Re: RARA-AVIS: Digest Number 1666

From: Patrick King (
Date: 13 Oct 2007

--- Jack Bludis <> wrote:
> I think it was Ace who did double volumes a long
> time ago, in a world far away, but I don't know how
> they sold. Anybody know?

Sure, I remember those and bought them, myself. Doesn't seem all that long ago, either. I know the cost of ink and paper have gone up but even buying it retail, which publishers don't do, it's not THAT expensive. Back in the day a 180 page book sold for 35 cents. Are we really to believe that if someone published a 180 page book today for $2.00, no one involved could make any money? The fact is books today are not 180 pages. They start at 300 pages and more frequently they're well over 500 pages. I read this stuff, or try to, and frankly what you get for your extra 320 pages is no editing. Recently, or not too long ago anyway, some genius decided to republish Robert Heinline's Stranger in a Strange Land just as he delivered it to the publisher. Instead of most of 400 pages, it was 700 page. I don't know if anyone else read this, but it was NOT an improvement. Editors have a purpose or at least they used to. They did the same thing to John Fowels' The Magus, a confusing book made more confusing by a whole lot more stuff.

I remember when a hard cover book was $3.00. Today they start around $30! Sure, inflation, but ten times the cost? For the most part, very rare exceptions, the modern cost is not equal to the value. In my humble opinion, Patricia Cornwell is not the writer Patricia Highsmith, Josephine Tey, Mary Roberts Rinehard or Agatha Christie were. But she writes a lot more pages and somehow she sells a lot more books. I think an editor's hand would greatly improve many modern novels. These stories we're talking about are 'yarns.' This is great literature in spite of itself. No one needs more than 200 pages in which to tell these stories. The trick with a book is, sales are everything and once you've bought it, you don't take it back. No one knows and I, myself, can't even count how many books I've bought, become completely bogged down in due to convoluted plots and bad sentences, and just never finished. A 200 page book is a train ride, a 500 page book is a commitment and it better be worth the effort because I could be listening to my Ipod instead. There has got to be a way to bring back the terse, well-written yarn. Our era is suffering for the lack of it. Sure, Stephen King has turned out a few
"Blockbusters" that are worth all that page turning. But he's also put out a few that seemed a lot like the last one. His immitators, again in my opinion, fail almost across the board. Very few plots are worthy of the "War & Peace" length and some of these books are not even plotted. I can't tell what the story is about.

I don't know how much a 35 cent Goldmedal paperback should sell for today, but whatever it is, someone should work it out and bring that format back. Adding hundreds of pages to a story does not improve it. Max Perkins knew this, and he was handling GREAT writers. Why is this news today?

Patrick King

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