The Mystery, Crime, and Thriller Group discussion

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General Chat > The length of novels

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message 1: by Marie-Jo (new)

Marie-Jo Fortis | 118 comments Does the length of a novel affect your pick? In other words, if you think a book has too many or not enough pages, you go...next? I am asking, because agents pressure authors to produce a certain number of words. Under this criterion, Agatha Christie would not have made it.


message 2: by Marie-Jo (new)

Marie-Jo Fortis | 118 comments I was actually going in another direction with my questions ---implying that readers might be more flexible than some agencies. Imagination can be disciplined to a point, but should not be refrained ---if the author needs useful abundance, or become insipid through the addition of useless chapters. And I have seen that happen through my market research.

This said, thank you for your response.


message 3: by John (new)

John Dolan Hi Mary-jo,
I must declare my illogicality on this question. The literature-lover in me tells me that the length of the book should not be relevant; that it is the quality of the writing that is important. The pragmatist in me says, "WHAT??? I'm going to pay how much for this thin tome?"
I guess some days I give priority to words, other days I give priority to numbers. It's the British Weather Syndrome: changeable with sunny spells.


message 4: by Gatorman (new)

Gatorman | 7679 comments If I really want to read the book, I'll read it regardless of the length. If the book is by an author I've never read, or sounds interesting on review but doesn't completely sell me, I may be affected in my purchase by the length, especially if it's very long. I bought The Passage (which is very long) without having heard of the author before or really being sold on the premise and ended up loving it, so you never know.


message 5: by Linda (new)

Linda (beaulieulinda117gmailcom) | 1364 comments I generally look at how many pages is in a book, if it looks good I'll read it regardless.


message 6: by Vera (new)

Vera Maslow I usually just look at how many pages in a book to know how much time I will be committing to it roughly. I think sometimes to be worth the money I would spend if it is a purchase and not a library lend I would want something more substantial then a short story or novella unless it is a cheaper price. If it is a brand new author that I haven't read or heard enough about I don't really like to pick up a very large book by them. I just don't want to spend an extra day of read time on an author I don't know if I would like. Once I establish I like the author I don't mind putting in the read time.
Though with all that being said I usually don't pay all that much attention to how many pages except to know time commitment so if I have the book it would usually just be where on my reading priority it will go.


message 7: by Mike (new)

Mike Wazowski (mikequist1) I'm a slow reader, so a book's length is important to me. My magic number is 400. Any book up to 400 pages is readable (for me) in an acceptable period of time (usually 1 to 2 weeks). Anything over 400 pages becomes a time management issue. If I don't already have a stack of books waiting to be read, then I'll start in on a longer book. If my "want-to-read" list is lengthy, then I'll put off the larger volumes for another time.


message 8: by Jackmeister (new)

Jackmeister | 611 comments I'm guilty of putting off longer books in favour of the shorter ones, I have Stephen King's Under The Dome to read, I know it's going to be great and I seriously want to get to it, but I know it will take me a while to get through it. I have commitments with group reads and book clubs, so time becomes an important factor.


message 9: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Smith (anthonyneilsmith) I think I'll read any length novel, but it just depends on my mood. And then there are some long books, like the Harry Potters, that I devoured in a matter of days, while some other more average 250-300 page books take me weeks.


message 10: by Susan from MD (new)

Susan from MD | 58 comments The length of books doesn't factor into whether I read a book, only when I read it. My work ebbs and flows so I tend to pick books to offset my work. Longer or more intense books are generally for when my workload is lighter.


message 11: by Rhian (new)

Rhian (rhianlovesbooksx1f4d6) | 352 comments some of the best i've read are novella's and short stories so i would try not to be put off


message 12: by Marie-Jo (new)

Marie-Jo Fortis | 118 comments You're right. It takes a lot of art and craft to write a good short story.


message 13: by Rhian (new)

Rhian (rhianlovesbooksx1f4d6) | 352 comments stephen king has done some brilliant short stories, so far only his i've read but i need to find more


message 14: by Marc (new)

Marc Sima (MarcSima) | 35 comments Marie-jo wrote: "Does the length of a novel affect your pick? In other words, if you think a book has too many or not enough pages, you go...next? I am asking, because agents pressure authors to produce a certain..."

