“I’d buy that for a dollar.” Or… Word Count and a Buck

Yesterday I asked in my FB group, how many words would you expect for a dollar and the results were interesting to say the least. So, this is a good reference of how the time pays out. Mostly I did it as an exercise to something someone said on a blog post about how they weren’t willing to pay more than a dollar for 45,000 words and it got me to thinking about how much that would cost out for an author’s time.
This is NOT a statement on pricing, an author’s worth or any obligation on the reader. Seriously, this was a… hmmm, I wonder moment and I needed a break from writing. I really needed a rabbit hole to fall into because my brain had to reboot a scene. Trust me. This happens a lot. Be thankful it went to math this time instead of how to bunion surgery. Which IS fascinating but not something to watch on a shared screen. Also, centipedes hunting can also cause WTFs to come at you from various friends when you share them in chat. So… mathing was a safer option.

Word count for a chapter can vary greatly among authors but for example, the first chapter of Dirty Kiss was 5,345 words which is a little long. The first chapter of Sinner’s Gin (not including the prologue or the opening vignette) was 4,400 words which is about the high end of my average. Most of my chapters run 3,500 to 4,500 words.

But, Hair of the Dog, a freebie done for a blog tour, was 7,900 words.

And for reference: For print books, a mass-market paperback runs around 300-350 words per page. A trade paperback (6″x9″) (or hardcover) runs around 350-400. eReaders vary too much to have an average because the fonts and sizes change per user.

Prices below are averaged based on $1 USD divided by the amount of hours needed to write 10,000 words. This is based on an actual project I’m currently doing and is about average for the speed I write. This only includes the initial word count and not plotting things out, research or editing the first pass.

  • 30,000 words for $1 USD / 11.5 hours: 8.7 cents an hour
  • 20,000 words for $1 USD / 7.7 hours: 13 cents an hour
  • 10,000 words for $1 USD / 3.83 hours: 26 cents an hour

Caveat: These are based on how I write and results vary tremendously per author. I only have myself to base numbers on so take the words per hour rate with a grain of salt the size of Lot’s wife’s head because it’s in no way a universal reference.

In reality, the project I’m basing these numbers on was begun on March 10 and stands at 30K on April 6. Each chapter took on an average of 4.5 days to complete so the 11.5 hours is scattered among that time period. That time period includes the plotting, research, light editing, a day job and various other adulting things like sleep, meals and laundry.

Now how long is a novel*?
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, on the other hand, classifies submissions for its Nebula Awards series into four categories:

  • Short story: under 7,500
  • Novelette: between 7,500 and 17,500
  • Novella: between 17,500 and 40,000
  • Novel: over 40,000

Approximate Industry Average Standard for Genres:

  • Commercial and literary novels are 80,000 to 110,000 words
  • Science fiction and fantasy novels are 100,000 and 115,000 words
  • Romance novels are 80,000 and 100,000 words
  • Mysteries and Thrillers are 70,000 to 85,000 words

There are exceptions and even within a genre those averages vary a lot. Like the difference between a cozy and a psychological thriller word count is usually about 10,000 to 20,000 words. All depends on the subject and the writer.

Honestly, I just thought it was an interesting breakdown to share and very helpful for plotting out blog tours and freebies as well as short story offerings. I fall down rabbit holes of information sometimes and get skewed off into research and then come up for air and say… huh, how does this apply? It’s good to get a reference for work and to delve down into the nuts and bolts of word count and how to make good use of time without losing your brain.

By the way, this post is about 620 words and took me half an hour to write but about an hour to research and math. *grins*

* Reference: https://blog.reedsy.com/how-many-words-in-a-novel/

7 thoughts on ““I’d buy that for a dollar.” Or… Word Count and a Buck

  1. Jane

    Are your hours for the writing only or do they include editing and advertising the book? I’m referring to not just the writing but the finished product.

    My guess is that your hours are too low.

    1. That’s just for the initial writing. Not editing or anything else. Mostly this was an exercise into what I myself would want as a reader for a dollar and what I was paying the author.

      Everyone has different rates of speed on writing and that’s something I mentioned because really, some people can put out twice the amount or half the amount I do in the times I’ve stated but since I only have me to gauge this and it wasn’t that intense of a study, I winged it. 😀

  2. Dawn Zeleznik

    I feel that you also have to take editing and story continuity into the price of a book. Just about anyone can self publish these days , but that doesn’t mean your going to have a quality product. Personally, if I pay $.99 for a book I know the author is either doing a special on older books or it’s only a 1-2 hour short story. The third option being it’s self published and I take my chances on the quality.

    1. The reason I don’t is just to capture the price per word count. It’s not about sales and pricing. Or even the quality of the product. It really was an exercise of… how many words for a buck and how that would break down. It really wasn’t an examination of the industry or anything, just one of those… huh, I wonder how much that would be if I counted just the words and a buck. *grins* It’s not a value statement just a brain thing to help me work past a speed bump in a chapter. 😀

    1. I write because I love it but I do publish because I want to make a living. Same thing with doing graphic design. Cats gotta eat 😀 But I definitely enjoy doing what I love. Or love what I’m doing 😀

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