Sunday, 2 December 2012

Does Size Matter? - The Books We Read

Over the next fours weeks I'm going to be doing a few posts that fall into a little series I'm going to call Does Size Matter? You can probably guess some of the topics I'll be covering, especially those of you with dirty minds who are now siting reading this thinking about large penises. I know who you are and you're all very naughty :)

Today though I'm thinking about the size of books we read. Not as in physical size, but word count. What is considered the ideal length for a book. Personally I like reading large novels. The larger the book the better (as long as the story grips me of course). I find that if a novel is larger I get more information about the characters, the story is often more in-depth and has a few twists and turns along the way. I like to know the ins and outs of the characters I read about, seeing how they fit into the society that surrounds them, watching their interplay with the other characters, even minor ones. That's what I find enjoyable, I find it a complete experience rather than a shorter book that leaves me with unanswered questions. Of course the questions may not be pertinent to the story, it's probably just something I've wondered about as I've read. 

When I wrote Finding Angel it turned out to be 160,000 words long. I had friends say it wouldn't get published because it was too long and  some publishers I couldn't submit to as the novel was over their recommended word length. I re-looked at it, discussed with my two beta readers what I could possible remove. Their opinion matched mine. Nothing.  Finding Angel is the first in my Wylde Shore Series, it introduces the characters,  the setting where they live, the social dynamic in the BDSM community in which the characters participate and the suspense elements that flow through each of the subsequent works. Luckily I found a publisher willing to take the chance and publish Finding Angel, which, despite people telling me  was too long, received positive reviews and mostly four to five star ratings from both readers and review sites.

Subsequent books in the series are smaller, but not by much. Playing Jax was 120,000 words and Switching Mercedes, the current WIP from that series is set to come in at between 120 -140,000 words. They are novels and I love writing them even though they take me a longer period of time to create.  I also have a novella series, most of the books in that are under 20,000 words (but only just). The Sydney Cougar Series has also received great reviews from both readers and professional review sites, but they don't sell in the same numbers that Finding Angel and Playing Jax have. I'm not sure if that's because of the size or other differentials within the story and genre they fall into. It's a bit of a mystery to me at present and one of the reasons to include book length in the Does Size Matter set of blogs.

Most publishers have a guideline for book size that goes something along these lines. Short stories are under 15,999 words, novellas fall into the 16,000 to 45,000 word length and a novel is over 45,000 and up to 120,000 words. With a large number of publishers only novel length manuscripts go to print, unless the publisher prints an anthology of the novella or short story length books. I' not sure if the sizing is effective or accurate, there is a huge word difference between 45 and 120 thousand and in fact most of the print books I buy and read by popular authors are often in excess of 120,000 words. 

JR Ward, whose books I love, are huge. They're detailed but enthralling and I'd probably be disappointed if I didn't end up with a house brick weight size book to read when I purchase one of her novels. I feel a similar way about Christine Feehan's Dark Series, Nalini Singh novels and Lora Leigh's books. So does popularity dictate the acceptable size of a novel, does the publisher, does the reader or should it be left up to the creator of the story - the author? 

For me, I write a story until the characters don't have anything else to say, until their story is told. If that means it's a heavyweight like Finding Angel or a 16,500 word novella like my last completed work, All You Can Eat, then so be it. I hope my readers enjoy my books no matter what length they are, but it doesn't stop me from wondering if the size of the book really does make a difference to sales, to reader likability  to review ratings, and to people coming back and purchasing other titles in my list of works. 

So what do you all think? Does Size Matter when it comes to the length of a book?


  1. No size has nothing to do in what I like about a book, its the story that matters, sometimes I read all night if the story is gripping and I have to know the ending.

  2. I prefer a decent size book, I am not really a fan of the Novella. I like detail, I like full 3 denominational characters, I like a beginning a middle and an end.

  3. Most of my writing comes in at 25-40k. Though I've written full length novels, one even won a Lambda Award, I feel better with novellas, even they have a beginning, a middle and an ending, why not, they're telling a story?

  4. I like a book to be between 180 to 400 pages I don't want to waste my time with short books that can't tell the story so they are rushed.