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The revenge of the doorstop

I’m damned sure I’m not the only reader who has hoped there’d be just a few more pages… (if you’re a writer who doesn’t read – trust me, you’re doing wrong. Like deciding to have babies without all this DNA sharing stuff, it doesn’t really work well, unless you’re a newt. Those sort of books work well… for parthenogenetic newts.)

Of course I wanted a few more pages to JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings at about 450K and to Louis L’Amour’s Flint at about 45K.

It wasn’t actually a specific length I wanted – just more of a book I had enjoyed. Now, according to some definitions anything over 40K is a novel. At one time a lot of paperbacks came in 40-60 K range. These days most Traditional Publishers of adult novels require 90-120K. Books had to be a certain number of pages – easiest to manage in multiples around this. A lot of this has historical roots and relates to book-binding, and the number of copies that could be shipped in one box etc.

Well, that was then. Last time I stuck electrons together it did not end well (what do you mean: ‘that’s not what gluons are for’?) A book is as long as a story requires, rather than a publisher requires, these days. A step in the right direction if you ask me. Last time I tried to read a publisher it was less than entertaining. It is not true that I used a steam-roller to flatten them out, and then printed on them.

What brought about this post was a comment on a post Sarah made https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/when-your-novel-dies/ where someone was talking a 400 K first book.

My reaction was: Are you Tolstoy or Tolkien? (It’s hard and not a length of book filled with popular success stories, especially for new writers. There are some of course.)

None-the-less it is something I’ve done. I did contract for a Big Fat Fantasy – back in the day when there was this delusion that it was length that mattered (it doesn’t. you just have to try harder.)

I was told that was what readers wanted. Someone else told me a different story: the fashion for big fat fantasy was a chimera anyway, born out of publishers using the rise in paper prices to justify a much larger than justifiable rise in book prices. The reader got to pay more – but at least felt they were getting more. The cost of paper was really a minor factor in the increase in price – but the reader felt they were getting something extra for the extra cost.

Needless to say: the authors got stuck with instructions: ‘Write a big fat fantasy – 200-300K….” for which you earned exactly what you earned for a 100K.

This did not always work very well, from the story point of view. Most of us have a length we’re comfortable with, that our stories fit. A lot of authors, given this instruction didn’t change what story they wrote. They just added padding, fluff or vast data-dumps.

Strangely, a lot of readers don’t love fluff much, and the fashion has largely died. Publishers are always following trends – most of which had passed by the time they contracted the book, let alone published it.

Still, there is some real demand, and indeed there are some stories that need a lot of space (especially the space travel ones). Others need a lot of words… You may be the author that writes goat-gagger novels naturally well.

I, honestly, am not. My typical natural length is 80-100. I’m quite a terse writer, if you measure action scenes over pages (yes, this is something I have done, not only for my own books. I did 90 pages into one before the only 2 characters had actually done anything but talk about their feelings…). For me it was incredibly hard. SHADOW OF LION was 275 odd K goat-gagger. So call it nearly three normal books long. For me – the effort was more like writing five books. It was tough as I actually did most of the writing, most of the real plotting, and had to go through the nightmare of integrating Misty’s re-use from another series text. (She’d been the author of some part in a sequel to a popular sf book, which was now OOP and the rights to her bit had reverted. It was about 75 K, I ended up using less than 30 which had to be heavily re-jigged to fit. A horrible job, as our styles do not mesh naturally. I’m terse, she’s expansive. She uses a lot of passive voice, and dwells a lot on the characters thoughts and feelings. I’m still not very good at that.)

Anyway… I did it. Look, your mileage may vary, but it’s one of those: “You want me to do this again? Have you got a LOT of money, and am I REALLY that desperate?” If this really is natural thing and you do it without effort – please ignore me. Hell, ignore me, if you wish to anyway. But if you’re thinking of writing something in Big Fat Fantasy realm… just considering it as a possibility, I’d like to make a few points.

