View Full Version : Ideal SF novel lengths

Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum

Pages : [1] 2 3

July 27th, 2006, 01:43 AM
I have been trying to find what it is that publishers are looking for in SF in regards to ideal length or word count. They seem to range wuite a lot.

July 27th, 2006, 02:21 AM
From what I've seen thus far... 80k - 150k. The smaller your book is, the less they have to risk on you. Still, I ignored the typical sizes and just finished it once before caring about fitting it for these kinds of necessities.


July 27th, 2006, 03:51 AM
from what I've read most seem to be 200-250 soft cover


July 27th, 2006, 04:53 AM
This might help.

The current list of definitions for Hugo Award categories is as follows:

Best Novel: Awarded for a science fiction or fantasy story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more.

Best Novella: Awarded for a science fiction or fantasy story of between seventeen thousand five hundred (17,500) and forty thousand (40,000) words.

Best Novelette: Awarded for a science fiction or fantasy story of between seven thousand five hundred (7,500) and seventeen thousand five hundred (17,500) words.

Best Short Story: Awarded for science fiction or fantasy story of less than seven thousand five hundred (7,500) words.

As a word of caution, though, my impression is that there is a degree of truth in the adage that a story worth telling shouldn't be limited by word constraints. Write the thing first; then see if it needs trimming or expanding. (That's what editors do!)


July 27th, 2006, 12:55 PM
What is better - breaking a long story into several books or publishing as a 200,000 word novel?

For example, Our first published book is only 1/5 the total story in our outline and runs over 150,000 words. Next book will be a bit less but we are still only 1/3 through the big story.

Is the limiting factor the cost of printing, the price of the book, or the length readers want? My personal feeling is that its all of the above so we are moving forward with our plans.

I think it would be useful to get a feel for the range of opinions on this issue.:confused:

July 27th, 2006, 02:08 PM
No threat intended, wolf, but to get more attention you might want to start a thread of your own for that, rather than hijacking ductape's. ;)

July 27th, 2006, 02:47 PM
A thought or two on word length.

The more I'm learing about the amount of effort required to put into a writing project, the more ominous these "epic" multi-volume novels sound. Considering that my short stories, all under 10 000 words, go through significant revisions and multiple drafts before I even submit them for publication, and that I usually include at least one re-draft between rejection and subsequent submission, I am very hesitant to embark on a lengthy project - at least right now.

To answer AAWolfner, I think a significant limiting factor for publishers is actually shelf space. They pay big bucks to occupy space on the shelf at your local Chapters. And to be out on display, or on the edge of a shelf is very costly. So, for the investment, publishers want to know that they can fit as many copies as possible in that little, expensive space - without making the book too small to read. That means the less pages, the better.

I'd be curious to know about the first time buyers' habits as well. Consider a person out shopping at local independent bookstore, looking for a good summer read and willing to spend time on a new, unknown author. She narrows her choices down to X (100k long) and Y (200k long), both of which look reasonably interesting. First off, there's a good chance that Y is more expensive - see my shelf space babble above. Further, Y demands a longer committment if she's planning to see her choice through. Y also takes up more space on her home bookshelf. I'd be willing to bet she'd go for X.

And here's another thought. How can you really "aim" for a word length on a first draft anyway? Maybe if you're one of those fortunate, gifted writers who can pound out submission quality prose on the first go it's worth the effort. But my stuff tends to vary by ~10% or so from draft to draft.

As mentioned above, I think the best approach is to just write the thing, and then see where it fits when you're happy with it.

July 27th, 2006, 04:52 PM
No threat intended, wolf, but to get more attention you might want to start a thread of your own for that, rather than hijacking ductape's. ;)
I apologize - I thought this thread was about the length of the story/book.
I think we have covered my question anyway.... Break a long story into edible bites and get them out there for folks to read...
Thanks for accepting my apology!

July 27th, 2006, 07:12 PM
No prob mate. I was just suggesting a better way to advertise your question and keep the other dude's (damn I don't even remember his name) alive.

July 28th, 2006, 01:03 AM
Well, let me put to you WHY it is I am attempting to work with this info. Just as you mentioned about the expensive bookshelves, there is packaging on the loading docks. Also there is the issue of what length of stories work and are proven to sell for that category of novel. This is an important factor and publisher have definite criterea for story length in each genre.

Working within these imposed size constraints, many authors and editors know on average how many point-of-view(POV) characters work, how many sections work best and so forth.

I can imagine the situation of adding too many POV characters and overshooting your length with those extra sections. The publisher wants you to trim it down and now you are faced with the dilema of editing out many elements in many sections due to how they tie in.

Now I am not usually accused of being a control-freak but the work I do on a daily basis requires smart planning. So should, in my opinion, a great novel be carefully planned. The target word-count is simply that, a target. From that number I will determine how many POV characters I will use and how many sections will be given to each.

From within that framework I will attempt to build my plot. Of course I can add sections, remove sections, or lengthen or shorten each section as needed. I just feel having the framework gives a reference by which to navigate to your final destination, the best novel you can write.