View Full Version : How long should a book be?
June 21st, 2002, 11:03 AM
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
June 21st, 2002, 03:41 PM
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.
June 21st, 2002, 03:53 PM
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.
June 22nd, 2002, 06:50 AM
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.
June 22nd, 2002, 07:54 AM
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?
June 22nd, 2002, 08:32 AM
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.
June 22nd, 2002, 10:55 AM
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! :)
June 22nd, 2002, 04:05 PM
...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...!)
June 23rd, 2002, 12:44 AM
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.
June 23rd, 2002, 04:21 AM
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.
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