Tag Archives: Really long books

Fanmail FAQ: Size Matters or Breaking Up is Hard to Do…

Several months ago, I got a bunch of e-mails concerning the German translation of Wise Man’s Fear. They all had a similar theme: specifically, people were upset that the book was going to be broken into two volumes.

Whenever a bunch of people contact me asking the same question, I try to respond on the blog. This is doubly true if people are unhappy about something, and triply true if they’re unhappy for the simple reason that they don’t have all the facts at their disposal.

So I started writing my response blog. I e-mailed the publisher, did some research, talked to some German fans, did some more research….

Then I got the news about my dad and decided I didn’t give a shit about writing blogs for a while.

But now I’m back, and since I know some people out there are disgruntled, I feel I should do my best to gruntle them. Failing that, I can at least make sure folks have all the facts about why the German translation of The Wise Man’s Fear is getting broken up into two parts.

So here we go….

First, here’s a fairly good example of what the e-mails were like.


Many of your German readers are very disappointed that “The wise man’s fear” appears here in two parts. There is the long waiting period part 1 and part 2. Worse, we have to pay twice for expensive book. The publisher says, “Patrick Rothfuss agrees with this plan.” But this seems wrong to me. I read your blog, and you do not seem like a person who would make this sort of brazen rip-off.

I am sorry my English is not good. Please forgive my mistakes.


Actually, that’s a very polite example of the e-mails I received. This one is not, for example, accusing me and/or the publisher of maliciously fucking you, the loyal, loving reader out of your hard-earned money.

Let me reassure you.  This isn’t just the publisher trying to chisel money out of you. I wouldn’t stand for that.

The problem is that my books are long. Really, really long.

Take my first book for example. It was over 250,000 words. That’s more than double the length of most fantasy novels.

To put things in perspective, The Name of the Wind is almost as long as the first three Harry Potter novels put together.

It’s for this reason that many publishers (Swedish, Danish, Slovakian…) broke it up into two volumes.

Other countries, namely Japan and Korea, broke it into *three* volumes.

They didn’t do that in Germany. My German publisher printed it as one great, gorgeous, high-quality book.

What’s my point? My point is that The Name of the Wind was 250,000 words long, which makes it a really big book.

Okay? Okay.

The Wise Man’s Fear was even bigger than that.  A lot bigger. The Wise Man’s Fear was nearly 400,000 words long. Almost 60% longer than my first (really massive) book.

How long is that? Well… to put it in perspective, The Wise Man’s Fear is more than twice as long as the final Harry Potter book. It’s longer than all three books of the entire Hunger Games trilogy (Which is barely 300,000 words all stacked together.)

Or how about this: the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, including the appendices, is about 450,000 words long.

Yeah. My second book by itself is almost longer than the Lord of the Rings. I was a little shocked when I found that out.

Anyway, earlier this year, my German editor contacted me and asked if it was going to be okay if they broke the book into two parts. Their main reason was the fact that when you translate something from English to German, it tends to get about 30-40% longer. For example, the US hardcover of The Name of the Wind was 662 pages. The German hardcover was 864 pages.

This meant that since the US version of The Wise Man’s Fear was almost 1000 pages, the German version was going to be upwards to 1400 pages.

I agreed that 1400 pages was a pretty crazy length for a book, and that breaking it up seemed like a reasonable solution. This wasn’t a startling development for me, because, as I’ve said, several other countries had already broken up The Name of the Wind.

That’s why they’re broke it up. 1400 pages is a really insane length for a book. Physically, it’s hard to bind durably so it doesn’t fall apart. It’s harder to ship. It’s harder for bookstores to fit it on shelves. It’s heavier to carry around.

This does mean, unfortunately, that folks in Germany will have to buy two books. And in some ways that sucks. It’s more expensive.

But you have to consider a few things:

1. You’re getting more story.

Take a look at The Name of the Wind and Volume 1 of The Wise Man’s Fear side-by-side.

You’ll note that they’re the same size. That’s because they’re almost exactly the same length. (861 pages vs. 859) You can’t really claim you’re being ripped off. It’s not like we’re cutting a ham sandwich in half and selling it to you twice. This is a full sandwich full of book. Or something. You know what I mean.

I mentioned before that The Wise Man’s Fear is 60% longer than The Name of the Wind.  That extra 60% is, effectively, what’s getting printed in the second volume. Yes, you’re having to buy a second book, but that second book contains… well… an entire second book’s worth of story.

2. Breaking the book into two parts means you get to read the book sooner. Since they’re treating it as two books, the publisher didn’t have to wait for the entire translation. That’s why the the first, larger part of the story came out a week or so ago. If they printed it all at once, you’d probably have to wait until February of next year to get hold of it.

3. The publisher asked my opinion as to where they thought the best place would be to break the story. We agreed that we didn’t want to leave people with a cliffhanger, and chose a natural resting place. When we had a slight difference of opinion, they let me have my way. Which you have to admit is pretty cool of them.

4. You also have to give Klett-Cotta (my German publisher) credit for not dragging their heels with the release date of the second half of the book. Conventional publishing wisdom says that they should wait at least six months between volume 1 and volume 2. But they aren’t doing that. The second half is coming out as fast as it possibly can, in January of 2012.

So there you go. That’s why the German translation comes in two volumes. There’s also a German article about it over here if you’re interested and can verstehen die Deutsch.

More soon,


Posted in Fanmail Q + A, foreign happenings, Things I didn't know about publishing | By Pat104 Responses
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