Thursday, August 16, 2012

Presenting: Kendall McKenna

Size Does Matter (But Is Bigger Better?)
Hello everyone! It’s a pleasure and an honor to be posting her today. I’m sure most of you don’t know me, since I’m still a new author. My name is Kendall McKenna and I write M/M erotic romance novels.
My first novel, Brothers In Arms, was release this past April. My second novel, Waves Break My Fall was released at the end of July. The print version of Brothers In Arms was released this last Tuesday. My specialty is writing realistic enlisted Marines in realistic situations. But that’s an entirely different blog post! Today, I want to talk about size.
Or, more accurately, the preferred length of a romance novel. Specifically, e-books.
I repeatedly receive the same to comments on Brothers In Arms. One of those comments is that it needed to be a longer story. It’s not that I did a poor job of developing the story and characters, and should have drawn it all out more. It’s that everyone enjoyed it enough and saw enough potential in the characters and plot that they wish it was a longer story.
As soon as Waves Break My Fall was released, I began to receive the same comment! In this case, readers seem to feel the ending shouldn’t have been the end, but should have been the middle. They want to know how the relationship between my characters develops, not just how they met and fell in love.
And I agree. I love long stories. I’m frustrated by the current flood of romance e-books that are 10,000 to 30,000 words. I want a good, meaty, 50,000 to 100,000 words that will take me several days to read and will fully engage me as a reader.
And I won’t pay more for the e-book than I would pay for the paperback.
And therein is the rub.
But I got a little ahead of myself. Many of the indie presses that lead with an e-book release don’t accept manuscripts from unpublished authors over a certain word count. Which is why Brothers In Arms is 32,000 words. When I asked the Executive Editors-In-Charge of several presses, I got several different answers as to why this is. That tells me it’s some combination of all of those reasons that’s driving the industry. But word count caps on first time authors is reason #1 the number of long stories out there is lower.
I submitted Waves Break My Fall to my publisher for a special submission request. All the presses have these, they’re easy to find on their websites. They call for submissions for anthologies or groups of books that follow a certain theme. They also have word count requirements! Usually, they are capped somewhere around 25,000 words. Reason #2 for the low number of long stories available.
Now that I have two successful novels under my belt, I have some very long stories in various stages of development. I have a 90,000 word Marine werewolf/shifter story in beta. The sequel to Brothers In Arms is at 40,000 words and is about halfway complete. My follow-up paranormal story will also be around 80,000 words. My publisher has already expressed interest in them all, especially because they are longer stories.
As a reader, I am constantly in search of long e-book novels. And I can find them, but there are a great many of them I won’t purchase because the price point is too high. Long before I was a published author, I was a reader and a Kindle power user. Despite the New York legacy presses treating us like insignificant annoyances at best, and criminals at worst, we firmly established what price points we would accept for e-books. Despite competitive devices and the legacy presses attempting to collude for price fixing, we as readers have made it known what we will pay for e-books.
Unfortunately, I keep finding e-books that are priced much higher than is reasonable. While we (as readers) will pay more for 100,000 words than we will for 70,000 words, we will not pay the same for 40,000 words that we pay for 80,000 to 100,000 words. And we won’t pay more for the e-book than we would have to pay for the paperback. And the price of a paperback is long and well established.
Believe me, writing these stories takes a lot of time, effort, sweat and tears. From that perspective, I’d love to charge $25.00 per e-book. I have to remind myself that I’m working in an industry that is revolutionizing itself. I lead with e-book and follow up with print. It’s the new way of doing things. It’s the modern way. It all balances in the end and everyone is happy and that’s what matters.
Another thing the Editors-In-Charge mentioned when I asked about longer stories, was that not a whole lot of writers are submitting them.  It could be that some writers are going for quantity over quality. Some might just write stronger stories at lower word counts. Others might think the presses don’t want long stories. None of the Editors were sure.
So, I lay all of this information at your feet and ask; what do you think? Do you like longer or shorter stories? Would you like to see more long stories released? Do you find longer stories tend to be over priced in e-book format? Do you think writers are cutting corners with their stories just to rush them to press, instead of taking the time to fully develop characters and plot?
And now, thank you all for stopping by to visit, today! To show my appreciation, I’m offering FREE STUFF.
COMMENT FOR A CHANCE TO WIN!
Leave me a comment for a chance to win a $15.00 book credit to Silver Publishing AND an e-book copy of either of my titles, Brothers In Arms or Waves Break My Fall.
Biography:
Kendall McKenna’s first work of fiction was written at the worldly age of nine, and was a transformative work that expanded on the story told in a popular song of the time. She tried her hand at vampire and cowboy fiction, winning high school poetry and short story contests along the way. It wasn’t until she discovered the world of m/m erotic fiction and found her stride with cops, Marines and muscle cars, that she felt inspired to share her stories with readers who enjoy the same things. Kendall was born and raised in Southern California, where she still lives and works. A non-conventional relationship has kept her happy for the last decade. Her four dogs enjoy it when she writes, as she sits still long enough for them to curl up around her.

