Friday, May 17, 2019

The One Way To Kill Your Writing Career -- *WARNING: This is a long but important post."

Well, it's not by writing a bad book. Lots of great authors put out a bad book here and there. Even authors who put out consistently bad books can have careers. The truth of it is, for every bad book that is written, there is a reader somewhere who likes it. So what is the one thing that can truly kill a writing career?

Let me give you a hint. It's one word...

Okay, it could easily be lots of words if you want to get colorful...


As an editor, I have experienced the negative effects of the overinflated writer's ego more times than I can count. I have been yelled at, told I'm bad at my job, called insensitive and ignorant, had my own and my editors' skill and character attacked, received unsuccessful attempts at manipulation by writers using mental and physical health issues to get me to allow their behavior and consider it acceptable, and countless other things. Anyone who knows me at all, knows I deserve none of these things. Still, it has happened, and I have had to waste my precious time, energy, and own emotional well-being defending myself and my team to narcissistic, egotistical writers, some of whom could be great writers if it weren't for their ego, and others of whom are not and will never be very talented/skilled in this particular arena.

Sadly, I am certainly not the only one who goes through this. It happens regularly. And to draw attention to the issue, Lilyn G. of the website Sci-Fi & Scary shared her most recent experience in the post "This is NOT a Review of Hell’s Shadows by Dean Klein" (this post was updated on May 13, 2019, and is a bit out of order, but if you read it through, you'll catch on quickly. Do it. It's worth it.):

So for those of you that have already read this I won’t make you read through the whole thing to get to the update. (Don’t worry, his e-mail wasn’t 9 screenshots long this time.) This is how Klein chose to respond to me (and my follow-up response.)

There was another e-mail where he said “You put it on the web, knowing the damage it would cause. You didn’t have to do that yet you did. You deliberately defamed my book." 
As he seems unable to get any sort of point here I have blocked him. 
For those just entering the scene… 
Sci-Fi & Scary has a clause in their review policy that states that if you act like a whiny ass child, you will be treated as such. Furthermore, it states that all communications once you have started acting like said child will be posted publicly. 
“If you submit to this site, you are saying that you promise you will be an adult if you receive a negative review. You WILL not attempt to harass or coerce the reviewer about the review that you received. You will not contact them at all about the review that you received. IF YOU DO: 
Your communication will not stay private. It will be posted on the site for the world to see, and shared to social media. Your whinging and/or harassing will be publicly displayed, as will any follow-up whinges about it being posted publicly. 
If you act like a child, you will be treated like a child." 
[This is] our review policy. Don’t believe me just look. 
In the months (years?) since I instituted this policy, I have never had to use it before. Not until now. There’s always someone, isn’t there? 
Klein has made a few mistakes here. Firstly, he used his (supposed/self-claimed) anxiety as a crutch, sending us a few emails asking where the book was on the reviewer's list and such. (Normally I wouldn’t place the emphasis on supposed/self-claimed, but you’ll see why I did in just a bit.) 
Authors: Don’t use your mental health as a crutch when seeking reviews. It is okay to suffer from mental health problems, and it is definitely okay to talk about them. However, doing it when seeking a review is seen as trying to influence reviewers to be nice to YOU (aka be nicer about their review of your books). This is NOT GOOD PRACTICE. I say this as someone who deals with anxiety and takes meds for it almost daily. (Credit where it’s due, it’s Jim from Gingernuts of Horror who put it more clearly than I could have when this part of the convo popped up on Twitter.) 
(Now, because of his claimed anxiety and we understand that, Sian had two other people go over her review to make it as nice as it could be while still be truthful…but more on that later.) 
Secondly, when I nicely sent him an e-mail out of consideration for his anxiety, the response that I got was off the charts. 
Here’s the email that I sent him. 

I apologize for the 9 screenshots to come, but that’s how many it took me to capture all of his e-mail for everyone to see. Now, there’s some overlap in these because I wanted to make sure nothing was missed,but STILL. No petulant response to the notification of a bad review should ever happen, and it should DEFINITELY never be this long!!

I’ll just wait here for a moment while you all take this in. 

…. kind of amazing, am I right? After reading this, you totally want to buy this man’s book and read it, right?! 
But wait, dear readers! It gets BETTER. 
In the author’s note, Klein writes: 
“And please note this – both novels were read by an entire Barnes & Noble store management team and were deemed so good by the two assistant store managers and the store manager that they were ordered and shelved right next to the works of Mr. King himself.”

Dean Klein, author’s note for Hell’s Shadows
I don’t… I don’t know how to break this to you, dear author, but the mostly likely reason you were shelved right next to “Mr. King himself” is that your last name is KLEIN and most stores do tend to shelve things alphabetically in their respective genres. KL comes after KI so… yeah. Draw what conclusion you will there but I think most of us can figure that one out. 
I’m not done yet. 
There’s also the fact that this fine fellow also tends to be a complete toe-rag to those who have dared to give him a negative review on Amazon.

