“Devotion” is at Crossroads – One Book or Two?

I was driving home last night, thinking about a scene I want to add to my second book, Devotion, when I started to wonder what my word count was. I knew it had been at about 120,000 at one point, but I thought I had added some things since then.

When I got home, I checked: 150,000+ words.

Acceptance clocks in right at 109,000. For traditional publishers, this is on the high-end of the word count limit–at least for a first book. Oddly enough, though, Smashwords reports that fantasy and science fiction sell best around 120,000 words. (Most genres sell better at slightly higher word counts than the publishing industry aims for.)

Sequels and books by established authors tend to be a bit longer than the first book, so I figured that I’d aim for 120,000 words or less for Devotion. If the draft wound up at 130,000, I still had room to do some editing and get it down to 120,000.

But 150,000 words? And I need to add more? There’s no paring that down to 120,000–not without cutting out entire chapters.

So, I’m starting to entertain the idea of breaking the book into two (making my trilogy a what… quadrology? Plain old “series”?).

Pros

  1. The book, as it stands now, divides into two pretty naturally. A very big something happens in the middle, and that can become the end of Part A. And with the scenes I want to add, I can probably make both Part A and Part B about the length of my original novel.
  2. Right now, I’m cramming an entire year of Kalyn’s life into a single book and I feel that it’s rushed. My husband specifically asked for more scenes in the second half of the book because he didn’t feel like I took enough time with it.
  3. Both of my beta readers said Kalyn and Anselm’s relationship moved too fast. While I do have an overall timeline to keep, if I had an extra book, I could put in more scenes and have more interaction between them, which would make it feel like it’s developing slower.
  4. While Acceptance was all about action and getting a sense of what the vampire’s world is like, and the final book is going to be an action-packed conclusion, the middle book(s) is/are supposed to be a bit slower–a bit of a breather–and about character and relationship development. (Think The Empire Strikes Back and Luke having to take time out to train with Yoda, and Han and Leia having to take a little time to fall in love.)

    Development of characters takes time, especially when you have as many characters as I do and most of them have very long pasts (not to mention Kalyn has a lot of emotional trauma to work through; while she holds up pretty well in the first book because she has to, I don’t want to give the impression that she has no emotional reaction to any of it). Two books let me play with everyone more and reveal more.

    And while Kalyn is the protagonist of this series (look, I’m already calling it a series), I plan on introducing prequels which revolve around some of the other characters, including Rose, Isaac, and Joshua, so it’s a good thing if I make them interesting in this series so people want to know more about them.

  5. Strictly from a marketing standpoint, the more books you have, (generally) the better. If I had four books in the series, I might be willing to offer my first book for free to get people hooked. (Something that’s commonly done in self-publishing and is really helping authors get discovered.) When I only have three books, it hurts worse to make one free.

Cons

  1. I have to come up with another book title and cover design. In fact, the split may require I rethink the title/cover I do have, meaning I might need two totally new titles/covers. (You don’t know how much I agonize over picking a picture for the front of the book that captures the mood. And coming up with a title is even worse.)
  2. It might make things too slow. God knows Eclipse (third book of the Twilight series) should have been reduced to a few chapters and tacked on to either the second book or the last. It was like a Seinfeld episode–a whole lot of talking about nothing.
  3. I don’t want it to feel like I broke one solid book into two just to make more money (although if I make the first book free, I’d still only get paid for three).
  4. “Trilogy” is just such a nice, neat term. Three is such a nice number. Something just feels off about four. Not to mention I do not want people drawing comparisons between my series and Twilight just because there are four books in each.

I think I am going to try breaking Devotion up and give it to my beta readers to see if they like it better that way or not. If they think it’s too slow that way, maybe they can suggest what parts make it too slow, I can edit them out, and end up with a single (albeit still fairly hefty) sequel.

One comment on ““Devotion” is at Crossroads – One Book or Two?

  1. Wallace says:

    The traditional trilogy is based around three things: the setup, the development, and the resolution. Of course, nothing says a series has to have just three books to tell a story. Quite often series’ are written with a setup, a whole series of development books, and a resolution to end the series. The only problem is the necessity to keep the development going and the reader interested for four or five or more books before getting to the resolution. And sometimes there is no resolution, each book just finishes its small story arc that adds to the overall arc of the entire series.

    Most successful TV series are written that way. Each year of the series has a story arc that begins and ends during that year, but the characters are still moved along and developed during that year, keeping the viewers watching for the year to see how that particular villain or disaster is handled, but also coming back year after year to see the growth and development of the characters themselves. For most TV series, the big resolution is will or won’t the hero and heroine get together and have sex or get married or whatever. Once they do, tho, the series has lost its main tension element and usually ends soon afterward.

    With a series of novels the writer has to supply a complete story arc in one book, while moving the characters’ development onward during each book. All you need to do is figure where the characters are ultimately going and then fill in the middle with enough small novel sized story arcs to keep the reader coming back for more small novel sized story arcs as well as overall character progress toward the final resolution of the characters.

    It sounds like you have enough ideas right now for two development novels between the setup and the resolution. And that’s right now when you haven’t even really finished the second novel, let alone the resolution novel. I’d go with two novels in the middle for right now. When you do finish the second and third novel, you’ll probably find yourself with enough new material that you’ll need to split the resolution novel in two as well. That’ll give you a setup novel, three development novels, and a resolution novel. And with five novels, you can afford to sale price or even give away the setup novel just to get people to buy the last four in the series. But I wouldn’t give away the first novel till you’ve published at least the third novel, or you won’t have much cash flow at all.

    And as to Twilight comparisons, the work should speak for itself, but you’ll have five novels in the series too, so that should avoid any straight book by book comparison. And Twilight seems to have ended, so until Meyers needs more money and decides to write a fifth book in the series, either a sequel or a prequel, then how ever many books you write should have no bearing on the number of Twilight books already written, especially since the number can easily change.

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