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How Long Should a Book Be?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by A. E. Lowan, Feb 28, 2014.

  1. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    This is a nice little article from Writer's Digest explaining general industry word-count expectations from the agent perspective.

    How Long Should a Book Be? Word Count For Books Explained - WritersDigest.com

    The article covers several genres. To quote what it has to say about our own -

    The whole article is well worth the read, though.
     
  2. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    The implications for my story are alarming. It's 17K now, but I've considered writing three more stories in the same setting and bundling them for about 70K. I don't think I have enough to say about any subject to reach 90K with it.
     
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I always wonder if there's some kind of a story formula that's implied by the recommended word counts, especially when they talk about the word counts being stretched by description and world building. What kind of expectations are being implied here.
     
  4. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    I think these numbers are largely formed from the opinion of publishers that don't want to take on greater monetary risk for new authors. It's obvious that established names aren't held to this standard.

    With the increasing popularity of self-publishing this will become less and less important. Got a 140k novel? No recognizable name yet? Self pub it.

    As always, use the number of words the story requires. I'm a bit north of 80k in my NIP, and estimate approximately 120-140k by completion. After revision I'm hoping for the 110-120 mark. I'm not worried about word count at all though. I'll know what's needed and what isn't during editing.
     
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  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    It's not much more expensive for them to print a longer book. It's all in whether the length intimidates new readers.

    But there are still a bundle of expectations about what a 105k word book typically looks like. It would be interesting to see agents and editors pressed to flush more of those expectations out.
     
  6. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

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  7. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    That's pretty much it right there. An intimidated reader is one who won't buy a book. Also, some readers won't invest in a chunkier book by an unknown author. But notice the adjective I'm using. It's the physical appearance that they're put off by. As more and more sales move towards e-books and away from the brick-and-mortar stores, I think we may see these word-count limitations become more flexible in an upwards fashion, at least. Many readers like longer books by the authors they trust, they see them as being worth more for their entertainment money.
     
  8. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    I don't think he counts. Established author with an established fandom. He can publish any length he wants. One of my favorites on the paranormal romance side of things, Sherrilyn Kenyon, put out a 480k word beast in September.
     
  9. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

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    You're right, of course. For the likes of his are other rules.

    On the other hand, I'm more or less pre-programmed for Dutch word counts. My books average around 80,000 and Shardfall had even less. (I offer them as fantasy adventure for Y.A. and Adult).

    I do get a few comments from readers who 'normally don't read books with less than 150k words'. They did read mine, though...
     
  10. solas

    solas Scribe

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    I read the WD article yesterday and it filled me dread. My WIP is at least 160,000....I know it will be less as I revise but I do like (reading) FAT books! I hate the feeling I get at the ending of a brilliant story.....I say "Noooooooooo!!!" A short story by Telkontar had me rabid for more!! It is on Amazon and free! But I am hoping he expands it into a novel. :stomp: I will just have a tantrum until he does.
     
  11. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    Word count does not matter, its the story that matters. Can you keep people engaged for 400k+ words.. 200k+? It's your ability to keep people connected and interested that matter. One of my newest favorite authors is Patrick Rothfuss... hes a recent (year wise) published author and his second book The Wise Mans Fear is something like 500k+ words and over a thousand pages and I was hooked all the way through because he keeps you enthralled from beginning to end.
    My own creations sit at around 160k for my first novel and my second WIP is sitting at 78k and has a long way to go.

    I find that if writers just start rambling and flushing out needless extras that don't matter to the story then we get into the territory of yeah cut that down. Flesh out things just enough, one to provide information and two to provide mystery.

    -Cheers
     
  12. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Interesting read. Winter's Queen is pretty steady between the 80K-85K range, and Tenth Realm isn't looking to be much less than 210K. I'm hoping I can split the latter into two volumes of roughly 105K each for publishing purposes.
     
  13. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Hmmm...

