A New Length for Fiction: The Commuter Novel

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If you look up how many words you have to write before you have a novel, the lower threshold goes down to around 50,000 words. That’s sort of an average, genre notwithstanding. But there it is. Write 50,000 words and, poof!, you’ve got a novel.

That may be why NaNoWriMo sets that lofty goal for the month of November, but it’s roughly half the length of what you’ll find on your bookstore shelves.

Introducing: the commuter-length novel.

In this brave new world of e-publishing, novels of this length are very marketable. Look at it this way; you can write one 150,000-word behemoth, or three commuters. Which will yield higher dividends in your virtual book store?

As a writer who struggles with the short story, I find this category intriguing. I sit down to write a nice, marketable 7,500-word short story, and end up with 12,000 words.

Another way to think about it is this: how quickly does the average reader read? How long is the average trip to work, or the average trip on a plane? Try selling your fiction, at whatever length, not by actual length, but by the approximate length of time it would take to read.

It’s just another approach to marketing, catering your message and the way that you present your work to the specific habits of your readership. Talk about customized content!

So whether you self-publish or are considering the professional route, this is a trend to keep an eye on. Here are a few interesting perspectives I found in a quick search. They may lead you in new directions of your own.

Commuter Fiction—Making a Case for Short Kindle e-books?

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