View Full Version : Word Count

Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum

August 30th, 2004, 10:36 PM
I'm curious... what is an average size novel in words?

Does anyone know an approximate conversion from typed MS word document pages, single spaced at 12pt font, to book pages.

I have written about 17,000 words of my book so far, and I'm just curious how many pages that is in a novel, so that I can get a feel for how bulky or thin I can expect this book to be once it never gets published. ;)

For book size, imagine going to the bookstore and buying a typical paperback fantasy a la David Eddings or somesuch. That is the size I'm referring to, whatever it is in mm or in.


August 31st, 2004, 12:59 AM
Most publishers look to publish around 80-90K words for a full length novel. I read somewhere that there are approxiamately 250 words on a standard paperback page. So just launch up the statistics/word count (depending on what program you are using) and do the math. ;)

August 31st, 2004, 03:25 AM
True, but much fantasy is 200 000+

James Barclay
August 31st, 2004, 07:11 AM
Fantasy and SF books do tend to have a longer word count than other genres.

You can look at 130K and as James Watson says, quite commonly, 200K plus is written. Editors and publshers in this genre are far more comfortable with longer counts than elsewhere but that is not a licence to waffle.

Just as a measure, I've written six books all in the 150-175K range (Chronicles and Legends of The Raven) and my new work is going to hit in the region of 250K.


August 31st, 2004, 09:44 AM
I've read in various places that it's easier to sell a first fantasy novel if it's under 150k but if you have an exceptional story length won't necessarily matter. Most fantasy books do tend to be over 100k, but again, if you've got a great story that's 80k it may still get bought.

There are reasons for publishers seemingly having preferences for this length (100 - 150k). With fantasy, many readers like longer books - they like spending a long time in a world and they see longer books as having more perceived value (yes, I'm generalising, sorry) - i.e. often longer books are the same price as shorter books. At the same time, the longer a book is, the more expensive it is for a publisher to produce. Consequently, they like books that are big enough that they look as if the reader will need to spend a good few hours on them, but are still short enough to produce fairly cheaply.

It's hard to compare printed manuscripts to book form, simply because many publishers use different font sizes.

August 31st, 2004, 11:03 AM
Maybe we should stick this up in some FAQ thingy.

Epic fantasy is often very long, but other types of fantasy and science fiction titles are often much shorter. The current average range for all types of fiction is to fall somewhere between 70K-100K words, but for the genres, that's irrelevant. SF/F publishers will publish elongated novellas which are quite short and monsters measured in inches. They want the novel to be the length that seems to support the story best, with a nod to printing and pricing concerns, but if a ms. is deemed to be too long, it can be broken up into more than one book. The minimum length for a fiction novel keeps decreasing as well.

The page of a paperback book will vary considerably in the amount of print words it contains. For a longer book, the publisher may use small font and squish a lot of words onto the page and for a shorter work, the publisher may make creative use of white space and margins to make the book seem longer than it is.

For the purposes of estimating your manuscript's own length, however:

1) Highlight one average page of the ms. Use the word count feature to find out how many words are on that highlighted page. Multiply that number by 100, which will tell you roughly how many words it takes you to produce 100 ms. pages. (If your 17,000 words has already produced 100 pages, your words per page count may be fairly low, at 170 words average per page.)

2) Publishers and authors also use for very rough estimates a standard of 250 words per manuscript page. That does not mean that you have to have 250 words on every page of your ms. It means simply that you can calculate that 100 ms. pages will be approximately 25,000 words, 200 pages would be 50,000 words and 400 pages would be 100,000 words. In which case, you would be at 17,000 words somewhere around 68 ms. pages. If you are not that far or are much further in page count, you would need to adjust the rough estimate accordingly (see #1 above for more accurate estimates.)

3) Anouther rough estimate formula is that 5 double line-spaced manuscript pages usually reduces to approximately 3 single line-spaced printed pages. So if you have 100 manuscript pages, you would have approximately 60 printed pages. This estimate may not be at all accurate, but may give you a rough idea where you stand on the ms. versus printed pages question.

But essentially, at 17,000 words, you are firmly in novella territory and are approaching novel land. Go forth. :)

August 31st, 2004, 11:33 AM
listen to KatG - I was just waffling on about the length of epicish fantasy :)

August 31st, 2004, 05:03 PM
We love you KatG, we do, oh KatG we love you :D Seriously, KatG, thank you for your replies. They are extensive and informative and I'd just like to say thank you so much, you're a big help, and people really appriciate your insights into things. Thanks

September 1st, 2004, 11:21 AM
Well thanks, I appreciate it. :)

This sort of stuff is basic mechanics for me, so I don't mind passing it on. Publishers are very un-hung up about length; it's authors who tend to freak out about it. There are some exceptions: category romance lines usually have length limits with minimal wiggle room because the pricing and packaging of the lines are standardized; some children's projects may have length requirements, such as early reader books; some publishing imprints which are working on a set pricing and packaging model will have length restrictions; and magazines, of course, have length limits for short fiction, though they sometimes make exceptions.