• Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us!

Too long?


I've been working on a novel for six years and it's roughly 220,000 words. (the sequel which is not yet finished is so far about 100,000 words but will probably end up in the region of around 180 - 200) I've never shown it to a professional editor, agent or publisher. I still need to work on it a bit but I'm aiming to get the entire manuscript ready to send off by the end of this year.
I mentioned this on another writing forum (although I said 250,000 words there which I realised was incorrect when I went back and checked my story!) and a forum user said it might be difficult to get such a large book published.
Does my large word count affect my chances of being published?

Also, I'm quite inexperienced with the world of publishing and only know what I've read in my copies of the Writers and Artists Yearbook so any tips would be greatly appreciated :)



To be quite truthful, a 220,000 word first novel is going to struggle to find a publisher.

Most major houses consider 150,000 on the very high end of what they'll normally consider. Agents--from what I've both seen and heard, will not be interested--or very difficult to convince to even consider.


Taking on a first time author is a financial risk. The author has no track record, no built in audience. A thick book: Costs more to print. The publisher either has to pass that cost onto the consumer, or shrink whatever profits there might be. A thick book takes up more space on the bookshelf in book stores. If not a proven seller, a bookstore would rather have two books on the shelf than one--more selection, better profit potential.

Smaller publishers that use POD technology, it will increase the cost as well. A trade paperback selling for $19.99 is much more difficult to sell than one that sells for $13.99, even if the reader knows the book is 'thicker' and will be a longer (thus more entertainment) read.

You may have a better chance with ebook publishers. There, printing costs and distribution costs and shelf space are not a factor. Editing might be more time consuming, but if the work is good enough I suspect they'l work through it.

Finding a publisher is very competitive and not an easy task. Having a novel with a length 2x the norm, especially for a debut novel, makes the odds for success that much longer.

In my opinion you really need to look at severely trimming it. Sometimes the story structure won't allow that. You pull out one plot thread and things start to unravel. One change has ripple effects throuthout the novel. But if you can cut it by even 40% that will greatly improve your chances.

If you're planning on a series (sequels suggest this--one which you're working on), if you can divide first novel's the story into two (again the structure can hinder this--and each novel should stand alone) that would be the way to go. It is also important that the sequel you're working on stands alone--is not dependent on information/action presented in the previous novel, and contains a complete, statisfying story arc for the reader. If you write novels where the second and third depend on the first selling, that can be a problem if you are unable to find a publisher to accept the first novel.

Just my two cents.

Dante Sawyer

Hey Terry,
Would you mind saying, in your experience, what the average word count for an author's first novel? You said 150k is on the upper end of normal... but what is the lower end? My novel is 125k. What do you think about that sort of length for my first novel?
Thank you and chamos.


Dante Sawyer,

Check out the guidelines for the 4 of the biggest publishing houses in the USA for fantasy/SF:

(Ace and ROC) Submission - Science Fiction and Fantasy - Penguin Group (USA) (80-125,000 words)
(Baen Books) FAQ - Baen Books Submission Guidelines (100,000 to 130,000 words and uncomfortable with anything under 100,000)
(DAW) Submissions Guidelines - Penguin Group (USA) (Length varies but almost never under 80,000 words).
(Tor) FAQ (Does not specifically list length anymore)

There are a host of midsized to smaller publishers. They usually desire 90,000 to 110,000 words. Ebook publishers, have more flexibility but seem to want the lower end, like 80,000 words. You'd have to check specifics.

In the end, word count may determine if a market will even consider it. An editor or agent that opens up a submission or query that says "Please consider my 200,000+ word novel" is very likely to just form reject without even considering.

The manuscript I submitted for Flank Hawk was about 128,000. After the edits, give and take about 500 words net were added. But that is on the extreme high end of what my publisher (Gryphonwood) would consider.

So your novel of 125,000 words is probably in the ball park, Dante Sawyer.

When I posted about 150,000 words as the very high to consider, I was basing my opinion on what I've heard editors and agents say at conferences and on panels and what the guidelines indicate. It is always possible to sell a substantially longer or shorter novel, but it's difficult enough to sell one within the range publishers are looking for.

Hope that answers your question. If not, let me know.