Do readers prefer longer or shorter books?

Big pile of books

I saw this article from The Guardian:

Books are steadily increasing in size, according to a survey that has found the average number of pages has grown by 25% over the last 15 years.

A study of more than 2,500 books appearing on New York Times bestseller and notable books lists and Google’s annual survey of the most discussed books reveals that the average length has increased from 320 pages in 1999 to 400 pages in 2014.

According to James Finlayson from Vervesearch, who carried out the survey for the interactive publisher Flipsnack, there’s a “relatively consistent pattern of growth year on year” that has added approximately 80 pages to the average size of the books surveyed since 1999.

The literary agent Clare Alexander agrees that long books are more portable in electronic formats, but points out that much ebook reading is focused on genres such as romance, crime and erotica. For Alexander, the gradual increase in size is evidence of a cultural shift.

“Despite all the talk of the death of the book because of competition from other media,” she says, “people who love to read appear to prefer a long and immersive narrative, the very opposite of a sound bite or snippets of information that we all spend our lives downloading from Google.

This would have surprised me. All along I’ve been told short stories are back in style because of declining attention spans and people reading from their phones, on smaller screens unlikely to be suitable for a 500 page turner. Therefore, the argument goes, quit writing those 300 page stories and instead sell 15-40 page short stories at 99 cents a pop.

But longer stories also sell better, according to Mark Coker at Smashwords:

Longer books sell better than shorter books.  This finding is consistent with each of the prior year’s surveys, though as I mention in the presentation, this year’s finding comes with a lot more caveats.  In a nutshell, I suspect the rise of multi-author box sets, often at deep discount prices, is probably throwing off the data this year, and as I discuss in the presentation, some of the dynamics will cause it to understate impact of longer books and some will cause it to overstate it.

I think this is what’s happening: Casual readers who would rather watch TV or play video games prefer shorter works, because they can finish a book or short story in an hour or less and feel like they read something to completion. But passionate readers prefer a story they can connect to, and more often than not shorter works don’t do that in fiction. Now that doesn’t mean shorter is worse: Animal Farm, The Notebook, The Alchemist, The Old Man and the Sea, MacBeth, are all examples of shorter works which told stories most readers still remember today. Animal Farm and The Alchemist are considered among the best fiction works ever written. That said, some of the best-selling works are longer and it does mean I believe a well-written story is more important than a short one, even if some are emphasizing shorter over quality.

As readers, do you prefer shorter or longer works?




Find Out What Happens When You Click Bait a Book Title

To Kill A Mockingbird Link-Baity Title Remake

Today’s post is brought to you by the hashtag #clickbaitnoveltitle, courtesy of Hootsuite.

More than likely, you clicked on this post because I click-baited you. Since you are already interested in books, what happens when you try to find out when you click bait a title?

From Hootsuite, junior lieutenants of click baiting, serving Buzzfeed, the Lord of the Click Bait and Meme Realm:

“Love it or hate it, so-called click bait has become part of content marketing. While many people see these types of social messages or headlines as a trick being played on the consumer, the reason that they’ve become the norm is that they work. And they don’t just work once, they work over and over again.

This is not unlike classic literature, many examples of which have graced the high school desks of children, their parents and even their grandparents. The themes we see in Shakespeare and George Orwell were relevant when they were written and they are equally relevant today.

But as kids become more tech-savvy, many are turning away from reading as a means of education and entertainment. Just in case literature really starts falling by the wayside, here are 10 classic books reimagined with click-baity titles:

How not to end a relationship

A.K.A. Romeo & Juliet

These two kids were attacked by a racist. You’ll never believe who stepped in to protect them.

A.K.A. To Kill a Mockingbird

Old school Wolf of Wall Street? This author uses “damn” 85 times in one novel

A.K.A. The Catcher in the Rye

The “Rich Kids of Instagram” have nothing on this guy

A.K.A. The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby Link-Baity Title Remake

Can you create a better clickbaited title than these ones? Don’t forget to use the hashtag #clickbaitnoveltitle. And don’t forget to follow my page so you won’t miss any of the latest news, tips, and fun stuff!

