1. Banes
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    Banes Member

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    How long should my first novel be?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Banes, Aug 23, 2011.

    How long should my first novel be?

    It a fantasy novel, part of a 3-4 book series and is about 140000 words.

    I think I might be able to split it at about 75000 words and add another book to the series. What do you guys think? To split or not to split?

    Also, should I inform the agent of this fact?

    Thank you.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    75,000 is a bit short for Fantasy. You probably want to be in the 80,000 to 120,000 word range, and I'd err toward the higher end.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Most publishers prefer the 80,000 to 100,000 word range for a first novel. Upping it to 120,000 words can work against you.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think this is another instance where Fantasy follows rules that are a bit different. Baen is a good sized publisher of Fantasy and they take submissions directly from writers. Their guidelines say:

    I recently read a comment by John Jarrold, who is an agent and editor in the UK, who said that 100,000 words is about the shortest viable count for Fantasy publishers there.

    So you have to tailor this to the genre you're looking at. Fantasy readers expect to pick up thick books. It is true to some extent of science fiction. Charles Stross says readers in fantasy have been "trained" to pick up longer books and put the shorter ones back. I don't know if that's true, but if I am going to spend $8.99 and I'm deciding between two books, and one is substantially shorter than the other, I usually go with the longer.

    Take a careful look at the publisher you are considering. See where their word counts fall.
     
  5. Peutra
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    Peutra Member

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    Fantasy is generally really long; I'm thinking of Cinda Williams Chima and JK Rowling here, but some are short - if you're aiming for Juvenile Fantasy, which the above ironically are.

    There are works that are on the low end of 70,000 and there are as high as 130,000 as I've seen. Very rarely have I seen lower than that, but like I said, fantasy is generally long.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Colleen Lindsay, another literary agent, looked into this across genres. She asked editors at major publishing houses. She also found that most of them who buy fantasy want things on the high end of the spectrum. Some told her 100K words was ideal, and some would even look at stuff over 120K. One editor said he liked them to be around 180K, but didn't find many that were good at the count (and that seems a bit extreme).

    But all you have to do is look at successful fantasy debut novels from the past few years and their associated page counts. These are all first books for the respective authors (paperback editions):

    The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss, 672 pages
    Gardens of the Moon, Steven Erikson, 688 pages
    The Warded Man, Peter Brett, 480 pages
    The Darkness That Comes Before, R. Scott Bakker, 656 pages
    The Blade Itself, Joe Abercrombie, 531 pages
    The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch, 736 pages
    Tinker, Wen Spencer, 448 pages
    In Legend Born, Laura Resnick, 724 pages
    Sixty-One Nails, Mike Shevdon, 528 pages
    Elantris, Brandon Sanderson, 656 pages
    Kushiel's DartJaqueline Carey, 928 pages

    &c.
     
  7. Banes
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    Banes Member

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    Thanks for all the great replies. I am still a little confused though.
    Here is a bit more information if it might help:

    My novel's storyline is sort of like Eragon. Eragon's word count is about 157220 words, but I know he got his first book self-published. I was wondering if I could get an agent to help me publish my novel even though it is about 140000 words long? I think Eragon's genre was Fantasy, but it seems like a lot of Young Adults read it? And I know that Young Adult books should be less than 100000 words right?

    What should I do? Should I split it to get an agent, not split it and get an agent, or what?

    Thank you.
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You could potentially get an agent at 140K, imo, but it is really going to have to knock them off their feet. That high of a count is probably going to put them off initially. Splitting it seems to me that you'll end up with something too short. Can you edit it down? I know that's a lot of cutting.

    And yes, YA fantasy tends to come in at lower word counts.
     
  9. Peutra
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    I think you could cut down a lot of the 140,000, and still come out with a better piece. This is all in my opinion, of course. But if every single word of the 140,000 count and are relevant to the story, by all means keep them and try to send it to an agent just like that.

    Btw, splitting 140,000 is in the "bad" range for splitting - anything lower than 160,000 shouldn't be split for YA fantasy, and anything lower than 180,000-190,000 shouldn't be split for reg. fantasy. Do the math - even if you allocate it equally, it's gonna come out 70,000 each, which is a tad too short.
     
  10. The-Joker
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    60-80k is the typical recommendation for YA. I think I've mentioned this before, but 140k is an almost impossible wordcount to sell in YA. Split it and add meat, or cut it down to a 100k to at least give yourself a fighting chance.
     
  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, Banes, if you're writing YA then you want to come in lower, as The Joker is saying. My list of books above are not a representation of YA Fantasy. None of the ones I listed are YA.
     
  12. Banes
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    Banes Member

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    Is Eragon and Harry Potter considered Young Adult?

    Also, should I inform my agent that my book is part of a series? And if I do split the book and add meat should I inform my agent that the second book is almost complete?
     
  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, those are YA.

    I don't see any reason not to inform them of both facts when you approach them. Others will disagree. Your first book has to be good enough to stand on its own merits, though, even though the over-arching story line will continue in the second one. You can't afford to let the first one be a slow build-up to something that pays off in book two or three.
     
  14. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Banes you're asking the same questions over and over again in multiple threads. No, don't tell the agent about the series. You have to impress them with the concept of the current book before they'll be enticed by a series. The series potential only comes into play once the agent has read the entire manuscript, and she must decide how to market it.

    Make no mistake, when you query an agent, you query for one book only.
     
  15. Banes
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    Banes Member

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    Okay. Because I read in "Your Novel Proposal" by Camenson and Cook that you should say you have another novel in store because agents want prolific writers to represent.

    P.S. Where can I post my query for review before I send it out to an agent?
     
  16. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's incorrect and a little idealistic. The only thing an agent wants from an unpublished writer is a marketable novel to represent. A prolific writer of inferior novels is meaningless to an agent, so it's not even worth mentioning. The agent has no idea whether all these books you mention are of any substance. She can only make that assessment after reading one. And that is your only goal. Enticing her to read that one book.

    I think your query can go in the novel section, but you're going to have to critique other pieces first.
     
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  17. colorthemap
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    Stop right now comparing yourself to Eragon(you are better than that[hopefully{he just cheated -which is fine <if you don't wanna go through the process>-}]), and don't think series.
     

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