Wednesday, March 15, 2006

PTC #8

8. Ambient Wisdom or Myth: I wish if I knew if I were doing the right thing, rewriting my 300K novel into a trilogy, because the ambient wisdom is a first-timer can't sell a 300K book.

Some publishers such as Tor have been splitting authors' books into two volumes, which I think might have been the blip that ignited this questionable wisdom. Peter Watts was the first author whom I heard had this done to his book, but I've also seen other authors, such as Holly Lisle, successfully fight the split and keep their longer books intact. Rick Kleffel wrote an excellent column about the practice, btw, which you can read here.

In publishing, the hard and fast rule is that there is no hard and fast rule. Two recent first-timers' hefty debut novels: Susanna Clark's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (800 pages) and Elizabeth Kostava's The Historian (642 pages.) Other authors who routinely write big fat novels and do quite well that I can think of: Neal Stephenson, Tad Williams, Diana Galbaldon, J.K. Rowling and Laurell K. Hamilton.

Practically speaking, shrinking shelf space, the new trend for the oversized paperback, and rising production and shipping costs would seem to indicate that the future will demand shorter novels. I acknowledge this, but I also believe that if your book is dazzling, it will sell no matter what length it is.

In the end, you have to go with your instincts as a writer. What are they telling you to do?


  1. You can add Marsha Moyer to the list of authors whose books were split in two.

  2. Wow! This was exactly what I needed to read today. My situation isn't exactly the same, but close enough. Thank you so much!

  3. From what I understand, there are sometimes production needs. For example, Tad Williams "To Green Angel Tower" (Memory, Sorrow & Thorn book 3) was published as a single volume in hardcover, but due to its 1080 pages, was split into two for paperback. Seeing the paperbacks, I can see why. You'd never have been able to open them properly or they would have come apart just by looking inside if it were left as one tome.

  4. Anonymous1:40 AM

    I first heard about this with regard to John C. Wright's Golden Age trilogy. As I understand it, books 1 and 2 end abruptly. You can almost hear the scissors-snip.

    My gut says trilogy is the right move. What bugs me: I'm itching to get started on a new project -- I want to be writing again, dammit, not editing (even though my editing tasks involve lots of new writing, too). Editing isn't nearly as much fun as writing that first draft.

    Thanks, Sheila. You're great.


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