1. Florent150
    Offline

    Florent150 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2010
    Messages:
    82
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    York

    What kind of length is acceptable to a publisher (for a first novel?)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Florent150, Jan 9, 2011.

    I have noticed that a lot of great novel phenomena's start with books that are fairly small, before each next installation gets a bit bigger as the author/book is established. For example Harry Potter. Do you think the first Harry Potter book would have been as successful if it was the size of the last one (600 pages compared to something like 220 pages for the first one.) As the HP books became more successful, the page counts of each novel at each interval of HP-mania went up.

    However Twilight seems to have dived in straight at the deep end and Stephenie Meyer who had never written a book before in her life got her 500-odd paged Twilight published no problem, prior to the fame of the author or success of the book. And that's considering that the book is a teenage/YA book.


    So how much of a big deal is book size if you're trying to get your first novel published? would a 500-600 page book be near impossible (even if it's a good book) due to commercial reasons?
     
  2. Show
    Offline

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    30
    From what I have been told, it's not page count but word count that matters. 80k-100k words is the number I've seen passed around the most for first time novels. (Although it can vary by genre I think)
     
  3. Florent150
    Offline

    Florent150 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2010
    Messages:
    82
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    York
    ahh right. I'm not sure of the word count of twilight. I know HP7 is around 200k words, so yeah I recon Philosopher's Stone must have been about 70k then.
     
  4. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    I think from 50 000 - 60 000 words its considered a novel, while 30 000 or less would be a short story, correct me if im wrong. I have heard about (and read) novels of that length.
    My current novel is only 40 000 words yet so i have to make it a little longer somehow. that is my biggest problem right now.
     
  5. Ellipse
    Offline

    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2010
    Messages:
    714
    Likes Received:
    32
    I've read 80-120,000 or more is considered a novel.
    30-50,000 is a novellet.
    5-20,000 is a short story.
     
  6. ellebell16
    Offline

    ellebell16 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2010
    Messages:
    46
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    New England
    Twilight is 130,000 words. I read that somewhere and I always remembered it for referencing.

    That's an alarming amount for a first time novelist. The first HP book was 90,000 words after editing, which I think was a good length.
     
  7. Fiona
    Offline

    Fiona Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2011
    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    UK
    Some agents/publishers have their own ideas of what amount of words are needed to be considered novel length.

    I write in horror, and I have been told by a couple of publishers that anything 60,000 onwards is a novel.

    But it does vary from place to place.

    One thing I have come across a lot whilst researching on the net is that agents/publishers like a first time authors novel to be on the shorter side rather than the longer side...How true that is, I don't know!
     
  8. VM80
    Offline

    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2010
    Messages:
    1,211
    Likes Received:
    43
    Location:
    UK
    I think 60,000 words is usually too short for a novel, first or no.

    I know almost 78,000 was considered 'too short' in my case. That was a couple of years back but I don't think things have changed much.

    I was advised to expand mine to 85,000-90,000. This is what they called the ideal publishable length.

    It may vary from publisher to publisher though.
     
  9. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    Personally when im reading i prefer books that are around 300pages, preferably less, between 250-300, more than that put me a little off it. A good book isnt about the number of pages but of the quality of the content, but it would really be interesting to know what is considered a minimum lenght. I would never buy a book of 600 pages.
     
  10. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    I am finding the same as Fiona also YA is generally 50-90K a fantasy novel will be 100-120K and a normal one 80-120K. I have been phoning agents and publishers to ask.

    My first 51K so fingers crossed lol, it is a YA novel so just squeaks in. What I am finding is Harry Potter and Twilight have increased the word count for YAs who have more time, but adults are leaning towards reading novellas and shorter novels because of time constraints. As of this year publishers seem to be catching up with this, a number of friends are getting novellas published inthe next year.

    As a result my view is my book will be as long as it takes to telll the story then I am just going to pimp it lol However I am only looking mostly in the UK although some of my friends are publishing their novellas in the US. I would take some time to just phone and ask questions.
     
