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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21 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 !

  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.

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