  • Unless we’re talking a ton of padding, description, angst, feelings and fluff and twaddle, and huge data dumps, such a book is going to take a large cast of characters (or a long sequence of actions, but those probably also require a large cast).
  • Managing a large cast is an absolute cow. Trust me on this – every 4-6 characters makes a thread, and each of those threads MUST (a) intersect (b) remain clear and distinct in the reader’s head. (c) occur often enough so that even the guy taking a month to read the book remembers them. That means hopping between threads like a flea in a fit.
  • Thread hopping produces the opposite problem – a lack of story continuity, which makes a book drag (no matter how active the thread scenes are, the story isn’t moving along.) If you think a normal book is a balancing act… this is going from juggling three balls to juggling eight plates of jello. Trust me on this too, watching juggling with jello is a lot more entertaining than a tangled mess of threads that never seem to get anywhere.
  • Writing a long books takes a long time. Keeping continuity of style and character over what could be years… is no small ask.
  • A big book inevitably means a big ‘world’ expect a lot of extra research, continuity issues, and care in not boring the reader with data dumps. Really, it’s something a lot of readers complain about.
  • It’s hard keeping all of a normal length book in your head at once. As a writer I have to do that (maybe you don’t). A goatgagger is harder than three separate books adding up to the same length.
  • For a few of us, this is easy. For most writers this is a lot more exhausting and demanding than their natural length. If you’re trying to make a living at this: Ask yourself the hard question – are you going to gain enough extra audience to make the money that will cover the time, stress and effort of writing that huge epic. If you will sell less than the number of books you could have written for the same time and effort… why are you doing it? (you may have a great reason, but ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time’ isn’t one. I can tell you that for sure, from plenty of experience.

OK – so your turn. Have you loved any vast fantasy novels. If so, why? And what problems do you think authors need think about? What has annoyed you?

 

 

 

50 Comments
  1. morrigan508 #

    the one thing that gets my goat on the multi thread, cast of thousands books, and there are a couple great authors that do this… have the same character referred to by several different names, depending on who is doing the addressing. I suck at names anyway, just ask my children; What’s Her-face, and That Damned-boy. So when you throw curve balls by calling the same guy three different names… well…

    July 23, 2018
    • Ditto. When “the Duke of Dreary” is also “Michael” and “Cummerbund” and “his brother” and “Margreta’s husband” all in three paragraphs I lose interest fast. Especially in a room full of other people with the same multiplicity of names.

      July 23, 2018
      • The only context in which that really works is some form of class structure. Look at Britain’s lords, who have a name, a title that often has little or no relation to that name, and a primogeniture method of referring to people. In Jane Austen’s books, you’ll have Miss Bennet (the oldest unmarried daughter), but Miss Elizabeth (her younger sister)—and “Miss Bennet” changes the moment that Jane (the eldest) gets married. It’s all about the context, and while you don’t want to always be calling someone the same thing, you don’t need to drop them all into one paragraph.

        July 31, 2018
    • I might introduce the character with their proper name at first, then depending on the book, it’ll be how the characters generally refer to that one from then on.

      July 23, 2018
    • Barbs bites my head off for even having similar names or same first letter and length (Fred and Finn) :-). It’s not undo-able (multi-names) but you need to invest quite a lot in making sure the reader is not going to be confused.

      July 24, 2018
      • jon spencer #

        Similar names like Fred and Finn are acceptable, if they are dogs or dragons.

        July 24, 2018
        • On the subject of names, the names you can’t pronounce without an international phonetic spelling parenthetical make me put the book down and fast. I’d rather deal with “Bob, Duke of Thisandthat, Brother of Lis” than “Felinmshimhimewkcie the Bold” any day.

          July 25, 2018
          • Draven #

            David Weber’s latest Honor Harrington book is like that to me… all the ‘look i can make polish names and titles’ kept shutting me out of that chapter.

            July 25, 2018
            • Doug Northcote #

              Draven, you are exactly right. I really did enjoy that book but all I could think about when he started with all the polish was “WHY! Dang it Dave, stop doing this to yourself” Since he actually has to pronounce the books for his writing… it makes it even harder on him AND us.

              Having said that, the newest Honor book eARC is (IMO) one of the best he’s put out in years. Many years.

              July 30, 2018
  2. If you count Tanith Lee’s “Flat Earth” series as a single book it qualifies as a doorstop, and I do love that series. The first three taken together in particular tell an epic story that covers thousands of years (you can do that when your primary characters are immortals.)