Book Review: Skeleton Run

Happy Father’s Day to all the great dads out there, including my own. 🙂 I will be with him today, at a pancake house with family.

If you missed my author interview with John DeBoer over his debut novel, Skeleton Run, check it out here.

As promised, here is my review of the novel, which I received from John’s publisher, Red Adept Publishing. For convenience, I’ve divided into five categories, and each was worth 0, 1, or 2 points. Scored on a scale 0-10.

Plot (semi-spoiler alert): The plot centers on four friends: Doctor Jim Dawson, Alan Granger, Bob Kretchman, and Tom Webster. An accident occurs where someone dies and the friends harbor guilt about the death. They later discover the baby of the deceased survived, and is engaged to a woman who later learns the truth. This will affect the plot at some level.

Enter Wendell Logan, billionaire casino magnate. He is frustrated by previous failures to get politicians to “buy” into his vision, which means his money, your vote. After years of failure (who knew George W. Bush wasn’t a team player?) he finally finds Alan, who left his Philadelphia law job and is now Governor of Pennsylvania. The goal? Get Alan re-elected in 2018 (PA’s next cycle), and then have him run for President in 2020, where he will agree to be Logan’s vassal in exchange for money. To help, Logan gets rid of Alan’s only real challenger.

Dr. Dawson, who is the main character, tries to keep his friends together as relationships fall apart. Alan is turning from them, focusing on his political ambition more than anything else. Logan, who wants to make sure no one threaten’s Alan’s chances of winning, begins eliminating characters. Soon only Dawson is left to face Logan’s minions. It will be up to the Doctor to find a way to keep himself, and his family, alive.

If you like political thrillers, this one is a sound, if not epic, page turner. Even when the plot was somewhat expected (too many Points Of View), I still found myself finishing chapters quickly to see what happens next. 2/2

Writing style: It was okay, not noteworthy. However, I am not a huge fan of multiple points of view, and this book had a couple too many. The main character was the Doctor, whose POV was first person, but more than half the book It made what should have been a fanatically thrilling ending a little more obvious because we, the readers, knew what was coming in the Doctor’s house when he went back. He also had a lot more narration in places than I normally like, which slowed down the flow, especially in the middle. 1/2

Editing: The editing was really well done. I didn’t spot any missed proofreading marks, or they were so few in number it didn’t bother me. Luckily for the author, and for future authors whose books I read, I’m a little more tolerant on proofreading errors than most. 2/2

“Believability”: This is a category I invented right now. This varies from genre to genre, but the point is, can I believe what’s going on? In John’s novel, I would say yes, I believed what I read. It is not implausible to think that a billionaire casino magnate might want to influence a particular race, and since I understand for book purposes, only focus on one race. Was it a little weird that Alan Granger’s opponent was as controllable as an RC car? Yea. Did ot seem at times like John used a POV for some characters who really shouldn’t have had them? Yea. But four friends, one accidental manslaughter, and a politician desperate for power are completely believable. 1/2

Emotion: This is another made up section, where I give my emotional feel for the book. I have a saying: If you, the author, can make me cry, you will write a book as successful as Twilight. I’m not joking; emotions besides hot and cold are not easy for me. This section can be for any emotion, though.

John’s book moved well and while I would have liked to see stronger emotional language in a few places, I think he captured the feel well. No, I did not cry. But I noticed that I rarely put my Kindle down once I started to read, and I was finishing chapters. That’s a great sign. 2/2

Final grade: 8/10. This is a solid book, not a blow-me-away, but one worth reading. The editing is excellent, the writing is not bad, and the plot is comparable to most bestselling thriller novels, if not exceptional. Even when you know what’s coming, John has a good way of keeping you interested. Will not top the bestseller’s lists, but this is a book worth reading if you’re into political thrillers.

Visit the Red Adept Publishing website for more information.

Author Interview with John DeBoer

For the first in the Author World Tour series which I just made up now, I had a chance to interview John DeBoer about his new novel, Skeleton Run, published by Red Adept Publishing. This is a political thriller for those of you who are into political conspiracies an d a behind-the-scenes tour of how money affects the election process. I spoke with John about his debut novel:

S: Let’s start out with the inspiration for your novel, a political thriller. What made you choose Pennsylvania as the setting for much of the novel, and why?

