pet peeve

I'm going to sound like Andy Rooney from 60 Minutes here but I hate it when I get short changed when I buy a book.

The book in question is Janet Evanovich's recently released Twelve Sharp, the newest novel in the Stephanie Plum series. It was published in June and retails at $26.95 though most of the chains routinely discount it 30-40%. I bought it at Amazon sight-unseen. If I'd actually looked at it before buying, I'd not have bought it.

The content of the novel is good if you like the Plum series. It's familiar territory and Evanovich doesn't do anything startling here but if you've liked the other books in the series you'll like this one as well. It's a light frothy read with the sex tease aspects as usual, this time going as far as several purchases in a "marital aids" type store for some humor. Of course the Morelli/Ranger triangle is going as strong as ever but in this book Stephanie must be a little frustrated. I think she only gets laid once. Pity because she spends much of the book sleeping with someone but not getting any action. LOL

My objection to the book isn't the plot, which while a little threadbare is servicable. I object to it being marketed as a novel. It's just not long enough. The page count is 310 but that's such bullshit it pisses me off. It's the most padded book I've seen in 2 years.

For example, all chapters begin with a odd page (1, 23, et cetera) so if the preceding chapter also ended with an odd-numbered page then there's a blank page in-between. That happens 8 times. There's also the huge amount of blank space for other reasons at the end of chapters (10 page equivalent) and then each chapter begins half way down the page (there's 24 chapters so that's 12 blank pages) for a total of 30 blank pages. Out of 310! That's 10% of the book that's missing.

I know, I know. Books are often marketed like that just for the purposes of appearance and I can accept that if it's really for that purpose. In the case of Twelve Sharp though I suspect it's because Evanovich handed in a manuscript that was woefully short on word count and now she's got the pull so she can do what she wants and ignore her editor. I guess authors on the Bestsellers List can do this if they choose to.

My evidence for this? Just look at any page in the book. The lines aren't single spaced-- it's more like a space-and-a-half, the font is larger than usual to the point that they might not have to have a special version for people with impaired vision, and the margins on the page are much wider than usual so the area for text is significantly smaller.

Let's compare Twelve Sharp to another book I have, Executive Orders by Tom Clancy. Now it's true that I'm picking this book because it is quite long but that just gives a nice contrast between the two. The Clancy book is 874 pages long and has 63 chapters. There's no blank pages to be found in this one and the chapters begin near the top of the page. Further, there's 46 lines on every full page. The Evanovich book only has 29. And due to a smaller font, there's an average of 17 words per line in the Clancy versus 11 words per line in the Evanovich.

The upshot of this is that each page of the Clancy novel has about 782 words but the Evanovich has 319. A difference of 40%! And that's 40% per page difference, remember that the Clancy novel also has 472 more pages in it.

So, how does this compute into the real length of the Evanovich "novel"? If we take the 782/page word count of the Clancy as the standard then we just need to calculate the number of words in the Evanovich novel and then divide by 782 to get a real-world page count for Twelve Sharp. Here goes:

310 pages - 30 fake pages = 280 actual pages.
280 pages * 319 words/page = 89, 320 words total.
89,320 / 782 = 114.2 real pages.

So the Clancy novel has 874 pages and the Evanovich only has 114. Almost an 8 fold difference. More importantly, had the publisher formatted the pages as they should have, the 100-150 pages that resulted would have seemed so thin they'd have been forced to adjust the price to reflect the lack of content. This has happened a number of times recently in books by big-name authors like James Patterson and Robert James Waller. It should have happened here also.


I think it is time for me to go to bed, Dave...I'm here from Michele's this early A.M. and I don't quite get the whole thing with this book....You actually counted all the words on the page? (lol). This must be some boring book! I am unfamiliar with the author and the other books in this series...Why did you get the book in the first place?? I mean do you like this series and this author?

Like I said....I think it's time for me to hit the hay and get some Zzzzzzzz's. I hope you get a really WONDERFUL book my dear and when you do, let us know.
utenzi said…
It's not that I didn't like the book, Naomi, it's that I paid for a novel and got a novelette. If I pay 20 bucks for a book I want it to last more than one sitting. Had I known how short this was, I'd have just gotten it from the library.
Florence said…
Hi Utenzi,

I totally agree that you have been ripped off. I very rarely read modern novels as I have yet to get though all the classics, though when I have picked the odd one up I find it very odd all this white space...