Brothers In Arms
Jonah Carver is a Marine. He experiences a scorching night with former commander, Kellan Reynolds, but then they lose touch—to Jonah’s regret. When a V.I.P. is killed on Jonah’s watch, the FBI arrives; including Kellan! Once reunited, sparks fly.

Waves Break My Fall
Kage is a Marine, newly returned from Afghanistan and having difficulty adjusting to being home. He tries to decompress with a quiet trip to Puerto Vallarta. Zach is a new college graduate, facing the realities of adulthood. Will their hot summer fling grow into something more?

34 comments:

Yvette said...

I see where you are coming from with the length of e-books. For some reason I always look to see what the length of the book that I am buying is. I also want a book that has meat to it and takes me through the ups and downs of the characters. I enjoy reading, so I don't mind a longer book than most are. As far as price, I will still get the book of it seems to cost a little more. It usually is still less expensive than print, but if I love the book I will also get it in print when it comes out (kind of nerdy, I know). Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom.
Yvette
yratpatrol@aol.com

Josie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josie said...

I like longer stories, I want something to sink my teeth into, as an example my last really long story was by an author new to me, but i bought it because it intrigued me, and it was long. I think from memory it was around 90/- words, at first I wasn't sure I liked it but I stayed with it and in the end loved it so much I bought the paperback.

Some authors only write short stories, if I know that, and the stories are priced accordingly then that's okay, but I do get frustrated about the amount of under 30/- stories there are. For me it's not the cost, more the lack of a fully fleshed story, I'm not saying stories have to be long to have fully fleshed characters and situations, it's more than when I have read a really good book I often think 'if only that had been longer'.

Prior to reading m/m I used to read historical fiction, fantasy and chick lit, in those genres it's normal to have a book over 100/- words. I wonder if it's more that some publishers still think that m/m means erotica and it can't mean a novel length story?

Sorry to post such a long post but I once asked a successfull author why her stories were starting to get shorter and she said it was because they sold better, and that's what the publisher wanted.

It's sad really, I do buy the shorter stories, but I also love novels, there's something really satisfying about falling in love with a book early in and knowing you're in for a long ride.

Kendall McKenna said...

Hey, Yvette-
I've recently discoved that a lot of people like to have the print AND e-book versions. I thought everybody made space when they got their Kindle, I guess I'm the minority!

So I'm happy to know I'm not the only one aching for longer stories. There do seem to be a lot of us, too. There must be something driving the high number of shorter stories being released, could it be that those of us who can/will write them are fewer in number? I'm not sure.

Kendall McKenna said...

Interesting, Josie.

I agree, a long story is just loooong, if it's not properly developed in both character and plot. Some of that is on the editor's head, too. Writers and editors have to work together to make sure every word in a story needs to be there, and that every character is fully developed, as is the plot. A well written long story is a thing of beauty.

