One Book or Two—That Is the Question

picture by geralt, via pixabay
Now that I have The Reefs of Time revised to the point that I can send it to my publisher, the time has come to face the question of whether I have written one book or two. At 268,000 words, it is the length of two substantial novels. Before I get into the marketing and art questions, I’d like to ask you readers: Which would you rather see? One big, honking book at a higher price (and probably with small print in the paper version), or two reasonably priced and sized volumes with a cliffhanger and probably a year’s wait between the two?

Do you have a preference? Sound off in comments. The question is open to the floor!

For comparison, the standard length of an SF novel used to be, oh, 60-90,000 words. But it’s grown over the years. Here are rough word counts of some of my other novels:

Neptune Crossing – 104,000
Sunborn – 144,000
Eternity’s End – 214,000

On the other hand, GRRM’s A Game of Thrones is 284-298,000 words, depending on whom you quote.

The Chaos Chronicles was originally supposed to be a long story arc told over a series of short-to-medium novels, each of them pretty self-contained and written quickly (hrrm). By the time I wrote Sunborn, that plan was reeling toward the open window. With Reefs, well…

From a publishing perspective, there are many good reasons to split the book, and, hell, maybe earn some money on the project. From a storytelling perspective, it would be a sea change for the series—a single story, broken in two. Not unlike many TV programs nowadays. Or, um, the Avengers movies. In books, think Connie Willis’s Blackout and All Clear.

As readers, what do you think?

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36 Responses

  1. Randy
    | Reply

    Two books is better, as long as it’s two books. Each needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. If book 1 has a beginning & a middle and then runs out of words, like a TV season cliffhanger, it might make you more money, but it’s evil. Please don’t be evil. You seem like such a nice guy to your dog, please be nice-ish to your readers. (I would never expect dog’s life status.)

    • jeffreyacarver
      | Reply

      Well, that’s exactly what I was talking about. This would definitely be Parts 1 and 2 of a 2-parter. In the case I cited of Connie Willis’s book, the publisher (I believe) dictated that it be split, and it was exactly like a TV cliffhanger. It really annoyed my daughter, who was first in the family to read it. But I think it worked out okay in the long run between Connie and her readers.

      The thing is, it’s not a question of being evil or not; it’s trying to find the best way to publish a book successfully. Making “more money” in many cases actually means “making some money,” rather than taking a loss. Plenty of books do lose money, you know.

      (I’m just arguing one side of the question here; in truth, I’m of two minds about it.)

  2. Karen
    | Reply

    One book, please! I love long books, and I hate waiting for the rest of the story.

  3. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    Thanks for the comments, both of you! (More to come, I hope.)

  4. paulnhunter1961
    | Reply

    I vote for two books as I don’t like long novels, but I wouldn’t want to wait a whole year for the 2nd part – I think 6 months would be a long enough wait.

  5. Piran
    | Reply

    I would certainly prefer one book, for the same reasons as Karen – I love long novels, and really dislike waiting years for the continuation/conclusion of the story.
    Whatever you decide, I’m just really pleased that we’ll be getting a new Chaos Chronicles novel soon!

  6. Martin Girouard
    | Reply

    Good morning Jeffrey, I’m torn between the 2 options as well… I’m so eager to read the whole thing then again… I could read it in two parts as well, I love the anticipation. Unless… you have another book coming out this year ;-). I love your work.

    Have a wonderful day !
    Martin

  7. Ed Decker
    | Reply

    Being only slightly older than you, and only semi-retired, it tends to take awhile to read a novel unless I’m on vacation or otherwise experiencing unplanned free time. And I also can relate to the need for continued income. So I think I’d rather keep you in business and producing interesting and thoughtful SF.
    [Ed D., a loyal reader]

  8. Andrew Timson
    | Reply

    As an ebook reader, the size of the book doesn’t bother me. I’d prefer one volume, but I understand if the realities of publishing mean it has to be broken into two. Wouldn’t be the first time, as you mentioned (and I can think of at least one other example too).

    If it is split, would it be possible for a shorter break between the two? Six months instead of a year?