  11. zilly
    Offline

    zilly Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2009
    Messages:
    141
    Likes Received:
    3
    I have read in several places that a first time submission for a non-fiction novel almost needs to be 70k words where closer to 80k is preferable.
     
  12. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,892
    Location:
    Boston
    It's 80-100k for a standard adult novel (fantasy/sci-fi can be longer). YA is a little less than that. Just keep in mind that the publisher's length requirements are the ones you should be following.
     
  13. jwatson
    Offline

    jwatson Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2009
    Messages:
    559
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    canada
    I swear the first HP book was around 70K. I think it varies, but roughly, I'd say 70-100.
     
  14. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    A non-fiction novel is a contradiction in terms. A novel by definition is a work of fiction.

    YA novels have different guidelines. An adult novel would usually be between 80,000 and 120,000, as has already been posted. But there are exceptions. I believe that Elizabeth Kostova's first novel, The Historian was about three times that number.
     
  15. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,529
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    It depends in several factors:
    The genre, the publisher, and a track record of sales.

    YA is generally shorter than adult fiction.
    Mystery and Romance usually shorter than SF and Fantasy.

    Publishers often post in their guidelines as to what they're interested in (if they take unagented submissions/slush). Agents, sometimes do.

    Others in this thread have stated lengths appropriate for a first-time author. And it varies, precisely because of the variables stated at the beginning of this post.

    If you have a novel around 90,000 words, you'll be okay in most markets and genres (since the specifics weren't given in the OP). Also note: You will find rare examples of first novels that are far longer or much shorter than what the publishers list in their guidelines. My input on this:It is already difficult enough to get your work published. Don't add another hurdle to overcome in the already long odds against success, if you can avoid it.

    There are a number of previous threads that discuss this topic in depth. They may also provide input on specifics being sought.

    Good luck as you move forward!

    Terry
     
  16. Florent150
    Offline

    Florent150 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2010
    Messages:
    82
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    York


    Mine is a psychological fantasy (set in a more modern/sci-fi setting though). Based on a basic outline of the story I figured it would be somewhere between 150k - 200k words.

    Primary I figured it would be young adult. But I was wondering, what age brackets do Star Wars, LOTR's and the later Harry Potter novels technically tend to? These three in particular as well as others seem to be for most ages. While you would think LOTR's was a YA/Adult set of novels, even very young kids read/are encouraged to read them and loads of kids love the movies (which are pretty dark and in some ways graphic), not to mention Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with regular scenes of torture, gruesome murder, kidnapping, mental instability etc. But my niece who's 8 has read it happily.

    Which kind of confuses me a bit as to age bracket my novel technically targets. It's tone is quite broad. It can get very dark at times as it's a psychological thriller with a lot on unstable psych, but it's also extremely light-hearted and humourous through most of the story. I figured the darker stuff would make it adult, but the truth is it's something that could probably be read happily by adult, YA and teenagers/preteens.
     
  17. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,892
    Location:
    Boston
    150k-200k words is a lot for a first novel. You're going to have a tough time selling it to an agent/publisher. You should work on trimming down the next draft.
     
  18. ellebell16
    Offline

    ellebell16 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2010
    Messages:
    46
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    New England
    Here is the list of HP in word counts (roughly):
    Sorcerer's (Philosopher's Stone) - 77,000
    Chamber of Secrets - 85,000
    Prisoner of Azkaban - 107,000
    Goblet of Fire - 190,000
    Order of the Phoenix - 257,000
    Half Blood Prince - 169,000
    Deathly Hallows - 205,000

    Notice how the first three are the shortest. That's because those are the ones that hook the reader in. Then they'll stick around regardless of the length. Starting off with 257,000 words is not smart, but if you hook people in first, go ahead.

    Honestly, just write it and deal with that stuff later. I personally wouldn't try to cut stuff out for the sake of making it shorter while I'm still writing it. If it gets too long, just make a sequel.
     