Now, this is absolutely NOT A REVIEW of Dean Klein’s Hell’s Shadows book, but if it were a review, then it would say this: 
Title: Hell’s Shadows | Author: Dean Klein | Publisher: CreateSpace | Pub. Date: 16 November 2012 | Pages: 426 | ISBN: 1480279102 | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 1 out of 5 | Source: I received a copy of this book for review consideration 
Hell’s Shadows Review 
Robin and Gil are married and want to buy a house, unfortunately they don’t like any Estate Agent Elaine shows them until she shows the uninhabited, probably haunted ‘Parsons Knoll’. Parsons Knoll isn’t overly happy to have potential new tenants so tries to kill Elaine. Naturally, Gil and Robin then must buy this house. 
The premise for this book could really have been something, and I think with some heavy editing and maybe cutting out 200 pages of the book, could have had the potential to build tension well. This book promises to be the scariest haunted house book you will ever read, yet unfortunately falls short of this promise due to a heavy reliance on dialogue and repetition the whole way through. For example, Robin would find out some information from Alvina which might be a few pages worth of potentially interesting development, she would then feed it back to Gil in almost as many pages (or so it at least felt). 
The characters were fickle, especially Robin, who literally spent every other page changing her mind as to whether or not she wanted to stay in the house or not. Gil was patronising and a bit sexist and their relationship with the police was quite unbelievable. I didn’t really like any of them and though that isn’t always necessary it would have helped Hell’s Shadows a good bit. Alvina, this old woman (who’s like over 100 years old so knows loads about the house) accent is too much and it cast a shadow on the read and her character for me. 
Unfortunately, for the first third of Hell’s Shadows the writing failed to engage me. The majority of sentences start with ‘But’ which is something that we all fall prey to sometimes, but just doesn’t make for a good read.  It gets a bit better in the middle, but the problem reappears near the end. 
Hell’s Shadows has potential, but again it is severely hampered by problems that could be fixed by the attention of a good editor. As it stands it is a painfully slow read that doesn’t allow the premise to shine like it could have. (Sometimes 100 pages feels like 3, and sometimes 3 feels like a hundred. Bookworm relativity.) 
Unfortunately this was not a pleasant reading experience, but I do hope the author continues to work hard at refining his skill. 
1 star. 
That is the review that would have been posted. Because we do try to be nice on occasion. The following is (posting with Sian’s permission) the original review had we not been so nice: 
Robin and Gil are married and want to buy a house, unfortunately they don’t like any Estate Agent Elaine shows them until she shows the uninhabited, probably haunted ‘Parsons Knoll’. Parsons Knoll isn’t overly happy to have potential new tenants so tries to kill Elaine. Naturally, Gil and Robin then must buy this house. 
The premise for this book could really have been something, and I think with some heavy editing and maybe cutting out 200 pages of the book, could have had the potential to build tension well. This book promises to be the scariest haunted house book you will ever read, yet fails to build any tension and drama due to a heavy reliance on dialogue and repetition the whole way through. For example, Robin would find out some information from Alvina which might be a few pages worth of potentially interesting development, she would then feed it back to Gil in almost as many pages (or so it at least felt). Yawn. 
The characters were fickle, especially Robin, who literally spent every other page changing her mind as to whether or not she wanted to stay in the house or not. Gil was patronising and a bit sexist and their relationship with the police was ridiculously unbelievable. I didn’t really like any of them. Alvina, this old woman (who’s like over 100 years old so knows loads about the house) accent is gimmicky and cheapened the read and her character for me. 
Now, the plot is bad and the characters are bad, but at least the writing is engaging? Unfortunately not, for the first third of the book, the majority of sentences start with But, for absolutely no reason. I thought this had gotten better later on but maybe I just started to notice it less. Then they started appearing again. Have you ever read 100 pages of a book, and felt like you had made incredible progress, and then looked down at the page count and realised you had actually only read 3? That’s what this entire book felt like. I don’t usually DNF reads but this book has taught me that should be the option I choose in future. 
1 star. 
So, I said there were a few things that Dean Klein had done wrong. What was the final thing, you ask? 
The final thing was that he fucked with my crew. You do NOT talk down to me and my team like that and get away with it, you pathetic excuse for an over-privileged and underwhelming rectal sore masquerading as a man. I don’t need a college degree to spot an asshole, nor one to understand how not to be one.
See the original post HERE

The response you are looking for is WTF?!

But yes, people do behave like this. I have had similar experiences. And I know you probably want the specifics of those experiences now that you've seen what can happen, but I will not be sharing them for several reasons:
A) I don't have a clause like the one in the above article,  
B) the only time things between me, my team, and an author are not confidential is if I have to take something to a law enforcement or a lawyer or if I am given permission from an author to share something, 
(Note: Yes, I have had to take someone to court. Yes, it was a pain in my ass. And yes, I would still do it again if I had to or if anyone ever defamed or libelled me. So don't test me. LOL)
C) these are toxic experiences and people I have any interest in holding on to and have broken ties with, 
D) I'm just not an asshole.
I also like to believe most people eventually grow and realize the error of their ways. I won't be working with them ever again, but I also am not going to name names and potentially affect their future opportunities. In some cases, I do believe in calling people out, just as Lilyn did in the above piece, and I respect her for supporting her staff and doing so, especially since the author in that scenario kept escalating things and was attacking even readers in a public forum and was refusing to let up. It was the right way to handle it in that situation. But in my cases, the guilty parties already know who they are and what they did, and are not in my life anymore. And I sincerely hope that I never have to make anything public in order to protect others from the same abuse.

All that said, it's unbelievable to me how highly some people think of themselves and how uncivilized, unprofessional, and just plain horrible people can be to you when you dare disagree with them or point out something that could be improved. I am not saying a writer can't be confident, of course; a writer needs to be confident. But they also need to be realistic, self-aware, and respectful of others.

Sort of like all people in life in general need to be...

For the most part, writers who work with editors do learn this over time, if they don't start off that way. An editor is there to help make a book the very best version of itself, and that often means swallowing one's pride and being open to constructive criticism, even when it results in a little bit of temporary heartache and having to kill some of one's darlings, as we say. As creators of any piece of work, we can't see our own creations objectively, whether we think we can or not. Not right away. We need professionals to help us see through the fog. We might not agree with them even after that fog clears, but more often than not, after a little time, we see what said professional meant and why. Only then can we tweak and revise to find that sweet spot.

That end result is why editors, reviewers, and the like exist at all. We do not exist to just pat you on the back and praise you. We are paid (sometimes haha) to find the weaknesses and make sure you see them, as well as help you learn different ways you could address said weaknesses. If that's not what you want, you shouldn't hire an editor, request reviews, or probably even put a book out there at all because just as someone somewhere will like it, someone somewhere will dislike it. And artists of all kinds have to accept that and be respectful of others' opinions.

However... Sometimes people just don't. Sometimes a writer thinks they are perfect and because Mr. X thought it was brilliant, Ms. Y said it was a revelation, and Dr. Z told you it was engaging, doesn't mean it will be to everyone. Just like not all people have the same sense of humor, nor react the same way to things, nor have the same feelings and even morals. And just because a person--including the writer himself or herself--believes something does not make it so. Besides, a writer wants as many people as possible to enjoy their work, right? For that to happen, it requires listening to and considering the constructive criticism of people whose opinions are different from yours, who have pinpointed examples and explained how a reader could react to something in your manuscript. It's a new set of eyes, a fresh angle on something you are way too intimately attached to and know way too much about to see clearly from another person's perspective.

I'm not saying a writer has to take all the suggestions that are made to him/her. If they did, they'd have a Frankenstein book on their hands because, again, there are a million different opinions out there. But when you reach out to a professional, an expert in a field with experience and training, you should at least be open. You can't shut it down immediately. You can't take it as a personal attack. You can't claim your own opinion is fact. You can't then attack us for trying to help you, for doing the job you asked us to do.

If you think about it, attacking us for critiquing your work and doing our job is actually you doing to us exactly what you feel we've done to you. You are attacking our life's work, belittling us, hurting us, and so much more. Except we haven't done that. And if you feel we have, it certainly isn't intentional while your attack is. Because believe it or not, just as we expect you to be respectful to us, we are respectful of you. We carefully word our comments, we rework our revision letters to soften any hard blows so they are actually more helpful to you, we have others even read our work sometimes to ensure we are coming across the way we intend and are not. Yes, sometimes, things come out wrong even after all those steps. Certain people are more sensitive to specific things than others, too, which we can't always know, and everyone has different triggers. So we try our best.

