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Ladies, you all know what I’m talking about here.

Ha! No, just kidding. We’re looking at word/page count, not, you know. What you were thinking.

Penis Envy

Picture unrelated.

So how long does an erotic ebook need to be? More importantly, how long does it need to be to be worth $2.99? To be worth $9.99?

There’s no perfect answer, as always. (Is anyone coming here for perfect answers? Goodness gracious but you are barking up the wrong tree. I deal in sweaty, sweaty imperfections.)

But in general, we’ve seen page/word counts plummet ever since ebooks started first sniffing around the edges of traditional publishing.

A short novel, like the slim paperbacks you can get in the supermarket checkout line, is generally between 30,000 and 60,000 words, for a sense of scale.

$2.99 ebooks on Smashwords and Amazon right now cover an enormous range. Some people are putting 100,000+ word novels up for $2.99 (most of which are massive blocks of unedited text). Others are scraping the bare minimum at 2000 words.

For the most part, though, between 4000 and 10,000 words is currently typical at the $2.99 mark. I find that a little short, personally, and try to keep mine in the 10,000 to 20,000 range, but people are clearly selling just fine at 5000 words or even less.

Once you bump the list price up to $9.99, the offerings get a little longer. The shortest are usually still above 10,000 (generally more like 15,000), and most are closer to the 30,000-60,000 range you’d expect of full-length paperback novels. However, there’s also a trend toward collections, both at the $9.99 price range and the 30,00-60,000 word count — about half the offerings are compilations of stand-alone shorts which are, you guessed it, typically between 4000 and 10,000 words each.

So does that mean 4000 to 10,000 words is just the sweet spot for getting off?

To some extent, yes. If you’re writing pure, raw porno, and you’re any good at it, the odds are that your reader is not going to need more than a few scenes to really get going.

Longer works are really only valuable for readers who want both a story and smut. If you’ve got 30,000+ words to play with, and you’re not writing disjointed shorts, you’ve probably got some plot and character development in there. And right now the listings say that that’s more of a niche market than the fire-and-forget shorts.

Does it make it wrong? Heavens no. I’m writing to that niche myself, to some extent — my ebooks tend to go over 10,000 words (sometimes only barely; sometimes by quite a ways), and that’s largely because I’m trying to make the characters and settings memorable, not because I’m writing more smutty bits. (Memorable enough to want to come back to, in many cases — I’m all about the “series potential,” as they say in the biz.)

But generally speaking, there is no “too short,” as long as you’re above the publishing website’s minimum. People will pay $2.99 for twenty minutes of reading. They’ll also pay it for several days of reading. Some will even pay $9.99 for several days of reading. And then there’s all the values in between, offering all sorts of potential sweet spots and dead spots.

Turns out that in erotica — like in blogging — “too long” is a larger concern than “too short.” So I’ll just shut up now and leave it to the comments section, shall I?