Tuesday, February 3, 2009


A fellow crime writer has reported receiving an email from her US publishers, asking all their authors to keep their books under 100,000 words, in an effort to reduce production costs (i.e. creating fewer pages to print).

I'd be interested to hear what readers think of this one. On the one hand, there are probably many books that would benefit from being pruned! But my agent once said to me that a book should be as long as it needs to be for the story you're telling.

And the author who received this email has just finished a new book that is 120,000 words long, meaning she might be asked to cut one sixth of the book - for the US market, at least. As an author, it's probably better to write shorter books than be dropped by your publisher. But will some readers notice that that they're getting less value for money?


  1. I have to admit to being in favour of shorter books. I despair when most books are 600+ pages, because it doesn't make them better. Not all the time.

    Though some publishers could begin by looking at how they use each page. Some could have more print per page (or are we saving ink, too?) and sometimes smaller fonts. Books have got bigger and bigger in recent years. Many of my hardbacks no longer fit standing up in my bookcase, but have to lie down. So by pruning half an inch here and there, big savings could be made. Going straight to paperback would also be good.

    Your books (pb) never seem wasteful, although longish, so would be a good measure to start with.

  2. I think publishers should use other criteria when deciding if a book is too long or not. It should be a question of quality, nothing else. Some huge tomes are not one page too much while some thin books should never have been published anyway. I am all for diversity.

  3. There was one book of mine that even I thought was too long. It was the 4th Cooper & Fry novel, BLIND TO THE BONES. I took the opportunity to trim it a bit for the US version!

    However, the paperback edition of this book sold amazingly well in the UK supermarkets, particuarly in Asda (the UK operation of Walmart). I've always suspected it was because shoppers in Asda were looking for more pages for their money...

  4. I tend to agree with your agent and have never found your books to be too long, or too, uh, windy. That can't be said for all books, as some authors take the opportunity to lecture, instead of just tell the story. Those could probably be cut a bit but that should be within the editors scope. The idea of publishers cutting pages to save money at the cost of the story, isn't a good idea. If they cut the story too much, they risk losing readership for that author, which isn't good business for any concerned, from the author to the reader and everyone in between.