    'Labyrinth' looks to be around 60 - 70K, though there is room for a indirect sequel of about the same length.

    'Empire' is supposed to be four novellas running at around 30 - 40K each, but I suppose they could be bundled together into a 120 - 160K monster.

    Same way with 'Shadow Sea' - four novellas that could be combined into a novel of maybe 100 - 120K.

    I've not looked at 'Falling Towers' in a long while. It needs a major rewrite, but I doubt it'll hit 100K even so.

    The rest of my stuff so far is novelettes and short stories.

    I do find myself wondering about their 'ideal length criteria' : the novels of ye olde line greats Carter, Lieber, Vance, and a whole bunch more tended to be on the short side - as in under 90K, yet these guys had good world building, characterization, plots and the rest.
     
  14. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

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    I shot for 100K with my novel. I ended up at 109K, with all the chaff stripped out. For book 2 I'll shoot for 90K in order to keep it to 100K. That's enough book for anyone.
     
  15. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

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    I'm sort of relieved. My "to-be-edited" novel has roughly 120 000 words and I thought it was much too long. I'm relieved it's not even though some unnecessary stuff will have to go.
     
  16. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    I agree, the size's impression on readers (and publishers!) is the real question. Still, there is one way that larger books are more expensive: they take up more space on the shelf. With writers you're only tested out, when you could shelve six one-inch-thick books or four inch-and-a-half books, you might lean toward the latter.
     
  17. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

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    With ebooks, the length is much less important publication wise--thinking of cost. There is a slightly larger download fee, but it's insignificant compared to thicker books (more words). Many ebook readers don't even have a clue as to page count, as it's not 'listed' when they're reading.

    There is a cut-off point, I think, where readers won't give a writer unknown to them a chance. While the font, size and format can be somewhat manipulated, along with the size of the book (mass market up to various sizes of trade or hardcover), the longer the book, the more expensive it is. With POD, there is a base price, which then begins to increase with word count (pages). I am not sure where the cutoff is, but there comes a point where becomes too large to be POD, and the cost will drive potential readers away.

    The goal, whether print and/or ebook--but especially print, is to be competitive with similar books out there, whether self-published, small press published, or large press published (but with the latter two, the author has less influence on the price, other than the length of the book submitted).
     
  18. AnneL

    AnneL Closed Account

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    General guideline is 85K-125K for an adult novel. The Nebula Awards defines fiction by length as follows:

    * Short Story: less than 7,500 words;
    * Novelette: at least 7,500 words but less than 17,500 words;
    * Novella: at least 17,500 words but less than 40,000 words
    * Novel: 40,000 words or more.

    The draft of MOTH AND SPARK that I submitted to agents was about 153 K words. What finally went to the editor after significant revisions was about 145K words. The printed book is 368 pages long and looks like a pretty normal size. I think SFF may be more flexible about this than some other genres, perhaps because of the tradition of big fat epics - I've seen a lot of debuts topping out at many more than 368 pages.

    If you run over the 125 K limit by a lot, I think the thing to do is 1) acknowledge in your query/cover letter that you aware this more than the usual suggested word count for a first-time author; and 2) make sure every word carries its weight. If the story is good, people will keep reading. If it has 200K words of boring and repetitive actions, then it's too long. (If it has 50K words of boring and repetitive actions, it's too long.)

    I find that paying too much attention to word count really hampers my writing and forces the story into places it shouldn't go.
     
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  19. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    In another thread, I linked an article about a woman who made scads of money by writing stories about women having sex with dinosaurs. These were all short stories, but she marketed them as if they were novels, and she priced them accordingly. Readers felt cheated, but hey, scads of money.
     
  20. duagre

    duagre New Member

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    That's interesting. I'm sort of the opposite in approach. I always look forward to finishing the last page and starting something new. I'm much more open to starting something with a smaller word count for that reason. A thicker book requires more of a time investment, so I tend to gravitate towards titles I can finish in a few days. :)
     
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