We aren't going to sugarcoat every single thing for you, though. If we do, it's doing you and your project a disservice, especially if that candy coating makes you think a comment isn't significant when it is really a major issue that needs to be addressed one way or another. We will do our best to share our thoughts, responses, experiences, and expertise in a way that gives it the importance it needs and to get our point across most effectively based on what we do know about any given author, but we are human, too. And we have you and your book's best interest at heart at all times--it's why you hired us. It's what we do.

Remembering all these things and being respectful of your editors, reviewers, and readers is the only way you will ever succeed in this industry.

And what do you know? Doing that in life overall is also the only way you will ever truly be happy (and a good person).

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Secret Life of the New York Public Library

It's been a long time since I regularly used or even visited a library. I now have a library card to my local NJ library, and I am excited to have recently begun taking advantage of it again. And while my library is pretty awesome and has amazing programs and activities (especially for young readers--yay!), I must admit that I wish I had explored the New York Public Library system more when I lived there. 

Why? Because, uh, books. But! Who knew?!

Journalist Sarah Laskow apparently... She wrote an incredibly thorough piece back in 2016 about the remaining apartments inside the NYPL, which was posted on Atlas Obscura:
When these libraries were built, about a century ago, they needed people to take care of them. Andrew Carnegie had given New York $5.2 million, worth well over $100 million today, to create a city-wide system of library branches, and these buildings, the Carnegie libraries, were heated by coal. Each had a custodian, who was tasked with keeping those fires burning and who lived in the library, often with his family. “The family mantra was: Don’t let that furnace go out,” one woman who grew up in a library told the New York Times. 
But since the ’70s and ’80s, when the coal furnaces started being upgraded and library custodians began retiring, those apartments have been emptying out, and the idyll of living in a library has disappeared. Many of the apartments have vanished, too, absorbed back into the buildings through renovations for more modern uses. Today there are just 13 library apartments left in the New York Public Library system. 
Some have spent decades empty and neglected. “The managers would sort of meekly say to me—do you want to see the apartment?” says Iris Weinshall, the library’s chief operating officer, who at the beginning of her tenure toured all the system’s branches. The first time it happened, she had the same reaction any library lover would: There’s an apartment here? Maybe I could live in the apartment. 
“They would say, look, just be careful when you go up there,” she says. “It was wild. You could have this gorgeous Carnegie…” 
“And then… surprise!” says Risa Honig, the library’s head of capital planning. 
“You go to the third floor…” 
“And it’s a haunted house.”  
The downstairs of the Fort Washington branch of the library feels big and bright. The Carnegie libraries have tall ceilings and sweeping windows meant to keep the buildings light and cool; each of the bottom two floors is an open, book-lined space, and on the second level several giant, colorful lampshades float over the children’s section. 
A low wooden gate stretches across the base of the wide stairway that leads to the next floor. Walking up that last flight feels like fading into a different building. A water stain darkens the wall, and the etched steps are dusted with the chips of peeled paint fallen like dandruff from above. 
At the top, the stairway opens into a large, shabby room with high ceilings. To enter, you pass through a well-crafted wooden frame of what was once a wall; now there is empty space where the door and windows were. The front room is brown and full of the textures of abandonment—the walls and ceiling look like they’re sloughing off dead skin. Once, the library hosted performances in this space, and dances, but now the prettily molded ceiling is covered partway with rectangular metal chutes. 
The apartment is reached through a smaller door by the staircase. Inside it, there’s a long, dark hallway stretching down the length of the building. The room to the right once had two generous windows on the far wall. They looked onto the library roof. Now, in their places, there are walls of concrete bricks that block out unwanted visitors but also the light. 
The light switches don’t work either, but even without illumination, it’s clear that the last family that lived here, probably a quarter-century ago, tried to make the apartment bright. The walls are painted in vibrant blue and yellow hues; the flooring in one room, now half torn away, is diamond-patterned with green and pink. No surface that could be decorated is left plain. 
The apartment doesn’t feel haunted, exactly, but lonely and left behind. There is, however, a mysterious black door, with three sections, and a row of bells alongside it. No one knows where it leads, and it’s jammed shut. It’s the sort of door someone opens at the beginning of a horror movie and releases a demon or hungry creature. 
Wrenched open, the middle section reveals a wall, brown and textured like washed-up seaweed. It’s the back of a shaft. Look up, and there’s a plate of glass keeping the rain out. Look down, and the hole plummets to the basement. 
In the kitchen, where the walls are covered with a stone-mimicking wallpaper, there are other remnants of previous lives—a Polaroid of a Christmas tree and a pirate-themed card, addressed to David J from William J, that reads: “You’re a real treasure to me.”  
In today’s New York real estate market, this apartment is not unappealing. Yes, it would need cleaning and modernizing before anyone moved in. The one toilet in the apartment is facing into a corner. But the rooms are large enough, the kitchen could fit multiple people, and it’s in a library. Finding this much empty space anywhere in Manhattan is a rarity; walking upstairs in a well-used building and finding an empty floor feels like being in on a great secret. 
For the library, though, these apartments are a waste, almost an embarrassment. They were built to serve a particular function, when libraries could survive on just lending out books. Now, when many libraries are reinventing themselves, their physical spaces must transform, too.  
“We have so many demands on our space, besides just the books, that it’s almost criminal not to turn these apartments into program space,” says Weinshall.   
Even the flagship 42nd Street building once had an apartment in it, occupied by a superintendent who had been a bootblack, bartender, Harvard man, boxing instructor, and a designer for Thomas Edison. The family moved out in 1941, because the library needed the space for a mimeograph room, telephone switchboard, and smoking rooms. 
At Fort Washington, now, the library’s programming room is a dark and narrow space on the second floor. After school, when the kids and teenagers arrive, the bottom two floors fill up fast. The teens have to stay on the first floor, with the adults; after-school tutors clash with parents over the proper noise level. There’s no elevator here, either, so when parents bring their kids for story time, the entryway is crowded with a phalanx of strollers.
That’s why the library is renovating the apartments, one by one. Not far from Fort Washington, at the Washington Heights branch, the third floor is almost ready to re-open. The glass elevator opens on a newly painted hallway, a bright blue not so different from the color in the dark apartment. In the ceiling, the white circles of new fixtures create pools of light. The front room has the same expansive quality as Fort Washington’s, but this one is newly white.
The apartment here was vacated more recently; there are still people on staff who remember Mr. Adams, the last custodian, and even after he left, employees would come up here to use the bathroom and even the claw-footed tub. Now, though, the space is divided into smaller, anonymous rooms; the kitchen has a brand-new fridge. 
The renovation here is not quite finished, but the rooms look nice. Practical. The floor feels like any new space in 2016. It would be hard to tell anyone had ever lived here, or that this century-old library ever had an apartment in it at all, unless you already knew. 
See the original post (and more images) HERE



Thursday, May 2, 2019

Book Clubs, Summer Reads, and the Motor Vehicle Commission (Oh my!)