J: Pennsylvania met the requirements I needed – reasonable proximity to the other locations, an important state electorally, and one with which I had personal experience. New York and New Jersey could have been used instead, I suppose, but their governors get a lot more national press than that of Pennsylvania, and I thought this might make my fictional governor easier to accept.

S: Was the villainous Wendell Logan modeled after any particular casino magnate? I keep thinking Sheldon Adelson, but maybe I’m wrong.

J: I kept thinking of Sheldon Adelson, too! But I wanted my Las Vegas billionaire to be younger and physically more robust.

S: Following up on Logan, why did you decide to give the reader a view into his head, as opposed to telling the story from the Doctor’s point of view?

J: One of the reasons I like to write in the Thriller genre is the freedom to get into the heads of the bad guys, to show their POVs out of the awareness of the protagonists. Nelson DeMille, Greg Iles, and John Sandford, among others use this device, which I think actually ramps up the suspense rather than mitigating it. In this particular novel, I use more POVs than my usual, but I felt I needed all of them for the story. My editor did make me eliminate one of them, though!

S: How long did it take you to write this novel?

J: More than six months, but less than a year, I think. I workshop my novels online. I write as I go, posting one chapter at a time. The back and forth reviewing/revising process this entails adds to the time, but then when it’s done, I end up with a fairly polished product – subject to my publisher’s editors’ input, of course.

S: Did you show this to anyone before submitting it for publication? What was the response to Skeleton Run?

J: Eleven other authors reviewed the novel from start to finish when I workshopped it, and all of their responses were very positive. I don’t let my wife read my novels until they’ve been published!

S: Which character was your favorite to write about, and why? Least favorite?

J: I had the most fun writing Logan’s character – ruthless, powerful, obsessive in his Machiavellian scheme – he represented evil self-fulfillment, and I enjoyed showing this. I also liked creating Granger’s character, beginning as a teenager and developing it into middle age. His personality was probably the most distasteful, but it made him the character he grew into.

Then we have the moral ambiguity of Luke Elliot, the hit man.  All are characters with flaws, tarnished in ways big and small, which make them more compelling as personalities. In one of my novels, The Flame, the antagonist – a femme fatale character in the vein of Matty Walker in Body Heat – actually got more print space than my good-guy protagonist. And in Skeleton Run, the narrator and putative protagonist, Dr. Dawson, though smart and able to rise to the occasion when push came to shove, has a less interesting character overall than those he must contend with. But since he’s a little bit of an alter ego for me (as are all my physician/surgeon protagonists to one degree or another), he also has to, by definition, be one of my favorites! Tom Webster, one of the boyhood pals of Dawson, has to be my least favorite character to write, only because I knew what I had to do to him, and that wasn’t pleasant.

S: What’s next for you on tour? your next book?

J: I’m about a quarter of the way through my blog tour, which will end on July 5. I’ve got interviews, like this one, guest posts, and reviews of Skeleton Run lined up to keep me busy until then.

My next completed novel, now titled, How Little We Know, does not yet have a publication date. A woman hiding from not only the mob via Witness Protection, but an incident from her earlier past,  meets Luke Elliot (the hit man from Skeleton Run) in Seattle, where he has gone to start a new life after a personal tragedy. Both have secrets to guard as they begin a relationship, in the course of which Luke has to call upon his past life to keep his love interest out of harm’s way.

My current WIP involves the ISIS threat to Americans and is tentatively titled, When the Reaper Comes.

S: Thank you for your time, John.

J: Thanks, Sam, for the interview.

I’ll post my honest review of Skeleton Run on Sunday.

Buy John’s book on Amazon by clicking HERE

Your Thoughts: Are Novellas the “New” Novels?

What do you think? Given the advent of e-books and free-books and the cost associated for an indie author to pay for editing and other services, plus the sheer number of content available for download and purchase, will the novella form see a revival? or will novellas, which are like “long short stories”, become a fad because people decide they want longer stories (but not too long!) with more substance? From io9:

“ is moving aggressively into publishing novellas (or short novels) in e-book format, and they just announced their first list of titles. But why is (and everybody else) so convinced that shorter is better for e-books? Editorial assistant Carl Engle-Laird explains.

