The Page Count Perk / Pitfall

One of the best perks and worst pitfalls in being a famous author (or self-published) is that your books can be just as long as you want them to be and your publishing house will never call you on it.

  •  Harry Potter: Book 1 is 128 pgs; Book 7 is 784 pgs. Out of control, exponential growth of over 500%.
  • Twilight increased over 35%. However, there were fewer books in the series and the first book was larger to begin with. Book 1 : 544 pgs; Book 4: 768 pages.
  • Shades of Grey increased only 10% over the 3 book series. Book1 : 524 pgs; Book 3 : 592 pgs.

Famous authors get trapped in marketing, merchandising and making a buck by having their books turned into movies. It’s not surprising. People write to make a living. I certainly don’t object to that! Self-published authors get into trouble because no one tells them stop. Most don’t have editors. Few friends who might read it in advance will bring the hammer down.

Still, it’s a sad when a good book gets picked up by a big six publishing house (which does have editors!) and turned into a series, which is then sold to Hollywood. It means the author is now going to expound (at great length, unimpeded) on a topic over the course of X number of books and in a way that’s going to make for a good movie.

I don’t mind big individuals book — James Michener, Margaret Mitchell, MM Kaye, Tolstoy, James Clavell — I’ve read them all. Or a hefty series — although even John Jakes’s largest series (which began with The Bastard)  and ran to 9 books only grew 50% (topping out at Book 9 — 817 pgs), which was hardly enormous considering the series was relating a detailed history of the US!  But, I have to admit, for me, these days size matters.

I just don’t bother to read a book over 300 pages anymore and I prefer my books to be 125 to 250 pages — even if the books are part of a series. In that past, this wasn’t a problem. Agatha Christie wrote book after book, most of them part of a series (Miss Marple; Poirot), but she never wrote a long book. She never allowed her fame to make her forget her readers and, too, I think her publisher made sure all her works got a good editing and were kept at a manageable size for readers.

I can understand a modest increase  in page count over a long series covering complex material. Often times with a series there are more details to wrap up, as well I know. Book 1 of my Sarsfield Hexology is 226 pages, Book 6 is 271. However, 20% growth over 6 books is not bad when the maximum page count is still only 271! All the books are of a size that’s easy to read over a weekend or holiday, because I considered that in the writing of them.

Anyway, I think if I could wish any gift upon a writer, especially a truly famous one (or a self-published one), it would be the gift of an honest, fearless editor. That alone would save the world from so many enormous wild turkeys!

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