Yesterday ran away with me. Or rather, drove away with me. I ended up realizing I missed my car inspection (thanks, surgery!), so I hurried over after a doctor's appointment and got it checked out. Then I realized my registration said it was expired in April 2019, too...

Except I renewed it online in August when I put in my address change... So I had to go over to the actual Motor Vehicle Agency and talk to someone there. Turns out, my payment/renewal doesn't show up in the system for some reason. So I had to renew it again. And now I have to apply for a refund once I pull together the documentation of my August payment. Is your head spinning yet? Mine sure is!

And naturally, I left my book at home because I didn't think I'd be waiting in so many lines... Instead, I browsed GoodReads, looking for potential book selections for RBtL Book Club 2.0, which I'm very excited to be rebooting. I think I came up with some pretty good options, but I sure could've used this awesome list of the best summer reads from the staff over at Publishers Weekly
Looking for the perfect book to throw in the suitcase or take to the beach? Let us help. We've polled our staff for their personal recommendations, and PW's reviews editors have put together some stellar picks in fiction, mysteries and thrillers, romance, sci-fi, graphic novels, nonfiction, and YA and children’s books. Whether you want something breezy, laugh-out-loud funny, terrifying, thought-provoking, or anything else, really, we've got you covered. Enjoy!
Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Knopf Books for Young Readers)
My favorite reads from last year were the bestselling Illuminae series, which Kaufman and Kristoff cowrote. When I learned that they were collaborating on a new trilogy, well, I don’t think I can accurately describe my excitement. An SF YA with an ensemble cast of misfits, blistering sarcasm, and characters who are really good at what they do but terrible when interacting with other people? Sign me up, please! —Drucilla Shultz, assistant editor
The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch (Subterranean) 
It’s lucky that Aaronovitch turns out new additions in his Rivers of London supernatural police procedural series so often, since their deadpan humor and sexy river gods make them perfect diversions in any season. The latest entry is a spin-off, introducing a new protagonist, magic-practicing cop Tobias Winter, in a new setting: Germany. It’s a wine-related mystery I can’t wait to uncork. —Hannah Kushnick, reviews editor 
The Paper Wasp by Lauren Acampora (Grove) 
That feeling when you know things are about to go horribly wrong, but you’re not sure exactly how and you can’t look away? That’s the sensation of reading Acampora’s debut novel, which opens with Abby, an artistic near recluse in a dead-end job, on her way to visit Elise, a promising Hollywood actress, after they’ve reconnected at their high school reunion. Because here’s the thing about rekindling a friendship—it just might end in ashes. —Carolyn Juris, features editor 
The Perfect Fraud by Ellen LaCorte (Harper) 
What is a beach read exactly? For me, it’s a perfect page-turner that adds to the bliss of summer. This one hits all the marks with two women, one a reluctant fourth-generation commitment-phobic faux psychic, the other a brash single mother with a very mysteriously sick child. The tension rises as the women’s lives collide in the red rocks of Sedona. —Louisa Ermelino, editor-at-large 
The Redemption of Time: A Three-Body Problem Novel (Remembrance of Earth’s Past) by Baoshu, trans. from the Chinese by Ken Liu (Tor) 
Nine years ago, science fiction novelist Cixin Liu published Death’s End in China, finishing his 1,500-page Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy. “No matter how many posts we wrote, the magnificent, grand arc of the trilogy was at an end,” Baoshu writes, describing the “melancholy” that inspired him to write a fanfiction tribute. This cosmic Romeo and Juliet story takes a welcome journey back to Liu’s fictional universe (with the master’s blessing). —Jason Boog, West Coast correspondent 
And the list goes on... 
Read the original post with the FULL list HERE

What's on YOUR summer reading list?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Life Balance and Prioritizing

Dear Book Lovers,

I miss you. I have done a crummy job as a blogger, and for that, I apologize. Life sort of got in the way...

I am now married (yikes!).

I am now a homeowner (yikes again!). 

And I'm constantly dealing with at least one of my many chronic illnesses or procedures, as well as the "joys" of homeownership...

Oh, and our crazy, silly cat, Luna, is quite the handful. 

These are the reasons, but they are not excuses. So now it's time to prioritize...

I'll be restarting the RBtL blog slowly, with an aim to post every Thursday. I hope not to let you down again!

Thanks for being awesome.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Delight of Fall Reading

Fall is almost here, and I couldn't be happier about it. I'm a temperate-weather girl, and so fall and spring are my jam. Especially since I can just put on a light jacket, make a cup of tea and maybe get myself a slice of pie, and grab a book, and take it all outside to sit and read. Delightful!

That's what I'd do if I had more free time, at least. So this fall, I need you to step up, dear readers, and let me live vicariously through your reading lists. If you need a hand deciding where to start, Buzzfeed has pulled together a list of "28 Exciting New Books You Need To Read This Fall."

And if you have trouble deciding, Buzzfeed has even created a quiz to help you out.

 Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado 
[Machado] shows off her fresh new voice in Her Body and Other Parties, a genre-bending short-story collection that is part magical realism, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. In Machado's imaginative, unsettling, haunting stories, she explores the violent realities of being a woman and having a female body in our society. 
Publication date: Oct. 3
 My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
In [Tallent's] dark and gripping debut novel My Absolute Darling, Turtle Alveston is a 14-year-old girl who's lived in isolation with her survivalist father on the northern California coast since her mother's death. But when she finds a friend in a high school boy, she realizes she must escape her dysfunctional, abusive life with her father, using the survival skills he taught her and a whole lot of courage. 
Publication date: Aug. 29

The Golden House by Salman Rushdie
[Rushdie] makes a return to realism in The Golden House, a novel about an eccentric billionaire named Nero Golden and his three adult sons — who make quite the splash when they mysteriously move to a cloistered community in downtown Manhattan — and their aspiring filmmaker neighbor who chronicles their undoing. A tale of identity, reinvention, truth (and lies), and terror, The Golden House also captures the climate of American politics and culture from the Obama era to today — including the rise of a "narcissistic, media-savvy villain wearing make-up and with coloured hair" who embarks on a presidential run. 
Publication date: Sept. 5

 Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks 
Who knew beloved, Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks could also write?! In Uncommon Type, his debut short-story collection, Hanks explores what the American dream looks like for a multitude of characters, from an Eastern European immigrant to a war veteran. And, of course, Hanks' love for typewriters makes a cameo through each of the 17 stories. 
Publication date: Oct. 17

An Unkindness of Ghosts by River Solomon 
In [Solomon's] highly imaginative sci-fi novel An Unkindness of Ghosts, eccentric Aster was born into slavery on — and is trying to escape from — a brutally segregated spaceship that for generations has been trying to escort the last humans from a dying planet to a Promised Land. When she discovers clues about the circumstances of her mother's death, she also comes closer to disturbing truths about the ship and its journey. 
Publication date: Oct. 3 

Mean by Myriam Gurba  
[Gurba's] Mean is a hilariously honest coming-of-age memoir about growing up as a queer, mixed-race girl in 1980s California. A fearless account of racism, homophobia, misogyny, sexual assault, and true crime that manages to be as funny as it is dark. 
Publication date: Nov. 14 

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green 
[This is Green's] first novel since The Fault in Our Stars. Aza is a 16-year-old girl who finds herself investigating the mystery of a fugitive billionaire (for a hefty reward) with her best friend, while dealing with her own mental health struggles; at heart, a tale of the bonds of friendship and love. 
Publication date: Oct. 10

To see the full list, visit the original post HERE 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Hello, It's Me.

