How long should a book be?

Discussion in 'Writing' started by gabador, Jun 21, 2002.

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What is the minimum and maximum pages in a book?

  1. Min 200

    5 vote(s)
    26.3%
  2. Min 300

    7 vote(s)
    36.8%
  3. Min 400

    4 vote(s)
    21.1%
  4. Max 600

    2 vote(s)
    10.5%
  5. Max 700

    3 vote(s)
    15.8%
  6. Max 800

    3 vote(s)
    15.8%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. gabador

    gabador Angellicus Halfus

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    What is the minimum/maximum pages that a publisher is willing to print? What dimensions for the book? Font size? Font?
    Oh, and take the last and first as <200 and >800
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2002
  2. Alucard

    Alucard Snazzy Dancer

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    Well, from what I gather, the longer your book is, the harder it will be to get in print. It's much less of a risk to print a book that is only 75,000 words than it would be to print out a 200,000 word monster. But I could be wrong. I did not look this up, but heard about it via word of mouth.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2002
  3. Radthorne

    Radthorne Keeper of the Hikari

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    I think there are a number of other variables that affect this decision (such as trade paper vs. mass market, etc.), and each publisher will have different production and marketing constraints that will also influence it. The best gauge is probably to look at the current books on the shelf from each publisher and see who tends to go for larger (or smaller) size books.

    I can only relate my personal experience: my first publisher, iUniverse, had about a 700 page maximum (it's actually based on word count). This is rather larger than most of the other POD publishers I've seen. My book nearly maxed out, at 697 pages.

    My new publisher can also handle 700 pages, but their trade paperback size is smaller, 5.5 x 8.5 versus 6 x 9. As a result, without cramming the text out to the edges of the page, they couldn't do all 700 pages in the new format. They elected instead to split the book into two parts.

    In terms of publisher acceptance, with POD of course it doesn't matter as long as you fit within their maximum. With a traditional press, I think long books from new authors will not fare well at New York houses (too much up-front cost for an unpredictable return). With an independent press, you stand a much better chance. My new publisher wanted the book, so she was willing to find ways to make it work, and thus the Part One - Part Two split.
     
  4. milamber_reborn

    milamber_reborn Barcelona!

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    A novel should be as long as it needs to be.

    Kevin. What be the aproximate word count for a 700 page paperback, hardback, trade etc? My novel, yet to be sent to publishers is 242, 203 words. By the time its fully edited it'll be at least 240,000 words.
     
  5. gabador

    gabador Angellicus Halfus

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    Just out of quriosity. Jordan has a legion of fans, and could get just about anything published...
    Just how many books has he written before unleashing that monster first? The eye of the world?
     
  6. Susan Boulton

    Susan Boulton Edited for submission

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    Most publishers look for a novel to be between 80,000 and 140,000 words 150,000max. After that it had got to be the next best thing to sliced bread to even get a look in.

    Even published writers can't just produce a msssive "book" and expect it to be published with out any protest. You should check Janny Wurt's site she often comments on her past struggles to get manuscripts approved.
     
  7. Erebus

    Erebus Keeping The Equilibrium

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    Orson Scott Card, when asked a very similar question, said that a book should be the length it takes to tell the story you wish to tell...

    Personally, I find that a wonderful philosophy! :)
     
  8. Bardos

    Bardos Ancient Member

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    A wonderful philosophy, indeed...

    ...since I agree 100% with it. :)

    Yes, a true writer KNOWS how long his/her story needs to be. That means not draging the story, nor chopping it to pieces. For, if you drag it, it's going to be boring and kind of pointless (e.g., Jordan); if you cut important pieces, it's going to be appearent (publisher made Feist cut pieces from the Magician, firts edition, and you just KNEW that something was missing there. And for what? 50.000 words... ugh...!)
     
  9. Radthorne

    Radthorne Keeper of the Hikari

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    Milamber, you're right on target! The Road To Kotaishi, in the iUniverse edition, was 242, 557 words, and came in at 697 pages as a trade paperback.