“When asked why is focusing on publishing shorter works as e-books, Engle-Laird tells io9:

When the book wars sweep across the galaxy, and the blood of publishers runs down the gutters of every interstellar metropolis, the resource we fight for will not be paper, or ink, or even money. It will be time. For our readers, time is the precious commodity they invest in every book they decide to purchase and read. But time is being ground down into smaller and smaller units, long nights of reflection replaced with fragmentary bursts of free time. It’s just harder to make time for that thousand-page novel than it used to be, and there are more and more thousand-page novels to suffer from that temporal fragmentation.

Enter the novella, an old form with a new lease on life. We expect that the reader who has to fit their reading into their daily commute will appreciate a novella they can finish in a week, rather than a year. We’ll be releasing books that can be begun and completed on just one of those rare evenings of uninterrupted reading pleasure. And we think this will resonate especially with those readers who have so much reading to do that they’ve compressed their habit into a portable device.

Of course, won’t just be a science fiction publisher. Our fantasy sensibilities insist on reminding you that novellas aren’t just the future of genre, they’re also our past. Science fiction and fantasy were born in penny dreadfuls, came of age in magazines, and novellas have been essential to their development, from The War of the Worlds to The Shadow Over Innsmouth to Empire Star. wants to carry that fantastical history into a future that is beginning to outgrow its magazine predicates, but has no need to outpace its love of excellent stories at the length in which they were meant to be told.”

Do You Need a Fine Arts Degree to Become a Successful Writer/Author?

I got an e-mail from a company called Self-Publisher’s Showcase, a company which says it aims to be a “very affordable promotional assist.” They appear to be a real company but you can decide for yourself if you want to use their services,though a look at their “About Us” section shows that none of them has a background in book publishing though their founder, Paul Martin, has a background in social media for professional use (as do I, for the record). I don’t know about Paul but you can count on me to give you social media advice for free and if you subscribe to my blog you’ll always be the first to get new social media and personal branding strategy tips.

The e-mail itself was not directly towards me, so I think I’m on someone’s list, but I don’t mind. Anyway, the website had a guest post which I wanted to talk about. Kevin J. Villeneuve is one of their “showcase” authors and in late October he wrote a post titled, “A Note to Young Aspiring Authors” (me!) which I just got but wanted to note. Here’s the passage which stood out to me:

“So what advice can I give to young, aspiring authors? Don’t get published for the money. Sure, it’s an amazing feat when someone pays you six-figures to write a book, but there are many ways that you can pay yourself to write. If you’re getting into it for the money, go get a master’s degree in literature, find a job that pays you to write, and hope that someday a publisher approaches you to write something bigger.”

Look at the second bold point. I thought it was interesting Kevin seems to think getting an MFA (Master’s of Fine Arts) is the ticket to success. Writer’s Digest seemed to think so this time a year ago. I assume this is because one has access to the professional critiques done by creative writing professors. Now to be fair I have never had a single class in literature or book writing, beyond freshman English class. This is an interesting topic which I’ll explore more in the future. But I don’t think one has to have an MFA to make it big.

It is nice to have feedback from others though I will note Chuck Sambino’s opinion from Writer’s Digest about this:

“Criticism: You might scoff, thinking you don’t need this (MFA), because you’ve lucked into a supportive, insightful writing group. Terrific! But friends, seeing how much work you’ve put into that manuscript, often hesitate to be critical. They want to be encouraging, so they’ll suggest changing scarcely a sentence. Not so in an MFA program. Red ink will cover your pages. You’ll gape in despair as you realize that, yes, your writing is crap. The advisors will encourage you, but they’ll be brutally honest about how to improve your work. This is why MFA programs are so expensive. The faculty isn’t comprised of amateurs who dabble at writing and coddle your ego, but of professionals who bring a cool eye and a scholarly approach to teaching. You’ll be exposed to smart and sometimes stinging criticism, which can be hard to take, yet is crucial to any serious writer.”

