By Amy Collins on The Book Designer site:
This month, we are focusing on how consumer book sales can tell us what readers want. A lot of the choices we publishers make are based on what we want or what we think we SHOULD do. Here are a few recent examples of insight gained by authors, for this edition of DO THIS, NOT THAT.
What They Did: Published a book that was too long
Zach Obront from Book In a Box recently analyzed the 272 books that have sat at #1 on the NYT Nonfiction Bestseller List over the past 7 years. His primary goal was to understand the ideal range for length, in order to better inform nonfiction authors. Zack found that historically there was a pretty wide spread with most books falling into the 250-450 page range. But when he looked at recent years, he found that the average book length had almost fallen in half since 2011. In 2011, the average NYT #1 Nonfiction Bestseller was 467 pages. Now it’s 273.
And there is also fiction to consider. The average page count of the NY Times Fiction Bestseller List in 2011 was 502. This week, the Paperback List average page count is 398. If you look at the lists for fiction and nonfiction this past week, over 50% of the books on the NY Times Bestseller List are between 250-350 pages.
When publishing POD books, many authors find that they cannot afford to offer the full discount required to get the books into bookstores. The prime cause of this high expense is that the books have over 350 pages and the longer the books, the more expensive the print costs. A great many authors find themselves with books over 100,000 words and when told about the costs of designing and printing a book of that length, do not know what to do next.