As an author and book lover I am always intrigued to learn about people’s reading habits. Hoping to find out more, I turned to the internet to look more closely at what is influencing the way we read and what that is doing to the market for fiction.
Well the good news is that people still love reading: book sales for fiction appear to be holding, and in some genres actually increasing.
But interestingly, there is a move towards shorter lengths for novels, and that appears to be in pretty much every genre.
And it’s not only the word count that is changing. The trend is towards a more unfussy writing style that propels the plot along, rather than literary works where the beauty and structure of individual passages can be as important as the story itself.
Some attribute these changes to a diminishing attention span—blaming the advent of games and ‘fluff’ apps on handhelds and phones. Others say readers don’t want to “invest” in a novel of any substantial length (over 100,000 words). Given many novels are competitively priced, my own ‘A Confusion of Crows’ being published at only 99p, I wondered what sort of investment we’re talking about. How many times have you heard the argument: how come someone will pay £5 for a frothy coffee, which might keep them amused for half an hour, yet begrudge paying £1.99 for a book (or video, or album) that will entertain for days, if not weeks?
Which is when I realised the contract between an author and a reader isn’t just one of money. For many people time is just as valuable commodity as money.
If I go for a coffee (which admittedly isn’t that often) it’ll usually be with a friend or family member, and the experience is about the relaxing environment or a lively, buzzing vibe that feels good to be a part of. If I just wanted a drink of coffee I’d stay home and have one at a fraction of the price.
It’s my view that the drive towards shorter, more straightforward-written stories comes down to the fact that people simply don’t have as much free time to spare as they used to. Not only that but we have so much choice these days of how to fill our time (just how many apps have you got on your phone or tablet?). The good news for fiction writers is, when people do have time, like during that long commute; on holiday, lying by the beach; or sitting in the garden on a summer’s afternoon, they still want to be able to immerse themselves in another world, hidden behind the pages of the latest bestseller.
This tells me is that today’s reader needs both short and long fiction that fits with their modern, varied lifestyle. Which is why with my first two publications I have endeavoured to satisfy both.
My debut novel, A Confusion of Crows, is a full-length title, which at 90,000 words is not too long and not too short. Goldilocks would have loved it! It follows the progress of rookie detective, DC Cat McKenzie – a savvy independent thinker who’s not beyond bending the rules – as she tries to unravel the confusion that follows the discovery of the body of a teenage girl in her first ever murder case. An exciting page turner, it makes perfect holiday reading, and at only 99p it costs less than a cup of coffee, so why not give it a try?
But if you’re looking for something for those occasions when you’ve got time to kill 😉 then my next offering should fit the bill perfectly.
Coming soon, Crime Bites is a collection of short stories with crime at its heart. Ranging from 1,000 to 12,000 words, some are light-hearted tales, others deliciously dark—there’s something for everyone.
Crime Bites will be available on Amazon later this month at the great price of only 99p.
Or sign up for my newsletter and be the first to get news of its release and bag yourself a free copy.
Headline photo courtesy of Colin Dunn: www.colindunn.com https://www.flickr.com/photos/colindunn/4229965852