They are doing the same thing with cat food, same old can but less meat and more jelly. My cat doesn't like the jelly, *sigh* :/

here via Michele's

rashbre said…
Difficult to judge a book by its cover, as they say. Sometimes arty books have lots of spaces and there are some great thin books too, but I suppose its about getting what you expect?

Last time I was in the US, I was buying a book for the plane ride back and there was one a particulalry wanted to read which was available as a paperback in the UK, but still only as a hardback in the US. I asked why - "Margin" came the reply - this is a best seller so the publishers will keep it in hardback longer.

So commercial pressures seem to affect book packaging much like many other products.

Here today via Michele's! Hi!

kenju said…
I know what you mean, Dave. I have not read any of Evanovich's books, but some others like that one, and I feel ripped off too. That's one good reason why I like to see the book in person before I buy it.
kenju said…
Michele sent me back to see you this afternoon, Dave. Have you finished that 800+ page book yet?....LOL
srp said…
This is one reason (the price...and what you get for it) why I have started hitting the local library. I can check out the books for three weeks and when I hit a punk one it hasn't hurt my pocketbook.

Of course you have to wait for the new releases but with the age of computeration I can put a hold on a book and even watch the que count down to me.

Here from Michele, this time.
Michelle said…
Well dear Dave, that will force you to go into your local bookstore. Just think of the fun you'll many books to tempt you and you can actually see what your getting.
I love the odd Sunday spent trawling the shelves of my local bookstore :o)
Teresa said…
LOL. I got a good laugh out of this one. I don't think that you can really compare Evanovich's content with Clancy's. It is what it is. However, I agree that the book seemed padded and not as good as it could have been. I had the feeling that something was edited out of it, but maybe it's because though I enjoy her books I always think, "it would have been better if..." This one just felt like some connection got missed. And because it was basically about Ranger with nothing new really happening with Stephanie, it should probably have been an "extra" to the series called "Ranger's Story". But it did have that fluff feel that the Christmas book had.

I don't know what it costs to make a book, but I've often felt that books should be priced according to how long you are going to use them and the quality of the book. A book that gets put down after a few hours shouldn't cost the same as a book that you read all week. That's part of the reason that unless I REALLY need to HAVE a copy of the book for some reason, I try to borrow it before spending the money. That and unlike you, I rarely reread a book (there are exceptions). :-)
Brony said…
This is where a library can be a good thing.

Michele sent me by!
Mike said…
It does sound like the book was a little "light". Hope you have better luck in the future. Here from Michele's
indigo said…
$26.95 for 114 real pages?? ACK!!! I'd feel quite cheated, good book or otherwise.
Hello Michele sent me.

I love that you worked out all the math of text density. It sounds like something I would do.
tiff said…
27 bucks for a novella. Jeez.

It's cool that you did all the calculations, but really uncool that you got the results that you did.

Picking a Tom Clancy novel might have sked the persective a little, but I'll bet an average novel has something more than a hundred pages of so of real material.
MissMeliss said…
I can't decide if I'm amused that you worked out all that math, or incensed on your behalf.

I do sympathise, truly. 114 pages isn't long enough to really enjoy.
magz said…
BINGO! You've nailed one of my big BIG gripes as both a reader and a writer!
Janet.. is sitting back on her Plum. It's damn lazy writing in my book. I liked the first few but c'mon... we've gotten so far from any sorta believable plots or storylines it's rediculous!

Ms. E is no longer an Author, she's a Celebreity. Ergo, she may pad away.. and will hit the NYT Bestseller's list ever time.
(Or is this just the frustrated whining of a wannabee writing in the same sort of genre? You decide David, here; I've renamed this book Choke That Chicken, thanks to a suggestion from the Evil Editor lol)
And no... I'm sure not doing enuff to see this published altho I'm now working on book 4 of that series, along with a couple other different types of novels hehehee
mucho schmoochos from the deserty side!

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