So it's been over two years since I've posted directly on the Reading Between the Lines blog. I won't bore you with the details, but life has been pretty all over the place. In fact, a friend of mine recently came to this site for the first time and promptly informed me that I haven't blogged in a really long time.

I was immediately embarrassed, of course, but it got me thinking. And I realized that even though my life is insane and deadlines I deal with as an editor are sometimes ridiculous and incredibly stressful, I miss blogging, even if it's merely to share an article--something I also haven't even had much time to do. But maybe it's worth carving time out for. Life has changed so much in so many ways that I haven't been very good about letting myself have "me time." It's something I really need to work on.

In that spirit, I recently started going back to yoga (but very light, gentle yoga and restorative yoga only once or twice a week due to various medical conditions--they account for some of aforementioned craziness). And now I'm going to attempt to get back on the blogging horse, since really, it's an easy thing to do if I just do it.

Now, with all that said, I'm going to start off by sharing an article with you that the very friend who unknowingly nudged me back into blogging sent to me yesterday, written by his favorite indie writer, Hugh Howey, "What a Book is Worth."

There is something otherworldly about a book, something absolutely magical. This one simple container is somehow full of unlimited potential — you never know what awaits inside. What will you learn? What world will you be transported into? Whose life will you inhabit?
Nonfiction books teach us new facts, but the real magic is fiction. Here, we zip another’s skin over our own bones and suddenly see through their eyes, learn what it feels like to be someone other than ourselves. Fiction imparts the gift of empathy. It’s also a vehicle for satire, for warnings, for reflection, and most importantly . . . for hope.
An obsession for books binds millions of us together, all the avid readers and book collectors. In antique stores, we’re the ones ignoring the furniture and trinkets as we rummage through piles of musty tomes. We’re the ones at dinner parties standing in front of shelves and running our fingers across a stranger’s spines. We steal glances at jackets on subways. Used bookstores are mandatory stop signs. Piles of books stand like teetering monuments in our homes and on our bedside tables. Floor joists creak, bookshelves groan, and we sigh in contentment to be surrounded by all these stories and bound words.
My dream job was to work in a bookstore, something I was able to do in college and again while trying to make it as a writer. I couldn’t believe I got paid to open boxes of brand new books fresh off the press. I got to arrange them prettily on shelves. I also had the pleasure of working as a book critic, which lead to publishers sending me an unrelenting stream of advanced copies right to my door. Books newer than new! Not even out yet. I read and reviewed a book a day and still couldn’t keep up. The teetering monuments around my home grew taller, and I covered every wall of my house with bookshelves.
At some point, it becomes a fetish. The heft and feel of an old leather-bound book sends chills through me. I remember when Barnes & Noble came out with faux leather-bound books of old classics for $19.95, and I wanted them all. Poe, Swift, Shakespeare, Twain. I would gladly pay a premium for books I’d already read, just because they were more booky than other books.
I won’t admit to having a problem, because I don’t see it as a problem. Books have defined and shaped my life. I always had one in my hand as a kid, and these days I pick out my clothes based on my reading habit. When I try on a pair of cargo shorts, the first thing I do is make sure my Kindle slips easily into the lower right pocket. That’s my holster; there’s an entire library locked and loaded.
Transitioning to ebooks was not easy for me, I’ll admit. I resisted. But the advantages eventually won me over. My Kindle allows me to read more books, more often, and more affordably. I started traveling for work, and now I could take plenty of books with me and also buy more from anywhere in the world. Living on a boat, this portable library is crucial. It also means a lot of thought and care goes into which physical books I keep. Most of my reading takes place on my Kindle, but that doesn’t mean I’ll ever stop loving books. If anything, my appreciation has grown.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the years thinking about books and the book trade. As a reader, a bookseller, a writer, a publisher, an editor, and as a book designer. I ask myself questions about the value of books, the value of reading, the cost of publishing, and sometimes these questions lead me to weird answers. I’ve blogged about much of this over the years, and I’ve shared my strange ideas about books and bookselling as I describe my ideal bookstore or what I think publishers should do to reverse their falling fortunes.
My quest to understand the value of a book and reading has led me down many different and unusual paths. When it comes to my own work, I’ve long embraced piracy. I don’t see piracy as any different than a friend borrowing a book from a friend, or a single book making its way through a household or a school classroom. To me, the value is in being read. The danger is in losing an audience. I do not speak for other authors or condone stealing in general; I’ve just never had a problem with it when it comes to my own works.
I also think books are both priceless and that they should be free if possible. I love the Gutenberg Project, where you can download out-of-copyright classics at no cost. This website and an old ereader means a lifetime of reading and learning without spending another penny. My bestselling work of all time – the story that allowed me to become a full-time writer – has been free for years. You can get it here for nothing.
But I also believe in supporting writers and paying what you can for a good book. When authors try to give me their books for free, I usually decline and buy a copy for my Kindle. I’ve paid more than cover price for an early edition, or a signed copy, or an especially beautiful binding. I guess I think books should be readily accessible to all, and those who can afford to be patrons should support the medium and the artists. And this is precisely the world I believe we’re heading towards.
Small bookstores with full-price books are rebounding, largely because affluent readers understand the value of these bookstores in their communities, and they are choosing to pay extra to keep them open. Amazon, meanwhile, is doing gangbusters with their discounted print book sales, ebooks, and Kindle Unlimited, because not everyone can afford current retail book prices, and not everyone lives close to a bookstore. Different needs and different means for different readers.
If you haven’t heard of Kindle Unlimited, it’s basically an all-you-can-read book binging buffet. $9.99 a month to access a metric ton of ebook electrons. Programs like this place a very high value on reading by making more reading affordable to more people. And here is where the bizarreness of my philosophy on books arises: A high value for reading means a low price for books. A high value for books means the opposite.
Here’s a Venn Diagram for avid readers and book nuts [below left]:
On the right side, you have people who decorate their house with books they’ll never read (There’s actually a company that sells books by the linear foot for decorating your home. They arrive in all kinds of foreign languages. Beautiful and unreadable). On the left side, you’ve got people who will gladly mainline books into their neck veins once Amazon perfects the technique; these are the readers who are causing ebook and audiobook sales to explode while print sales stagnate.
And in the middle, you have addicts of both. Here is where I think we’re missing some potential in the book trade.
The publishing market is bifurcating between those who are obsessed with reading and those who are obsessed with books. While there is common ground between the two sides, important differences remain. I know people who read several books a week, year after year. They can’t afford to buy full-priced books to support this habit. Libraries, used bookstores, ebooks, free books, Amazon discounts, and programs like Kindle Unlimited are what they need. If you look at this bolded list, you’ll see all the things publishers regularly complain about. And yet these are the readers publishers need the most. Again, these readers can’t afford their habits any other way.
The right side of the Venn Diagram also thinks of reading as a defining characteristic of their lives, and quite rightly. Reading a book is an enormous investment in time. These people might read a dozen books a year, or twenty books a year. Spending full price at the local bookstore, and working through a chapter a night, these readers attach a lot of significance to reading and to books. They have home libraries. They’ve even read half of what’s on their shelves. They can’t resist a bookstore and always find something new to purchase. They just wish they had more time to read. They aspire to be like the first group, but life gets in the way. Publishers absolutely adore these readers and their value systems, even as these readers constitute a dwindling percentage of publishers’ profits.
The difference between these two crowds explains some conflicting headlines. You may have seen that most people still read physical books. You may have also seen that most books sold today are ebooks. These two facts are neatly explained by the fact that ebook readers consume far more books per person. It doesn’t matter how many people prefer physical books if they’re only buying a handful of them a year. A handful of books is a slow week for the group on the left side of the diagram. And ignorance of the existence of this group explains much of the ignorance and confusion within the book biz.