    • Jeffrey A. Carver
      | Reply

      I agree that six months would be better. But I probably won’t have any control over the scheduling.

  9. David Bosboom
    | Reply

    No, no, no. One book, PLEASE! 😉

  10. jeffreyacarver
    | Reply

    Why am I not surprised that I’m getting mixed responses? 🙂

  11. Angela
    | Reply

    2 books released at the same time please. I love you!

    • Duncan McGregor
      | Reply

      Much Agreed. Would rather that both books be Published At Same Time … though I’m Aware that the Publishers would balk at the idea. [Sigh]

  12. Ike
    | Reply

    Two books for the sake of his business. Just as long as keeps Jeff writing beautiful science fiction!!

  13. Nick Pert
    | Reply

    One book please. Feels like I’ve been waiting years for Reefs and to think I’d have to wait another year after you publish part 1 to be able to get the second part and finish it will have me tearing my hair out.

  14. Duncan McGregor
    | Reply

    I would probably prefer two books, not one. Doorstop-sized books are “off-putting”.

    However, I ^really^ wish you would make the books *independent* of each other. That will require some material to be duplicated … and will almost certainly make the combo thicker. But I really detested Roger Zelazny’s _Amber_ series for exactly that reason: it was impossible to read Book N without having read Books 1 .. N-1. ^Please^ don’t do what Mr Zelazny did.

    • jeffreyacarver
      | Reply

      Thanks for your comments! But making the two books independent of each other would be virtually impossible, without scrapping the whole project and starting over. No one wants that! To date, the books in this series have all been complete stories, but they are definitely part of a larger story, and most readers would enjoy them more reading from the beginning.

      As I’ve thought about this, I’ve reflected on my own favorite book, The Lord of the Rings. It is one story, published in three volumes. (Though at the time, not part of a larger series.) I don’t know how much time elapsed between volumes when that first appeared. Maybe someone can tell me.

  15. James Cox
    | Reply

    I’ve been a sci-fi fan for over 50+ years. When I came across “Neptunes Crossing”, I had had my 1st true taste of hard science fiction!!!! I couldn’t put it down, as well as the rest of the Chaos Chronicles! Then to the Starrigger series, and more! I have been waiting fervently for the Reefs of Time, and I feel it should be 1 book, No matter the cost! I thoroughly enjoy your work! keep it up, Please! Thank you.

  16. Tim Gilmour
    | Reply

    Waited long enough LOL, 1 big book please 🙂

  17. Glenn Garside
    | Reply

    We’ve waited soooo long for this chapter in the story (no criticism intended… I can understand why), the thought of another 6-12 months to complete this instalment it is horrible. One long book please.

  18. KatrinaK
    | Reply

    I really don’t like cliffhangers with a year’s wait to find out what happens, so I vote against that option. I’d prefer two volumes published together over a big book with small print, but since that’s not one of the options given, I have to go with one book as my preference.

  19. Alan Fingerhut
    | Reply

    One book please as I am not getting any younger.

  20. Sandy Davidson
    | Reply

    I would like to see the story published in two books. I think I’ve read the Chaos series 5 or six times now and need to move along and I suspect that many other followers of the series may feel the same way. One book at a time also gives the readers something to look forward to. Thanks for your hard work on this series, I’ve truly enjoyed it.

  21. jeffreyacarver
    | Reply

    I appreciate all the continued responses! Lots of sentiment on both sides of the question. (No decision yet. At this point, I’m going through the early part of the ms., doing some line editing, while waiting for my editor to finish reading it.)

  22. Keith Power
    | Reply

    I know I am a bit late to the party, but thought I would give my opinion.
    I personally would prefer one big book. I am not a big fan of cliff hanger endings. Then again, I guess I don’t like endings in general. I want to know what happens to the (remaining) characters after the quest is over. I saw in the comments where you mention The Lord of the Rings. One of my favorites as well, especially the end as it goes on a bit to tell us what happened to everyone after everything was done. Incidentally, my copy of The Lord of the Rings “trilogy” is a single volume edition. I am also the type of reader who will reread the entire series prior to the next one coming out.
    That being said, this has been my favorite science fiction series for over 20 years. Whats one more year? I am going to buy it and read it whether its one book or five. If you can make more by splitting it, I would suggest you do. As long as you keep writing!