    The next two are on a more human scale (and in my opinion not as interesting).

    July 23, 2018
  3. Aimee Morgan #

    I love some huge books and long series – LOTR, Name of the Wind, Honor Harrington, and Safehold to name a few. But I do hate the Cast of Thousands, especially when nobility is involved, and the character is sometimes referred to by title, and sometimes by name. But frankly, any time you have a Cast of Thousands, it gets confusing, especially when someone comes in looking like a “we named him because someone had to tell him something” character (so why remember him?) and turns into a major character three books later. And that earlier scene that looked like a throwaway is now an important part of the back story.

    But even if you keep to the same 5 characters, I hate fluff in a story (unless I’m reading for fluff, but I don’t read SF/F for fluff). My dad and I used to make jokes about our favorite authors discovering the Word Processor. You could almost see the ratio of story to filler change as authors went from handwritten or typed to word processing (Anne McCaffrey was the one of the first we noticed it with, but I can also make an educated guess as to when Mercedes Lackey discovered computers, among others). That and discovering a world that resonates with the readers, so the author starts writing a whole bunch of books in that world, then ends up contradicting info from the earlier books, or ret-conning the whole thing.

    July 23, 2018
    • adventuresfantastic #

      I hear Neil Gaiman discussing this on a panel nearly 20 years ago. He had edited an anthology and most of the submissions suffered from bloat.

      July 23, 2018
    • Here’s where I make a pitch for people to read more short fiction. 🙂 The cast-of-thousands problem never comes up in short stories.

      July 23, 2018
      • Short fiction is undergoing a huge renascence in the indie market right now. I recently started a new blog just to keep track of new short fiction magazines and anthologies. While the big trad publishers are killing off their genre fiction markets, indies are popping up like mushrooms. Many of them probably won’t last, but some are already making a splash. This past year I decided to concentrate on short fiction and I have sold 8 stories so far–an average of about 1 a month.

        All to small indie presses.

        July 23, 2018
    • TonyT #

      Author discovers word processing….OR gets so famous that she scares off editors, one example being the Harry Potter series. I stopped reading when the size doubled, without real added content.

      July 23, 2018
      • Doug Northcote #

        TonyT, much agreed, I’d put Weber in that category at times as well. I met/saw him at a panel he did when writing “Out of the Dark” and even he said he needed an editor to rein him back in some. The recent book he’d done with Linda Evans (Hells Gate) books. God its been 8 years already…

        Anyway, sorta same thing. obviously its not in the “Twilight” or Potter kind of money… and to be fair, in the Empire of Man books, I totally could see him getting set loose again for a while. Ringo tended to drag him back a bit just from the working in conjunction.

        July 30, 2018
    • “I can also make an educated guess as to when Mercedes Lackey discovered computers.”

      The Winds series. Thankfully, she rediscovered balance after that one.

      July 31, 2018
  4. Draven #

    400k? insane.

    July 23, 2018
  5. I have loved the big, fat trilogy, but nowadays I prefer the shorter novel. In ASOIAF (GOT book 1) I found myself around page 600 thinking, “how much more?” About a 180 pages more, and while I enjoyed the story and the characters, I’ve not read another GRRM novel since.

    July 23, 2018
  6. adventuresfantastic #

    As I have gotten older, I am more jealous in how I guard my remaining time. Door stoppers, goat gaggers, and such are reserved for the rare times I can read during the afternoon on weekdays, such as holidays and class breaks.

    That being said, I haven’t read anything of such length in quite a while.

    July 23, 2018
  7. Of course, there is the longest SF novel ever written, though it was not published, and there is some uncertainty as to whether or not it is complete. It was done on an Underwood. It is apparently ca. 15,000 pages single spaced with minimal margins. The author also illustrated it. Copiously. Including huge murals.

    July 23, 2018
    • Entire books have been written about Darger’s In the Realm of the Unreal, mostly focused on the art.

      July 23, 2018
  8. A book or story is a sort of memetic program. A program must be as long as is needed to proper do the job, but no longer. Shorter doesn’t get the job done, and longer is just inefficient.