I was a bit stunned when I first sought out pro-erotic fiction and found mostly shorter stories. Is it because so many writers have a strong history in fandom? Is it because that's the majority of what was submitted in the beginning and writers and publishers have fallen into habits? Shorter stories have their place. Sometimes, I want something I can read in a couple of hours. Usually I want something that will last me several days.

I do think the indrusty is still young and this is one of the things that will shake out eventually.

Melissa Keir said...

Great blog. I think that many of the shorter stories are driven by the ebook industry. We read books on electronic media, sometimes even phones. Many people want a book that is a quick read so that they can read it in a short amount of time and not have to bookmark or find their last page again. Cost is another factor as well as what is selling.

Thank you again for your thoughts.

Kendall McKenna said...

That's a point I hadn't thought of, Melissa. I'm a Kindle user and Kindle's automatically bookmark the last page read, whether you turn it off or even change books. If that's not a feature on other e-readers (or a phone app), I can see where a shorter story that can be finished in a matter of hours would appeal.

I agree, cost is a big factor. But as we who lead the e-reader charge tried to tell the NY legacy presses early on, you can't charge premium prices for an e-book because the overhead for production is almost nill. It got worse when we got access to Calibre and found out how easy it is to actually format an ebook once your source file is emaculate. The majority of ebook costs are now in editing and artwork, rather than paper, marketing and freight costs. So again, how much is too much to pay for an e-book of 100,000 words or more? Any publisher charging more than about $7.99, $8.99 at the most for a book that long has the wrong idea.

Crissy Morris said...

Hi Kendall!!! I guess I'm weird. There are times I like a novella and there are times I like a novel. I'm a huge reader (and new reviewer) of all sub-genres within m/m and I'll pick up just about anything that catches my eye. If I read an extremely angst-driven book (they're usually longer), I like to follow it up with a shorter story that's more of a feel good story. The shorter ebooks do serve a purpose. I love to find new authors. But sometimes it's hard for me to spend more money on an author I'm not familiar with. I appreciate that Silver has new authors write shorter stories at first, I've found several new authors by reading their novellas first....including the great Kendall McKenna.
Anyway...that's my two cents. :)

Crissy Morris said...

Oh...and most awesomest ebook fairy...please hurry with the Marine shifter story...a girl can only take so much waiting :)

C

Kendall McKenna said...

Crissy! LOL! I gotta get the shifters back from the beta and pick which press to submit it to! I'm getting it out as fast as I can! I promise!

Kendall McKenna said...

And thank you for the compliment, Crissy! Silver is one that caps new authors but wants long submissions from those of us who are already in their 'stable'. They're HUNGRY for longer stories. But I agree, with everything that goes into prepping a manuscript for publication, even an e-book, the presses may want to see how good at EDITING a writer is, before committing to long manuscripts. I'm infamous for submitting very, very clean manuscripts, btw!

S.Lira said...

Hi Kendall, great blog.

I used to think that all I could do was write short stories. Now I know I am more than capable of writing 40, 50, 60k plus. Other than the last two antho stories I wrote, I haven't done a story under 30k now.

As a reader, I know price means a lot. If its an author I love, I'll purchase regardless but new authors, I tend to try finding shorter works by them b4 I move to bigger ones.

I'm like you. I won;t pay more for an ebook that cost as much or more than a paperback. I wait for my freebie at ARe or when there are big sales like percentage off for pubs, I buy a couple.

Great job hunny. I look forward to reading your work

Kendall McKenna said...

Thank you, Sharita!

I totally here what you're saying, and I think I'm the same with regard to new vs. known authors, only I hadn't realized it until you said it!

Alison and I were just talking on FB and she said that many of the longer submissions they receive require too much work, it's not worth accepting them. They have the problems we stated previously, about poor development.

Like you, I didn't wake up able to write long stories. It's a skill I learned and developed, as you now have. Long stories are not easy to write, and maybe that's why fewer of us actually do it.

