Word Counts and Page Numbers   Leave a comment

I know I’ve been quiet–sorry about that. A romance release and some editing work have been conspiring against my schedule lately.

Some fellow writers over on Twitter were bemoaning the fact that, pre-publication and especially with an e-book, it’s hard to know how long your book is in terms of page count. Which is always seemed fairly irrelevant to me, as word count is a much more reliable number, but it’s been pointed out to me that page count is the thing potential readers often want to know. So I decided to see what I could find out.

It’s impossible to have an exact conversion between word count and page count, of course, because page count varies based on writing style, form factor, and formatting, but I did find some comparative counts that can be used as a general guideline. Approximations for mass-market paperbacks:

80,000 words = 250 pages
100,000 words = 290 pages
130,000 words = 350 pages

Pages in e-books tend to be a little longer, so page counts tend to be a little shorter at the same number of words:

35,000 words = 90 pages
50,000 words = 150 pages
100,000 words = 250 pages
120,000 words = 300 pages

Trade paperbacks are the real doozy, because there are several different standard sizes and publishers have been known to…creatively adjust margins, font size, and pitch to make a book they feel is “too short” look longer. Looking at a random sampling, in general, the word count stew not appear to be too far off the counts from e-books. Hardbacks may accommodate a few more words per page, but we’re talking a difference of about twenty-five pages between a 130,000 word e-book and hardcover, so it’s probably not worth worrying about if you’re just providing a general word count to a reader before the book has reached final formatting.

Posted October 19, 2012 by April L'Orange in Uncategorized

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The Nature of Small Publishing   Leave a comment

This is the kind of thing I usually blog about in my editing blog, but this time I’m caught a little more squarely in the damage path than usual. Yesterday I received notice from Escape Collective Press that effective immediately, they are closing their doors. This means, among other things, that the anthologies containing my short stories “Crash” and “Stop Errors” are no longer available.

Without meaning any offense to the Escape Collective, this isn’t particularly surprising. Not because of anything they did or didn’t do, but just due to the nature of small publishing. I liked their concept. I worked with a very good editor there. And while I wasn’t always completely happy with the quality of their anthologies in terms of producing a polished product, they learned from their mistakes. But any such operation is the effort of a very small number of people, and anything from a health problem or family emergency to a simple falling out can bring an end to the business.

I don’t know what In particular ended the Escape Collective, and I don’t need to. That’s their concern, not mine.

It does mean I need to wedge some time into my schedule, hopefully no later than this weekend, to take those anthologies off my page of available books, and then I will need to begin shopping those stories around again. I’ll need to refer to the general guidelines to figure out whether I would still market them as first rights properties or as reprints–that usually depends on the number of copies sold or circulation numbers.

I know some people who’ve told me his eight far rather work with a small press and then a large one, usually from some combination of feeling like they aren’t just a number and the fact that small presses tend to have a shorter production time from acceptance to publication. But this is the trade-off: You never know when some small thing will result in the press going under, and then all the work that went into selling, publishing, and marketing the story in the first place has to be done over.

Posted August 30, 2012 by April L'Orange in Uncategorized

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United Breaks Guitars   Leave a comment

Sorry to link and run, but I’m running around like a crazy person between romance promo and editing deadlines. This should amuse you, despite not actually being funny.

Not as exciting as when they lost a ten-year-old kid traveling by herself, but still worth noting. Not that I think United is any worse than the other two airlines still in existence in the US right now. I’m kind of of the opinion that the entire airline system sucks in its effort to squeeze every last penny out of air travelers. We might as well laugh about it. :-)

Posted August 28, 2012 by April L'Orange in Uncategorized

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The Challenge of Short Stories   Leave a comment

I confess, most of my short stories have been sitting, gathering dust since early this year. There’s just been too much editing taking my time and too much work on the genre romance side of the Force. But the editing has let up a little in the last couple of weeks, and I’ve slowly begun sending things out to markets again.

The hazard with short stories is that for many of us, they are simply a hit-or-this medium. Don’t let anyone tell you that a short story is somehow easier or less than a novel. It’s fewer words. It may or may not take less time to write, revise, polish, research markets, and submit. The short length leads to having to compress all of your story elements, while still working them in. You have to make the reader care about your characters, provide the exposition and setting that SF/F usually requires, and build an acceptable plot and ending, all in no more than 7500 words, and usually less.

Endings in particular are the curveball that seems to slip right by some readers, no matter what the writer does. I say that as both a writer and a reader. In college, when I was doing upper-level fiction seminars, we all bemoaned the difficulty of ending short stories. The general consensus, from both the class and the instructor, was that you can either end a short story on a particular thought (often conveyed in dialogue) that makes everything fall into place for the reader, or on an image which relates thematically and gives a sense of closure.

Notice how neither one of these sounds much like the sort of ending you’d expect in a novel.

