Shorter books = bigger audiences?

Did you see the article about James Patterson in The New York Times? Patterson and his team of writers already dominate bestseller lists, but apparently that's not a big enough audience. He's going after people who no longer read books.

The theory is that people who spend all their time with social media, movies and interactive games are no longer interested in big, fat books. So Patterson's plan is to produce shorter books -- less than 150 pages, what most of us would call novellas -- to attract readers who want to gobble up a story in one sitting.

I embraced this idea years ago, and most of my recent books have been short and very tight -- mostly dialogue with occasional shooting. The last story in my Bubba Mabry series was the 119-page novella PARTY DOLL, and the three Albuquerque crime novels I recently published under the pen name Max Austin all are on the shorter side. Amazon lists DUKE CITY HIT at 183 pages and DUKE CITY DESPERADO at 223 pages.You can pack a lot of story into that many pages if you don't waste words and if you don't bog it down with lots of subplots.

Shorter suits the kind of novels that I write. Books about crooks. Crime novels that star the police are filled with CSI stuff these days, and I find most of that boring and repetitive. But I find crooks infinitely variable and interesting, if sometimes dumb as hell. In DUKE CITY DESPERADO, for instance, we have two low-level crooks who aren't all that smart. On a drug-induced impulse, one of them tries to rob a drive-thru bank (you read that correctly), and that sets into motion a citywide manhunt. A manhunt looks very different when you're seeing it through the eyes of the hunted.

My agent is currently shopping around two novels starring Jackie Nolan, a woman who gets in trouble hijacking semi trucks. Each book is around 300 pages, but tightly written and very cinematic. Just the sort of stories to appeal to the new readers Patterson is targeting and, perhaps, to Hollywood. Fingers crossed.

I've started tinkering with a possible new novel set in the world of journalism, but lots of distractions have kept me from mapping it out yet. It's percolating, though, and I'll probably start writing it soon.

I can't crank 'em out as fast as Patterson's team, but I've published 27 books so far. Short, tight novels are (slightly) faster to write and edit, and they're fun to read. I hope the audience looks up from Twitter and Reddit long enough to try them.