But what about the group at the intersection of these two groups? That middle slice of the Book and Reading Venn Diagram? Here is where you find the people who are both obsessed with reading and obsessed with books as objects. Here is much of the YA crowd and young readers in general, where solid objects provide highly prized substance for the expression of their individual selves. Here is where people who love one book in particular seek out signed copiesold copies, and multiple copies. This is a crowd that ebooks can’t sate. For this group, current print book standards are falling short. In the pursuit of profit margins, the margins within actual books are suffering. Fonts are shrinking, whitespace disappearing, paper and bindings getting cheaper, some formats disappearing altogether. Choices in print books are diminishing.
It need not be so.
Always one to experiment, I decided to take these ruminations and questions and put them to the test. I started asking myself what I would pay for my favorite books, the ones that truly shaped me. Years ago, Barnes & Noble showed me that I would gladly pay $19.95 for a fake leather-bound copy of a book that I could otherwise legally download and read for free. That’s amazing when you think about it. It speaks to the value of the book as an object. The reading aspect costs nothing. The $19.95 is all about the packaging. How far can we take this?
There’s a Harry Potter hardback box set that comes in a special chest and sells not as a route to cheap and quick, but as a route to one-off and exquisite. A technology that publishers have avoided and frowned upon is one that they could instead use to cater to that overlap in our Venn Diagram.
for around $130. This doesn’t seem unreasonable at all to fans of the series. For some of my readers, hundreds of dollars for a first edition of WOOL seems reasonable to them, even though the ebook is free. This got me thinking about print-on-demand technology 
Print-on-Demand (POD) means unlimited or zero copies, and both ends of this spectrum are important. Unlimited means never running out as demand goes up. Zero means not wasting a penny if there is no demand at all. POD is an end to guessing what readers want and constantly getting those guesses wrong.
Check out this Print-on-Demand book:
That’s a copy of MACHINE LEARNING, a complete collection of my short stories. It will be released on October 3rd by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in hardback, paperback, and ebook. It was edited by John Joseph Adams, who also came up with the idea of publishing it. Before now, my short fiction has been scattered to the wind, published in so many places that I doubt anyone other than my mom has read them all. Some of these stories used to exist only on my old website; they became unavailable when I redesigned my homepage. Two of the included stories are brand new for this collection.
In addition to the stories, I wrote new thoughts about what each story means to me, or what I was thinking about or going through when I wrote them. These tidbits follow each story, and I think they add something to the reading experience. For those who are familiar with my work, you know how much the short fiction medium means to me. My success as a writer has mostly come through my short stories. I doubt any novel over my career will ever be as meaningful to me as this collection.
Which is why, when I needed to print out a proof copy of the manuscript to look over the final draft for changes and typos, I decided to do something a little different. Instead of going to Kinko’s and binding this as cheaply as possible (my normal practice), this time I went all-out. I tried to marry my love of the contents with an exterior to match. And here’s what I learned from this project:
I learned that I would have paid a week’s wage for a book like this, if it was the right book. As a bookseller, I used to make $10 an hour, and I worked thirty hours a week. Yeah, I was poor. But I spent what money I had on books, and I would’ve paid an entire week’s wage for a copy of ENDER’S GAME that looked like this – a one-of-a-kind hand-bound leather edition of my favorite read, signed by the author if possible. And I would’ve treasured that book for life and passed it down to a loved one. I’m one of those book freaks. I don’t think I’m alone. And I think it would cost precisely zero dollars for publishers to target this demographic using print-on-demand technology and by employing the fine folks who are keeping the art of bookbinding alive.
Here’s how I would make it work: I would convince a publisher (or a number of them) to enroll a ton of books into this program. I would especially go after the books that have sold millions of copies and have meant so much to so many readers. But really, just make every book available. It costs nothing, and millions of books are someone’s absolute favorite of all time. I bet every self-published author would add their works to the mix, and I bet Amazon would include their imprints as well.
The next thing you do is sign up a handful of book binders and crafters to meet whatever demand arises. I think you could get the cost of these books down if the people making them had steady sales. The crafter I used was Lindsey of BooksForAllTime. Lindsey is a true artist, and working with her was an absolute joy. I got to pick out the leather, the type of paper, the design on the cover, the gold leaf inlay, all of it.
So the program would work like it does with BooksForAllTime: You pick out your favorite book, customize it to your delight, and it shows up on your doorstep a month or two later. Slow. Expensive. The opposite of ebooks. But tapping into the same market of avid readers. That overlap in our diagram.
You might only own a dozen of these sorts of books in a lifetime. Or perhaps just one. Maybe you make a wishlist of your favorite books and make that list public for friends and family, so they know what to get you for Christmas or your birthday. Perhaps you have book clubs and programs that send you books on your wishlist every three months. Whatever you can afford. Maybe authors order one of each of their releases to have a library of their own books on display in their homes.
These books might cost $200 to $400 bucks apiece. Crazy? Then you aren’t part of the crowd I’m thinking of. I’m thinking of the crowd that collects these slowly, saving up, to see a row of Harry Potter books on a shelf that look like they came from Hogwarts itself. A Tolkien trilogy that even an orc could love. A Foundation Saga that could last from one foundation to another. The ultimate copy of Dune, Cosmos, or To Kill a Mockingbird. Eventually, after decades of a reading and collecting life, a small bookshelf of absolute treasures emerges. If you’re smiling at this imagery, then you are the crowd I’m thinking of.
But here’s where it gets very interesting: What if the author agrees to take a very small slice of that sale, a slice that would still be double the amount they make for a hardback (say, $3.00). And what if the publisher agrees to take the same measly cut (this would be a first). And what if the retailer did the same?
In other words: What if the book binder kept most of the profit?
Why would this make sense? Because I think there would be enough demand for these books to employ a good number of book binders like Lindsey. I think keeping the price of these books as reasonable as possible would expand the number of people who fit into the middle of the Venn Diagram. These exquisite books will expand the love of reading, the fetish for books and stories, and they’ll last for ages.
The ridiculous and ultimate fantasy is that we parlay the untapped money in the pockets of book lovers worldwide, and we move that money into the pockets of people whose jobs are being displaced or upended by changes elsewhere in the global economy. Books being bound in developing countries. Books being bound by former coal miners. Would global demand for bespoke books be enough to move a million leatherbound titles a year? If so, that’s a living wage for thousands of people. Much more if you’re talking about developing countries.
This might sound crazy, but community bookstores are made possible in part by the willingness of some readers and gift shoppers to pay extra for something they love. The reason books make such great gifts is that we feel like we’re buying something that is good for the recipient, as well as bringing them joy. Parents of book-loving kids know what this feels like: it’s like having kids who beg for their veggies.
Imagine buying a loved one a book they’ll cherish forever, and knowing that the person making the book is having their life changed as well. Imagine spreading the joy of reading and the joy of books by using a technology that removes the risk from publishing, that allows us to create something not cheap and expendable, but rather exquisite and irreplaceable.
When I’m done with this book, I’m going to do what we often do with physical I’m going to pass it on. It’ll be a gift to someone who has furthered my writing career. If you want your own copy of MACHINE LEARNING, you’ll have to settle for the regular hardback, paperback, or ebook, which you can pre-order here. Or if you’re interested in something leather-bound and special, I own the print rights to lots of my works. Maybe Lindsey could make you a special edition of MOLLY FYDE AND THE PARSONA RESCUE or HALF WAY HOME. Or perhaps other indies will open their works, and other bookbinders will get in on the fun.
This won’t be for everyone. Just the nuts in the middle.
So what would your favorite book be worth to you?
Howey has written an interesting piece here, and a lot of it I wholeheartedly agree with and find hopeful. However, I do think Howey is being a bit too idealistic when it comes to some things, particularly the cost of publishers creating POD books. The truth of the matter is, every book and every step of said book's sale, has overhead. It isn't free for publishers to do this sort of thing. So many people have the same view as Howey when it comes to things like POD and e-books because they think that once the book is written and formatted, there aren't anymore costs. Even turning an e-book into a POD requires more work and cost.