    To echo the comments of others, this is fine if you're willing to pursue iUniverse as your publishing option. Other POD publishers have lower page or word-count limits, so you would have to consider cutting the book down or splitting it into two parts if you went with them. And trying to get a New York house to go with such a large book for a new author would be a tough way to go unless the book really knocked their socks off (and it's hard to get anyone in the industry to believe that newcomers can make that kind of book, unfortunately).

    I struggled while writing The Road To Kotaishi over whether I should drastically cut the book down, or try to make it into two separate books (I hadn't thought of keeping it as one "book" in two parts, as I'm doing now with my new publisher). And similar to the advice given by Orson Scott Card, I was told the same thing by Vonda McIntyre, and so elected to stick with my lengthy tome. It's your vision, and if it's the story you want to tell then it should be whatever length it needs to be. The only caveat is that you may have to accept a reduced set of publishing options in order to get that story into the hands of readers.
     
  10. enazwo

    enazwo Eloquence & Inebriation

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    Though the market has always been in a constant state of flux, there have been authors who have demonstrated that the length of a story is not as important as author's talent to tell the tale.

    Robert E. Howard wrote only one full length story about Conan, his most popular character. "Conan the Conquerer", or Howard's original title "Hour of the Dragon". The rest of Howard's tales were all short stories about the popular barbarian.

    However the point being that targeting the omni-changing market may not enhance your chance of success.

    Of course it makes sense to try and statistically stack the deck in your favor, however the point being; stay true to your vision, your story, your passion.

    There would be nothing so unsatisfying as to try and dial in those stats while compromising the soul of your tale.

    It is a highwire act to pull off.

    Fall to the left and your story will never even get any attention.

    Fall to the right and they'll wonder why you ever thought you could write a tale.

    Stay the course and you can either win a "deal" or you can keep your pride.

    There's no inbetween IMHO.

    Stay true to your passion.
     
  11. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    This question has come up in a number of other threads too. My first book was 484 pages in a trade paperback edition. The second one was 600 pages and the third about 550. My agent once told me to try and cut the third book (before it was finished) to around 300 to 350 because that's what publishers wanted. I told them that I really can't control how long it takes to tell the story.
    In a strange and ironic way, POD publishers are becomming the houses for the more creative authors who are not content with the prescriptive to 'cut your books to a commercial size'. As an author you certainly have more creative control with iuniverse or some of the others. Are the big publishing houses sacrificing quality and the creative process to their (usually wrong) concepts of marketability?
    Personally, for many many years, I chose which fantasy books to read based upon how long they were - I looked for the longest! When I like an author, I want to read and read. I am always disappointed when the book ends and I hate waiting for the sequel. Are the publishers just worried that if they print something that doesn't sell well, it will be a money losing proposition, and they are looking to minimize their losses by printing shorter books at a lower cost? If so, they should tell this to their editors and the agents that submit these weak manuscripts to them. Maybe it's the process they use to choose what to print, and not the length that is costing them money!!
     
  12. Duarh

    Duarh New Member

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    I think that, unless you're very VERY good at what you're doing, aiming at a size without thinking of what the work NEEDS will do terrible things to my writing. In my second novel-writing attempt I tried to stretch things out because I like long books - well, I finished it, got up to 200000 words and all, but it was a mess because that was not what my story needed.
     
  13. MarcPhoenix

    MarcPhoenix New Member

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    Here's the secret!

    Know your craft! What does this mean? Basically know what makes you stand out among other writers and capitalize on this.

    Write your story completely and then haggle the ammount of words when it is time to get published.

    After reviewing my story it was best to make it into a trilogy.

    Marc Phoenix
    www.authorsden.com/phoenix
     
  14. asimovian

    asimovian Aspiring Smart Arse

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    gabador,
    If that's what you want to know, then maybe that's a question which should be asked a publisher rather than as a poll ?