You've written a long book
. Lots of characters
, many Plot Threads
, and deep, complex Character Development
. Your publisher likes it, but unfortunately, you're not a very well-known writer, and readers aren't likely to pick up such a vast novel. Furthermore, limitations in the current printing and binding market make publication as a single volume uneconomical, especially if this is a debut novel; if it goes over 424 pages in length
, it must be outsourced to a bindery that uses a more expensive technique, disproportionately increasing printing expenses.
The solution? Split the book into multiple volumes. The public will be less intimidated by the shorter length of the individual volumes, and thus more likely to buy them. There are also some practical reasons. For one, the smaller books are individually easier to hold and carry. Two, it places less physical stress on the bindings, so smaller books are less prone to fall apart while the consumer is still reading them. Three, it's easier to sell a cheap book than a costly one. There are also some economic issues in that the large page count has a higher per-volume production and transport cost, so it makes sense to divide that out to maintain a reasonable profit margin and/or price point.
If the book proves successful, it will probably be later released in a single-volume edition.
This happens with translated works, pithy phrases in the original language often require more words. In particular, English books translated into Romance languages get much wordier.
Note that this trope isn't intended for a series of books that tell a single story. This trope is for those stories submitted as single books, that were then split into multiples at the publisher's request.
A forerunner is the Victorian three-volume novel, a longer story is told and sold in three parts. In the 19th century, the business model was to use the first volume to get people interested in the second and third parts, and thus extract more money per story.
See also Trilogy Creep
, One Game for the Price of Two
, Multi Volume Work
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- The 620,000-plus-word MLP:FiM/Fallout crossover Fallout: Equestria got broken into five volumes for its first printing. A second printing recombined these into two volumes.
- The Soviet-produced War and Peace was split into four parts when released between 1965 and 1967. The film as a whole ran a total seven-and-a-half hours. When released in the U.S., it was edited into a six-hour film in two parts.
- Unfortunately averted with Cleopatra (1963). The director wanted to make a six-hour film that would be split into two volumes. 20th Century Fox wanted nothing to do with this and released it as a single four-hour production. The other two hours remain missing.
- In The Name Of The King, the Dungeon Siege adaptation by Uwe Boll, narrowly averted this. The original cut was over 200 minutes long and was planned to be split into two movies for theatrical release, but the editors couldn't find a spot in the middle where there was a good place to end the first installment. Instead, it was released as a single, heavily-cut two hour film in theaters and on DVD. The Blu-ray had an "Unrated Director's Cut" that restored a half hour of cut footage.
- The movie Che about the life of Guerilla leader Ernesto 'Che' Guevara had to be divided into two parts.
- Kill Bill was originally going to be one movie, but was split into two volumes for release.
- The film adaptation of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows was split into two parts, as the plot is very dense and the filmmakers decided that splitting it into two movies is a better choice than compressing the story. Also, before production of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the producers considered splitting it into two movies, but decided against it. Consequentially, a few subplots had to be cut out for time.
- Breaking Dawn seems to have taken a page out of Harry Potter's book and is split into two parts.
- Likewise, The Hunger Games novel Mockingjay is planned to have two parts as well.
- Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers were originally made as one film. It was only in post production that they decided to break it up into two parts. Many of the actors involved were somewhat upset, since they were only paid for one movie.
- Superman and Superman II (from the same producers as The Three/Four Musketeers), were, likewise, written and filmed as one movie (only this time they were going to split it in two from the outset). Unfortunately, this time, the original director was fired after a significant portion of the second half was completed, so the two movies vary wildly in tone.
- The Halloween franchise was originally supposed to be a series of otherwise unconnected stories with the only linking theme being that they take place on or near Halloween; it just so happened that the first story (about Michael Myers) took the first two films to tell. When Halloween III: Season of the Witch came out and it wasn't about Michael, fans were pissed and the producers reverted to just telling stories about the slasher.
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was so long that a number of scenes were cut and will be used in The Amazing Spider-Man 3.
- The Hobbit was first scheduled for two films, and was then split into three.
- The sequel to Back to the Future developed into such a complex story that it was divided into two films, released six months apart. The second film even ended with a trailer for the third, a practice rarely seen since the demise of the cliffhanger serials of the early 20th century.
- The Avengers: Infinity War adaptation is split into two films: Part I in 2018, and Part II in 2019.
- The Lord of the Rings was famously split into three volumes for publication, and in fact to this day is commonly (and erroneously) referred to as a trilogy. It is technically a single novel.
