1. trevorD

    trevorD Member

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    Novel length for first time writer?

    Discussion in 'Traditional Publishing' started by trevorD, Feb 8, 2021.

    Is there a word count number that publishers don't want a first-time novelist to go beyond or they'll autofile the submission without further consideration? I almost have all my chapters written for a young adult/adult horror adventure (vampire) novel and am standing around 150k words. What do I do if that's too many? Do I break it into two books? Would a beta reader help identify areas I could cut out? I hate to get it professionally edited since I want to do traditional publishing, but is that what it's going to take for people to actually consider it? Help!
     
  2. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

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    80k is your target. Even the first Harry Potter clocks in at 77k. Rowling wisely knew she had to get in first. (Once they realized what they'd done, the publishers who rejected this must have all jumped off a cliff. Can there be a bigger fail in the publishing world?) For book two, the gloves come off.

    I would rewrite the middle so that it feels like an end and then carry on in a second book. There are first time writers who smash through 80k, but they're the exception.
     
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  3. Fiender_

    Fiender_ Active Member

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    80k words is usually a safe number for most genres, though adult fantasy and sci-fi both get away with and are expected to have higher wordcounts, often around 100-120k words.

    Now, when you start pitching/querying your book, it would be best to decide on picking between calling it young adult or adult, not both. Yeah, plenty of YA readers read adult and vice versa, but your book cannot exist on both shelves in the bookstore at the same time in a state of quantum duplication. :p And YA word counts are a lot more stringent and shorter than adult novels, so that's also a factor.

    As for what to do with the book itself, it's really tricky to offer suggestions without having read the book. It's possible you have just overwritten it and with beta reader advice you can comfortably trim it by several tens of thousands of words. And it may be possible to just cut it in half or so and rewrite the ending, but I've read quite a few books that were clearly cut in half and did not end satisfactorily enough ending to make me want to read more. Beta readers will be key in helping you figure this one out.

    You are right to be hesitant about hiring a professional editor. For all the good they can do, any publisher will have their own editors take passes at your book anyway, and they'll recommend changes to bring your book in line with whatever the publishing house's standards are.
     
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  4. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    From: https://proactivewriter.com/blog/novel-word-count-everything-you-must-know-in-2020

    Novel Word Count for Book Genres:
    Crime Novel Word Count: 90,000 to 100,000
    Thriller Novel Word Count: 70,000 to 90,000
    Romance Novel Word Count: 60,000 to 90,000
    Fantasy Novel Word Count: 90,000 to 120,000
    Horror Novel Word Count: 80,000 to 100,000
    Sci-Fi Novel Word Count: 90,000 to 125,000
    Historical Novel Word Count: 80,000 to 120,000
    Young Adult Novel Word Count: 50,000 to 80,000
    Novella Word Count: 20,000 to 40,000
    Short Stories Word Count: 1000 to 8000
    Flash Fiction Word Count: 100 to 500
     
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  5. Francis de Aguilar

    Francis de Aguilar Contributor Contributor

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    I have a complete Crime at 56k. Is this a non starter for querying?
     
  6. Idiosyncratic

    Idiosyncratic Member

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    56k for an adult crime novel is going to be a hard sell for a debut novel in traditional publishing There are occasional exceptions, but it's a huge handicap when agents/publishers' primary concern is finding something that they can sell. If you're set on trad publishing, you might want to see if you can increase the word count without adding fluff, whether by adding stakes/complexity, or fleshing out what you already have, or both.
     
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  7. Francis de Aguilar

    Francis de Aguilar Contributor Contributor

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    It looks like I have some work to do.
     
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  8. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I strongly suggest you don't do anything of the sort - its better to have 56k of taut well plotted story than 80k with 26k words of unnecessary fluff.

    as per the other discussion about your length there are plenty of crime books around 60k, plus also if you are accepted you may well add words when working with the editorial team... in terms of actually getting accepted length is not as important as good writing imo
     
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  9. Idiosyncratic

    Idiosyncratic Member

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    You do have to ask yourself though, are these 60k crime books traditionally published? Self-publishing has a lot more latitude when it comes to word count. Are they by debut authors? Established authors have far more freedom. Were they published in the past three or so years? Trends and industry expectations change. Publisher's primary goal is to make money. They want good books, sure, but more than that they want books that they think can sell. When you're competing against hundreds of authors for a tiny number of slots, the odds are pretty good that you'll end up butting heads against books that are just as good as yours, and sellability is going to be the deciding factor. Heck, if they've been flooded with submissions recently they'll be looking for reasons to reject you. A wordcount that is significantly outside of their normal word-count range is a big red flag. This is coming from agents and editors working at publishing houses, not my personal opinion. Wordcount matters to publishers, whether that's fair or right or not.
     
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  10. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Yes - Penguin Random house, and S&S

    Yes

    yes

    A book that's padded out with all sorts of unnecessary crap is also a big red flag - and that also comes from editors at the big five.

    I'd agree that a tautly plotted 80k is probably better than a tautly plotted 60k, but its still terrible advice to pad out a 60k with 20k of fluff in order to meet an arbitrary count because a book thats 1/4 fluff will go straigh in the bin
     
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  11. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Life is Dynamite Contributor

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    As someone who works with books on the regular, i second this
     
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  12. Idiosyncratic

    Idiosyncratic Member

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    I'm getting the impression that you misread my initial recommendation, which was to consider ways to increase the wordcount WITHOUT adding fluff.
     
  13. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Good point - i did, my apologies
     
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  14. hyacinthe

    hyacinthe Active Member

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    just over 80 and below 90k is the most versatile word count for everything except Adult SFF, which ideally is over 100k but not by much.
     
  15. Francis de Aguilar

    Francis de Aguilar Contributor Contributor

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    Slowly working my way through a version with additional scenes. Struggling with it though as I am less than enthusiastic about doing it.
     

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