Hi Marie-Jo, I thought the whole point of e-books is that there is no perception of length...


message 15: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Craig | 1 comments when I look for a book, especially if it is a new author, I am much more drawn to the cover art and blurb before considering the size and length as an issue.
The next thing is to check the style of writing and if all these initial 'tests' meet my approval, I will commit.
A 'long' story is never an issue if it is well paced and keeps your interest!


message 16: by R.M.F. (new)

R.M.F. Brown | 239 comments Quality is quality. 15,000 words of goodness will always be better than a doorstop of a book that isn't up to much. Hemingway's "for sale: baby shoes, never worn," is a powerful story that conjures up all sorts of questions despite its short length.


message 17: by Marc (new)

Marc Sima (MarcSima) | 35 comments Agreed. Some short stories of Murakami, I love as much as his long Bird Wired Chronicle.


message 18: by John (new)

John Dolan Marc wrote: "Agreed. Some short stories of Murakami, I love as much as his long Bird Wired Chronicle."

Murakami - now you're talking Marc! The man is a genius whether he's writing short or long!


message 19: by Marc (new)

Marc Sima (MarcSima) | 35 comments Yes he is. Last week I had my composition class made up of Chinese students, reading together "meeting the perfect girl".
The second hour they had to write a complete short- short story. The result was very good, I think in part because he is so inspiring. He gives so much clarity to what is great story telling, and he is so accessible. He seems to say to all of us: "and you, what story are you going to tell?"


message 20: by Marie-Jo (new)

Marie-Jo Fortis | 118 comments Marc wrote: "Marie-jo wrote: "Does the length of a novel affect your pick? In other words, if you think a book has too many or not enough pages, you go...next? I am asking, because agents pressure authors to ..."

Hi, Marc. You're right about e-books. But some of my friends---including all members but one (moi) of my writers group, not to mention my daughter, are still sticking to paper. I suppose some goodreads members still stick to paper.


message 21: by Rhian (new)

Rhian (rhianlovesbooksx1f4d6) | 352 comments i'm sticking with paper books i was gonna treat myself to an e reader for christmas but i love going to charity shops and choosing books i otherwise would never have read


message 22: by John (new)

John Dolan Rhian wrote: "i'm sticking with paper books i was gonna treat myself to an e reader for christmas but i love going to charity shops and choosing books i otherwise would never have read"

To paraphrase the line from the film 'Apocalypse Now', Rhian, "I love the smell of paper in the morning. It smells of literacy."

Unfortunately I have succumbed to the siren call of the Kindle. It's convenient, but of course ... it's not the same :(


message 23: by Rhian (new)

Rhian (rhianlovesbooksx1f4d6) | 352 comments if i got an e reader i'd be more likely to stick to authors i know and like but when i go to charity shops i always buy a few books even if i end up not reading them as i knoe the money goes to a good cause


message 24: by David (new)

David Freas (quillracer) | 2271 comments If it's an author I like, number of pages has no bearing on whether I'll read him or her. I will, it's as simple as that.
However, I will read almost any book I get my hands on to the end. But if the author drags a 300 page story out to 500 pages, I won't be reading him or her again.
Hope that answers your question, Marie-Jo.


message 25: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 24, 2013 08:10AM) (new)

Rhian wrote: "if i got an e reader i'd be more likely to stick to authors i know and like but when i go to charity shops i always buy a few books even if i end up not reading them as i knoe the money goes to a g..."

I agree on both points. I do like hardcovers better than paperbacks, but I'll always be reading a book rather than an e-reader. I like to hold it in my hands and look at the cover, go back and refer to it later, lend it out, etc. If I buy one at a charity sale or used book store, I don't feel bad about not liking it if that's the case. I'll just put it on another donation pile.


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

I don't care how long a book is as long as it is good. My all-time favorite book is Under the Dome and that was very long. I've also read some very short books that I have liked really well, so length doesn't contribute at all to my book-buying decisions.


message 27: by Cher (new)

Cher (cher_n_books) I think I am in the minority here - if a book is not at least 275-300 pages, I will most likely not read it unless it has been highly, highly, highly recommended.


message 28: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 35410 comments I have quit on books that were just toooooo long. But they also just weren't interesting enough. I gave up on Baldacci and a few others for this but haven't given up on Elizabeth George yet.

So once it gets to around 500 pp I'd better already be a fan of the author.


message 29: by R.M.F. (new)

R.M.F. Brown | 239 comments Keep forgetting about Murakami - good example.


message 30: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Smith (anthonyneilsmith) Rhian wrote: "if i got an e reader i'd be more likely to stick to authors i know and like but when i go to charity shops i always buy a few books even if i end up not reading them as i knoe the money goes to a g..."

