Long Long Long

I’m going to state right here and now — I have absolutely no problem with doorstop-length novels, if they’re written well and keep my interest.  I know they’re not for everyone.  Back in the 70s and 80s, doorstoppers were all over the place (I’m looking at you, Robert Jordan and Stephen King), topping over 200,000 words or so.  But by the 90s, books got thinner and more compact — leading to more space on the store shelves for more titles.

Some say this was the publishers’ plan, asking for writers to produce shorter books so they could sell more varying titles.  Others say that it was a change in reader taste, that the doorstopper is passé these days and readers prefer their word count to hover around 120k at the most.  I’m not sure who’s right, but either way, it’s become tough to submit those things to the Big Pros nowadays.  Unless you’re GRRM or Alan Moore.

But now that books are available digitally in a format that takes only a sliver of memory from your reader, the space for All The Books has expanded significantly.  You can fit a surprising number of long tomes on a regular-sized reader, and some e-book providers will even let you store them on a cloud so you can create even more room on your reader.

But what does that mean about long books?  Does this free the writer up to work on their long dreamed-of epic tale they’ve always wanted to write?  Of course, at this time the only real avenue for that is probably the indie/self-pub route, but the question remains: does this mean the restriction for writing long books has loosened?  Does this give the writer more breathing room to experiment?

And the big question: will readers’ tastes for long books change once more?


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