Discussion: How long is too long?

I think most people tend to have limits with how long a book or series they are willing to read. I tend to crap out on a book after about 1200 pages, and even that is seriously pushing my limit. On a series, if it’s longer than 10 books I have a hard time justifying starting it unless it’s absolutely amazing. I tend to think that if the story isn’t finished in 10 books, it’s going on waaaay too long. Another quibble I have with series is if they are unfinished. I try very hard not to start an unfinished series, but I routinely fail at that. 
So, how long is too long for a book and a series? Or are you one of those readers where length doesn’t matter as long as the story is compelling? 

14 Responses

  • rowena-cory-daniells.com

    1200 pages makes it hard to hold the book up in bed.

  • James

    The further past four hundred pages a book gets, the less likely I am to read it. If a book falls between four hundred and six hundred pages, I may still read it, but only if I have enjoyed the author's previous work or the book comes highly recommended by trusted friends and reviewers. Anything more than that… well, it is highly unlikely I will be touching those books.

    Steven Erikson is an exception to that, but I still have to break his books into two sections and read them several months apart just to cut the tedium.

    I don't mind series, but because I rarely read books by the same author back to back, it takes me a long time to work my way through them.

  • Weirdmage

    I like long series of books, but I prefer if the series comes in trilogy installments like Robin Hobb's. With Hobb I'm looking forward to reading the third book in the Rain Wilds Chronicles, and that is actually the twelfth book in a series that started with the Farseer trilogy.

    I also like long books, I actually prefer it. I'm skeptical of books that are under 400 pages, I often find that they don't have time to both get to know the characters and tell a good story, and if it's SFF there has to be some pages of worldbuilding too.

    One thing I'm really skeptical of however is series that start out as trilogies and just never ends. Like Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. I have read all of that, and there is a good 3-5 books there. But since it is actually eleven books, there is 6-8 books of crap to wade through to get to the end, and it just gets worse and worse.

    I rarely start an unfinished series, with the exception of those that are completely new. I will however read book one in a series to see if it is actually worth it (, this goes for finished series too).
    I did read book one of ASoIaF, and really liked it, but I won't be continuing with it before it's finished. Something that seems less and less likely to ever happen.

  • Bastard

    I think it's different between Urban Fantasy and other sorts of fantasies, since UF is typically shorter books, less demanding books, and you can catch up to a 10 book series quite easily.

    I don't know about the 400 pages rule, I think it depends on the type of story. If it's character driven, 400 is more than enough, even a 300-350 pager is enough.

    I'm draw the line at the 20+ series like Discworld.

    At the moment I'm really not feeling the longer type of books of more than 600 pages. Descriptions are not my thing, and travelogues are not my thing. It seems like the big books are bloated with those sorts of passages.

  • Weirdmage

    Discworld is a series within a series of free-standing books (, with a couple of exceptions), so although it's over 40 books I wouldn't really call that a series as such. The longest Discworld series at the moment stands at eight books (,the Guards series). There's some standalone Discworld books that you can read totally independent of the rest of them.

    And no, I don't have a 400 page rule. But as I said, I am skeptical of books shorter than that. (This goes especially for SFF.) The great ones usually leave you wishing there was more to it.

  • chronicledefforts

    I usually take a while to get around to reading a thick book. But if I find the story interesting I find it difficult to pull away, regardless of the number of pages.

  • Bastard

    I think another considerations is publishing frequency.

    As for Discworld, I'm just a completist by heart. If I start on it, I'd have to read everything. So regardless of the format the series takes, it's all the same to me personally.

  • Niall Alexander

    I'll be honest: as a rule, particularly given that I tend to finish every blasted thing I start, for good or for ill, if a book's more than 500 pages long, it's going to have it's work cut out convincing me that I wouldn't be better off reading two shorter novels.

    Then again I have broken that rule twice this month alone, with 11.22.63 and most of Reamde… so I can be convinced. But the amount of time I can afford to invest in any one thing is at a premium these days, more now than ever, so the sad fact of the matter is the longer the book, the less likely I am to take a chance on it.

  • Raymond M. Rose

    Length doesn't matter (blushes).

    Honestly, the bigger the better. Anything that Diana Gabaldon or George R. R. Martin or Neal Stephenson throws my way are always huge! And that's fine. I want a book I can dive into and swim for a long, long time!

  • Ros

    Personally I'm more likely to start shorter books, because they fit in my handbag. Also, with a shorter work it's less likely to suffer from under-editing and generally slow pacing. Having said that, some of my favourites have been longer epic fantasies, like Robin Hobb's and Trudi Canavan's books, so it's more a matter of overcoming that initial obstacle of wanting to pick up a thick book in the first place and make that time commitment.

  • Biblibio

    I don't mind reading novellas and I don't mind reading epics. My only quip comes into play with series – I like for it to be whole. I don't mean finished necessarily, but rather completely realized. I like for an author to know where the story is going to feel confident that the series isn't just going to fade away into a bizarre, lame oblivion (like Battlestar Galactica…). This is why I like to know the scale of the series (how many books it'll have, if the author knows exactly where they're going) and why I nonetheless prefer standalones to neverending series.

  • ediFanoB

    Now I know why nobody is reading the bible ….
    (New American Standard Bible = around 1900 pages)

    I prefer long books and series (three and more books). I like to stay longer with convincing characters and fascinating worlds. But in the end it always depends on the content. Last week I read a short story (10 pages) and I still enjoy A Dance with Dragons.

  • Mike

    I think books that average around 500-600 pages are ideal for myself. Obviously, they are a few exceptions, eg George R R Martin. I love Erickson, but, even his books I look at at and just groan at the size of them. I have yet to read Bonehunters as I keep thinking the amount of time I need to invest in that book.

    As to series length, I think 4-5 is a good size for epic series. Trilogies are nice. It would be nice to see the genre (Scifi and fantasy) have more single novels. I don't always like investing my time into giant series all the time. It's nice to read a nice thick novel which is a self contained story.

  • Robin Sullivan

    I'm really interested in this discussion because my husband's Riyria Revelations books were on the "short side" (each one around 300 pages except for the last which was 450). But in the re-release Orbit decided to change a six-book series into a trilogy so now there are 3 books that each come out to 800 – 1200 pages. They believe fantasy readers like "thick books" and in the long run it is better for the readers as they can get the series for half the price – but I'm a bit afraid that when they see those "great big books" some people will shy away.

    Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

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