Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How Long is a Book?

A few days ago a friend asked me what I would call a book - obviously a three hundred page tome is, but what about a 55 page story? A decade ago I would have just said that a book is a physical book and that it may have one or more stories inside it, but epub has muddied the waters. Since novellas are sold alone now, and even short stories, and they look no different on your Kindle than that full length tome, how do you define a "book"?

I was stumped by the question. I call all of my releases "books" mostly for the simplicity of it, but I tend to evade when possible and use "story" to refer to the lot of them or "work" or "release" or whatever other verbal dodge I can come up with. I don't think of A Cop & A Feel as a book (considering it's less than 20,000 words long), but when I'm talking about the Karmic Consultants books, it gets lumped in. Imprecise, but sometimes the best answer to the question of How many Karmic books are there? isn't two novels, one novella and two short stories. It's five so far. Or maybe the answer they want is two? For just the novels?

Perhaps the problem is a lack of shared definition anymore. When someone asks me how many books I've written, I don't know how to answer. If I say, "a bunch" they feel like I'm blowing them off. If I say, "Do you mean just novels or novels, novellas, and short stories combined?" then I also feel the need to clarify, "Do you mean books I've written, or the ones I've had published already or the ones that are under contract?" Yeah, I suck at small talk. I always want to be precise.

What is a book to you? I feel like we've gotten beyond the "ebooks aren't really books" argument (woot!), but now what length constitutes a book? And does whether an author has written a full length book sway your decision? For example, if someone had only written two fifteen thousand word short stories (so about sixty pages or so) would you say they had written two books? But if they had written one novel and one short story of that same length would it change the number?

How long is a book?


Leah Braemel said...

If you come up with an answer, let me know because I've got a few "in between" story lengths too. I've seen novelette used around, but that doesn't seem right, and "category" length only means something to people who read category romances. *scratches head*

Vivi Andrews said...

Is novelette longer or shorter than a novella? That always confuses me.

Brenda Hyde said...

I think in terms of novels, novellas and short stories BUT if I asked you that question about Karmic Consultants I'd be happy with the answer that it's five stories/books. Then you could refer me to your website where it would break it down to lengths etc. That's what I do when I interview authors. I like to know EVERY installment in a series and then I list them in order-- even if there is a small free story in between the full length ones. This could be my anal need to read everything there is available for a series I love though-- I even like to know if there was something put on a guest blog somewhere-- like a mini short that some authors will write at release time. LOL

I suppose some people are REALLY picky and get annoyed by not having it clarified right away, but then again some people are never happy and would complain no matter what. O_O

Kali said...

I think of a book as something with a cover and pages in between. Digital or paper pages. Length doesn't come into consideration for me until I want to actually talk about length...which is when I turn to novel/novella/short story. I have no clue about unpublished or uncontracted though.

Captch : Budacat. I wonder if the kitty is really enlightened or just has a big belly.

Vivi Andrews said...

Brenda - I need to make sure I have every detail in a series too. And reading them out of order? The horror! :)

Kali - How much you wanna bet there's a budacat LOLcat?