- This is further confused by the fact that each of the three "parts" — The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King — is divided into two of what Tolkien called "books", making six "books" in total. This is using the meaning of "book" as a division of an epic.
- Similarly, the Illuminatus! trilogy was originally pitched as one book, but split into three to have some hope of actually being read.
- Elizabeth Moon's The Deed of Paksenarrion also had to be split into three volumes.
- David Weber's first Hell's Gate novel was split into two books, and it seems likely the same will have to happen to his next Honor Harrington novel, A Rising Thunder.
- Charlie Stross's first The Merchant Princes Series novel was split into two books.
- Succession by Scott Westerfeld was split into two volumes, The Risen Empire and Killing of Worlds. Confusingly, the book was published as a single volume in the UK, under the title The Risen Empire (704 pages in paperback).
- The UK edition of A Storm Of Swords was split into two volumes, Steel and Snow and Blood and Gold (661 and 637 pages in paperback, including appendices). The French edition split it into four volumes - and, in fact, the French translations of all the A Song of Ice and Fire books were split into at least two volumes. And again in the UK with the A Dance With Dragons paperback, split into Dreams and Dust and After the Feast. This happened in the American series as well, asA Feast for Crows came into being accidentally, originally intended to be A Dance with Dragons. However, Dance was too large in whatever form it was in at the time, so George R.R. Martin split it into two books based on character POV groupings as opposed to chronology. Fans have since crafted reading lists that allow readers to follow the books' plots in chronological order just like the rest of the series.
- The first two books from The Wheel of Time were split in half as part of a 'young adult special edition'. This doesn't seem to have done well, none of the other books were split. The German translation of the series has passed 31 books, corresponding to the first 11 books and prequel in the English version.
- The final three books - The Gathering Storm, Towers Of Midnight and A Memory Of Light were originally intended to be one book ("Even if they have to invent a new method of bookbinding and sell it complete with its own library cart") but upon taking over the writing of the series after Jordan's death Brandon Sanderson pretty much immediately decided to split it into thirds. Given the each of those three books are nearly a thousand pages, that was probably a good idea.
- The Night's Dawn Trilogy was split into six books for the American release.
- Clive Barker's Imajica was split into two volumes.
- The Tale of Genji, due to its sheer length, is frequently divided into two volumes.
- Tad Williams has had a few:
- The Finnish translation of the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy was split into no less than twelve volumes. Even in English, the final volume was split in two for the paperback editions.
- Otherland has at the beginning of the first book an admission that it wouldn't be a series if it weren't for the fact that the author needs to keep writing new books at a constant pace so he'll keep receiving royalties.
- There's a note at the front of Shadowrise remarking that the quartet was originally meant as a trilogy, and "one of these days I will learn to write a last volume that doesn't need its own zip code."
- C. J. Cherryh:
- In the Chanur series, where the middle three of the five novels were one novel split into three to satisfy publishing constraints; they form one story arc, with no mini-resolution at the end of each. Although they've been published together in an omnibus since, but have never been printed as Cherryh really intended, as one novel.
- Also, Cyteen was published in mass-market paperback form as three novels, although it was released in hardback and "trade paperback" form as a single work.
- Proust's In Search Of Lost Time was originally published in seven volumes, due to its length. Modern versions are usually in 2, 6 or 7-volume sets.
- Lois McMaster Bujold originally submitted the first two books of The Sharing Knife as a single book.
- Inverted with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which was intended to be in the style of the Victorian three-volume novel, but ended up as one giant-ass book.
- In a weird case, The Belgariad was originally intended to be a trilogy, with the three volumes named Garion, Ce'Nedra, and Torak after three key characters in the story. The author was asked to split the story into five parts instead of three, resulting in the series as we know it. This is noticeable starting in the second book:
- The climax of the second section (of three) in the second book is the climax of the main character's development up to that point.
- The final section of the second book is a mostly self-contained episode in the story, but it sets up the quest that takes all of the third book (which ends on a Cliffhanger) and that isn't properly resolved until early in the fourth.
- The second half of the fourth book and all of the fifth book function together as a single unit, with most of the main character's subplot in the fourth book and almost all of the Supporting Leader's subplot in the fifth book.
- The Dutch translation of the later "stand alone" books of The Belgariad (Belgarath the Sorceror and Polgara the Sorceress) and of The Redemption of Althalus were all published as two books.
- Same for the French translation of the former.
- Clive Barker's Books of Blood.
- The Kingkiller Chronicles: Rothfuss wrote the whole story over 14 years, submitted it, then publisher says make it a trilogy, so he has to rewrite it yet again.
