The end -- but is it one book or two?

‘Living Here’ — Need some advice

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Pages 193-195 of first draft of Living Here: With the Family
The final pages of the first book — or is it two books?

Do I have one book or two?

Help me out here. I need some advice from writers and from readers.

Having recovered from my beginner error of two weeks ago, I now have a more manageable manuscript. (Manuscript? If it’s keyboarded and digital, does that qualify?) The draft — let’s call it that — comes to a little more than 48,000 words and a little less than 200 pages.

It has a theme — growing up. Readers of the column wrote into say they liked the funny stories about the kids, so that seemed like a natural. And if I never get the chance to publish another collection from the column I wrote for 25 years, at least I’ll have preserved the family lore.

I wrote the original columns as an employee of the newspaper. That means the company holds the copyrights. We have an informal agreement for me to self-publish a collection of the columns to benefit the paper’s charity, its Campership Fund.

I have 65 stories about watching a family grow, from making room for the first baby to finding a room for him when he comes back to visit 30 years later. Along the way: smelly clams and injured turtles. First dances and final proms. The fungee chair, Jurassic Park syndrome, Daddy’s paycheck, they’re all there.

Well, maybe they’re not all there. The earliest ones predate the paper’s digital archive. I’ve just uncovered those scrapbooks. Those stories are about naming the baby, a fussy eater meeting octopus, discovering salp, talking about l-o-v-e and s-e-x, that sort of thing.

Two books, or not two books — that is the question

So my question is this: Do I have one big book or two smaller books, one about childhood and one about high school, college and #adulting? I’ve already weeded out some favorites about parenthood, home ownership, and the like to concentrate on the family tales. Those could become other books, but for now let’s just say it’s the two.

Part of me says that if I only get one shot at this, I should include as much as possible in one volume. The reader in me, though, says that for an unknown writer, a shorter book is a better introduction. It’s less intimidating and the paperback price point can be kept lower. (Meaning more money for the charity, especially if we go to two books.)

And if I do get permission to publish more essays, the prevailing wisdom of indie authors seems to be the more, the merrier. Short books encourage readers to buy more by the same author or in the same series. In the long run, that’s better for the Campership Fund — and for the reputation of a breakout writer.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments box below, or send an email using the Email Us! link on the right sidebar.

Thanks for the help!
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– Howard

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