Thanks, hun! Glad you stopped by!

L.M. Brown said...

As a fellow Silver author I have to admit that I didn't know about some of this. I do find it interesting though.

As I understood it, earlier this year they were flooded with novel length manuscripts which is why the site says that anything over 46k is not being accepted at the moment. I made enquiries because I had two stories in the works that are longer than that and one of them was a sequel to my March release (and as such I am contracted to give them first refusal on it). I was told that novel length manuscripts have to be pretty much perfect to be accepted at the moment.

I am, like yourself, pretty new at this, and my stories are far from perfect. So, what I did was concentrate on a few of my shorter projects to learn my craft better.

One of the novels I was working on I finally submitted to them last week. I had been editing it since the end of last year so it was long overdue to be sent it. It isn't perfect and I don't expect it to be contracted. But I hope the checklist they provide will give me a starting point for what to work on to improve it.

The sequel to the March release, I am still working on and it will probably hit the 50k mark today. I am hoping to get it submitted to them by the end of the year, but it is looking a bit doubtful since the first draft isn't complete and again I have the needs to be practically perfect problem.

If they are both rejected (quite likely) I'll continue to work on shorter stories at the same time as the novels on the basis that I can work with editors to hone my craft on those and use their advice to look for things in my longer stories that need to be fixed.

Oddly, one of the complaints I received on my solitary novel is that it was too long for the story. Since quite a few people have commented they can't finish it,(or shelved it as did not finish at Goodreads) I imagine this is one of the reasons.

On the other hand, comments on some of my shorter stories tell me they want them to be longer. I guess I need to find a happy balance somewhere in the middle.

As a reader I like stories of all lengths, but if they are too short I tend to feel ripped off if they are overpriced. When I found I was paying the same for a short story as I would for a novel then I started looking at the word counts, when previously I had only bothered to look at the blurb.

PS: No need to include me in the draw. I have the first one anyway ready to read and will no doubt be picking up the second book soon enough.

authorjenwright said...

First off I love your post. I've never had a discusion about it before, but I've thought about this topic plenty of times to myself :) Also, I checked out your books and both look awesome! Okay, now on to my thoughts. I too would rather read a longer book than shorter one. You said it perfectly as in I want it to take days so I'm deeply engaged in it. Not saying that short stories are not good, but when a book is over too soon I almost feel disappointed because I'm like "that's it? but I want more". I too also feel that sometimes shorter stories can be priced too high, but that also depends on the publisher. There is one publisher that I find many good books at, yet I purchase them at BN because it'll be cheaper there. I don't like doing that because I know that the royalty rate is higher(usually) for an author if the book is bought at their publishers site, but I have to think of my own finacial situation first.
Overall, I prefer longer books to shorter ones.
~Jen

sxswann said...

Very interesting information Kendall. As you know, I enjoyed both of your books that have been released and I will read any length story - as evidenced by the hundreds of books I've read this year. You will never make everyone happy and sometimes with a shorter story, it's just a sign of a good storyteller that the readers liked the characters so much that they want more. And sometimes that's OK to leave them wanting. I've read a lot of YA and there always seem to be complaints about endings and keeping the story going, etc.

I was really interested in learning about the pricing because I also am confused by that with ebooks.

Great post and I look forward to reading more of your stories.

Sadonnas

Unknown said...

i agree with your comment about not paying the same price for i short book that i would pay for a longer one. i have a very limited book budget, which i am sure many these day do, and i will not buy a short story if i can help it. i feel it is a waste of my money to pay 4.99 and higher for a book that will only come out to be 60 pages. i am especially careful now after buying a book for one publisher who had a story listed as an extended novel for 7.99 and the page count only came in at 75 pages. give me a book with 80thou or higher word count and i am a happy camper. looking forward to your marine/shifter story.

wulf said...