Actually, I'm finding that with an e-reader (well, a Kindle) I end up trying a lot of new authors thanks to the Daily Deals, monthly deals, special sales, etc. For example, I had no idea about Mark Olden's pulp series BLACK SAMURAI, which is exactly the sort of thing I would love. The publisher had all of the ebook reissues on sale one day and I scooped up at least five. So good that I bought a sixth for full price. Wouldn't have had the chance with paper.


message 31: by Marc (new)

Marc Sima (MarcSima) | 35 comments There are many great comments above. And yes I used to love printed books and entering bookshops and spending wonderful time discoving new authors. The Village Voice bookshop was one of those great places i always came back to in Paris. Sadly Kindle destroyed their business model. They could not compete with the appeal of immediate download. I myself lost so many book shelves travelling around, i gladly switched to e-books beside library landing, but not all of us need to live like pilgrims...


message 32: by Adrian (new)

Adrian Sherlock | 39 comments Hi, I'm new here, but this topic interests me a lot. I write thrillers with a blend of sci-fi and horror elements and this year I've embarked on writing a series in which Sherlock Holmes, the fictional character, is brought to life by unearthly forces to fight the agents of other, evil unearthly forces in time and space. And as I'm self publishing, I tend to think my book, my rules. But it worries me. I am terrified of boring the reader to death, I try to be concise, I believe brevity is the soul of wit, etc, so I see just over 100 pages as a good length. I note A Christmas Carol and other classics are about 116 pages, yet modern books often are 2 or 3 hundred pages! Well, less is more for me! But does it scare off the readers? Well, I sure hope not! I hope a tightly crafted thriller is better than a sprawling one! Feel free to disagree with me, though, I want to learn from other people's feedback, if I can! :)


message 33: by Marc (new)

Marc Sima (MarcSima) | 35 comments I copy past here what I wrote on another feed about physical books versus e-books. (it is partly a joke of course... or is it?)

As singularity approaches, the right to e-book will be upheld by machines...There may still be a distinction in the future between novels written by humans versus machines. But which one will be more successful?
And with the weather becoming weird everywhere, is printing books still cool? If it is still preferred by many (myself undecided) somewhat retro and more intimate, for how long will it be so? Like in the the case of the office, will we be asked each time when buying a hard cover or paper back to: "Please consider the environment before printing" ?


message 34: by John (new)

John Dolan As I regularly tell my wife, length is not the most important factor. (Am I allowed to say stuff like this on here? Oh well, it's done now)


message 35: by Adrian (new)

Adrian Sherlock | 39 comments Well it made me laugh(and think) and as some one who likes to write (and read ) short books that don't take forever to get through, I agree with the sentiment! Consider the environment, yes, a great point. With a kindle you can read and I suppose with external hard drives we can store a library without using space, a whole book case in the bottom of your drawer!


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

John wrote: "As I regularly tell my wife, length is not the most important factor. (Am I allowed to say stuff like this on here? Oh well, it's done now)"

Interesting, John. My husband tells me the same thing . . .


message 37: by Marc (new)

Marc Sima (MarcSima) | 35 comments outch! Kathryn


message 38: by Adrian (last edited Mar 28, 2013 08:36AM) (new)

Adrian Sherlock | 39 comments I find it best never to mention such things as length and just get on with it. Er...writing books, I mean! (No, really!)


message 39: by John (last edited Mar 28, 2013 09:06AM) (new)

John Dolan Kathryn wrote: "John wrote: "As I regularly tell my wife, length is not the most important factor. (Am I allowed to say stuff like this on here? Oh well, it's done now)"

Interesting, John. My husband tells me th..."


We husbands have a tendency to do that, Kathryn :-)


message 40: by Leland (new)

Leland Davis | 1 comments As an avid reader, author, and publisher, this is a constant battle for me.

The reader in me likes big plots, I cannot lie. If a book doesn't take at least 100,000 words to develop, it's almost out of the question. I would prefer more like 130-150k, at least. If it's Tom Clancy at his best, YES - I will read all 500,000 words and be begging for more.

As a publisher, though, I understand page count and how much effect it has on the cost to print a book and the profit margins. Pages is all an illusion - so greatly influenced by font size and margin size that it's almost an arbitrary number. With my recent thriller novel I had a choice between 292 and almost 400 pages depending on how I laid it out, and I went for the 292 option so that I could actually afford to sell print books.