    (Though, fwiw, I thought Tolkein desperately needed an editor and found Bored of the Rings said it all, more concisely.)

    July 23, 2018
    • TonyT #

      I don’t agree about LOTR, which I view as a modern Medieval epic poem written in prose.

      Tolkien doesn’t write bare-bones like RL Stevenson, but he doesn’t add a lot of fluffy descriptions (unlike say Dickens), internal angst-y discussions (unlike many modern authors), or big info dumps (unlike Melville).

      OK, as a stylist Tolkien’s prose is nowhere near, say, PG Wodehouse, but it matches his genre (epic prose poem).

      July 23, 2018
    • Or as Mr. Carrier told me, back in my green youth, “It should be like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cover everything and short enough to keep you interested.”

      (Side note: I Auto-Correct tried to change skirt to prescription. Huh?)

      July 25, 2018
  9. BobtheRegisterredFool #

    I’m quite fond of the right sort of lengthy work.

    I reread Kratman’s A Desert Called Peace and Carnifex a number of times. One story, two volumes, and IIRC half a million words. (Many of the later volumes I’ve read once, so far.)

    Vathara’s Embers I read as a serial, as it was coming out. 750k, I liked it a lot, reread it a lot as it was coming out. Have not done a complete reread since it finished.

    Another fanfic, Sic Semper Morituri. This one as far as I know incomplete, and by someone I mainly know as Daniel Gibson. That one, I’m sure, runs well over a million words.

    I like it, when coming from the right author, who can pull it off. Because I like that stuff, it is among the sorts of thing I would like to write.

    I’m a plotter, and I’ve learned how to plot very short stories.

    The bigger and more complex the project, the more organizational overhead it needs. Goatgaggers are big, and the sort I like are also complex. Plotters use formal planning for their organizational overhead, and you validate formal planning by using it successfully on smaller, less expensive, projects. Pantsers use instinct for organizational overhead, and you train instinct by doing projects. It is cheaper to use smaller projects, but for some things you need to practice at the length you will be producing at.

    The project management learned from the projects that make for success in real life has some application to creative writing.

    July 23, 2018
  10. Was a fan of Epic Fantasy when I was a kid. I mostly still am, but too many times of having to wait WAY too long for the next book to come out has really beat that idea down. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who expect the next book two months later, but I’ve waited more than FIVE YEARS for a sequel on a couple occasions… WAY too long in my opinion, and it has caused me to given up on a series or two, and I probably wouldn’t buy books by those authors again. Not to mention certain authors kicking the bucket before completing a series… enough said about that.

    July 23, 2018
    • Zsuzsa #

      I think that GRRM and cohorts may have killed the “epic fantasy” in the sense of a single enormous story spread out over multiple books. Looking back at ASOIF, I think that if I’d been told when I started Game of Thrones, “Parts are good, but the ending is pretty depressing. Supposedly there’s going to be a sequel that resolves all that stuff, but who knows if it will ever come out?” then I don’t think I’d have read it. At this point, if a book doesn’t completely stand on its own, I’m not interested.

      July 23, 2018
      • Christopher M. Chupik #

        If he would release shorter installments, he could keep the story moving. But waiting until he’s done a 1000+ page book means it’s been 8 years and counting . . .

        July 23, 2018
  11. Uncle Lar #

    From a purely business standpoint 400k makes no sense whatsoever. Sure, you can charge a bit more, say $7.95 or even $9.95 for the e-book, but break it into a series of four 100k e-books at $4.95 and do the math.
    But then I grew up at a time when short story writers typically got 3 cents a word and were thrilled to get bumped up to a nickel a word.

    July 23, 2018
    • Max #

      Here’s the thing. I see a lot of readers talk about this, and a lot of new writers try it, but there are some serious flaws that come with it that a lot of them don’t overcome.

      For starters, you really ARE taking a single story and chopping it into smaller stories. That you’ll not only sell at a cost that’s higher, but with less cohesive books as a result. I’ve seen many new authors that release a “trilogy” that was clearly just one story they chopped into thirds and stuck a collection of subplot endings onto in order to make more money. And what happens is that the readers notice. They get reviews that mention the book felt like it’d been chopped out of a larger work, the actual “plot” and ending were weak on their own … and the result is a dead series and a bad mark on the author.