Very interesting blog post. I'm like you, I prefer longer reads. I want to be able to immerse myself in a story and really get to know the characters and I don't feel like I can do that with shorter stories. Also someone mentioned about the Kindle marking the last page read? I know my NOOK does that so I don't have any problems figuring out where I last left off reading.

penumbrareads(at)gmail(dot)com

Kendall McKenna said...

Hey, L.M.!

Things with Silver have changed a bit since the first of the year. You certainly have a better chance of acceptance the cleaner and better written your manuscript is, but we have more editors now, so there are more people to work on it and get it ready.

The time you spent editing your story is time well spent. I spent years doing that very thing, before I began submitting. I wrote story after story, had very strong betas edit them and eventually, I learned to construct long stories, that are as clean as short stories. You're very much on the right track.

Now that you have a track record with Silver, they know your style and how easy you are to work with during editing, they're less likely to expect perfection. They'll take workable. Brothers In Arms, at 32K words, took 2 passes of edits so even if you have to got to 3 passes at 50K words or more, it's reasonable.

Don't sell yourself short with what Silver might accept from you. You might be surprised. But in any case, I encourage you to keep up attempts at writing long stories, and working with strong beta readers to perfect your skills. Writing is a craft, a skill, an art, and it takes work to keep getting better at it. It sounds like you've got the willingness to do the work and that is so fantastic!

Thanks for stopping by! I'll see you back over on the Sweet Spot! ;-)

Kendall McKenna said...

Hey, Jen!

You're right that publishers set the price of a book (unless it's self published) and some do charge too much. I relate to that feeling of being disappointed that a story was too short, or priced too high for what you get. I soooo know that feeling!

Yes, buying directly from the publisher gives them and the writer more of a royalty, but still, buying from B&N means you're BUYING it! But I will say, you can get the format you need directly from Silver Publishing, at the same price as on B&N (or at least the last time I checked my own books!). :-)

I'm glad my books sound interesting and I hope someday you read one or both. I like to think you'll like them, especially Brothers In Arms.

Thanks much for stopping by!

Kendall McKenna said...

Sadonnas-

Good to see you again! Yes, I take the complaints that my stories are too short as compliments! I really do. No one has said my writing is bad, they all say they're so engaged they're sorry the stories end. That's very flattering. Now that I'm hitting my stride and I have a track record, you'll be seeing longer, more developed stories from me for sure!

Yeah, the pricing thing is confusing because there is not quite any standardization. The music industry has matured and we know that if we go through iTunes or Amazon, we'll pay a certain amount for a song, a CD and what sale prices usually are. The e-book industry is still figuring all that out.

Good to see you around again! Thanks for the comment!

Kendall McKenna said...

Hey there, "Unknown"!

That feeling of being taken advantage of when you pay for something that's been misrepresented is not good. I've had that happen, too. It doesn't help the industry at all.

I'm getting the Marine/shifters out as fast as I can! Keep an eye out!

Kendall McKenna said...

Wulf-

Thanks for the info about Nooks bookmarking! I could have looked that up but I just didn't do it! So I appreciate you clarifying that.

And thank you for stopping by to comment!

Sue Brown said...

I am an avid reader and read stories of all lengths, but I find myself increasingly frustrated by authors that churn out hundreds of short stories. I want to get to know the characters, and would rather read one novel, than ten short stories about the same characters.

Kendall McKenna said...

Hey, Sue!

I've been trying to be fair and balanced about this topic but I can't seem to escape a level of frustration with authors, as well. I read posts on FB made by fellow writers that they have goals of having one book released each month in 2013. My knee jerk reaction is that that's going to be another 12 short and poorly written stories, and I don't want to be judgmental like that. I also watch fellow writers post when they're 'done with another story' and I'm STILL writing the same story I was three of their stories ago! And I'm NOT slow. But they're writing 3-4 books to my one because their books are 10-20K and one of mine is 60-90K. I think I take the time to develop stories and characters because, like you, that's what I prefer to read.

Thank you so much for stopping by to comment! It was great to have you here.

kastil said...

