Do You Want to Write a “Big Book”?



by Lev Raphael

Lots of writers dream of writing a “big book.” It’s a book that gets advertised and reviewed everywhere. A book that people are reading on trains, planes, subways, and listening to in their cars on cross country trips or morning commutes.

A book that everyone sees at airport book racks. A book that makes all the best seller lists and prompts speculation about who’s going to star in the movie. A book that becomes part of the cultural conversation, even briefly. A book that gets the author onto countess chat and interview shows across the country.

A book that seems to be everywhere you look and that all your friends are talking about.  A book that book groups can’t wait to dive into.

What special talent does it take? What magic do you need? Well, it’s crucial that the book is physically big.

500-600 pages is big book big. It tells readers that they’re buying something the publisher has invested lots of time and money in. Think The Historian, Mystic River, The Secret History, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

I know of a writer who was doing well with a series and was told very frankly by an editor that to break out, to have a big book, that writer had to write books that were much longer. This is a true story. And kind of sad, because I thought that writer’s series was terrific.

Then I read the author’s breakout book which, you guessed it, became a big book with a star-studded movie and all the trimmings. It felt overwritten and padded, easily 100 pages too long, if not more.

But the strategy worked. This author is now wealthy and famous, though not a better writer.  Just a bigger one. Does size matter? Yes, if you want to make it big in traditional publishing.



Guest post contributed by Lev Raphael. Lev is the author of Writer’s Block is Bunk and 24 other books in genres from memoir to mystery which you can find at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Check out more of Lev’s work on his blog, Writing Across Genres.


13 thoughts on “Do You Want to Write a “Big Book”?

  1. Huh. This is the one area I struggle in. So far my manuscripts keep rolling in at the 200-300 page mark. They usually get fleshed out through editing, but never by enough to make them 500-600 pages.

    But I’ll not put the cart before the horse. Keep editing and writing, then worry about the world of publishing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I keep hearing that publishers don’t want big books, especially from new authors. 400 pages seems to be the limit. One of mine clocked in at 434 pages. I trimmed it down a bit, but it’s still over 400 pages. Since I am planning to indie pub it, maybe I should go bigger?


  3. My biggest selling trad published book was also physically one of the biggest – large format case bound on first release in 2004. The reissue in 2012 was soft cover but on heavier paper and weighed in at around 1kg.


  4. Mostly I just want to say THANK YOU for liking one of my blogs. It brought me here to yours, and I’m hooked and following. Thank you!


  5. I’d like to write a book that everyone’s talking about or several that are made into movies, but I don’t want to write a big book. There are some who love a huge book and I’ve read my fair share, but I think more people like an enjoyable story that they can read rather quickly.


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