Let me say right away that I have no problem with big books, long books, ambitious books, sprawling books, etc., per se. I love that conventional wisdom about kids not reading looks positively silly when confronted by the sales of, say, The Sweet Far Thing or Octavian Nothing. I am thrilled when an author bites off an outrageously ambitious theme.
But I get the sense from talking to some of my peers in the industry that the enthusiasm for “big books” is perhaps a little overboard. I heard “only interested in big books” one too many times this spring, so I’d like to formally put out a call for small, short, lean, powerful books. Send books that pack maximum character in minimum space. Send books filled with such raw emotion that going beyond 35,000 words would be considered hazardous to the reader’s health.
I look back at the books I’ve read in the last few years that still haunt me and there are quite a few short books. Chris Lynch’s Inexcusable is 176 pages. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You is 240. Both of Sarah Zarr’s novels are 224 pages. My favorite teen novel from when I was actually young, I Am the Cheese, is under 250 pages. The craftsmanship evident in all of these books is incredibly striking. Writing a short book is no mean feat.
So, I say again, send me the small books. Middle grade or YA. Go here to see how I like to receive submissions.
[What’s with the watch? Well, I happen to like watches, mechanical watches—no batteries, please. And while I don’t have a problem with the current popularity of big watches, I am always most drawn to watches whose subtle and compact exteriors, belay the enormous complication of their moving parts—which are the watchmakers’ real art. Books are a lot like watches.]