Length doesn't bother me. I want a good story with character development. I've read too many thich books with info dump or things that have nothing to do with the plot in any way. It's like it's filler to lengthen the book. No thanks.

I've gotten comments from readers how they didn't want the book to end because they loved the characters. I'll take it. :)

Sue Brown said...

Hi Kendall,

In response to your comment I am an author, but also a reader and reviewer. I know what I like to read and that is a book I can get my teeth into.

I also try to have a book out every month. That is the only way I am building up my back catalogue and my name (and the need to live on my royalties).

However, I do it by a variety of lengths, from short to novel length.

Like Kastil said, I want to read good character development. I'm not sure that short stories can always do that, but I love reading books from authors that started with a short story, and a whole universe has developed.

Josie said...

This is such an interesting subject. I think it's agreed now that most of us want longer books, but I also realise that for authors to live off royalties and be able to write (which is what we want them to do afteralll) full time they need to be able to have lots of book published. I think it's the pricing that's the issue more than anything, as an example today I downloaded an ebook that was $3.99 and only 18/- words, yesterday my husband purchased a book from Amazon, a war story, for $11.99, it was 178/- words, so he paid 3 times what I did for nearly 10 times the word count.

I would have paid $2.99 for my book but I do fell $3.99 is overpriced,. If the industry could agree a standard pricing structure then everyone, readers and authors would be able to make a more informed choice, right now, it's rare to know the word count of a book before buying it and that's wrong, and I think word count of the story should be listed, not the page length. I have a plug in in CAlibre that gives me the word count so I know now exactly how long the books I read are.

Kendall McKenna said...

Kastil-

I'm having this same conversation in about 3 places right now, and the same thing is being said over and over, and it's the very thing you've said. A well written story with good characters that draw you in is what we all want. Hands down. We all need and want shorter stories from time to time. Many, many of us are hungry for longer stories, though. It IS possible to write a longer story and write it well. And that's what we're wanting to see happen.

I've read books that were an info dump as you call it. And I agree, that's poor writing and poor editing. I use the term 'info dump' while I'm writing, for a segment where I have literally dumped a bunch of facts and figures into a story. But I never leave it like that. Info dumps only show up in my firs draft, since I spend subsequent drafts smoothing it out, turning it into dialog, and 'showing instead of telling'. I hear what you're saying about that and I do the work it takes to make sure that doesn't show up in my final product!

Thank you for the input! I love it!

Kendall McKenna said...

Yes, Sue, I'm familiar with you! You have some admiring fans who on my FB friends list and they say good things about you!

And I believe you are going about building your back catalog the right way. I may be biased, as I'm doing it the same way. I currently have 32K words out, and 20K words, and the next one will be 90K words. After than will be another 20K words.

Unfortunately, there are some writers out there just putting out a book a month that they've banged out in a week, had their best friend read, and submitted. There isn't always an attempt to do good work, and that's not something your fans believe you are doing!

Thanks for keeping the conversation going!

Kendall McKenna said...

Josie!

Yep, pricing is playing a role in what we're discussing. Yes, the presses need to settle on a reasonable structure. And I think they will. Eventually. It's growing pain of the industry, it seems.

But I think you'll agree that you'd pay a higher price for 50K words than you would for 20K words, but you expect that 50K words to be good words! You expect, for your money, to get good characters and a solid story, and come away with the idea the author gave a damn about their work, and wasn't just giving it half an effort.

Thanks so much for the comment! I'm enjoying all of this dialog!

pamela pelaam-one said...

I like both ebooks and print. Most of what I've writen is 20-30k. I haven't found the right story to write longer as I wouldn't want to put out anything less than the very best I can

Kendall McKenna said...

Pelaam!

30K is respectable! And I appreciate that you're actively trying to put out quality product. From what I can tell, you're doing a pretty good job!

Kendall McKenna said...

JOSIE!

My random number generator selected you as the winner of the book credit and e-book!
Email me at kendall.mckenna3@gmail.com