If I said "only if you're in a zucchini," your minds might still go straight to the gutter. *G*
But what I actually want to talk about today are books and what I'm really asking is does length matter to you as a reader?
When is a book too short? Too long?
There are a couple of things prompting me to ask. One is my own reading habits which have changed drastically over the years. And another is something my publisher said at last year's author conference. Now, I wasn't quite taking notes, so I may be off by a couple thousand words (for which I apologize to both you and her). Essentially, the statistics she gave us is that the "sweet spot," the length that tends to sell the best, in the neighborhood of 70,000 words.
Now, I tend to write longer than that by at least 15K. My first novel was about 89,000 words after the final edit; my second novel was few thousand words less--but only a few.
Hanging by the Moment, my third novel, weighs in at a whopping 112,000 words. That's nothing compared to Grace Duncan's fabulous book Choices, which closer to 130,000 words.
Now, I realize I'm talking a foreign language to some of you. Most readers look at books in termspages, but the thing is that that's really deceptive. I once had to write an essay for my Anthropology class (okay, I've written a lot of essays for a lot of classes, but this one illustrates my point beautifully). We were charged to write a 5 page paper. Easy, right?
Except by the time I was done, it was almost twice that length. I knew I could give him a six page paper, but ten was pretty much out of the question. So I did the opposite of what most students do. First I went through and got rid of as many extra words as I could, replacing "ands" with semi-colons and finding every extraneous "that" there was. (Oh, if only I could have gotten rid of the double spaces after periods! But it was the day of the dinosaurs and we still double spaced after every end-stop). That got me down to nine pages. Okay. Next: change the margins. Instead of one inch around, I gave him .75 inches at the right and left and .5 top and bottom. I changed the font to 11.5 point instead of 12 point. I changed the line spacing from double to 1.5. And huzzah! Six pages!
This is why writers think in terms of number of words rather than number of pages.
Here's an example you can actually see with your own eyes:
|although scanned separately, I made every effort to size them |
accurately when I put the images together for comparison.
If Anais Nin's Delta of Venus was the same length (in pages) as Hanging by the Moment, it would weigh in at 129,000 words...and bear in mind it's physically about half the size as Hanging by the Moment.
In reality, Delta of Venus comes in somewhere between 105,000-107,000 words in 268 pages.
Hanging by the Moment is 112,000 words and 340 (much larger) pages.
(And seriously, part of why I love my Kindle so much is that these poor old eyes do not deal with that iddy-biddy print anymore.)
To put into a different sort of perspective, many modern romance novel publishers put a top cap (the maximum number of words) for a novel at 90,000. The minimum for novel length for most publishers is 60,000. Some drop as low as 50,000. Novellas, of course, are even shorter.
J.P. Barnaby's novella Rent Boy, Charlie was a little over 30,000 words (69 pages *snicker*). For me, that worked just fine. Sure, it didn't give enough space to give the second MC's point of view, but the book wasn't so much about him as it was about Charlie and it made for a perfect afternoon read, which was exactly what I wanted when I bought it. (Which is a reflection of my reading habits changing over the years; back in jr. high and high school, I was chewing through books the size of Ms. Nin's Delta of Venus--and longer--on a weekly basis...although I wasn't reading erotica, Anne McCaffrey and Steven Brust were more my taste. I even read all five hundred pages of Clan of the Cave Bear, without batting an eyelash. Give me a five hundred page book now and I'm likely to roll my eyes and politely pass. I don't have as much time to read as I used to; I want a book I can finish in a week, preferably a weekend.)
(Okay, yes, I have a short story that does that, but I cut out a huge chunk of the middle--and have it right here on my site as a free-read.)
So my question to you: Does size matter?
When does it become a factor in deciding to read (or not read) something? And does the price influence your decision? What about genre?
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