When deciding what to read is the size of a book a factor? Does size matter?
I sometimes visit the author forums just to check in and see if there anything new in the publishing world. The topic that comes up time and again is the size of the book and how to price it. There are a quite a few authors who are upset about other authors publishing a very short book and charging a tidy sum for it. Amusingly, they are calling these very short books ‘pamphlets’.
There is a size classification for books and it is based on word count. It can vary, but here is an approximation.
A Short Story should be under 7,500 words.
A Novelette is between 7,500 – 17,500 words.
A Novella is between 17,500 – 40,000 words
Novel is over 40,000 words.
Word count is important, but I think it depends on your genre. For example, there are many reluctant middle grade readers out there and offering them a hefty novel may just turn them off. But offer them an exciting short story, then they might just give it a chance.
My Delilah Dusticle stories vary from short story to novella, but put together they become a novel. I intend to publish them as an omnibus after I finished Delilah Dusticle's Mission Impossible. I have published Delilah Dusticle, Delilah Dusticle's Transylvanian Adventure and Eliza Bluebell as a story bundle called The Delilah Dusticle Adventures. I am not fond of the cover and I intend to change that over the next few months.
As for pricing, there are no guidelines, except for those issued by the retailers. An author could publish a short story and price it at 7.99, but I doubt that anyone would buy it. However, a children’s story is expected to be quite short and can have the same price of an adult novel. But then children’s stories and middle grade books tend to have illustrations in them too, which is another cost and dimension to factor in.
I can see the attraction with a big fat book and as a reader I would be very disappointed to find myself enthralled in a story, only to find it finished within a few pages. At the same time, I am also tired of books that add in extra text just to extend the books length. The text usually could be omitted from the story and the reader would be none of the wiser. I call this ‘filler chapters’. I like a well fleshed out story, but I get bored if the pace has been drawn out with filler chapters.
I have also noticed this in TV series. It seems that programming now requires at least 6 episodes even if the story is about 3 episodes. I watched a BBC Three TV series called Thirteen recently and there was an episode where nothing happened that effected the storyline. You could have missed that episode out and still been able to follow the story. Even advert breaks seem to be longer. It used to be long enough so you could make a cup of tea. Here in Sweden, advert breaks are so long I can take a shower.
There are stories that warrant an epic length. The BBC also did a great adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. However, this time the series was criticised for being squished into six episode. I guess when it comes to length there is no one size fits all.
I understand that a thick book could be seen as more value for money, but I am much happier reading a shorter book that is well paced. Fat books that have been padded out do not do it for me. I see this as a bit of con. In conclusion, I guess size doesn’t matter to me, it’s the content that matters. Stretching things out to make a book look bigger or to fill programming demands is just dumbing down. Isn’t it?
A.J. York is a middle grade and children's writer. Author of Delilah Dusticle, Eliza Bluebell and A Fairy Extraordinary Christmas Story. A.J York has a Swedish and British background and currently lives in Gothenburg, Sweden.