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Trilogy or One Big Book?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Greybeard, Apr 4, 2011.

  1. Greybeard

    Greybeard Minstrel

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    I've been working on the same novel off and on for the past decade, and it has grown very large indeed.

    Would it be best to divide it into a trilogy, with each book being near or above 70,000 words? Or should I leave it as one big book?
     
  2. Amorus

    Amorus Dreamer

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    Good question. I always like to read long stories if they have been broken up. Sometimes I find that after a period of time I need to take a break from it. If a book is broken up then it's easy for me to know my starting and stopping points. Not sure if that is helpful, but thought I would share.
     
  3. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    70K words sounds a little bit short. How about two books? Could that fit with the way your story goes? Then, I'm guessing, they'd each be just north of 100K words, which is about spot on for a fantasy novel. Or if that's a bad place to break it, 90K and 120K or something could work.

    Big books can be off-putting and daunting, with the added problem of sometimes being too big to justify taking on holiday, particularly if you've got a luggage limit and are worried you won't like it; I tend to take two or three smaller books, usually at least one of which being a Pretchett I've already read (though when I go to Athens on Friday it'll be The Eagle of the Ninth, since I saw the film last week and first read it when I was 12).
     
  4. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    I'd say pose it as a question on your query letter, once you've finished it and are ready to publish, and let the publisher decide. Though once it gets beyond a certain length, it will probably have to be split up regardless, at least in paperback editions (and I have seen some stories that were printed in a one-volume hardback but were split in the paperback edition). Keep in mind, too, that if it's your first book, it'll be harder to convince a publisher to take a chance on it if it's too long to fit into a single volumeā€¦ might be better if you could separate it into more than one story (if this is possible), and have subsequent volumes be sequels instead of part of a single work.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  5. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

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    Why a trilogy? Is the book divided into three parts? Though I personally don't mind, I think 70k is a bit short by industry standards, and if they are just a single story, I think two books would suffice. Honestly, if you edit it down sensibly, you could probably get away with publishing it one book. Say, 150k. Three rather short books make for an odd fantasy trilogy, by marketing standards. Each of the Lord of the Rings books, as an example, are over 100k words.
     
  6. First question: are you writing to self publish? Or writing hoping for a corporate publishing contract?

    It makes a difference, because while indie publishing tends to be open to whatever length you want, corporate wants specific lengths (for fantasy, something like 80k-130k words or so). They make exceptions, but only for well known authors or truly exceptional books. Also, agents and/or publishers are less interested in picking up first novels which don't "wrap up" neatly at the end. They tend to prefer to buy just the one, then buy more if that one sells well. This can make a trilogy sale much tougher for a first novelist. Not impossible, obviously! Just sometimes harder. A safer bet is to build a story with a solid conclusion in the first book, but room to write more.

    On the flip side, if you're self/indie publishing, then probably 90%+ of your sales will be digital. At that point, you need to ask: am I going to piss off my readers by asking them to buy another $5 ebook after I don't finish the story in the first one? You can avoid this "buyer remorse" (or even outright buyer anger!) if you are very, very clear in the description of the book that it's book one of a two part or three part trilogy, that the story will be continued in other books. Look at other "One Big Book" trilogies out there, read their descriptions, and study how they are imparting that information. From the ones you think are doing so best, borrow technique. ;)

    Or just put it all in one book. The only downside then is that your print versions will cost you a bit more. If you format for about 250 pages per 70k words, you're going to have a 750 page book, or close to it. To put that into perspective, the longer Kushiel works and David Weber's Safehold books tend to be about 700 pages in hardcover. A 750pp book is definitely on the high end. Let's assume you can tweak the font to get it down to 700 pages - you're looking at 80 cents + $0.012 per page, or $9.20 to print each of these monsters. Say you use Createspace (which has a 40%/60% retailer share for Amazon sales/sales to other retailers respectively). Ran the numbers, and you actually *can't* sell that book at $20 (you'd be in the black at a 60% retailer share of the cover price - $12 retailer + $9.20 print cost = $21.20). So say you jump to $24.95 - now, this is a HUGE price for a trade paperback, and probably won't sell well at that price - you'll see the retailer take $10 for sales on Amazon and $15 for other sales. Which means you'll make $5.75 for Amazon sales and only 75 cents for sales on other sites. And that's at a price more in line with hardcovers than trade paperbacks.

