authors publishing through them ever release more than one book. Fewer than 0.25% ever release more than 5 books and less than 0.003% release more than 25.

There is, however, a downside to pen names…if you self or e-publish and/or don’t have an agent/representative/personal assistant, you have to do all of your own promotion. Every time you add a new pen name to your portfolio, you increase your workload exponentially.

I’m often asked how many pen names are good…that depends. I know some authors who have fifty or more. I know others who have less than half a dozen.

Me? I have 22 active and maybe another eight or so I consider as inactive, though I do use them maybe once every six years or so. The personas are all over the place in terms of gender, age, and so on. In short, the names and persona are designed to best fit the genre and target market.

The only name I do any of my own promo and such for is this one…

My real name.

For the other names, as the old saying goes, I have people for that.

Keep Loving!



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May 02

THWT Question for 02 MAY 2017



The first Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for May 2017 is:


How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?


Keep Loving!



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Apr 28

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Twenty-Seven



Number Twenty-Seven

Have A Clear Understanding Of Success


How do you define your success as a writer?

Is it measured by how many books you release? Maybe by how many books you sell? What about by how many awards you win? Something else, perhaps?

For most authors, but by no means all, success is measured in terms of income. And note that there may not be a connection between income and books sold…if you pocket a dime per book and sell 50,000 copies you may not break-even on expenses. On the other hand, if you get $4.50 per book, you’re pushing a quarter of a million dollars in income.

I want you to take care when comparing your income to that of other authors. Not only can that practice be a road to grief, but it’s damned near impossible to get actual numbers…

Getting sales numbers from publishers is pretty easy (if they are publicly traded), but that covers copies sold and income to the publisher, not what is paid to the authors. Depending on the accounting system used by the publisher, you may see a line item on the P&L for “Royalty Obligations” (or something similar), but more often the amounts will just be lumped under general liabilities. You also have no way to group pen names together under one real person…in other words, a particular writer may make only $500,000 a year gross per pen name, but he might have two-dozen pen names.

At the same time, writers tend to be secretive about their income. I don’t know of a single full-time, professional author who will give you a straight answer about how much they make. Most writers I know will even lie to researchers about their income just to mess with them. Playing games with amounts made by the author’s various pen names is also common. Frankly, it’s not a damn bit of your (or anyone else’s) business how much I make. (As for me personally, all of my income from writing goes into my privately held corporation. I am not required to release any financial information and I don’t do it at all. There are many things my company does, and my personal financial input is about 2% of the corporation’s total earnings. And I get paid from the corporation by way of both royalties on my writings and salary as the CEO and board chair.)

All of this conspires to make it rough on relatively new writers to figure out where they stand dollar-wise.

But it simply doesn’t matter when it comes to figuring out how you’re doing success-wise.

Here are a couple of questions I’d like you answer…

(1) Are you happy doing what you’re doing? (What you’re doing doesn’t matter…you might be spending 100 hours a week writing, or one hour a month.)

(2) Can you pay your bills doing what you’re doing? (And it also doesn’t matter if your writing income pays 100% of the bills or lets you get a Big Mac meal every quarter when the royalty check comes in.)

If you answered “yes” to both questions, then you are successful. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not…most especially do not let yourself tell you that!

If, however, you answered “no” to one or both questions, then you need to figure out how to change your answer(s).

How to do that is usually much easier than most people think, despite the fact that most people want to make it complicated. All you need do is avoid falling into the traps set by people who have allowed themselves to fail and want everyone else to fail as well. As Grandma used to say, “Misery loves company.”

And there are LOTS of them out there. Luckily they are easy to spot, and a little common sense applied to their comments and actions make them glow in the dark. Many times, the comments will focus on how wrong one group or another in the industry are doing things, and they will always be nebulous or subjective in nature. Usually both.

Ignore them and move forward so you can answer both questions in the affirmative.

Keep Loving!



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Apr 25

THWT Question for 25 APR 2017



Here’s the Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for 25 APR 2017…


Thinking back to the first story you wrote and actually sold, was it: Too Long; Too Short; or Just the Right Length?


Keep Loving!



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