Do readers prefer short ebooks to read? I’ll try to keep the answer short.
By chance, I was looking at the Amazon Kindle Store and clicked on an ebook listed in the top twenty bestsellers.
I scanned down the book’s details and was surprised to note that Amazon lists the ebook as being only 105 pages long.
That’s short by any measure. But it’s not easy to calculate the number of words in an ebook. You first need to know what defines a page on Kindle.
What is novella length?
I did a quick check of one of my ebooks, which is a short novella. Amazon calculates it to be 112 pages long.
I know this book is 20,000 words long, so now I can say with certainty that any ebook listed on Kindle with around 100 pages, has a word count of less than 20,000.
Using the same equation, it means that Amazon class a page of an ebook at around 180 words.
To put this in perspective, a trade paperback of 100 pages would hardly be as thick as your little finger.
When you consider that a full-length novel is between 50,000 and 80,000 words or more, we are talking here about writing and publishing very short fiction ebook reads.
Of course, I got curious and looked at a few more bestselling Kindle ebook titles.
In the top 20 ebooks on Amazon Kindle, I found four short ebooks at around 100 pages, and they were priced between $1.99 and $3.99.
That is a similar price range to full-length novels.
Out of interest, I checked my old battered first edition paperback copy of The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
It is a hugely popular classic, but it has only 159 pages. Yes, it’s a very thin paperback and a quick read.
But the latest Kindle edition must have some added extras because it seems to have grown in page count over the years.
However, even at 208 pages, it could still be considered a novella-length work at around 35,000 words.
To go to the extreme of popular short book classics, A Message To Garcia by Elbert Hubbard is available on the Kindle Store. It is only 26 pages long.
I could have dug deeper and found more quite quickly. But I had discovered more than I needed to know. The novella form is popular with readers and especially ebook buyers.
Do novellas sell?
Is there a market for novella ebooks, and do they sell? Yes, they do sell well.
Here are two ebooks that I found and then extracted the sales data by using Publisher Rocket.
This ebook is only 29 pages but has monthly sales of $416.00.
Another one has even better sales.
Again, it is extremely short at 28 pages, or just under 5,000 words. But it rakes in nearly $1,000.00 a month in sales.
I could have added the details of many more books I found. But these two are sufficient to give you enough proof of how well short ebooks can sell.
Do readers check the page count when they buy an ebook? I doubt it.
If an ebook is available on Kindle Unlimited, I dare say a reader wouldn’t even bother to look.
In other words, it’s the attraction of the story that counts, and not the length.
Why are novellas popular?
There has been a lot written about how reading an ebook is different from reading a book.
This article from the Guardian takes the view that readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper.
While I’m sure this topic is open to debate, perhaps it is not the psychology or physiology, as much as where, when, and how people read an ebook.
If you consider the situations when an ebook reader is useful, perhaps a different logic is possible.
Ebook reading is very convenient when traveling on a train, bus or plane, or when you are relaxing on a beach on vacation.
Perhaps also, during a coffee break at work, or while passing the time in a doctor’s waiting room.
All of these situations are prone to interruption, unlike reading a long work of speculative fiction while in bed or lazing on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon.
In these situations, light, short reads would make sense and would give a good reason as to why short ebooks are popular and sell well.
Firstly, it’s worth defining what counts as a novella. In general, it is a work of fiction of between 20,000 and 50,000 words.
However, novellas now are usually much closer to the lower word count range, or below.
Sure, there are reasons to publish long. But it appears that there is definitely a reading market for selling short stories.
Luckily, Amazon has a limit on how short an ebook can be.
It’s not widely publicized, but Amazon rarely accepts to publish ebooks of 2,500 words or less. You can find the note in KDP help under disappointing content. It mentions that Amazon KDP does not allow publishing of content that is too short.
This limitation stops most publishers of extremely short flash fiction.
But for fiction authors, there is an opportunity to chop a full-length novel of 100,000 words into three parts perhaps and publish three ebooks instead of one.
When you can sell a short ebook for around the same price as a full novel, it’s a simple mathematical equation. It might also be a profitable business decision.
Short is in for self-help ebooks
If you want to buy very short ebooks, look no further than how-to and self-help ebooks.
Many of them are a cut and paste job of a handful of blog posts and articles of 1,000 words with the addition of a compelling introduction.
It really is super easy to publish an ebook from your blog posts.
There’s a lot of reader interest in self-help ebooks, which makes it a lucrative market. For any author or writer, it’s certainly a market worth investigating.
You can use short nonfiction ebooks to help you promote your blog or to sell your services. Or yes, to sell them on Amazon and make some money.
For authors, publishing short creates many new publishing possibilities.
It opens the door to write short story collections, novellas, prose fiction, or self-help nonfiction.
The most significant advantage is that short ebooks take less time to write. On top of that, you can expect to sell a short ebook at a similar price to a full novel.
These are compelling reasons to publish shorter and more often.
If you’re about to write a new book, are you going to publish long, or short?