If you have an MFA or something similar, or have attended a serious writer’s course on writing, share your thoughts. Is an MFA or similar degree worth it? Or is it a waste of time and money?

The Traditional Publisher’s Revenge: Turns out Publishing with Amazon has Drawbacks, too

cartoon credit: Dan Wasserman, Boston Globe. Distributed by the Tribune Content Agency.

On December 27 the New York Times ran an article called “Amazon offers all you can eat books: Authors turn up noses”. The problem starts with a new Amazon program called Kindle Unlimited, which allows readers a.k.a customers to buy into a monthly membership for $9.99 to get unlimited access to a wide range of titles. Needless to say, this is great for avid readers and for Amazon, who gets people to use their services, but a bad deal for authors who depend on selling books even if only for $0.99 a copy.

From the article: (bold emphasis mine)

“Authors are upset with Amazon. Again.

For much of the last year, mainstream novelists were furious that Amazon was discouraging the sale of some titles in its confrontation with the publisher Hachette over e-books.

Now self-published writers, who owe much of their audience to the retailer’s publishing platform, are unhappy.

One problem is too much competition. But a new complaint is about Kindle Unlimited, a new Amazon subscription service that offers access to 700,000 books — both self-published and traditionally published — for $9.99 a month.

It may bring in readers, but the writers say they earn less. And in interviews and online forums, they have voiced their complaints.

For romance and mystery novelists who embraced digital technology, loved chatting up their fans and wrote really, really fast, the last few years have been a golden age. Fiction underwent a boom unseen since the postwar era, when seemingly every liberal arts major set his sights on the Great American Novel.

Now, though, the world has more stories than it needs or wants to pay for. In 2010, Amazon had 600,000 e-books in its Kindle store. Today it has more than three million. The number of books on Smashwords, which distributes self-published writers, grew 20 percent last year. The number of free books rose by one-third.

Revenue from e-books leveled off in 2013 at $3 billion after increasing nearly 50 percent in 2012, according to BookStats. But Kindle Unlimited is making the glut worse, some writers say.

The program has the same all-you-can-eat business model as Spotify in music, Netflix in video and the book start-ups Oyster and Scribd. Consumers feast on these services, which can offer new artists a wider audience than they ever could have found before the digital era.

Holly Ward, who writes romances under the name H.M. Ward, has much the same complaint about Kindle Unlimited. After two months in the program, she said, her income dropped 75 percent. “I couldn’t wait and watch things plummet further,” she said on a Kindle discussion board. She immediately left the program. Kindle Unlimited is not mandatory, but writers fear that if they do not participate, their books will not be promoted.

One major point of contention: Kindle Unlimited generally requires self-published writers to be exclusive, closing off the possibility of sales through Apple, Barnes & Noble and other platforms. (Ms. Ward was an exception.)

Amazon usually gives self-published writers 70 percent of what a book earns, which means a novel selling for $4.99 yields $3.50. This is much more than traditional publishers pay, a fact that Amazon frequently points out.

New Vlog and photos!

Thank you for spending a little bit of your life reading and watching my “product”.

Please click on the link to watch my new Vlog: the art of storytelling. In the first part of the storytelling trilogy, I talk about the concept of Self-awareness and provide some tips for writing your novel, script, or speech without having to blatantly and obviously state what is going on in a particular scene or setting you’re trying to write about. This is the power of nonverbal cues. The book I am referencing is Power Cues  by Nick Morgan.

Click to watch now!

Hopefully you watched my Vlog so you can boost the number of hits I have on Youtube (like it matters). Now, as promised, I am providing you with a few photos of my recent trip to Denver. If you see one you like, feel free to share it…and always always always (rule of self-awareness! repeating yourself is unnecessary in writing) comment on this blog or share my posts on your own page (with citation of course)

Both: Golden, CO, outside the Coors plant. This is what Coors Brewery employees see every day.

inside the Coors plant. The glow in E.T.’s hand just…looks perfect.

left: Downtown Denver from my hotel room at mid-day. Right: Downtown Denver from my hotel room at sunrise.

left: one more epic shot of downtown Denver at sunrise just because. Right: Dushanbe Teahouse, Boulder, CO. The restaurant was built by Tajik architects as part of a “sister cities” project.”

