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Word Count

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SarahWoodbury
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Word Count

Post by SarahWoodbury » Fri December 3rd, 2010, 6:41 pm

In another thread, I was talking about how my agent suggested I lower my word count by 20,000 to between 80 and 85,000. I just found this post:

http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/bl ... +Post.aspx

from 2009 which suggests the same, albeit he doesn't mention historical fiction exactly.

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Matt Phillips
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Post by Matt Phillips » Fri December 3rd, 2010, 8:36 pm

I always thought longer was OK for historical fiction - like 100K-120K?

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parthianbow
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Post by parthianbow » Fri December 3rd, 2010, 9:09 pm

Maybe it's a difference between US and British editors? :confused:

Each book in my first trilogy came in at between 142 to 144k, and the first book in my new trilogy has just gone to press at 160k. :confused:
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Spartacus - UK release 19 Jan. 2012. US release June 2012.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Fri December 3rd, 2010, 9:21 pm

I seem to remember Michelle Moran saying something about 140K. But that was for Cleopatra's Daughter, which was her third, after successes on the first two.

I also remember somewhere else seeing HF grouped in the higher word count categories with SF and Fantasy for the same reason -- you have to explain and unfamiliar world to the reader. Maybe not so much with HF set in the more recent past, but if you had to explain 5th-century China to an english-speaking reader, you might as well be writing fantasy as far as world-building is concerned.

The first thing I wrote in fiction was set in conquest Peru, based on my three decades on the trail with llamas and lecturing in schools about the Inca Empire. It was far too long, so I cut it in half, threw out two plot threads and every unnecessary description. Still too long. Cut any llama info that wasn't directly relevant to the plot, worked all the description into dialogue tags, ditched most of the Inca history-- and when all was said and done, it was still 139K.

And then, although I had over a hundred Beta readers by now who liked it to one degree or another, (some passionately enough to test-read anything I wrote, so it wasn't all a waste) I faced the fact that fiction set in South America is DOA unless you are Isabel Allende. So I put it on the shelf and started on something set in Europe.

And I'm still fighting word count. There are just so many fascinating real stories to tell. Maybe I should quit writing and just research! :D

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Fri December 3rd, 2010, 9:58 pm

I believe Michelle also said that they like smaller books because if you arent an established author yet they are easier to sell. And someone..though I dunno who said that you can put more books on a shelf than you can two huge big ones hence you maybe able to sell more of your copies.

I know YA hovers around the 50/60 mark so 80 to 90 sounds about right for an adult book. There are always exceptions but I really think the smaller the better.
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Michy
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Post by Michy » Fri December 3rd, 2010, 10:54 pm

[quote=""Divia""]\And someone..though I dunno who said that you can put more books on a shelf than you can two huge big ones hence you maybe able to sell more of your copies.

[/quote] I'm inclined to believe it's this more than anything. Because books are priced without regard to size. So, two thick books at $15 each may take up the same amount of shelf space as three thinner books at $15 each.

Which would also explain why larger word counts are generally only granted to established authors with a "track record." If an author has a well-established fan base, then publishers and bookstores are more willing to grant them a larger share of shelf space.
Last edited by Michy on Fri December 3rd, 2010, 10:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Sat December 4th, 2010, 12:53 am

Not just the space they take up on shelves, but also shipping weight is probably a factor. If for say $20 shipping you get X smaller books versus Y units of larger books and X>Y, it's kind of a no brainer.

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Post by michellemoran » Sat December 4th, 2010, 2:50 am

Sarah, I'm not surprised. For NEFERTITI (as Divia mentioned), they wanted something on the shorter side so that it wouldn't be such a risk to publish it (longer books mean higher price points, etc). CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER was definitely longer, but I could never have gotten away with that unless - as MLE mentioned - I had published something else previously.

For MADAME TUSSAUD, I ended up with 650 pages. My editor was fine with that, but eventually, I cut it down to 500, knowing that 500 woud be a safer bet. And I could not be happier that I did, since Target has asked to make it their February book. Places like Target and Costco use planograms, and if your book doesn't fit into the planogram (it's too long for example), it's very unlikely that they will carry it, let alone make it a "pick". It's just too risky.
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Michy
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Post by Michy » Sat December 4th, 2010, 2:56 am

[quote=""MLE""]

I faced the fact that fiction set in South America is DOA unless you are Isabel Allende. [/quote] Interesting.... what do you think is the secret to her success? (I have no idea, as her books don't appeal to me and so I haven't read any of them). I would think her popularity would serve to open doors for others to write books set in South America. Why do you think this hasn't been the case?

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michellemoran
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Post by michellemoran » Sat December 4th, 2010, 2:56 am

MLE: I faced the fact that fiction set in South America is DOA unless you are Isabel Allende.
Isn't that frustrating?!!!! I faced the same reaction to Egyptian fiction. Allison McCabe, who bought NEFERTITI, was my last shot at the Big Six. She said yes, but there were a lot of people who were very hesitant about it.
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