1. ojduffelworth
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    ojduffelworth Contributing Member

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    Short of the ideal?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by ojduffelworth, Aug 7, 2009.

    80,000 to 100,000 words is said to be the ideal length for a first novel, so will it hamper my chances of finding a publisher if my manuscript runs to only 60,000 words?

    I could add more material, but as I’ve already said what I wanted to say. Extra chapters would mealy be sub-plots, and as fun as they may be, they are not essential to my story. I would rather set them aside for use in a second manuscript.

    But in general do publishers shy away from novels of short stature? Should I get out the stilts?
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Some publishers might not want them, but novellas do get published. Do your research though, and make sure that you're getting it to the right places.
     
  3. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some publishers take 60,000 word manuscripts, a few, especially ebook publishers, often prefer shorter manuscripts. Check the publisher's guidelines for what they accept/look for.

    It also depends on the genre (romance, mainstream etc).

    Terry
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...yes, with most publishers of adult market novels... it's not that it's the 'ideal' but only that it's the length range most publishers will accept, as that's what they find makes most sense cost-wise and market-wise...

    ...yes, they do... see above for why...

    ...sure, you can find exceptions of brilliantly written first novels by nobodies that were taken on and became bestsellers, but they're so rare it would be foolish to strive for that and cut your odds of succeeding down to nearly nil, when they're so slim even with a full-sized ms...
     
  5. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Sub plots are good though...
    You can really develop the nature of your protagonist or antagonist. There should always be obstacles for the main goal, maybe adding one more wont harm your story...
    I would get it up to 75 000 some how without doing anything extremely unnecessary.
     
  6. ojduffelworth
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    ojduffelworth Contributing Member

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    Thanks Mamma...
    So what would be the minimum length that publishers would not balk at? 80,000 ?

    I have read that length tends to varies with genre. Crime short, Science Fiction / Fantasy longer…why is that? It seems strange to me. I would have thought a works length would be wholly independent of genre and depend simply on the individual nature of the story.

    My work is satire, I don’t want to add unnecessarily to it, nor do I wish to cut my ‘odds to nearly nill’. I suppose it will be a juggling act between adding more material to satisfy a publisher and keeping the narrative of my ‘book’ tight. What is the minimum I can hope to get away with ( and how long is a a piece of string!)
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    So what would be the minimum length that publishers would not balk at? 80,000 ?

    ...for most, yes... and satire does tend to be shorter than other genres, but remember to check each publisher's guidelines!
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Thsi bears repeating. The publisher's acceptance range is the first consideration. Don't expect to slip in a manuscript outside that publisher's word count and expect te publisher to take it anyway because of its stellar quality.

    If your manuscript ignores the publisher's submission guidelines, and the approximate word count will be marked on the very first page of your manuscript, the publisher will get an immediate first impression that you cannot follow instructions. Why would the publisher bother to read your piece, when he or she already has a pile of other manuscripts that DO observe the guidelines?

    The average range for a first novel is what you should be aiming for when writing your novel, to maximize the pool of publishers you can submit to. But look at each publisher's guidelines when submitting, If your manuscript is outside the range they are looking for, you are almost certainly wasting your time submitting there without any previous publication credits to your name.
     
  9. ojduffelworth
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    ojduffelworth Contributing Member

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    thanks all
     
  10. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo came to my head. It's really short, and it's also really successful.
     
  11. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is a publisher for everything. While you may increase your chances by being within those limits, and you should work on getting it a bit longer, but you're never being foolish by believing in what you have and looking for publications that accept that length in the meantime. You may have to settle for an e-book, but who cares when it's only your first book? It gets you in the door.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Much of the eBook market is no better than a vanity press. It won't earn you any credibility with real publishers.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but i have to endorse what cog says there... it's a fact of life in the literary world, whether one likes it, or not...

    and coelho's short book was first rejected for a reprint in brazil after only 900 copies of a first printing and did not become a global blockbuster till after he'd had another book published... so, for several reasons, the success of 'the alchemist' is not an example of a new writer succeeding in getting a too-short first novel published...
     
  14. Eddyz Aquila
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    Eddyz Aquila Member

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    I have a first novel in the making, but my problem is, I already got to 55.000 words and it's barely the start of it.

    Any thoughts?
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Finish the novel first. If it's your first novel, I strongly suspect there will be a glut of unnecessary material that can be excised without hurting the story. It's a lot easier to trim out fat than to add meat.
     
  16. Eddyz Aquila
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    Eddyz Aquila Member

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    Thanks for the information. :)
    It indeed is my first novel, and I'm trying to trim down as much as I can in order to keep it concise and to the point, I don't want to bore my reader.
     
  17. Eddyz Aquila
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    Eddyz Aquila Member

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    I recently purchased some books which were the first novels of the authors, and the majority of them were 400-500 pages, which I'm sure is over 100.000k words.

    How come?
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Most likely answer is that standards change. I have no idea what books you have, when they were written, and whether they really were the first accepted novels by those authors.

    But if you wish to ignore the guidelines, that's your choice.
     
  19. Eddyz Aquila
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    Eddyz Aquila Member

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    Nah, its not about the guidelines, its about the fact that I'm surprised that most authors ignored them but still got published.

    I have the following:

    Brethren - Robert Young
    The Last Templar - Raymond Khoury
    The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova

    They're all books written in the past two years.
     
  20. TWErvin2
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    Those appear to be historical fiction novels, not all within the last two years, but that's besides the point--the two that I could find--unless the author's name for Brethren was misstyped. I don't know about historical fiction and those preferences by Dutton and Little Brown & Co.

    Finding three novels and saying that most authors ignored them (guidelines) but still got published with first novels above 100,000 words doesn't indicate that is most. With the houses listed, it is most likely that they were represented by an agent.

    It was discussed that some genres tend towards the larger word count than others. Fantasy and SF for example. Baen states in their guidelines:
    . DAW indicates:
    Historical Fiction may fall into this category as well.

    No one here that I recall said it's impossible to get representation or to sell a novel that falls beyond the requested or most common word count for first-time authors.

    Terry
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the last templar was published in 2005, which means it was not written and accepted by a publisher within the last two years... he had, in fact, first written it as a screenplay, early in his writing career, was then advised to turn it into a novel, which he didn't do till 6-7 years later...

    besides which, he was a successful screenwriter with a major agent at wm morris, by the time of its submission as a book, which allowed him a lot more leeway with publishers than you would have as an unknown new writer...

    the historian was finished in 2004, also not within the last two years... and the popularity of dan brown's da vinci code made her well-researched and well-written story ripe for best-seller status, which is what spurred the bidding war for her first novel... again, not something you can [or should] count on, with your own first novel...

    brethen is by robyn young and took her seven years to write, being finished a year or two prior to being published in 2006, so none of your three examples were written in the last two years... and it was written/published in the uk, where the norms governing the us publishing industry don't always apply...

    plus, as terry said:

     
  22. Eddyz Aquila
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    Eddyz Aquila Member

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    Thank you everyone, and sorry for my mistake. The editions I've bought are either 2007 or 2008, so I assumed they're in the last two years.

    :)
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    keep in mind that it can take months to years, for a writer to get a ms accepted by an agent... then another period of months to years, for the agent to snag a publisher for the work... then, from contract signing to the books being out in bookshops will usually take from 1.5 to 2 years...

    so, as you can see, when a book 'comes out' is not anywhere near when its writer finished writing it...
     

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