I do wish it could be as easy as he says, though, and that more people who can afford it would be willing to pay extra so that people who can't can pay less. But honestly, I don't think that's going to happen. People who can afford it may buy more expensive editions of books, but that doesn't affect people who need to buy less expensive editions. It doesn't work like a subsidy does, and publishers aren't going to have an expensive and a cheap edition for each book. And if they did, people are going to pick the cheap one, often even people who can afford the expensive one. So then we'll be right back where we are now, and publishers will continue to price books the way they need to in order to cover their overhead, advances, and make a profit. Because publishing is, after all, a business, even if it's one that has art at its core.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Does (Book) Length Really Matter?

It always surprises me when I poke around a bookstore and see super thick hardcover or even trade paperback bestsellers. I've noticed this particularly in the past year or so with books such as We are Not OurselvesThe Girl on the Train, The Forgotten Garden, and The Goldfinch. And quite frankly, it baffles me. I've read two of the aforementioned bestsellers, both of which I struggled to get through. Not because I have an issue in general with "long books," but because neither of them needed to be as long as they were.

As an editor, I am keenly aware of these things, and it makes me cringe when novels meander and go off on tangents that are entirely irrelevant to the story. In fact, when I was working at Simon and Schuster, I once was tasked with taking a 700+ page women's fiction novel from overseas and paring it down to 400 pages at the most. Crazy, right? But the craziest part is that I actually accomplished it. Not only could the language itself be tightened on a sentence level but whole paragraphs could come out because they didn't tie into anything or have any real purpose. What was really shocking, though, is that I kind of killed off a character. o_O There was entire plotline and POV that was unnecessary to the story. It didn't weave into the main plot or character arcs at all, other than that character being related to one of the other characters. While the character certainly still "existed" in the story, every section with her POV narrating lifted right out. It was interesting plotline in and of itself, don't get me wrong, but it was its own story, not the one this book was telling. That plotline alone took up about 200 pages long and it wasn't needed.

This is something I see a lot in early drafts of manuscripts and it's my job to address it, to make sure a reader is engaged from the first to the last page, that the pace is moving at a readable clip, and that the story is clear, tight, and moving along with each scene. So the fact that so many books go to publication with these sorts of issues--and do well sometimes--makes me kind of sit there and blink at the wall. My first question is always "what did the editor even do, then?" and second, "how on earth are all these readers getting through these books, especially in today's world of ADD?"

Of course, classic literature has always been on the longer side, so there's certainly a precedent of it. Just look at the unabridged versions of Les Miserables, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Don Quixote. They were all over 400,000 words. But note something I just said...these are unabridged versions. There are abridged version of all three of those classics. Meaning, if you think about it, that extra length...? Yeah, it wasn't necessary. It might have lovely language or a nice lesson or tangent behind it, but it wasn't telling the story the book was meant to tell.

Now, don't get me wrong, it is incredibly impressive when people can write such tomes and find a way to keep readers' attention. But why is this mini-trend happening right now? Is it something people really like or is it just happening because of good marketing and reviews that focus on only the strong points? Just because people buy the books doesn't mean they enjoy them. It doesn't mean they didn't skim over half the book to get to the good parts (what I did with both those novels I mentioned earlier).

A recent article by the BBC (and what do you know, like this blog post, it's a super long!) takes a look after hearing about the UK publication of  an 800+ page novel called Death and Mr. Pickwick by debut author Stephen Jarvis. (They also mention an upcoming book that is one million words long. Yes, one million words. That is not a typo.)

