1. Dreamer85
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    Dreamer85 Member

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    Word count for fiction novels

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Dreamer85, Sep 17, 2009.

    Just thought I'd put this question out there as I'm quite unsure about this one. I know it must depend to some extent on the publisher but I'd like to get a good idea of what would be a reasonable word count for fiction stories.

    I ask this question because I've written about 15,000 words already and figured that I actually haven't got very far into the story itself! So I'm thinking I need to start editing out some stuff, or consider splitting the story into two parts.
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    This has been answered over and over an over and over and over again. Use the search tool :)
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It's in the 60-80k range for a first time author. Fantasy tends to be higher at about 100k. It could be higher or lower depending on how much the publisher likes it.
     
  4. Dreamer85
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    Dreamer85 Member

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    So probably not a good idea to think about publishing my major works as my first novel in that case! I have other ideas to work on that could more easily fit the 60-80k bracket that could work better. Thanks!
     
  5. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    I always thought 60 was quite short for a novel...
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Well, if the average novel has 250-300 words per page, then a 60k word novel would have a page count in the 200-240 range. That's a little on the smaller side, but it still seems reasonable.
     
  7. Dreamer85
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    Dreamer85 Member

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    Yeah but thirdwind noted that it was for first time authors, so I think that has to be taken into consideration.
     
  8. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Even for first-timers, 60 could be short, depending on the publisher. But if you've got something really good, unless the editor/agent looks at the word count first and makes a decision right then and there (which they probably do since they get so many submissions), you can occasionally get away with more or less than the usual, but don't count on that happening.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    tw...
    you should go by publishers' guidelines, when advising new writers on word count, not on just your best guess based on numbers of pages in books you see on the shelves...

    and if you do that, you'll see that the majority of publishers want 80-100k for first novels by new writers... so, 60-80k would not be what they should aim for...

    dreamer...
    first of all, novels are fiction, and so are 'stories' unless you specify that they're 'non-fiction' or 'true' ones... so don't refer to them as 'fiction novels' and 'fiction stories' unless you want to advertise the fact that you're so new to the game...

    as for your progress thus far, don't even think of cutting or splitting till you get to the end... just write your whole novel and then see how long it turns out to be, instead of worrying about it now, when you have no clue...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  10. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The publishing company I work for likes fiction between 60-100k words. What usually ends up happening is that when novels are revised, they are shortened by a few thousand words. So, the end result is rarely above 80 or 85k. I admit 60k is a bit low, but I would also say that 100k is a bit high. Perhaps a a range of 65-85k might be something to aim for.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i can't imagine why you'd say that new writers should aim for the low end of what's preferred, or way below that even, when the vast majority of publishers [yours being an exception] want 80-100k... and how can 100k be 'a bit high' when it's simply the upper limit of what they actually prefer?

    btw, what publishing company do you work for and in what capacity?... are you an acquisitions editor?... why do they accept 60k for an adult market novel, when it's so far below the norm?... or are they a niche market press that specializes in some genre that 60k can work well enough for?
     
  12. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I did some searching for publisher guidelines about this for mainstream fiction. It varies but most prefer something around 80k words. One publisher said that they don't even look at novels with more than 80k words. Most publishers also state that the upper limit is 100k. It's probably better to be safe and cut down if your novel is that long. At the company I work for, 100k words is roughly 450 typeset pages. I took a look at some debut novels on Amazon and other bookstore sites and saw that they had a page range between 300 and 400 in most of the cases. That falls in the range of 67-87k. Looking back I realize that my first post was a typo. I mean to say 65 and 85 instead of 60 and 80. However, I still stand by 65-85k as a good word count. IMO, 100k is just pushing it.

    The company I work for is small, so we don't have the luxury to print large books by debut novelists. We publish mainly mainstream and literary fiction, so the word count isn't as high as it is for fantasy where 100k is probably around average. This is why we prefer novels that are in the 60-85k range. We actually go as low as 55k, but I've yet to see a debut novel under 62k. What usually ends up happening in this case is we tell the author to flesh out some of the areas to add a couple thousand words.

    Yes, I am an acquisitions editor for a medium-sized (could be considered on the smaller side) company in Oregon. I started a few months ago, but now that college has started, I only work part time. If you're interesting, next time I'm at work, I'll check to see what the average word count is for novels that we publish.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    well, i guess we'll have to agree to disagree about 100k being 'pushing it' and 60-65k being ok to shoot for or settle for, if one's a new writer with a first novel...

    the thing is, i've been mentoring aspiring writers since the early 80s and thus have had to keep up with what the vast majority of publishers want, as well as what is acceptable to the small niche presses such as the one you work for... and as a result of my keeping tabs on current trends, i'll stick to advising new adult market novelists to aim for the most preferred range of 80-100k, but to check the guidelines of every agent and publisher they intend to query and be sure that what they want to submit fits each one's parameters...

    what publisher do you work for, btw?
     
  14. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I work for Spring Street Press. And yes, I do agree that writers should look at publisher and/or agent guidelines. That is probably the best way to know what range to aim for.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Probably? :)
     
  16. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Whoops, my mistake. It is the best way.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    why doesn't spring street press have a website?... they must be way on the small side... do they pay an advance and in the going rate range for royalties?

    and, with no website and apparently no easily-found email address, how would anyone know what their guidelines are and what kinds of books they publish?

    is it an actual paying publishing house, or just a printing company?... are they connected at all to spring street press in amherst, MA?

    please know that i'm not merely being nosy... the reason i'm asking is that i mentor many aspiring writers, so am always on the lookout for new publishers they might want to query and i can't find any books from this company on amazon, only a few references to excerpts in the text, referring to a book published in 1985 that's not listed on amazon, either...
     
  18. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Edit: maia, I've PMed you to tell you more about the company.
     
  19. SayWhatNow?
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    SayWhatNow? Senior Member

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    wasn't Carrie SK's first published book? Same for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone for JKR?
     
  20. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Yes and yes. Harry Potter is 76,944 words. I couldn't find an exact word count for Carrie.
     
  21. SayWhatNow?
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    SayWhatNow? Senior Member

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    Harry Potter was only 76.000? I could've sworn a Harry Potter book would be much longer. Then again, I haven't read the series in a while.
     
  22. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    The first harry potter book was not as long as the others. In fact, they only really get longer at the fourth. The first and second was just below 80, while I believe the third was just over 80. After that, it just gets longer and longer.
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    none of which means anything other than there are exceptions to any rule...

    but to maximize your work's chances of being accepted by an agent/publisher, instead of minimizing them, it's best to have a ms that fits the MOST-preferred size and not count on being one of those rare exceptions...
     

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