      Some books can’t be simply chopped into bits with an ax and sold as a serial. You end up with a trio or so of books, each one holding as one act of a three-act structure.

      Then the bad reviews flood in. Especially if readers decide you did this for the money. I’ve seen a lot of Amazon authors who’s reviews go “4-stars, 3-stars, 2-stars” over a “trilogy” that never should have been such. Especially if the price is such as to maximize getting the most out of the reader.

      Personally, as someone making money doing the opposite to your suggestion, don’t cut books up into small “chunks” that don’t stand alone in order to try and cop a few extra bucks out of your readers. They catch on fast.

      Now, I have seen some authors argue “This is just the way it is” and even bully other authors, trying to get them to cut their books up so that the buying public doesn’t have any other option. But the thing is … that only works if no other author goes along with it. All it takes is a single author saying “No, I’ll leave my book as one book. The readers and I get the best that way.” and the alternative approach loses all reader appeal.

      You want to write a trilogy, by all means go ahead. But writing a single book and then “pretending” it’s three will only burn you in the long run. Seen it happen again and again.

      July 23, 2018
  12. It figures that I’m doing everything Dave says is “the hard way”. It should be my middle name. Lots of characters, lots of locations, going forward then jumping back to catch up with another bunch of adventurers, two time zones, plus virtual reality spaces.

    The sad thing is it never occurred to me to do anything else.Too many characters yelling they want to play too. ~:|

    July 23, 2018
  13. Max #

    This article got a chuckle out of me. Not because it’s bad or in some way mistakenly humorous, but because of how far from the “average” mold I appear to fall.

    I dove right into “goat-gaggers” (a fun name, but with the amount of goats we own growing up I’m certain they wouldn’t be gagged for long!) when I started writing and reading. Two of my earlier, shorter books were both around 140k … and those were shorter (it helped that one of them was a short story collection). But the rest? My biggest, best-selling and most highly-critically reviewed hit so far was 365K, and one of the chief compliments for it was that it didn’t feel that long but instead almost the opposite. My last release was 255K, the one I’m working on now will probably be a short one at 180Kish, the sequel to that Sci-Fi one is weighing in right now at 475K …

    I could go on. Some will say I’m “wasting my time” when I could be writing shorter books, but that 475K juggernaut only took me twelve months. The 365K predecessor six (there was a lot of careful juggling with the second one, plus a second job, that added to the time).

    Point being? I’m not trying to brag, just toss out the opposing viewpoint. I’m just one of those authors. None of those stories felt remotely complete chopped down or worse, cut into overpriced, smaller pieces. Each one was the length of “Here is the story.” Granted, it helps that I tend to write stories with both a wide and deep scope, the kind of thing you really couldn’t cram into a book half the size without the binding coming apart and every single interaction and scene feeling rushed.

    There is a serious drawback in that it makes print copies practically impossible without special formatting considerations. Cries from my fanbase for paperback copies have long been a thing, but let me tell you: A 365K book really does exceed the binding size limit. About twice over.

    Again, some argue (without ever reading any of the books, naturally) that these books should just be cut up piecemeal, doled out in small, incomplete pieces. Some stories can handle that. Others? You can’t without cheapening things.

    Anyway, as someone who churns out these monsters of doorstopper/murder-weapon books often, there is one thing I’d disagree a bit with: You don’t need a large cast of primary characters. That 365K book of mine that’s been my biggest and most profitable hit (until recently, it had made more than all my other books put together)? It follows a cast of three.

    Now, yes, there are plenty of secondary characters that they interact with in pursuit of their quest, but at the end of the day, it’s those three. They’re distinct, they’re developed, and they all fit into the world. The secondary characters they interact with are also distinct and feel real, rather than tokens that exist for a purpose.

    Now, you can have a large cast for a book, or a small one. That sequel I mentioned has the three interacting with a larger, more vital secondary cast, and that did mean a bit more juggling. But crud, my latest was another “goat-gagger” and follows a cast of two. Readers love it.

