Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Books by the pound

From: Allan Guthrie (
Date: 15 Oct 2007

Some of those great old books are a lot longer than you think, Patrick. Small print can be misleading. I remember being amazed to discover that James McKimmey's SQUEEZE PLAY turned in at 65,000 words.

Also, I wouldn't extrapolate too much from rejection slips. Each one is a (sometimes) creative way of saying: 'we aren't confident we can sell this'. That's all. Usually. In any case, short books sell all the time. Tim Krabbe, Guillermo Arriaga, Ken Bruen, Daniel Woodrell, James Sallis, Dan Rhodes, Duane Swierczynski, to name but a few. Megan Abbott's QUEENPIN is only 40,000 words. I doubt Sara Gran's COME CLOSER is that long. Novels are as short (or as long) as they need to be. Jonathan Smith's THE WOLF is currently selling for significant figures all over the globe -- and according to The Bookseller, it's a mere 35,000 words.

A short book to look out for: Tom Piccirilli's THE FEVER KILL, out in December. A modern Gold Medal. If I wasn't already blown away by Piccirilli, this one would do the trick.

While I'm at it, let me recommend Craig McDonald's debut, HEAD GAMES, written from the point of view of a 50's pulpster. It's out now and it's one hell of a ride.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Patrick King
  Sent: Monday, October 15, 2007 5:30 AM
  Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Books by the pound

  --- Dick Lochte <> wrote:

> My point, not that I always have one, is that I
> can't think of a case where
> an editor told a writer: I love the manuscript, but
> make it longer. Usually,
> it's the writer, too much in love with his (or her)
> words to edit or, worse
> yet, to accept anyone else's edit, who is
> responsible for the fat book.

  It's happened to me, personally. 3 agents and 1
  publisher told me, this is a good idea but it's 42,000
  words. Rewrite it for 80,000 and we may be able to
  sell it. I of course, being me, said 'The great old
  books didn't have to be 80,000 words.' The one agent
  who was still kind enough to respond to that stupid
  e-mail of mine, said short books do not work in todays

  I'm working on a good story now and it will be 80,000
  words before I let it go. Maybe then I'll rewrite the
  other, but frankly, it feels finished to me. I could,
  of course, be wrong!

  Patrick King

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