Micheal Cobley

Interstellar Tactics




SF/Fantasy Book Size Poll

As a matter of curiosity, given that the book trade and book buyers have been living with the prevalence of the Trilogy for a few decades now, I have been wondering just what readers think of the whole trilogy/series/standalone thang. And now here’s a poll by which  we might come a little closer to the truth. See below, and do your duty!

[polldaddy poll=1671522]

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Other Posts of Potential Interest:

  1. Fantasy Book Critic: Sage Observations Frae Glasgae
  2. Humanity's Fire Book 2: The Orphaned Worlds – update
  3. Interview Over At Dave Brendon's Fantasy & SciFi Weblog
  4. Seeds Of Earth Review: Scotland on Sunday
  5. Book Meme: Nearest Book

21 Comments already, do join in...

  1. Qatux Says:

    June 2nd, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Not yer actual NEVER ending; Not so a writer felt trapped in a universe he invented years ago. But I like continuity, familiar characters returning, a trilogy or 2 volume set and then a sequel if the setting warrants it.

  2. Primeval fan Says:

    June 2nd, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    I agree, I love continuity but the books should end when the author wants it to.

  3. Abbot of Unreason Says:

    June 3rd, 2009 at 12:27 am

    i don’t really care if it’s one book, two, three or 16, but I don’t want to break my arm lifting it. If a book grows too big, I start to wonder about whether it will have been edited properly. Neil Stephenson, I’m looking at you.

  4. rockitboy Says:

    June 3rd, 2009 at 7:33 am

    A cogent point, your Reverence. More than once have I held open a door with the generous tomes of the acclaimed Mr Stephenson!

  5. neilwilliamson Says:

    June 3rd, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Ach, I would vote for one single volume – but chiming with the Abbot’s wise words I’d rather it wasn’t a brick. My preferred length of story is one single volume of modest length.

    I’m not averse to continuation at all, but I have so little reading time I know that I’m unlikely to ever read *all* the books in a series now, and will simply not buy thick books if I know I could be reading two or three short books in the time it takes to finish that one monster.

    So, there.

  6. rockitboy Says:

    June 3rd, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Understood, and I’ve rephrased the question accordingly, matey.

  7. jimsteel Says:

    June 3rd, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    This: http://www.agathachristie.com/.....ld-record/

  8. rockitboy Says:

    June 3rd, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Flipping Norah – a foot wide and 4032 pages. Thass roughly 4 Hamiltons!

  9. rockitboy Says:

    June 3rd, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Something puzzling is going on – the poll posting has had about 15 views, yet only 7 people have voted. Why’s that?

  10. Qatux Says:

    June 3rd, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Some people have viewed more than once? From home and work, so different IP addresses?

    Do I detect a bit of green eyed anti about Peter Hamilton? Tough, He’s not the best-selling UK SF writer for nothing. It doesn’t matter how long or short his books are, they have raised the bar. Anyone who doesn’t read them purely because of their length is clearly looking at the wrong criteria.

    The Dreaming Void has about 28% more pages than Seeds of Earth, but, I judge, less words per page. Not relevant really, but they are of similar length.

    For me both are an enjoyable SF read. That’s what matters.

  11. Mark Chitty Says:

    June 4th, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    A very interesting topic!

    Firstly, I voted for the old traditional trilogy – BUT, only if the story warrants it. I don’t want to read three modest sized books full of filler, I’d much rather a decent story told in fewer pages. However, I’m a huge Hamilton fan so I will gladly suffer wrist ache from an 800 page beast to enjoy one of his stories.

    I think that 300 – 500 pages are an ideal length for a book, whether part of a trilogy or a stand alone. If you look at a lot of sci-fi nowadays that area is the length that they run into.

    Some of the shorter novels form authors like John Scalzi, Tobias Buckell, Sean Williams are all around the 300 page mark. Scalzi writes some of the best sci-fi on the market while Buckell is just as enjoyable at the same length.

    Moving onto the larger stuff, you’ve got yourself with Seeds of Earth, Gary Gibson, Neal Asher, Alastair Reynolds and Richard Morgan to name a few. All excellent and all different in the same sense. Neal does the best alien creatures in any sci-fi today and mixes his stories between series’ and stand alones, all working exceptionally well. Gary and yourself are now entering the space opera trilogy (both excellent!) and Richard Morgan has shown how well he is at doing stand alones of a similar length.

    Then it’s the big boy – Peter Hamilton. His space opera stuff comes in at page counts from 650 upwards to over 1000. Too much? Perhaps at times there can be filler, but the stories he tells are HUGE and usually need that many pages to tell the story.

    It also comes down to the price of a book. Mass market paperbacks all hover in the £8 – £9 range, and hardbacks are around £17 – £19. That’s not bad when you think of the difference in size between smaller and larger books. The top end isn’t strictly for the huge books, but as a general choice I’d rather pay £19 for a 750+ page Hamilton book than the same for a 500 page Reynolds book.

