Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How long is too long? - writing tip

Question from my e-mail:  My book is 100,000 words. Not so many when you think about GONE WITH THE WIND. But wherever it's been submitted, I get told, "It's too long."  How long is too long? And why?

Answer: For books printed on paper, "too long" means it is too expensive to produce, even for the Big 6 mass market publishers. Paper costs are rising. For POD publishers, like we are, 80,000 words is about all we can comfortably fit in, without having to price the book at $25 and that's a lot to ask anyone to pay for a paperback.

Big publishers will want to cut, and cut all your best scenes. Small ones, will just say, NO, THANKS. Self-publishing is always an option with a long book. If an author self-publishes, he or she can afford to make less money on it. If a publisher is going to stay in business...

By the way, GWTW was rejected 13 times before finding a publisher, largely on account of its length. Other reasons given were, "The Civil War is dead. Nobody cares about THAT anymore."

My friend, Diana Gabaldon, often writes long and complains just as bitterly that they want to cut all her best scenes. In her first book, OUTLANDER, she put in a scene with the Loch Ness monster, just so she'd have a scene to suggest they cut instead of something she really wanted to keep. Of all the scenes the publishers suggested she pull, which one do you think they NEVER wanted to get rid of? The monster scene, of course.

CONGRATS are in order for Diana, too. She had some good news recently, when a major Cable TV producer picked up her OUTLANDER series.  With the success of period cable series, like DEADWOOD and GAME OF THRONES, this looks like it would be a good move for them. I can't wait to see who they'll cast as Jamie.

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