- Romance of the Three Kingdoms is often divided for publication, as is Journey to the West and other classical Chinese novels.
- Ash A Secret History by Mary Gentle was split into four parts for US publication.
- Three-volume novels? Jane Eyre comes to mind, though it's now typically published as an omnibus.
- The second and third of Garth Nix's Old Kingdom books are basically one story, but apparently after finishing Lirael he realized that this was getting way, way too long for a single young-adult-aimed fantasy novel and split it in half.
- The first book of The Riftwar Cycle by Raymond E. Feist, Magician, is usually published in two parts, called Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master.
- This may vary by region. In Australia it is more common to find it published as a single volume and only imported versions split into two parts.
- Back in the day, this happened with some non-fiction books as well. There are dual volume versions of John Toland's The Rising Sun and William Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and to this day, some publishers still release Solzenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago in three volumes.
- The German translation of Vision of the Future was split into two volumes.
- Another translation split. The Japanese versions of the Honor Harrington books are split in two starting with the third or fourth book. Possibly more with the later volumes
- The Bible's Old Testament books of 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 2 Kings were originally one book. So were 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, and Ezra (the dividing line between the end of 2 Chronicles and the beginning of Ezra is in the middle of a sentence). These were split in the Septuagint, with the Vulgate following the same convention, because the scrolls used by those "publishers" couldn't fit the text of the whole book. Making this Executive Meddling that's Older Than Feudalism.
- The second volume of the Wars of Light and Shadow series, Ships of Merior was such a Doorstopper that it couldn't be published in paperback form as one book. So the paperback version is split into two volumes, entitled Ships of Merior and Warhost of Vastmark.
- This happened to Isaac Asimov several times, most notably with his autobiography. He hated this more than other authors, because he would then have to decide whether to count it as one item or two on his list of published books, with good arguments for either choice.
- Not quite an example, but related: some editions of Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood split the novel in two very small volumes, one red and one green (sometimes inside a gold-coloured case, as per here◊). As the novel is not particularly long (and in at least one case the split causes a mid-chapter break), this was presumably done for strictly aesthetic reasons.
- Harlan Ellison's anthology Again, Dangerous Visions was published in two volumes in UK hardcover, but confusingly split into three volumes in paperback.
- The first story in Alan Dean Foster's Spellsinger series was split into Spellsinger and The Hour of the Gate.
- Sergey Lukyanenko's Seekers of the Sky was split into Cold Shores and Morning Nears with the second novel picking up immediately after the first (after a day-long Time Skip).
- While this may also seem to be the case with his Rough Draft and Final Draft novels, as Final Draft picks up a few hours after the ending of Rough Draft, it took Lukyanenko 2 years to write the sequel.
- This has happened twice to novels by Robin Hobb, much to many readers' confusion. The first two books of what is now known as the Rain Wilds Chronicles were written as a single book that was split into two. Hobb then set out to write a sequel which was also split, resulting in books three and four of the series.
- Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun was written as a single novel and published as a series of four. Most later editions of it divide it into two books.
- Supposedly the "Graystripe's Adventure" manga trilogy of the Warrior Cats series was originally meant to be a single volume as long as a normal manga. They decide that it should be released on the same day as the first book in a new series, but the illustrator wasn't done with it, so they decided to split it into three shorter volumes. Every manga afterward has followed suit.
- The Legacy of the Aldenata books When the Devil Dances and Hell's Faire were originally to be published as one volume. However, the September 11, 2001 attacks left John Ringo unable to work on the book for a time, running up against the scheduled publishing date. The work was split into two books to keep it from being extremely late (instead of only somewhat late), as explained in the afterword of Hell's Faire.
- When Douglas Adams was adapting his radio play The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy into book form, he took so long that (as he reported it) his publisher rang him up and told him to finish the page he was on and send the whole thing over, they'd release the rest as The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
- Peter Watts's Rifters Trilogy novel ▀ehemoth was split by Tor Publishing into two books: ▀ehemoth: ▀-Max and ▀ehemoth: Seppuku. This did not go over well with Watts.
- Neal Stephenson considered his The Baroque Cycle to be either one very long book or series in eight volumes. The series was eventually published as a trilogy of three books, with each book contained two or three of the volumes in the series. Stephenson also took advantage of this set up in the second volume by presenting two volumes in one jumble, alternating between chapters of the first volume and second volume so that the two books come together to tell a single coherent story.
- Tamora Pierce's first book, Song of the Lioness, was originally intended as one book for the adult market. She had to cut and rewrite it into four parts to market it as a young adult title.
