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Chopping a book in half AFTER publishing?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by FarmerBrown, Nov 9, 2014.

  1. FarmerBrown

    FarmerBrown Troubadour


    I wasn't sure if I should post this here or in the publishing forum, but I have a dilemma. Since self-publishing in September, I've gotten suggestions from both new acquaintances and established authors that I should chop book one in half (currently at 160,000 words) and then publish what was originally going to be book two (the sequel I'm currently working on) as book 3 of a trilogy and market it more towards young adults. I'm actually okay with doing this, but I'm more wondering HOW. The book is already available as is, so I'd need to cancel distribution and disable it on all platforms, then do some major surgery before re-releasing it as two separate books with new ISBN's. I'm hoping to have book "3" ready by next fall. So....my main questions are:

    WHEN do I make the book as it is now unavailable? Immediately?

    HOW to I release books "1" and "2"? At the same time? Release the new book "1" ASAP and then book "2" a few months later in anticipation of book "3"??

    WHAT will this affect? My credibility? Sales (which have been pitiful so far, and I'm wondering if 160,000 is just to much of a gamble from a first-timer or if there are major flaws in my story...I do not have reviews or criticism to go off of)?

    Other thoughts? Would you do it? I originally intended to release it in two parts, but for various reasons (one including a Kickstarter project and the other being that book one would end on a cliffhanger with no complete story resolution) I lumped the two parts together. Thanks!
  2. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    You are correct in that 'major surgery' is probably due. While dividing a long novel into two sounds good, the structure of the two resulting novels will be lacking. Most readers desire a satisfying read, with a solid story arc, even if a novel is part of a trilogy or ongoing series.

    My SF novel (Relic Tech) has been the best selling of my novels thus far. It came in at about 180,000 words. My three fantasy novels have all been between 125,000 and 130,000 words.

    I guess you could market more toward young adults, but was that the original intended audience? Or will that be part of the major surgery?

    It might be better to complete the current novel, publish it, and move on to the next project (stand alone novel, or new series). A new novel release is sometimes the best marketing for a novel already out there. Will the division and revision require as much time and effort as writing another novel? Would it be worth it? Just questions to ask and consider.

    Good luck with which ever direction you choose.
  3. Claire

    Claire Scribe

    I agree with TWErvin2 above. Splitting a novel into two books is a big task. You'd have to make certain they each have a solid story arc, even if one leads into the next. I actually had someone on a different author forum suggest I do the same (my upcoming novel is 114,000 words), but it wasn't something I even considered. The person suggesting this was not a fantasy reader or writer, so to them the length sounded really long - but fantasy books are very often longer than other genres. If you think it would make a better story - with proper story structure, pacing, story arc, etc. - as two novels, then perhaps it is worth the amount of rewriting it would take to make it work.

    And YA books aren't YA just because of length. Is the protagonist a child/teen? Is it a coming of age type story or a story that centers around growing-up or young person challenges? If so, going after a YA audience might be great. But if you didn't originally write it for YA, or it isn't really a YA story, shortening it won't necessarily make it work for a YA audience.

    Is your motivation to do this because the book isn't selling? Is it your only book out? What I hear over and over again is that most indie authors don't have a lot of success or sales until they have more books out. It happens occasionally with the first book, but usually an author has three or more books out before any of them start selling much. So maybe the best solution is to just write the next book.

    If you have concerns about the quality of your book - did you have beta readers read it and offer you feedback? Did you have it edited by a professional? If no to both of those things, you might want to consider doing that first before you decide to hack it to pieces. :)

    Just some thoughts, and I'm certainly no expert :).
  4. FarmerBrown

    FarmerBrown Troubadour

    Thank you, both. I can address the YA issue now: the narrators are 16, 18, and 24, and the younger two definitely grow a lot during the story and it is integral to the struggle and conclusion, but not the focus. Even though I tried to write with a more sophisticated tone, I got mixed feedback about whether it fell more in YA or adult fantasy, and since opinions were about 50/50 I went with what I wanted, which was "epic fantasy". Now, after some time has passed and the dust has settled a bit, I'm thinking it would probably be more accurately classified as YA fantasy.

    Claire, you make a good point that the comments were by non-fantasy authors, so maybe I shouldn't have put quite so much weight on their suggestions. Again, the main reason I published it as one volume was because I felt the first "part" wasn't a complete story itself, so it would require much more work to make it a stand-alone.

    I think I just need patience and to keep writing. Like both of you say, releasing more books is the best way to get interest. I do write purely for enjoyment, but I also want to be 'good' at it ;-) and I tend to gauge 'goodness' by sales.....

    Regarding editing, I paid for copyediting and had three (very thorough) volunteer beta readers. Of course quality is always in the back of my mind and a suspicion that the people I trusted to be honest with me weren't quite as honest as they could've been (or they just didn't want to hurt my feelings). I've been trying to get some reviews and am hoping once I get some feedback from strangers I'll be able to know which areas need improvement.

    Thank you very much for your replies!
  5. Snikt5

    Snikt5 Scribe

    This is something I wish I had considered before I published my second novel. My first book "Ritual of the Stones" did better than I had hoped both in sales and well received reviews. Full of confidence I plunged into the second novel releasing it a year later. Since then I have released book three and am currently writing book 4 (the final book in the series). I have also published two spin-offs.

    I felt sure that the key to getting the sales up was to produce good, quality novels and have a lot of them out there. However, to my surprise sales of the second novel were down a lot compared to the first. I had anticipated this but not to such an extent. When probing further from casual readers who were not necessarily fantasy readers but read and enjoyed the first book, they cited they found the length of the second novel was overwhelming. I had lost a lot of readers who did not normally read the genre.

    Don't get me wrong, book two still sells moderately well and has some good reviews (like most authors I strive to get better with each book) but I realised I had made a major mistake with the length of my second novel. If I could go back now, I would have split that novel in two.

    Just to give you an idea of the length of the novels:

    Ballad of Frindoth series:

    Ritual of the Stones - 126,000 words
    The Stones of Sorrow - 253,000 words
    Within Stones Shadow - 160,000 words

    Tale of Frindoth series:

    Pewtory the Lesser Bard - 52,000 words
    The Cadaver Knight - 113,000 words
  6. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    I wouldn't do it. There's too much of a chance you'll piss off your readers.

    Cheers, Greg.
  7. Even in a series, each book has to be a complete story. So, this would require major, major changes. :/ You'd have to basically reconstruct the plot...
  8. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Maester

    It's best, I think, if this sort of thing is planned from the start. Chopping it up after the fact might or might not work, depending on your structure. My own 210,000 word Donzalo's Destiny was published in four books; this wasn't so difficult as it was written in eleven novella and novelette-sized chunks so there were natural breaking points. Once they were all out there a while, we did release an all-in-one version too.

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