Why are we scared of long books?

Yesterday I spent the day researching literary journals for short stories.  I am finishing my first few and want to send them out by Christmas.  One of the journals I am considering asks that all submissions come with a receipt for a book.  The point is to encourage writers to buy books – as in, the physical object, rather than a digital version.  I have my opinions regarding this policy, but I’ll save it for another post.

I had a gift card to Barnes and Noble in my wallet that I received for renewing my newspaper subscription (or cable bill, or something that I would have done anyway).  So I trucked on over to my local chain box bookstore and went a-browsing. 

Why are books so short now-a-days?

Every book that I picked up clocked in at 250 pages or less and all had huge font.  When did we start marketing novellas as novels?  Now, in full disclosure, I have been reading too many eighteenth century novels for my own good.  Tristram Shandy? Check.  Tom Jones? Check.  Clarissa?  Check check check.  I also understand that many genres have their own book length averages.  Cozies are going to be on the short side while scifi tomes are going to need a forklift.

But why are the average, run of the mill literary fiction novels so short?  I don’t want to buy a book I’ll finish in three hours even if the cover is so beautiful I want to frame it.

Another pet peeve?  Repackaging 10 year old books and putting them on the “New Release” table.  Yeah, I’m on to your game, Penguin.

What book did I end up with? Skippy Dies by Paul Murray.  661 pages.  It’ll be a while before it appears on Book Review Friday.

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