Tuesday, June 28, 2005

On magic. On Size.

On magic: A gentleman who follows this blog asked me where I excerpted the (well-written) reader review of PublishAmerica's moronic HOW TO UPSET A GOLIATH BOOK BIZ. My answer was: well, Amazon, of course. But when I went back to look for it, it was gone. Like magic.


And so were the other five reviews I'd read (note: they have been replaced by three more blasters--all one star reviews.)

This is not an Amazon glitch, of course. Anyone who has a book listed with the noble retailer can testify to how easy it is to have reviews removed. The "guidelines" for reviewing books on Amazon are actually more stringent than one might think.

I chatted with my "old buddy" who used to work at Amazon and he said this: "Any review that shows up [on Amazon] has been validated, but many times the author will contact us and say it needs to be removed because it violates one of the guidelines, [for example] discussing a different title within the review of the book."

Which means the self-congratulatory CEO and his President have nothing better to do than appeal Amazon reviews. How about spending some time promoting one or two of your 12,000 authors?

But here's the best part. My friend checked with a colleague at Amazon and total sales to date of Meiners publishing tell-all: zero.

On size: A faithful reader tipped me to a link about book size, since it has been of some discussion in the comments here. Check it out.

Keep in mind that size is quite a varying factor in publishing. Some publishers bulk up and some bulk down, for different reasons. Some use smaller text to print a small book (think PRAYER OF JABEZ) that can be jammed in a coat pocket or purse. Others bulk up (think Clancy or Grisham), taking medium word counts and using larger fonts and filler pages (white space between chapters, etc.) to make the book feel "meaty" and substantial.

Publishers look, first and foremost, at word count. I would suggest it is hard to get a 40,000 word book published unless it is in the young adult genre. Usually, 50,000 to 120,000 will do the trick (but you should aim for 60 - 90k, especially for a first time writer--though genre will determine a lot.) Of course there are exceptions, but let's stay focused on the rule.

Take a look at the text stats on Amazon for some of your favorite books and see the difference. For example: Chuck Palahniuk's FIGHT CLUB (since he's a popular topic these days) is 208 pages and 51,397 words (247 words per page) while LESS THAN ZERO by Bret Easton Ellis is 224 pages but only 49,888 words (222 words per page.) Perhaps more significantly, check out VICIOUS SPRING by Hollis Hampton Jones (I'm trying to stay in genre here) which is 192 pages (only 16 pages less than FIGHT CLUB) but weighs in at only 37,330 words! That's a mere 194 words per page. Here we clearly have a case of a book being bulked up. Keep in mind, too, that publishers like to play with book sizes, which will also adjust page count.

This is why it's called the publishing game.