    I don’t think you need a massive cast of characters to make a massive book, you just need a story and depth of the proper scope, and one character will work as well as a dozen as long as the length is the length it needs to be. If you don’t have the scope or depth, but want a “long” book … I think that’s when people start padding, shoving in unneeded characters, etc. Yeah, I’ve written some juggernauts, but like I said, readers and reviews often note they don’t feel like such, and most blast through them in a few days at most. Because the scope and depth are such that the book doesn’t feel like it’s cheating with its material. That 365K Sci-Fi? It starts with the trio of protagonists being picked up on the heels of their old jobs by a massive corporation and forced into a job tracking down a case of industrial espionage on a colony world. They travel to the colony world, only to find that their “simple” job of tracking said espionage down is actually quite complicated by the fact that their target is dead, and the planet itself is a powder keg of fermenting revolutionary ideals. Except their target might not be dead, so they end up weaving their way between various factions, all of whom want one thing or another on this world.

    Point being, there’s enough depth to the story, and enough going on, that cutting material or chopping the book up makes it feel like an incomplete story (there were fears about releasing a doorstop that saw this attempted, and it did not end well). But … that requires having a story of that size and scope, and being able to pull it off. Which is apparently kind of my thing. I’m good at it. Short books? Small stories? Nah, let someone else write those. I’ll deliver the titans that sweep readers away for a weekend of wonder.

    I love getting sucked into a massive world. Reading and writing them both.

    July 23, 2018
    • Jamie #

      I like reading “goat gaggers” so long as they’re naturally long and not padded. But I naturally write long, too. I *always* have three main characters pop into my head from the get-go, with a fourth who shows up later. I used to assume I’d never need more than 120k words, but now that target looks like the equivalent of my mother buying a smaller purse than she needs: it’ll burst at the seams. It looks as if 160-170k is my natural length.

      I actually do try to avoid going over 170k for any given story (my current trilogy WIP has the first two clocking in at 165K give or take. I have both cut and added material, and they still come in at that length. But I quit beating myself up over it when an online fantasy mag showed what Rothfuss’ and Sanderson’s raw manuscripts looked like after they’d printed them out. One of the men had a baby sitting next to the stack, and the stack was as tall as the baby. Using a baby as a unit of measurement, I figure I’ll never go beyond the ankle – mid calf for a given book 🙂

      I used to write short stories, when I was in a fiction program in college — I particularly liked the sci-fi class, which was taught by an actual writer of sci-fi/fantasy. But at the time, the short story market was horrible because the mags were painfully dull. Now I have a hard time reading shorter works just because I can’t “settle in” mentally if I know it’ll only take an hour or two to read the thing. Forget writing them. The joy of indie is that you get to see what works for you, so keep on!

      July 23, 2018
  14. Of the “I liked these enough to keep them around”, I have very, very few goat gaggers on my shelves. First, Digger – the collected Omnibus by Ursula Vernon. Because it really is one giant story told over 8 years as a webcomic, and the pause between volumes was no more than a chapter ending. While it’s a gigantic heavy book, if I’m sick and want a comfort read that will absorb my day, it really fits the bill. And although I haven’t replaced it in… years… Gaiman’s Collected SandMan was very like that, too, last time I read it. (although there the original comic books were collected into smaller volumes, instead of a wristbreaker single volume like Digger.)

    Second, Cordelia’s Honor – originally published as two books, Shards of Honor and Barrayar. I have to say, I prefer the publisher’s choice to do it as two novels, because they really are two separate stories, even if Bujold sees them as the first and second part to the same story… because the entire arc set up in Shards really isn’t finished until several novels later in Cryoburn.

    Third is Daniel Scott Moran’s The Last Dancer. I actually like his entire series, but that was the first (out of order) one I read, so I remain most fond of it despite all the slow rambling chapters, repetitiveness, political rants, and shake-my-head characters. He built a really weird world, and as a standalone it works awesomely, in a sort of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-thrown-in way. It’s only when reading multiples back to back that it becomes really tedious, and the number of places I sinal salute and say “It doesn’t work like that” outweighs the “totally impractical but fun!”