As an author, I railed against the common wisdom of how long a book should be, and in the end decided to go with the status quo for my genre and write around 100,000 words (ended up with 104,000). It turns out I'm glad for the constraint, because it really made me tighten things up and create a fast-paced story. But as an artist, I want to create a bigger plot and write more words next time.

I'm loving this thread - getting this kind of info from real readers is one of the greatest things about Goodreads!


message 41: by Adrian (new)

Adrian Sherlock | 39 comments Agree it's a great thread! Thanks for your insights, they are very interesting to me. My books probably seem like short stories by your standards, but I know it's hard to encourage a lot of people to even get into reading, so I like to write relatively brief and snappy books in the hopes of being read by people who might struggle for more demanding books. I know there is now this "Quick reads" thing, but I do wonder if some people avoid them thinking they're for the semi-illiterate. In the end, I like to write a series of short yarns with recurring characters and themes rather than one mammoth work. I sold another copy today so I'm thrilled to death about that! If it finds a readership, that's what I think matters most.


message 42: by Cher (new)

Cher (cher_n_books) I'm still in shock at seeing that so many people are turned off by longer books, lol. This was a very insightful thread!


message 43: by Adrian (new)

Adrian Sherlock | 39 comments I suppose the hope would be that shorter books would eventually translate to a love of longer ones. I read many short books as a teen and that led me to study Lit at University. But some great books are quite short too!


message 44: by N.S. (last edited Mar 29, 2013 02:45PM) (new)

N.S. Cooke | 13 comments As a reader, some of my best reads have been over the 1000 pages ('Pillars of Earth', thank you Mr. Follett). And now having written two of my own, I do think that 'The Story' finds its own length: everything is in it, because it needs to be in it. I like fast-paced stuff, so there should be no waffle. Apart from the ones you eat, while ya' reading. So on that basis - it can be short, and it can be long. Loved 'Animal Farm' - 95 pages. Adored Stephen King's '11.22.63' - 740.
To make long books commercially acceptable - maybe the solution is the Kindle (but I do prefer paper, myself); make them more wordy; or do as Dickens did, Part I & Part II books, and if its successful ... whack it all in one - e.g. 'Great Expectations' and 'Oliver Twist'. :)


message 45: by Adrian (new)

Adrian Sherlock | 39 comments Hmm...'The Story' finds its own length: everything is in it, because it needs to be in it. Yes, that's a great comment and I think it's true. To write a huge book, I think I'd need an open ended situation, a bit like a TV series format, so it could roll on and on and the only way to end the book would be to kill the main characters or destroy the setting! But generally, a plot has a distinct beginning, middle and end, so yeah, that comment is very astute.


message 46: by Robert (new)

Robert | 1 comments I loved Under the Dome. I also loved The Stand and The Passage. Why. Because they took me to places I wanted to live in for awhile. Harry Potter books were long. The reader wanted to live there. We are looking for escape, adventure...


message 47: by Katherine (new)

Katherine | 187 comments I never buy a thin book. If I'm paying the same for a book with 200 pages as I am for 500 than I'd sooner go for the longer book. A lot more entertainment


message 48: by Marc (new)

Marc Sima (MarcSima) | 35 comments Katherine wrote: "I never buy a thin book. If I'm paying the same for a book with 200 pages as I am for 500 than I'd sooner go for the longer book. A lot more entertainment"

That is interesting. I never consider length. But this is probably because I am a slow reader.


message 49: by [deleted user] (new)

Robert wrote: "I loved Under the Dome. I also loved The Stand and The Passage. Why. Because they took me to places I wanted to live in for awhile. Harry Potter books were long. The reader wanted to live ther..."

I agree. Under the Dome was my favorite. After reading the longer books, they stay with you. Just living life makes me think upon these books quite often.


message 50: by Bryan (new)

Bryan (bry422) | 29 comments Large books do turn me off. As someone said earlier, 400-450 pages is right in my sweet spot. I normally read crime/detective novels, and I find that the majority of the time even the 450 pagers contain 50 or more pages of filler. So, yeah, I'll find a book that seems really interesting to me, yet ill notice it's 600 pages and ill say, yeah, that's not gunna happen.

Under the Dome is a great example. I want to read it in the worst way but its just not going to happen. I know how its going to go. I'll get it, make a dent in it, flip it around a lot and sigh over how much more is left to go. Then I'll read a bit more, my mind will wander, I'll read about other books on goodreads that I want to read...


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