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November 27th, 2002, 11:21 AM
Yes, the age old question, but asked in a different light...
What is everyones opinion as to what word count makes for a good solid work in today's market? Is there a current hotspot in terms of wordcount and marketability? What is too small, what is too big, and what is just right...?:confused:

November 27th, 2002, 12:01 PM
Depends what market you are aiming at ;)

Magazines: short stories, most list in their submission guide lines the range is roughly about 2500 to 10,000 words.....

Anthologies: similar to magazines in the word range not seen any asking for stories of more than 15,000 words often they will state in there submission guidelines the "ideal" length they are looking for....

Then there are "lap books" or "Novella" publishers quite a few of these about, specialise in books that can be read in an evening or on a aircraft... A few hours good reading. These average between 30,000 and 50,000 words....

Novels: Most publishers again list the length required. this is roughly between 80, 000 and 130,000 words. I know from personal experience that over 130,000 your chance of being looked at are small, unless your story is so hot it burns the editor's fingers :eek:

My first efforts I never thought of the word count, now I do... I try and tailor my stories to the market I am aiming at...

If this gets me some sales under my belt, (and I do have a couple pending *crossed fingers*) then it is worth it.....

November 27th, 2002, 06:18 PM
I once read something that said a novel was defined as being an absolute minimum of 40,000 words. However, this applied to "literary fiction". A standard fantasy work would have to be much larger than this, probably with an average of 100,000 words. And remember - the word count that Word or other programs tells you is not the word count that editors use!

November 27th, 2002, 07:27 PM
Valada, how is the Word word-count different? Do they (editors) take into account the size of the words?

November 27th, 2002, 07:59 PM
Sort of. It ends up coming down to page numbers rather than precise word counts. It is calculated using average characters per line, so that the word count you put on the front of a manuscript can give an editor an approximate idea of the published material they would be dealing with. I'm not saying this particularly well, so I'd suggest going to the site of a few major publishers, and checking a couple of sites dealing with manuscript submission - some of these sites will give you very detailed methods of calculating word counts the way publishers want them calculated. Different publishers may require you to calculate word count in different ways. A general rule of thumb is that Word and other word processing software will tend to OVERESTIMATE the real word count.

James Barclay
November 28th, 2002, 05:55 AM
It depends entirely on the scope of the story. I'm talking about novels here - limiting yourself to a certain count because you feel an editor won't look at you is a mistake in terms of fantasy (and to a certain extent, sci fi) because the genre accepts that books are often very weighty.

LOTR, for instance, I would guess comes in at a few over 130,000 :)

Other, perhaps more relevant examples. Steve Erikson writes up to 225,000 and I don't think anyone feels he waffles. And personally, mine come in at between 150,000 and 175,000 and I don't write pages of descriptions about trees and mountains either.

A book will have it's own length and an editor will look at it on the merits of its style and story, originality etc. If he or she likes those things, word count is largely irrelevant.

There is an economic consideration for publishers because more pages will eventually up the cover price but again, if they feel it's worth it and the sales will justify the commitment, a big book won't be turned away on its size alone.

November 29th, 2002, 07:57 AM
I would have tbought LOTR to be a bit longer, but perhaps not.

Robert Jordan word counts:

#1) 305,837 words
#2) 267,476 words
#3) 244,772 words
#4) 386,313 words
#5) 346,001 words
#6) 405,573 words
#7) 296,483 words
#8) 226,532 words
#9) 239,509 words

Total = 2,718,496 words
(got this from someone on the forums who had text versions of the novels on his PC. I think the ones near 400,000 might be overstated)

Some people think he writes his books too long, but most of them I wanted to be longer. The longer the book the longer you have to keep your readers enthralled though. I personally prefer to write long novels and short stories.

Aik Haw
December 2nd, 2002, 07:20 AM
Just a question here, do you think that the actual wordlimit for novels is going up? For some odd reason, the fantasy book shelf in the bookstores and the PDF files for fantasy seem to be groaning in the former, swelling in the latter.

December 2nd, 2002, 11:26 AM
Seems to me that the buying public is asking for, and paying for larger books! Time to go back to my novel and beef things up. I think that there were some herds of goats and trees and such I could expand the descriptions of by a few dozen pages...;)

I, Brian
December 2nd, 2002, 02:06 PM
I guess word count for a novel simply demonstrates how immersive it is.

You can tell a gripping plot in few words, but to help bring some life to the world you really need to explore it a little more.

But, as usual, it's quality, not quantity, that really counts in the end. And maintaining quality with quantity is going to be a tall order.

Just a question here, do you think that the actual wordlimit for novels is going up? For some odd reason, the fantasy book shelf in the bookstores and the PDF files for fantasy seem to be groaning in the former, swelling in the latter.

Actually, new authors still need to aim for 100,000 words. Printing costs mean an agent will need to trim to around that figure for an unknown author.

However, a successful author can - and probably does - simply keep writing the same length of story - but simply finds the agent cuts less and less out of it. Because the writer earned that privilege.