  23. jEFF
    | Reply

    ONE BOOK PLEASE. I WOULD HATE THE WAIT KNOWING THAT IT IS ALREADY WRITTEN. AND I DO NOT LIKE CLIFF HANGER ENDINGS.

  24. Tina
    | Reply

    P!ease..1 book. I love long novels and it seems we have been forever waiting to see where you are taking us next.

  25. Max
    | Reply

    Hi, one book seems to fit the writing process/goal that you wrote about over time on your website. One book also takes one completely into the ‘out of this world’ story that you have invented. IMHO your effort
    deserves one long story. I hope commerce does not need to lead the decision and the nature of your story will. Yet I, and I assume many others, will not blame a commercially driven decision leading to two books. I wish you all the best in making the decision.

  26. Old Bald Guy
    | Reply

    I inherited the first four books of Jean Auel’s “Earth Children” series (you know, Clan of the Cave Bear stuff). I got through those books in a hurry. The second and third and fourth time each went slower as I picked up details. Then I waited for years for book five. Then I waited even more years for book six. By the time she got to book six, she forgot her own story line and book six was a joke.

    You say you have book five ready to go. That means that if you split it in two, and do the proper work at the split, book five could be ready pretty soon and book six should NOT take a dozen more years. That being said, I would gladly take two books if they were only a year apart. However, we (your readers) would like it if book SEVEN did NOT take another ten years (the Jean Auel problem).

    I am sixty–nine and have learned patience. I can wait a year for the split. I can wait awhile for book SEVEN. If I have to pay ten or twenty bucks for each, it doesn’t matter – as long as I get them. Good writing like yours takes time. I am a writer myself and fully understand that. Perhaps your publisher will let you work on this set and not pull you away.

    Good luck with your dilemma.

  27. J-C B.
    | Reply

    At this point it seems like I’ve been waiting so long to finish (or continue) this story, that I would prefer one, long book. As some others have commented, I want to know the rest of the story & don’t really want to wait six months or one year for Part Deux. So, chop, chop 🙂

  28. Peter
    | Reply

    I am not sure wether a descision was already made so i still comment.

    Honestly , i think you would loose me as a reader if it would be published in two books instead of one. The idea that an already finished book artificially is split in two with a cliff hanger and with the perspective of waiting at least a year is bothering me.

    Yes it is an interesting story and well written, but thinking that the story arc within a book is interrupted would make me refrain from the book at all. Maybe i would buy it second hand years later if i accidentially came across.

    Sorry for being so blunt.

    All the best for you and your family.
    Greetings from Germany

    • Jeffrey A. Carver
      | Reply

      Thanks for your candid answer, Peter. I appreciate your position. I would hate to lose you as a reader over this. I can say that the decision will be based on publishing realities, and what makes economic sense in a difficult publishing market, as well as what would be most appealing to readers. It’s not an easy choice.

  29. Alan Fingerhut
    | Reply

    Dear Weaver of Dreams,
    I sit here, Kindle Paper White clutched in my hot sweaty paws salivating like a dog eyeing a bone, tongue akimbo and quivering in anticipation.
    A whole bone please, not one missing the marrow, thereby lacking in flavour.
    I know that you have to consider the commercial aspect of you craft, but surely this book could be published at a price that would satisfy both your readers and your bank manager.
    I look forward to your response.
    Alan Fingerhut

  30. Alan Fingerhut
    | Reply

    Sorry for the typo (you/your), I just sacked my proof reader. Ha ha!

  31. Stefan
    | Reply

    I’m not sure if you already made your choice but here’s my two cents.

    I came across your books around the turn of the millennium and really enjoyed the story and the characters. I enjoy your books because the stories are complete but there is an overall storyline and parts of that storyline and background are explained as part of the story.

    What would be the timetable for two books?

    I can only imagine that for one book it would be something like a year with editing, artwork, printing…

    My very selfish choice is one book with a single story.

    I’m looking forward to reading the next story regardless of the decision you make.

    Stefan

    Thank you for asking for our opinion.

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