    July 23, 2018
    • I don’t think of the omnibus novels as single novels so much as novel collections. Most of my Vorkosigan saga is in omnibus format simply because it’s convenient.

      July 31, 2018
  15. Luke #

    I’ve got nothing against goat gaggers.

    That said, the only way I’m ever remotely likely to write one, is as a collection of shorter works with an over-arching metaplot.
    (I actually was thinking about doing this for an interesting setting I made that isn’t otherwise conducive to long-form stories. Not as a focus, but as a gradual accretion of writing a couple shorts as a palette cleanser between projects. )

    July 23, 2018
  16. mrsizer #

    As long as the giant book isn’t randomly chopped into an arbitrary number of pieces, I tend to prefer a series of shorter books – although I rarely buy them until the whole series is out (e.g. I waited for the last Cochrain’s Company before starting the first one, but Wine of the Gods is so massive that “as they come out” has to do). With the Kindle “get next” button, the difference is minimal.

    “End the book” is also a good way to jump significantly forward in time. At the end of one book, our intrepid hero enrolls in the Space Academy; at the start of the next one, he’s graduating.

    The Belgariad is well split; each book is a country. The Kurtherian Chronicles (and the various spin-offs) less so, but not horrible. The Lensmen did the time jumping thing, in spades.

    These days, I suppose it depends on reader preference: Do I want to see what you’ve got, with minimal delay (hi, Pam), or do I want to see the whole thing at once (hi, Peter)? I think that, for me, the difference is “is there a known endpoint?” With Michael (Andrele?) and Pam, the answer is “no”, so I get them as they come out. Peter announced it was a trilogy, so I waited (and left reviews, just today).

    July 23, 2018
  17. Tprice #

    Dave, are you allowed to say where Misty recycled from? Makes me curious if I can track it down for a comparison.

    July 23, 2018
    • Probably better not 🙂

      July 23, 2018
  18. Tprice #

    As for goat gager length works I often read them in Harry Potter fanfic but the author is _really_ retelling multiple volumes of the original series under one title. Like the original source they can usually break between school years but don’t always.

    Plenty of shorter works in the HP fanfic community that are good as well. Of course Sturgeon’s law applies and you need to be willing and able to bail if you hit a stinker.

    July 23, 2018
  19. TonyT #

    There’s definitely some cultural factors here. The famous Chinese novels (Water Margin, Dreams of the Red Bedchamber, Plum in the Golden Vase, etc) all seem to be extremely long with hundreds or thousands of characters, and, I believe, varying names for the same character. IIRC, the classic Russian novels are a bit shorter, but still lengthy, and characters often have several nicknames which make perfect sense to Russians, but not to me.

    Where does one make a split between a lengthy work and a series? LOTR is clearly one work, but in three volumes. But Waugh’s Sword of Honor trilogy can definitely be read separately. Some other longer ones I’ve read include Sigrid Undset’s Kristen Lavransdatter (slow paced, but worth it), and Donaldson’s Mirror of Her Dreams / A Man Rides Through (clearly one work, but published separately with large gap, which pissed off a lot of readers)

    July 23, 2018
    • Of course, long classic Russian novels etc. were written for an audience that had no other entertainment on long winter nights. Not even music, unless somebody in your household could play an instrument tolerably well.

      July 24, 2018
  20. Tprice #

    And if you paid attention LotR was 6 books, each with it’s own title, usually printed in three volumes. Tolkien had intended it to be a one volume work with The Silmarillion being the companion volume. Not that he ever finished The Silmarillion.

    July 23, 2018
  21. 23 skidoo

    July 24, 2018
  22. jon spencer #

    If you are writing for KU, would sales of three or four 50k books at $2.99 bring in more than one 200K at $5.99?
    In addition to the rental pay per page read.

    July 24, 2018
  23. Mary #

    Well, to take it off on a tangent:

    If you do have a work of 120,000 or 150,000 words — is it better, in terms of sales, to split it up like LOTR? Or not?

    July 25, 2018
    • I’d say, unless it has a very obvious break 120K is best left intact.

      July 26, 2018
      • Mary #

        all right then. I’ll see how it goes.

        July 27, 2018

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