Tuesday, March 06, 2007

How Many Words Does a Publisher Want?

LDSPublisher posted this on her blog this morning, and with permission I have pasted it here.

First let me say, the word count on a book is less important than tight, good writing. You need as many words in your book as it takes to tell a good story. Of course, you can go overboard with this. A 200,000 word romance is going to have a hard time finding a publisher, as is a 7,000 word historical fiction. With that in mind, here are a few thoughts.

There is no hard and fast rule on word count. It will differ between publishers and between authors. For example, books for children and teens usually top out around 40,000-50,000 words. But how long was JK Rowling’s last book? It also depends on the font size your publisher uses and whether they average 250 or 300 words per page.

Here are a few basic guidelines:
Short novel is 15,000 to 40,000
Adult novel is 50,000 to 110,000
Literary novel can be 125,000

As for differences in genres, go to the library or bookstore and take the average number of pages in books for that genre. Subtract about 6 pages for title page, acknowledgments, blurbs, etc. Then divide that by 250 and you’ll be in the ballpark.

Here are some approximates based on page count:
40,000 = 160 pages
62,500 = 250 pages*
75,000 = 300 pages*
90,000 = 360 pages
100,000 = 400 pages
125,000 = 500 pages**

As you can see, this is NOT an exact science.

*Best range for new authors
**Need to be an experienced author or really, really good to publish a novel that’s over 125,000 words.

Now, I've only written historical fiction, and so far I've hit 72,000, 76,000, 80,000, and my WIP looks like I may hit 85,000, but I'm not getting my hopes up too much. I'm starting to feel like I need to do some editing and thinning. This pretty much falls into the averages that LDSPublisher gave.

My favorite part of this post is the sentence, "You need as many words in your book as it takes to tell a good story." This is so very true. If all your characters are fleshed out as they ought to be, and your plot is well-developed, you can pretty much assume you have enough words. You don't want to be throwing useless words in there just to get your word count higher -- chances are your editor will see that they are useless and just have you edit them right back out again.

And, I'll admit that at times my writing is a little sparse. I'm kind of a "get in there, tell the story, and get out" kind of author. I also like to give the reader just enough information to let them imagine the rest, when it comes to descriptions, and so forth. I'm working on adding a little more depth and color. But that's to enrich the story, not just to get my word count up.


Keith Fisher said...

I would be concerned about too many words.

Whitney Awards Admin said...

Roger Ebert, speaking of movies, said "No great movie was ever long enough, and no terrible movie was ever too short."

I think that can apply just as well to books.

Tristi Pinkston said...

You're right, Rob -- if the book is great, you can get away with it being longer. I hark back to LDSPublisher's asterisks, however -- a more established author would get away with that more easily than a newbie.

S.T said...

Mm...too many words, though I wrote a novel around 100,000 words in a month. It's pretty cool, though.

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