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Average Novel Word Count

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John Sliz
Posts: 74
Joined: September 2012
Location: Toronto

Average Novel Word Count

Post by John Sliz » Thu September 13th, 2012, 2:40 pm

I believe that the story itself dictates how long it should be, but having said that, what is the word count that most publishers are looking for in a novel? One of the threads mentioned 80,000 words. Is that about right? Does it differ for each genre? Oh so many questions, so little answers. :o

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Posts: 3564
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu September 13th, 2012, 6:25 pm

Genres differ in length. A mystery has to be short enough that the reader can finish it before the tension either sags or becomes too exhausting to maintain. That is 70K to 80K words. A romance is usually about the same, although historical romances get a little longer.

The publishers prefer a first book to be no longer than 110K words, because that reduces their risk in terms of paper outlay, in case they have to reimburse the bookstores for a large number of returns. This is likely to change with the switch to ebooks, but I have noticed that the industry is neither very perceptive nor very nimble.

Other published writers on this forum have posted that their publisher gives the 140K words. But they are multi-published.

I, as a reader, like novels in the 130-200K word range. It is hard for HF to be very good without the extra storytelling space, because so much of the book is atmosphere. Not that I like info-dumps--I expect the writer to have more skill than that. But getting in all those extra details takes words, and when they are cut to the bone, the reader's experience suffers.

Smashwords has recently published their data for ebooks, and it appears that there are more readers like me than those who want the publisher's shortened first-novel version. That is no surprise, since it originated in an almost-defunct business model and was never about the reading experience or excellence in writing.

Do you know the legend of Procrustes? If your novel doesn't fit the publisher's iron bed, it might be better to go a different route.

Posts: 8
Joined: September 2012

Post by Shaddix1980 » Mon October 8th, 2012, 4:16 pm

I think a lot of it depends on the writer's own style - how descriptive they are, or how much dialogue they write per-scene. I tend to write about 150,000 words per-book, some times a bit less. But, normally anything around 80,000 to 100,000 is acceptable.

You have to think about the book length. A 60,000 word book selling for $14.99 isn't quite worth the price tag in most readers mind, regardless of the quality of the book. Ultimately, it also depends a great deal on how much of a story you have to tell.

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