- Cordwainer Smith's Norstrilia was originally split into two volumes, The Planet Buyer and The Underpeople. It took the better part of another decade for the complete novel to be published. To make the novel fit better into a 2-volume format Smith added some new material to the end of one book and the beginning of the next. The additional scenes are not necessary to the plot, but may be of interest to Smith completists.
- Artamene, a 1600s novel published in ten volumes, spanning a total of 2.1 million words.
- Books three and four of the Rihannsu series were originally meant to be one volume, but Executive Meddling forced Swordhunt to be split in two, creating Honor Blade, with the chapter numbers starting at six. The Rihannsu: The Bloodwing Voyages omnibus merges them back together.
- The paperback reprint of Stephen King's book Under the Dome is split into two books, each over 600 pages on their own.
- Simple Minds recorded many songs for Sons And Fascination, and liked so many that they couldn't fit them all onto one album (optimum space for a vinyl LP is about 22 minutes per side). They initially were going to put out Sons And Fascination as a double album, but decided that might make people think they were a pretentious prog rock group rather than the new wave band they wanted to be. Instead, they released the second half as a separate album called Sister Feelings Call. This was originally shrinkwrapped with Sons And Fascination, and later sold as a budget release. Both albums are available on one CD and are now considered by the band to be one album again simply titled Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call.
- The episodic release model tries to be like this, but in practice, it rarely takes off.
- The text adventure game Dungeon, originally developed for the PDP-10, was adapted into the Zork games for microcomputers, due to memory / disk size limitations. Zork 1 and Zork 2 are the two halves of the original Dungeon, with a few details added to each to round them out. Zork 3 (other than one puzzle) was developed de novo by Infocom.
- Sonic 3 & Knuckles. It had to be split into two cartridges: Sonic 3, and Sonic & Knuckles. However, thanks to the "lock-on" technology, which allowed users to insert their Sonic 3 cartridges onto Sonic & Knuckles, this became kind of a good thing, as otherwise Knuckles probably wouldn't have become playable, much less in Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
- Golden Sun and its direct sequel were conceptualized as one game. When the game shifted from the N64 to the GBA, it had to be split due to space limits. However, one could argue that the narrative ended up ''better'' as a result: The main character of the second game is an antagonist from the first, and the game explores his much more complex motivations.
- In Japan, the PC Engine port of R-Type was released in two separately-published HuCards titled R-Type I and R-Type II. R-Type I contains the first four stages and after completing them, the player is given a password that can be used in R-Type II to carry over lives, score and power-ups from the first game. Likewise, finishing R-Type II gives a password that starts the second loop in R-Type I. In America, Hudson managed to combine both games into one TurboChip and the game was later re-released in Japan as a CD-ROM titled R-Type Complete.
- The Atari 2600 port of Miner 2049er was released in two parts due to system limitations, but even both put together had only 6 out of the original 10 levels.
- The first two installment in the Ys series, Ys and Ys II, were originally envisioned as one game, which is why most remakes, starting with the TurboGrafx CD version, features both games in one package.
- The Shenmue series was supposed to be released in serialized installments that would have spanned 16 chapters across at least three or four games for the Dreamcast. But since the first two games failed to recoup their expensive development budget (even after Shenmue II was ported to the Xbox), the third game in the series has languished in development hell since Sega almost fell into bankruptcy as a result of the series' commercial failure (forcing the company to quit the hardware race and become a third-party developer for their former competition).
- Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, the prologue for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, has been released separately from the latter game.
- Episodes I & II of Xenosaga were originally intended to be one game. About half the original trailer for Episode I is comprised of scenes that don't occur until Episode II. Monolith later published a version for the Nintendo DS which had the plot of both games forged into a single cohesive narrative aptly titled Episode I&II. They never stated which version was canon vis-a-vis the rest of the series, though.
- Sets of Architectural and Engineering design drawings require special bindings and storage techniques that publishers don't use. A single 36"x48" design drawing printed out on paper weighs more than a 72 page (36 sheet) trade paperback. They aren't bound with glue. They are bound with staples or screws. Hand drawn antique mylar, vellum, sepia, and/or linen originals are much heavier and often stored unbound in drawers so that they won't distort.
- This is a common practice in Japanese publishing in general. Books with a high page count will often be released as two or more smaller volumes of no more than 200 pages or so. There are a few reasons for this, but one is because this is thought of as more practical; compared to a full-length book, a couple of slim softcovers are more portable (the better to bring on the long train commute to and from work) and take up less shelf space in cramped apartments.