  19. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    range preferred by most us publishers for new writers' adult market novels is 80-100k... too far below or above that will seriously diminish your chances of getting an agent or a publisher...

    YA can be shorter and sci-fi/fantasy/historical genres may squeak by if a bit longer...

    of course there are exceptions, but to maximize your chances, it's wisest to go with the rule...
     
  20. Florent150
    Offline

    Florent150 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2010
    Messages:
    82
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    York
    Hmmm. Is it possible to negotiate on word counts on the agent side of things?

    If you had a book that was say 150k words and an agent felt that it was too long, can it be agreed with the agent to split it into two 75k word books and work on releasing the first "part." Or do you have to decide all of that on your own as to how to work with what you've written.

    The main point here is whether an agent/publisher sees;

    high/low word count = not commercially viable

    or

    high/low word count = poor writing/bad execution


    The book is very much epic fantasy so it swings with a high word count. The length kind of spawned out of the fact that I wanted to write that kind of book. Thing I have three novels planned, but they're not very independent and more like one novel split into three parts, each 200k words. But that means the word count can be far more flexible. It's much easier for me to make turn it into four 150k word books or 6 100k word books, or different ratios.

    My basic outline of my plot says it's gonna hit somewhere around the 600k words mark and by default I split that into a trilogy, but it doesn't matter too much if I split it into more (I actually assumed it would be detrimental to the novel to split it into too many books as it would make the story disjointed.)
     
  21. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,892
    Location:
    Boston
    Ideally, your first novel should stand alone. Publishing is a business so it's risky for a publisher to take on a series of novels from an unknown writer. Since you're writing fantasy, the word count for a first novel can be a little higher (up to 120k I believe). Your best bet would be to trim down what you currently have.

    If possible, you should also aim for getting published in some well-known fantasy magazines. Having good credentials will help you out a little.
     
  22. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,529
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA

    You first have to acquire an agent to represent your work. The likelihood of an agent seeing a 150,000+ word novel and then thinking that it could be cut into two? It is unlikely that they would even read and consider the novel in the first place. Reputable agents gets hundreds of queries a month (or more). From those, they only have time to seriously consider a minute fraction--and that depends on how many other clients they're working with and what's going on with their writing/novels.

    As was stated, the novel has to stand alone. It has to have an story arc. Yes, there can be room for sequels. And, yes, there are exceptions to this.

    For major publishers that take unagented submissions:
    Ace/Roc wants 80,000 to 125,000 words.
    Baen requests 100,000 to 130,000 words
    DAW indicates never less than 80,000
    TOR does not list a count. They used to, but I cannot recall the exact number, but it was in the same ballpark as the other main publishers.

    My novel submitted to Gryphonwood Press, was about 125,000 words. The published version is about 128,000 after editing/revision. But Flank Hawk is longer than most works that they've published. Most are in the 90,000 word range.

    It is important to consider this information before you start writing your epic novel/series, especially if you hope to find a publisher. The odds are steep enough without adding additional hurdles to overcome, such as an exceedingly high word count, especially the kick-off novel to a trilogy or series, if it doesn't stand alone well.

    I say it is important because you will spend hundreds and hundreds of hours working on your project with the hope of success. Do all you can to see the success. Planning the story well, before writing can keep the word count in the range most likely to garner attention.

    Think about it. Reading slush/first time author submissions is not high on the priority list. Time is always a concern. If an editor/agent sees a submission for 200,000 words seeking a representation/publisher, and they have another several hundred awaiting consideration? Editors often look for a reason to reject a work--not for a reason to accept it. Do your best to avoid giving them a reason right up front.
     
  23. Terry D
    Offline

    Terry D Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2011
    Messages:
    200
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Southeast Iowa
    The reason most published novels from new writers are at the lower end of the word count spectrum is because the publisher will have less of an investment in the book, and therefore less risk if it doesn't sell. As an author gets more established and develops a following, publishers know they will get their investment back. The publisher's ideal word count tends to vary by novel type also, with genre novels, and YA generally being shorter than mainstream fiction.
     

Share This Page