    Although these days the size of a book is becoming less of a worry with ebooks coming along. The reader will be the same weight regardless of the length of a novel, definitely a plus point in my book!

    Perhaps the most important factor is the speed at which authors can write. I’d rather one book a year for three years and have a trilogy than having to wait three plus years between books from an author. It just wouldn’t be commercially viable. Plus the author would get paid less for producing one book instead of three – not the way to go IMO!

  12. rockitboy Says:

    June 4th, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Thanks Mark – v interesting comment. I have my own prefs on the matter, but I’m holding off from revealing them until I’ve finished The Orphaned Worlds (now on 2nd last chapter)(what can I say – I’ve had to cope with two dose of vile bug in the last 2 months).

  13. Jack Deighton Says:

    June 6th, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    It depends. I prefer one off books but I read series books too.
    My real preference is for one off shortish books really. Like they published in the 60s and 70s. They’re much easier to hold in the hand. That option isn’t in the poll which is why I haven’t voted.

  14. rockitboy Says:

    June 6th, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    That, my friend, is a very good point!

  15. Jan Harald Says:

    June 10th, 2009 at 11:21 am

    My preferance is the “Hamilton-style”. Large books, in a triology. BUT, and this is a BIG but. As stated earlier here, I don’t want to wait much more than a year between the books. I am also a huge Hamilton-fan, since Nights Dawn, and if I would have had to wait more than a year between the books I would have gone mad… And I also think that, when writing a space opera, which means a large personsgallery – it is necessary that the time between the books aren’t so long, that we the readers loose our appetite for the continuation of the story…

    So in short. The way you’ve planned it out with Seeds of Earth is, in my opinion, the correct way to go!

    And, I’m now becoming rather “hungry” for some gossip or extracts from the next volume… ;-D

    Jan Harald

  16. rockitboy Says:

    June 10th, 2009 at 11:58 am

    In the light of the delay in the GRRM Song of Ice and Fire etc, I can understand how readers would get impatient, and thus reluctant to invest money and TIME in starting to read trilogies-or-greater incorporating big chunky volumes. From my point of view, I just don’t think I could sit down and commit to writing a sequence of 5,6,7 + books; even the effort needed for me to produce a 3 book set is draining (yeah, so mebbe I`m a pantywaist next to such mighty champions of the chronicle form. John Norman, anyone?)

    And I much appreciate your hunger for book 2 – once I have the first draft completed (any day now) I’m gonna have a wee chat with me editor to see if I can post here some examples of the raw text. Kind of an experiment to see how the final version turns out.

  17. Felix C. Stegerman Says:

    June 21st, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    [I'm a bit late to the poll -- I haven't stopped by here recently]

    So what about the “many books (ca. 500 pages) set in the same
    universe, somewhat seperate, but related”. Like Neal Asher’s Polity
    for example. Or the Revelation Space universe. Or the Dune universe.
    I’d like some more stories set in those. [And the advantage is you're
    not left with only part of the story, waiting for the rest of the
    trilogy to be written -- I'm still waiting for The Orphaned Worlds,
    Nova Wars and The Evolutionary Void to name a few].

    And @Mark: “… Neal Asher, Alastair Reynolds and Richard Morgan …
    Peter F. Hamilton”

    You just about summed up (most of) my favourite authors [maybe Mr.
    Cobley will become one of those too -- I really liked Seeds of Earth
    and look forward to The Orphaned Worlds]. I just finished reading
    Broken Angels and Woken Furies [as I only recently discovered Richard
    Morgan] and can’t wait for Orbus and Terminal World to come out. You
    only seem to have missed Greg Egan.

    - Felix

  18. rockitboy Says:

    June 21st, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Thankyou, thankyou, am writing the climactic chapter of TOW even as I type (good trick, actually). I understand how attractive single story volumes can be, telling the whole tale from start to finish and winding it up with a finalising ending. I`d like to try doing that soonish.

    As to Greg Egan – dunno what it is about his stuff, but what I’ve read I found a bit cold and verging on wiring-diagram SF. If I get some time, I may invest in some of his later oeuvre!

  19. rockitboy Says:

    July 2nd, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Flipping norah! – almost exactly a month after putting up this poll, all four choice categories are exactly the same! Are you lot having a larf?

    Oh, and nearly finished!

  20. Qatux Says:

    July 2nd, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Aha, but 75% in favour of multiple volumes. So longer stories – That’s an interesting result – especially as you ruled out really long single volumes.

    Hope your free of the dreded lurgi and not being hassled too much to rush Orphaned Worlds.

  21. rockitboy Says:

    July 2nd, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Hmm, good point. Actually, there was one option which I should have included, being single novels and trilogies set in the same universe. Which is the kind of this I`m trying to aim for. And thanks for the well-wishing – after roughly a geological era of sputum and all that gorgeous stuff, I seem to have finally put the Lurgi behind me. With any luck, I`m antibodied-up enough to avoid the swine flu, eh?

    And on the Orphaned Worlds front, shall be writing the last scene tonight (being 4th part of the epilogue).

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