Debut novels don’t come more heavyweight than Stephen Jarvis’ Death and Mr Pickwick. Twelve years in the writing, it tells the story of the creation and afterlife of Charles Dickens’ own first novel, The Pickwick Papers, one of the world’s most written-about works of fiction. Pickwick was the book that made Dickens a celebrity, and it was published in monthly installments starting in March 1836, using his pen name, Boz. 
Out this month in the UK and next month in the US, Death and Mr Pickwick is a gloriously meandering tour of 19th Century London that has already been dubbed “a staggering accomplishment” by Publishers Weekly
Yet it’s heavyweight in another, more obvious sense too. Lug this book to the beach and back every day, and you’ll be getting a full-body workout. Drop it, and you risk breaking a toe. Weighing two-and-a-half pounds, it’s a whopping 802 pages long – an audacious claim on readers’ time in an age when our attention spans are supposedly being whittled away to nothing by ever-more insistent digital distractions. 
There is plenty of longer fiction, of course. Kelidar, Mahmoud Dowlatabadi’s Persian language novel following a Kurdish family in the wake of World War II, is 2,836 pages. The Son of Ponni, a historical novel written in Tamil by Kalki Krishnamurthy, and published in the 1950s, is barely any shorter at 2,400 pages. And then there’s Proust, whose In Search of Lost Time is 3,031 pages long. 
Don’t think it’s just a 20th Century phenomenon, either. Nothing compares to the 17th Century French novel Artamène. The tale of a shepherd’s son who’s really a Persian prince, its 2 million or so words (the average 280-pager contains just 80,000) fill 13,095 pages. Originally credited to Georges de Scudéry, these days it’s more commonly attributed to his sister, Madeleine. 
A bulky bedfellow 
Though it can’t quite compete in terms of pagination, Jarvis’ novel is part of a mini-trend that seems to be gathering momentum – and bulk. In the next few months alone, playwright Larry Kramer publishes the first of his two-volume fictionalised history, The American People, which comes in at 800 pages (he’s been working on it for 40 years and at one point the manuscript was 4,000 pages long), Amitav Ghosh completes his Ibis trilogy (the final installment is 624 pages), and review copies of Hannah Yanagihara's A Little Life have been sent out filled with Post-It notes attached to flag representative passages, presumably because the book’s girth is so daunting (at 736 pages, it’s really not so little at all). In July, you can expect to hear bookshelves groaning as William T Vollmann’s new novel, The Dying Grass, is published. Set in the Wild West during the 1870s, it totals 1,376 pages. And next year, British graphic novelist Alan Moore publishes his second non-graphic novel, Jerusalem, which is billed as a fantastical exploration of his hometown, Northampton. It’s said to be a million words long. 
Together, these bulky books call into doubt the received wisdom about our besieged attention spans. They might also make you wonder what editors are up to. And they question, too, the evolving role of the literary novel in the wider culture. Doesn’t there come a point at which the sheer scale of these works is so out of kilter with the reading time available to even the most dedicated bookworms, that they have to be seen as wilfully marginalising themselves? Think of this as well: every purchase of a novel over 600 long pages may well come at the expense of two or three others. 
If you wanted to pinpoint the start of all this, you could do worse that looking to 2013, when 28-year-old Eleanor Catton became not only the youngest author ever to win the Man Booker Prize, but did so with the longest book. The Luminaries is 832 pages long. Did the judges not deem its length problematic? Not according to their chair, author and academic Robert Macfarlane. 
“Length never poses a problem if it's a great novel”, he insisted. To prove his point, that same year, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch (760 pages) sold and sold. 
As a reader, you know what you’re in for when you begin a long book. It’s not that we necessarily expect more – after all, as much can be said in a poem, never mind a short story – but we do tend to indulge the author a little, allowing for the fact that in a longer work time can be taken establishing characters, and the subplots layered on with plenty of scope for resolution. It’s a different relationship. A novella may be read in a single sitting, making for a more intense reading experience. The bulky epic, meanwhile, inveigles its way into your life over a period of weeks or even months, becoming a travel buddy and bedfellow. 
Is bigger better? 
In genre fiction, big has never fallen out of fashion. Fantasy novels especially tend to run long, and plenty of airport paperbacks are so dense they look almost square. But then those tend to be vastly pacier affairs. In the US, too, there’s an expectation that a great literary work will also be physically imposing. Still, how many of even those wouldn’t be improved by a judicious nip and tuck here and there? The Goldfinch is one of my favourite novels of this century, but if I were forced to come up with a quibble, it would be that Tartt spends too long in Las Vegas in the middle section. 
“Very few really long novels earn their length. My fingers are always twitching for a blue pencil,” Ian McEwan told the BBC last year. He was speaking on publication of his own most recent novel, The Children Act, a work so slender it might almost be called a novella. The story of a high court judge who must decide whether to compel a young Jehovah’s Witness to receive a life-saving blood transfusion, it radiates brilliance, and yet weren’t there a couple of passages that felt too research-heavy? Sometimes, authors themselves simply become too big to cut. Remember how the Harry Potter books grew as JK Rowling’s fan-base exploded? 
In an age of 140-character tweets and six-second Vine videos, it’s hard not to view the abundance of fat books as a throwback trend. A tome so heavy it’s barely portable is, after all, the ultimate anti-e-book. Novelist Naomi Alderman is well placed to comment, as she also creates video games, most notably the top-selling Zombies, Run! 
“The trend towards long books is a fascinating counterpoint to the suggestion that we're all becoming iPhone-junkies, with minuscule attention spans, twitchily unable to concentrate on anything longer than a tweet,” she told BBC Culture. In fact, she suggests, technology might be making us more ready to sign over large chunks of time to a novel. As well as the oft-cited influence of TV binge-viewing, made possible by streaming, she points to the fact that AAA video games – those with the highest development and promotion budgets – frequently demand upwards of 100 hours of gameplay. 
“The death of the ‘attention span’ might have been declared prematurely,” she adds. “But at the same time, novels are competing with other entertainment forms that provide a lot of instant thrills. To start a long novel these days, I think the reader needs to feel certain that the tale will be worth the journey.” 
Of course, Stephen Jarvis, who’s 57 and lives in Maidenhead in the south of England began writing his novel in 2001, in a world before Facebook. It was influenced, he says, by reality TV’s Big Brother. ‘It strikes me that there are parallels between Big Brother and The Pickwick Papers – both of them are plotless things which just sort of ramble along. There’s an emphasis on character and you don’t really know what’s going to happen.’ 
At one point, Death and Mr Pickwick rambled to 800,000 words, but he cut it back by over half in order to have it fill 802 pages – the exact same number as Dickens’ novel.
Jarvis has no worries about readers being put off by the novel’s length, though he does admit this wife has vowed never to read it. “She has special dispensation – her excuse is she doesn’t need to read it because she’s had to live it,” he says. She supported him while he wrote, and so it seemed only fair that he let her type the letter ‘d’ of the ‘The End’ before they went off to the pub to celebrate. When finished copies arrived, however, the words had been cut. Turns out it’s not house style. 
See the original article HERE

So what do you think, dear readers? Would you pick up (and read in its entirety) an excessively long novel? If so, what would compel you to do so?

I am truly curious...