Dushanbe Teahouse ceiling.

Chicago and Lake Michigan from 39,000 feet.

This one might confuse you: I took this interesting photo from a location in the general Denver area. Can you guess where? If you get it before I post the remaining photos this week (sometime Thursday, October 2 in the P.M.), you win a prize. Seriously. A little Colorado gift from me. Hint: When you think of China you think of this.

***Spoiler alert: You may feel a little “elevated” after seeing the next batch of photos, if you get my drift.

The time I try to Vlog: ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ and the missed PR Opportunity

Below is my first attempt to vlog, or video blog. Basically typing hurts my fingers so I decided you’d care more if I talked into a webcam  rather than read anything I write. Oh, well, either way no one cares.

The topic: ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ and the PR opportunity with the movie which could have given the movie, and the topic of a teenage cancer romance story, more of a bump than it did. Watch the video below:

COMING UP NEXT: A lot of people who write like to talk about writing novels. But telling a story and writing a novel are not completely mutually exclusive. I’ll provide some ideas to keep in mind when telling stories (hint: think of how you might compose your body when you talk)

COMING UP SOON: I’ll continue the lesson on story-telling but I’ll talk more about the body’s gestures, like hand gestures, body language, etc.

Does anyone read long novels anymore?

For all of you who have either found my blog or webpage at, I will introduce myself as an Eagle Scout, a Grade 7 soccer referee, a graduate of Quinnipiac University, and currently the Communications Director of the Caesar Rodney Institute (link)

In today’s topic I wonder about the art of reading. The question is: Do people want to read long books anymore? By long I mean any book over 150,000 words (exact pages vary). The topic is irrelevant-consider the following made that the Internet age is a detriment to long form and deep reading/:

In an article published June 16 in the guardian, the article author Alison Flood wrote:

” The sort of lengthy, involved literary fiction written by the likes of Dickens or Faulkner has met its match in the shape of the internet, according to the author Tim Parks, who believes modern readers are too distracted to appreciate serious literary novels.

Parks’s claims follow swiftly on the footsteps of similar assertions made by his fellow novelist Will Self. He said in May that “the literary novel as an art work and a narrative art form central to our culture is indeed dying before our eyes”, as “the hallmark of our contemporary culture is an active resistance to difficulty in all its aesthetic manifestations”.”

But some people took umbrage with Parks’ comments.

” Perhaps proving Parks’s point about distractibility, authors took to Twitter to attack his claims, pointing to recent literary hits including Eleanor Catton’s Booker-winning The Luminaries, Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-winningThe Goldfinch and Hilary Mantel’s Booker-winning Wolf Hall. Writer Lee Rourke called Parks’s essay “yet another wrongheaded bleat against the digital network. Man, Literature has ALWAYS been the network,” adding: “Writers, keep that internet SWITCHED ON.” Others pointed to Frank Kermode’s comment from the 1960s, that “the special fate of the novel, considered as a genre, is to be always dying”.

Sam Jordison, the publisher who picked up Eimear McBride’s stream-of-consciousness novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing after it had been rejected by mainstream presses for years, said that “just because Tim Parks is busy that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other people able and willing to put time in to serious reading – or into serious writing”. McBridewon the Baileys prize earlier this month for a book judges called “engaging, readable, unputdownable”.

“Plenty of people are writing long complicated books. Plenty of people are writing long elaborate sentences. Plenty of people aren’t too. It was ever thus,” said Jordison. “Just as there have always been grumpy older writers predicting all this is going to end.”

Many books published today are generally under 120,000 words. For every Atlas Shrugged, War and Peace, or The Count of Monte Cristo there are dozens and dozens of books which are written to be shorter, simpler, and easy to understand. In a future blogpost we will explore book themes and whether people prefer exploring new worlds or reading about the ones they already know.

What about you? Would you read a novel if it was very long? What would it take to make you sit there for hours, days, weeks, trying to finish a book? Or is there a finite limit to your patience?