Re: RARA-AVIS: The long and the short of it...

From: Schooley (
Date: 20 Nov 2001

Kevin Burton Smith wrote:

> Hmmm... Parker isn't generally considered a long writer, though his
> publishers like to make it look like he is. Large print (12, even 14
> pt.), super-wide margins, tons of white space. Some even have graphic
> logos in their headers. With all those typographical tricks, I'd bet
> even his 200 pagers are actually far less than that, really.

It's been said here that publishers seem to want larger books, that they can get more money for them. I'm not quite sure of the economics of that. Costs more to print more pages too, and who knows if profits might be greater through publishing more, smaller books from the same writers?

Maybe fat books simply sell more copies of each title. Maybe readers want to extend the experience, or maybe there isn't a popular market that really likes to read, but buyers are rewarded with intellectual bragging rights when the one book a year they purchase has 600 pages while their friends only book came in at a mere 450. Quality hardly matters when you're comparing size, does it?

Like others on this list, I teach some creative writing classes, and I've tried to impart what I think most instructors would consider the basics of good style: show don't tell, be direct, concise, develop character, etc. I can't help but feel, sometimes, that this may be good writing, but lousy job training, that there are bigger and more markets for the longer yarns that stuff with fluff and repeat in pages of exposition. As for developing voice or individual style, bland is far easier to market to a broad audience. It's true with macaroni and it's true with books.

Have we agreed on this list that we prefer a good short book to a long lousy one? Then we can hardly complain if Parker has found a way to write short and sell long. Better to have white space than textual fill. Makes it easier for old eyes to read, too, which may be another marketing/demographic consideration.


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