Long ones…too much of a good thing or just right?

Hey! Get your minds out of the gutter. I’m not talking about long ones of those. Although, that’s not a bad subject for another post. I’ve certainly come across my share of monstrous…er… parts in the M/M genre and wondered. But no, I’m not going there. At least not today. 🙂

Today I’m talking about long books (though I’m not averse to offering you a little eye candy while I do–heart-covered boxers on a hunky reader guy, yum!). You know, the big, thick ones (books, people…books!!) that you know’ll take you days, or if you’re a compulsively addicted reader like I am and can’t put down a good book once it’s started, long hours to read and savor. I’ve always liked long books myself, even as a kid. To me they’ve always offered the possibility of juicy and complex plots and characters, and the chance to really lose myself in another world.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve certainly experienced my fair share of long books that have turned into tedious slogs that lost me in the mire along the way. But many of my favorite reads across all genres over the years have been hefty tomes–Stephen King’s The Stand, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, the Harry Potter books.
That love of depth has carried over into my writing as well. One of the first books I ever wrote topped out at 185,000 words. For comparison sake, it’s not as long as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which is the longest of the HP books (word count: 257,045), but it’s pretty darn close to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (word count: 190,637). (Official word counts of the Harry Potter novels are provided by Scholastic Inc.) I ended up cutting out several thousand words–okay, like 50,000–before that particular book of mine was published, but compared to many novels, that’s still long. The average novel length for mainstream/genre fiction is usually 80,000-100,00 words.

I realize, however, that not all readers share my passion for lengthy tales. Some don’t even care for more moderate length novels and would rather pick up something they can start and finish in an hour or two, to which I say, more power to them! In fact, in the M/M genre, it often seems as if there’s a plethora of shorter works.

Most M/M publishers offer novels, but why, sometimes, does it feel as if a good chunk of this market is driven by short stories and novellas? In spite of my early leanings toward thick books, I genuinely enjoy writing novellas. I write novels, too. I don’t, however, like to write shorts–they don’t give me enough room to do character development the way I like. But many authors write shorts and do it well and the M/M industry is full of them.

Amber Allure, where my stories are published, offers everything from 5000 word short stories all the way up to full-length novels that approach or surpass 100,000 words. I think it’s a pretty darn good variety of choices to please most everyone. Here’s something interesting, though. Each customer receives a survey to fill out when they make a purchase that allows that customer to share his/her thoughts on their shopping experience. A common theme that comes up on those surveys is that many customers would like to see more long books–more novels as opposed to shorts and novellas. What’s curious, however, is that sales don’t necessarily corroborate that. If you look at the Amber Allure bestseller lists you’ll see that some novels do exceedingly well, but, in general, shorter works seem to hold the most appeal for a good chunk of readers. Speaking of my own books, while my novels have always sold very nicely in both ebook and paperback, many of my top selling stories have been novellas. And that’s not just at Allure…that’s across the board at numerous third party vendors as well.

So what’s up with that? Are readers eschewing longer works because they don’t have a lot of free time in their busy lives to delve into longer tales? Because of the cost? Or is it because readers prefer less involved stories that stick to the basics of, in this case, the M/M romance without getting into complicated plots? Because, as a writer, I speak from experience here when I say that it’s very difficult to write a complicated plot in a novella length story. (And you wonder why I write so many sequels. I sometimes can’t even cover all the ground I want to cover in novels and still have to write sequels!)

Which, actually, leads to another question I’ve often wondered about. Sequels seem to be hugely popular with readers. Would readers rather have one long book with a complex plot and in-depth characterization, or a series of short stories or novellas that tell the heroes’ tale and allow readers to get to know the guys slowly over time?

I’d love to hear your take on novels vs. shorts and novellas. What do you prefer to read, and why? Does the thought of a big, juicy novel fill you with joy and thoughts of long hours reading by the fire or on the beach? Or does it make you run for the hills? Authors, what do you prefer to write?

Lay it on me!

And for those of you brave enough to share your thoughts by posting a comment, I’ll be doing a giveaway. Or two. I’ll draw a couple of random names tomorrow, October 1st, and the winners can have their choice of any one of my currently available M/M books, in either ebook or paperback (if it’s available in paperback at this time). It’ll be the winners’ choice as to which they’d rather have.

Oh, and for those of you who have been wanting to know more about Fires of Ballian, the third book in the Draegan Lords series, stay tuned. I’ll be posting an excerpt today–the very first sneak peek at it.

ML 🙂


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