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Book Talk: The Long and Short About Book Length

By Elizabeth Greenspan

“How long should my book be?” 

That’s probably the question I get asked the most when I talk to potential authors about writing a book for SIAM. My answer is always, “As long as it needs to be to cover the subject.” A big sigh of relief often follows. Writing a book is time-consuming—even a short book can take longer than you expect. An author who is pressured by a publisher to reach a certain number of pages may decide to abandon the project or to take his or her business elsewhere. SIAM has no page length requirements. We have a number of short books to prove that—by short I mean fewer than 150 pages—and these titles are scattered throughout various series:

  • CBMS 

  • Fundamentals of Algorithms; Software, Environments, and Tools

  • Mathematics in Industry

  • Other Titles in Applied Mathematics

Certain short books—software guides and textbooks, for example—have natural homes in particular series. 

But what about the others? 

It was for these books that we created SIAM Spotlights, a series for books of 125 pages or less. These books address timely topics in applied and computational mathematics and scientific computation, and because the books are short SIAM can produce them on an accelerated schedule. 

Publishing these titles under the umbrella of Spotlights helps us accomplish two things: 

  1. If you’re thinking of writing a book—and you specifically want to write a short book—it’s clear that there’s a place for it at SIAM!
  2. Book buyers looking for short, inexpensive books can easily find them in the Spotlights series.

We’ve just published the third title in the series, Iterative Solution of Symmetric Quasi-Definite Linear Systems by Dominique Orban and Mario Arioli (93 pages). It joins Active Subspaces: Emerging Ideas for Dimension Reduction in Parameter Studies by Paul Constantine, and Preconditioning (100 pages) and the Conjugate Gradient Method in the Context of Solving PDEs by Stefan Malek and Zdenek Strakos (104 pages). 

Elizabeth Greenspan is the executive editor of SIAM Books. She is responsible for book acquisitions and the book program at SIAM.

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