Saturday, March 3, 2012

So here's a crazy idea...

I've been working on a lot of edits to To Kill the Goddess lately and I'm at this phase where I'm doing a lot of really down and dirty editing. In the process, I find myself thinking about the structure of my book in ways I haven't previously focused on. One result of new focus is some rather serious changes to the arc of one of my characters, which I've talked about here. Another result is this bizarre idea:

What if I were to split my book up into three separate books?

Let me back up a for a moment. At this point I'm 99% certain that I will self publish To Kill the Goddess. This means, at least at the outset, that I'll be going entirely digital. Furthermore, my last version of To Kill the Goddess clocked in at roughly 130,000 words. That's one porker of a book. It's not long because it's bloated and full of unnecessary fluff, I just need that much space to give each of my five separate point of view characters the the fair shake that they deserve.

Now back to my crazy idea. Most books these days are around 70,000 to 80,000 words. That means To Kill the Goddess is nearly the size of two books all by itself. In addition, my outline has, for a long time now, split To Kill the Goddess into three separate parts, each about 45,000 words. In some ways, these parts almost work like acts of a play. Part one introduces most of the characters and defines what at stake. In part two, plot lines begin to intersect and the story evolves. And in part three, as I like to say, the shit hits the fan.

Individually, those three parts would each be a little on the short side for a full novel, and no, the first two wouldn't be self-contained, nor would they achieve much resolution, and yet… why not split them up? Where does it say you have to tell a story all in one chunk? Comics don't do it. Neither do series. Did the Wheel of Time ever actually end?

Remember, were talking digital here. I don't have to worry about printing, or contracts, or any of the other issues if traditional publisher would have to deal with. All I have to do is format three different files and send them in.

The biggest question I have is how the mass public react to an idea like this because, as far as I know, it hasn't been done. Although it seems like it could have appeal. For example, someone could try out part one for $1.99 and if they didn't like it then they wouldn't have to buy any more. Or, I could give away part one on a promotional basis and then charge $1.99 for each of the other two parts. I'm sure someone will complain and say I'm just trying to make an extra buck, but there are a lot of e-books out there selling for a completely asinine amount of money and I guess if somebody wants to complain about paying $5.97 for all three parts of my book then there's really nothing I can do about that.

Anyway, it's all just an idea at this point. Just one of the many rolling around in my head as I look into the Wild West of self-publishing and wonder what the hell I'm getting myself into!


Jon said...

Hmmm... it has been done before, besides your own examples, Stephen King did it with Green Mile and of course Dickens was all serial novels, so I don't think you need to worry about the whether or not the idea is too crazy or if people won't understand or whatever, especially with modern day digital files.

The thing I think you should worry about, the thing that could make or break the series' future sales (especially for a debut unknown author such as yourself) is that if there is no resolution, even a little mini one, the audience will turn on you. No matter how much or how clearly you explain what you're doing, people will still shit on it because "it just ends!" And those are the types that leave on-line reviews.

There's no rule that says you have to do this, of course, but take a look at any movie that doesn't wrap itself up with a neat little bow at the end, and then take a look at the mainstream reactions. The Sopranos, for instance? Your own example of Wheel of Time? The later novels get lambasted for this all the time (deservedly so...)

All I'm saying is: Don't over-estimate the patience or forgiveness of the masses. A mini-resolution of some kind simply must happen in each book.

I do think it's a pretty do-able idea, (even a pretty good one, especially considering long term money) but I also think that you'd have to do some major re-structuring with the book as it is right now, in order for that plan to really work for your story.

Shawn Enderlin said...

I hear what you are saying.

I think that as digital continues to gain market share we'll see our traditional view of what's normal for a book change. Whether this particular idea is one of those changes remains to be seen.

And don't worry, I'm not doing anything yet. I still have to finish, and get it edited, and get a cover made, and learn how to format the thing, and... I'm exhausted already!

Mark Teats said...

I think your idea to split your book into parts (and perhaps end up with 3 books) is not such a crazy idea, but having read your book (singular) I think it works pretty good as is if you decide not to do that. Also, I would agree with Jon that each segment would have to come to some resolution and/or end on a great cliff hanger that invites the reader back for more.

My favorite example of audience disappointment is this: The first time I saw Peter Jackson's "Fellowship of the Ring" in the theatre, it was amusing (and surprising) to hear about half the audience gasp and moan when the movie just ended with the fellowship just hanging around, journey to be continued in PART II. Clearly many of them had never read the original Tolkien books or been told in advance, "oh, there will be two other lengthy movies to complete this story." Not sure what I would have recommended to Mr. Jackson to resolve this part of the movie more clearly, but much of the audience seemed put out by the abrupt, non-wrapped-up ending.

Shawn Enderlin said...

What I find fascinating about this discussion is that while we all agree people were pissed by the abrupt ending/lack of resolution the vast majority of those people also came back for more.

So did that actually hurt sales or did all the complaining just generate more interest - both for the viewer/reader and those they complained to?

Jon said...

Different situations.

You can't discount the marketing machine that came with those movies or the massive amount of people/media (like us) who laughed at all the people who were confused by the lack of obvious resolution (although the splitting of the Fellowship and their deciding on their paths could be said to be a big moment). The confused folks were told in big ways from lots of outlets that there was more and that it was a trilogy. There was a big machine working for the movies.

You're a first time author and unknown, you don't have the media saturation, the gravitas or the "EVENT" feel of LotR, which is what pulled the people unfamiliar with the story over that hump of disappointment.

Shawn Enderlin said...

Well, yah, you can't use LOTR for comparison. Movie <> book.

I'm not a dork :-P

Jon said...


Let's not get crazy here.

Shawn Enderlin said...

I'm gonna crazy all over your lily white [REDACTED]!