    But suppose you release the book as two 350 page books instead. Printing cost on each is now $5. If you sell them for $14.95 - typical trade paperback pricing - then the retailer shares are $6 on Amazon and $9 on other sites. Much more reasonable, more likely to be bought. And at those prices you make $3.95 per Amazon sale and 95 cents per other sale.

    And if you have NO interest in self publishing and read all that anyway, now you have a good understanding of one main reason why publishers don't usually want books over a certain length. ;)

    (Note on the above: you can use Lightning Source, the Ingram's POD branch, and cut the retailer share as low as 20%; this changes the pricing equations and profits dramatically, but a) limits you to online sales only, and b) Lightning Source is used to operating with small presses only, on a very professional basis - so skill and knowledge of the print business is assumed; i.e. tough on newbies, so Createspace is an easier way to start out.)
     
  7. Kelise

    Kelise Maester

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    70,000 wouldn't be accepted as a general fantasy book. I thought the minimum was more like 130,000 - for adults, at least. If you kept it at 70,000 words, they would aim it towards Young Adult.
     
  8. No, 130k is over the usually accepted maximum, although not by a lot. Good breakdown here: The Swivet [Colleen Lindsay]: All new & revised: On word counts and novel length

    Quick summary of those lengths for SF&F:
    ---> hard sf = 90k to 110k
    ---> space opera = 90k to 120k
    ---> epic/high/traditional/historical fantasy = 90k to 120k
    ---> contemporary fantasy = 90k to 100k
    ---> romantic SF = 85k to 100k
    ---> urban fantasy = 90k to 100k
    ---> new weird = 85k to 110k
    ---> slipstream = 80k to 100k
    ---> comic fantasy = 80k to 100k
    ---> everything else = 90k to 100k

    Those are rough, of course. ;) You'll always find some editors willing to go a little higher or a little lower. And the more stellar your writing quality is, the more likely that is to happen. But if you're a newer writer looking at corporate publication I'd avoid going way out of length range, because it just limits your options.
     
  9. Kelise

    Kelise Maester

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    Ahh, well then, yet another difference between countries! For high fantasy in Australia it has to be at least 130k, hopefully more like 150k - from what an author of currently five series told me this very weekend ;)

    There's always differences between countries though. I thought it was just formatting standards. Looks like it's the smaller details about books also. That's kinda interesting.
     
  10. Yeah, can be huge differences between nations. I wonder how more generalized digital distribution will impact that international "flavor", as books start becoming more globally available?

    Thinking about those numbers more (and doing some page counts on a couple of hardcovers I have) I have to wonder about them a little, too. Seems to me like even in the US epic fantasy might be more forgiving of somewhat larger word counts than the list I linked to shows, but that could just be my impression.
     
  11. Fodwocket

    Fodwocket Minstrel

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    What book length publishers let authors get away with probably also depends on how well established the author is. Those guidelines may be pretty strict for first time authors, but they'd likely be more lenient with popular authors with a few books under their belt. Just a thought anyways.
     
  12. Sammy

    Sammy Acolyte

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    Trilogy. From a financial, marketing and distribution perspective it makes sense.
     
  13. Ulutar

    Ulutar Dreamer

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    I just read The Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson and each book is around 240,000 words. They were amazing, perhaps one of my all time favourite book series. The books themselves were huge, small print too, easily 700 pages each. At first the idea of reading them was daunting but I flew through them in little over a week. Obviously different publishers have preferences but from a reader point of view, what matters most is that if the book is long, it has to be good enough to carry it off.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2011
  14. Write until you feel a need to stop, until the story's told. That's really all you should worry about. Whether it's split into a trilogy or not is a marketing decision, and unless you're incapable of making money any other way that should be the last thing on your mind. If the only reason you're drawn to write is monetary gain then I doubt the world will miss your prose. If, on the other hand, you have an urge to create, a burning fire within you which means you can't go through a day without committing your thoughts to paper, then do it and to hell with what comes after. Writing, at its best, is a calling. Once it becomes anything else you can consider yourself creatively dead.
     
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