1. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Evidence that people still like long books

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by minstrel, Dec 12, 2015.

    What do you think of this?

    I've long lamented the tendency of people to say that publishers want shorter books, and that it's harder to sell a long book. But it seems there's a demand out there.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think readers like long books just fine. It varies by genre, I suppose. Fantasy is packed with long books that sell well.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I thought that the issue with long books was purely financial--more editing, proofreading, paper, binding, shipping, shelf space, and people will still pay only so much for a book. So the idea that I ended up with was that a publisher is reluctant to take a very long FIRST book, because they have no idea if the author will sell, and the bigger the failed book is, the more the loss.

    Did I make that up? It's entirely possible.
     
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  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    They should have used word count instead of page count. As we all know, page count depends on a lot of things, including formatting, size of the page, etc.
     
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  5. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Weird. I would've thought publishers would've hated long books simply because if the writer doesn't have enough balance you can feel them strrrretching out the scenes. Or adding filler or rehashing old arguments.
     
  6. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    This was always my impression as well. Maybe we both made it up?
     
  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Add me to your delusional kingdom - this is what I've believed, as well.
     
  8. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Let's see now Trilogy by some overhyped newb that nobody has heard that is 750+pages, or standalone 750+ novel by one of my favorite authors that died in 2005.
    (You will be missed Andre Norton). :(

    I think it all comes down to whether you have a choice in the matter of getting a collective of good smaller books, or one long book that is equally written. I know this
    not always the case, but it happens. Though where possible I try and avoid anything longer than a trilogy for the simple fact that I like a satisfying conclusion.
    Though I have a trilogy that is easily 1235 pages long. But again that also is under the stipulations that all the books are well connected and don't become less interesting
    the farther you go, and it has an ending fitting of the story. I think neverending series always tend to go down hill by the third or forth book, as the writer does not feel
    the need to put in the effort to keep things consistently good since they have established themselves.

    So sure I would if given the choice like to settle into a nice long page turner over a thinner less interesting story. :)
     
  9. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Fourth...ed.

    From what I've read, there are two trends: novellas are becoming more popular, and readers want longer novels. Now that ebooks are so popular, both are being published.

    I don't see print books getting much longer. Once you get word counts in the six figures, printing costs become very unattractive. My copy of Memoirs of a Geisha (186,000 words) is printed in teeny tiny font on very thin, and presumably lower quality, paper.
     
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  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Except maybe in fantasy. The first in Brandon Sanderson's most recent series is something like 380K. In Erikson's Malazan series, about half of the ten books are over 350K, with a couple pushing 400K, and they're all fairly thick.

    Honestly, I wonder if the marginal cost per page can really be that much. Seems like the difference in printing a 400 page book versus an 800 page book is probably slim in terms of cost. I wonder whether it's more of a shelf-space issue in stores, but I don't know.
     
  11. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    There have always been some outliers - I meant as a trend.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Do you think publishers experience much of a cost differential for longer books? When you look at all of the costs that go into a book, from artwork to editing to marketing, and everything else along the chain, the paper and ink expense seems like it'd be quite small. Which is one reason publishers say ebook prices aren't lower than they are.
     
  13. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Yes, since that's what publishers say. I have no reason to believe they're lying. :D I do think you're right and shelf space is part of the issue, as well as having somewhat standardised book thicknesses in genres. A 60k adult fantasy would be a problem for many reasons, but one is that it wouldn't feel to the reader that they were getting as much bang for their buck.
     
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  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, I think that perception is there in fantasy, and to some extent SF. And while I'll read the 400K novels if they're really good, I'd be very happy to see standalone SF/F in the 120K range (i.e. not the start of a trilogy or whatever).
     
  15. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Yes please! I think there is also a definite trend towards series rather than standalone, and everyone except me seems happy about it. :(

    When I shopped for paper books (haven't in years) I did tend to go for the thicker ones. I like a long read. I just don't like having to pay for three books to get a satisfactory ending.
     
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  16. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    What do you guys think about those "book shot" things that are being pumped out under the Patterson brand? (For the record, I don't read Patterson) I think it's an interesting concept. Albeit a tad gimmicky...maybe.
     
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  17. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Never heard of it. What's a book shot?
     
  18. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    They're these 150 page or so novellas that are marketed as quick "shots" of story. Small price tag $4.99; I can see the appeal. Not sure I'd ever buy one, but I can see the strategy.
     
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  19. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think for reputable publishers editing is one of the biggest expenses, and the longer the book, the longer it'll take to edit. Editing is usually measured in pages/hour, and I've seen ranges of 1 -9 pages an hour, depending on the kind of editing being done. Even being really generous (for easy math!) and assuming 10 pages an hour, and maybe only 3 editing passes, at, say, $50/hour...

    a 200 page book would cost $3 000 to edit, a 600 page book would cost $9 000. Unless the publisher can charge dramatically more for the longer book, I can see why they'd prefer shorter.
     
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  20. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's actually been my experience recently, when checking out long books. The print is miniscule. Either that, or my eyes are getting bad. But I would struggle to read them now.

    Interesting, in that I just bought a copy of Gone With The Wind, which I read as a library book years ago. I had no trouble whatsoever reading the library hardback copy, but this copy in paperback had really tiny print. Even though it's one of the longer novels ever written, it didn't look that much larger from the exterior of the book. My suspicion is that they've squinted down the type in order to print it on fewer sheets of paper.

    This is odd ...because this is a well-known book, so they're not taking a chance on it. I wish now that I'd gone for a used copy from AbeBooks. It's not as if the author is still alive and reliant on book sales.

    Longer books will be more expensive to print. But I'd say, do what used to be done and add an extra pound/dollar to the price to cover the extra cost. I remember paying more for larger books when I was younger. It doesn't put them out of reasonable range.

    Look at it this way. If you buy a book that's a third as long as another book, but only pay a pound more for it, you're actually getting more reading for your money! :) Not only that, but you've got more time to settle in and enjoy the story.
     
  21. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm also suspicious of the 'cost' angle being the only thing against longer books. The word count 'requirement' has shrunk dramatically just over the past few years. When I finished the first draft of my novel back in 2001, I checked and the 'word count' requirement for a first-time novel then was between 120-150,000 words. That was still a lot shorter than mine was (and mine has been shrunk considerably since.) But now, only 15 years later, the preferred count for a first-time submission in most genres is under 100,000 words ...preferably in the 80,000-90,000 range. Surely, with modern-day printing techniques and the popularity of good quality paperbacks, shaving 20,000-70,000 words off every new novel isn't necessary.

    http://thewritepractice.com/word-count/

    I'm sorry. I find these statistics depressing, really. A story takes as long as it takes to get told. If it short, it might not actually have much to say. I feel I've been ripped off by so many new novels I've read recently. So many of them seem simplistic and gimmicky. One trick ponies. And the pace is often too hectic to be immersive.

    There is nothing inherently 'boring' about a longer story. It just means you'll be with it for a longer time, and the author will have spent a lot of effort getting you immersed in the scenes and settings, rather than trying to get you to move along as quickly as possible. I've heard people say of longer stories, 'well, most of it is just repetition.' Pardon? That's certainly not been my experience.

    Once again, I get the feeling that we're being channeled into writing for people who don't actually want to read. Folks who want to get it over quickly and move on to something else. Either that, or it's built-in obsolescence taking over the book trade. If a story 'expires' quickly, then people will need to go buy another one more often. Depressing. I certainly find it so. Both as a writer AND as a reader.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2016
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  22. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    Colony by Ben Bova must be in that area , Ive never counted but going from the thickness of the volume
     

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