One of the markets I have a short story out to right now takes submissions in a workshopping forum. There is no other way to submit to that market, so you have to be prepared for the possibility of feedback from readers along the way, and those readers may or may not “get” your story. It’s not going to hit for everyone. The particular story I submitted is a science fiction quest story with a twist at the end. After about two weeks on the forum, I have exactly one comment, from someone who doesn’t feel the ending is working. Someone who feels too much is left unresolved.

I don’t know whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. It could be good that in two weeks, no one else has had any constructive criticism for me, and the one person who did didn’t think there was anything wrong with what I had, only that she wanted more.

(Incidentally, I don’t find that an unacceptable reaction at all–the story wraps up, and I feel good about the ending I gave it, but it does, in fact, set the stage for future stories. I told the story of a revelation. Anything subsequent will be the story of the resulting revolution.)

It could also be a bad thing. When you’ve written something with nothing wrong with it, except it just doesn’t grab people… Well, sometimes it’s just not the right fit for a particular market, and very often that goes back to what type of endings the editors at that market are drawn towards. If that’s not the case, it may mean that you–I–have written a perfectly acceptable story which suffers from the ultimate damning judgment: it’s okay. Not bad, not terrible, but also not great, not exciting. Bad can sometimes be fixed. Uninteresting, almost never.

It’s only one market, and it’s only been two weeks. it’s only one story. I’m not exactly panicking. But the long silences bring out self-doubt, and I start to wonder if I’ve committed the tragic error of being…just okay.

Posted August 3, 2012 by April L'Orange in Uncategorized

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Book Review: Cruce de Caminos, by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane – 4 stars   Leave a comment

Long time no talk. Sorry about that. I’m afraid I’ve been busy editing and working on promoting my upcoming romance novella. I did, however, finally make time to read Cruce de Caminos, by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane. This writing duo is fast becoming a favorite amongst new authors I read. Not only do they write well, they have a new and interesting take on any story they tell, and Cruce de Caminos is no exception.

For those who don’t speak Spanish, “cruce de caminos” translates as “crossroads,” and the central character, Sean O’Hara, is definitely at a crossroads in his life. He’s a teenager living on the streets who no longer knows how to handle life without being high. He’s just lost his girlfriend, all his worldly possessions, and what might have been his last shreds of dignity. He has a choice to make, between improving his life or continuing along a path that only ends when he hits rock bottom.

But crossroads aren’t just places of choice and opportunity. They’re also magical places, places where different faiths and folklores say you can meet beings not entirely of this world. Sean’s life is about to take a turn for the darkly fantastic.

The story’s setting is rich and compelling, and the characterization is gorgeous. Sean isn’t the cardboard cutout of a teenage junkie it would be so easy to fall back on, he’s a real person in desperate circumstances, with all the virtues and flaws that are part of that package. The inscrutable Ángel is a mystery man, and he generates all the otherworldly tension a reader could want. The battles Sean is fighting may be mostly with himself, but they’re realistic despite the fantasy elements of the story–the kind of conflict that keeps you turning pages.

I also love that the authors went to some lengths to draw on folklore that hasn’t been done to death as the basis of their fantasy elements. We see a lot of European-descended folklore in modern fantasy and paranormal stories. When we do see something else, it’s often poorly researched or trivialized. The Voudon elements in Cruce de Caminos are neither.

I only have one real complaint about the story: it felt like it needed to be either longer or shorter. The pacing is structured one way through most of the story and then changes just prior to the climax. Summarizing a couple of scenes about 2/3 of the way through would have improved the tension in the last third of the story. Alternately, a couple of incidents which are summarized could have been extended, taking Sean on a more meandering road to the climax and dénouement and injecting a few more minor conflicts along the way to keep us interested.

Overall, I highly recommend this read. At just under 16,000 words, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon. Let’s call it four stars.

You can get Cruce de Caminos direct from the publisher, or from major e-book sellers like Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com.

Posted July 20, 2012 by April L'Orange in Uncategorized

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This Is My New Theme Song   Leave a comment

The world would be a much better place if everyone would just do exactly what the lyrics say. Link courtesy of my friend Robin.

Posted July 16, 2012 by April L'Orange in Uncategorized

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“Just” Fiction   Leave a comment

A friend of mine used the phrase “just” fiction to describe something recently. The context isn’t really relevant, but I had some thoughts about the way fiction affects us in response, and I wanted to get them down here, not just let them disappear into the ether.

I find that it’s never “just” fiction. The best fiction shows us something about ourselves. Sometimes something we already knew. Sometimes something we really didn’t want to know. So to me as a writer, it may be fiction. But it’s fiction containing emotions and reactions and personal interactions, and those things evoke real life. They’re meant to, no matter what I’ve based them on.

When people respond to what I’ve written with the ways they were personally touched by it, that can be uncomfortable. It’s like being trusted with the secret. Sometimes, it’s like having opened the window to let in the breeze and seeing someone outside naked–it’s more than I really wanted to know. But we should never write it off as “just” fiction. Because “just” fiction writes off some people’s personal and very emotional experiences in the process.

Just because it wasn’t real to the writer doesn’t mean it wasn’t real to the reader.