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Thread: Average word count for a fantasy novel?

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW alyssalynne's Avatar
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    Question Average word count for a fantasy novel?

    Hi I'm working on my first novel (a fantasy adventure). I'm using a feature length script I wrote as the basic outline for the story which I'm finding very helpful so far. This is all pretty new to me, so I'm wondering what the average word count range should be for a fantasy novel?

  2. #2
    part of the human equation sheadakota's Avatar
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    100K and up is acceptable for a fantasy even for a first time author.
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  3. #3
    OUTCAST is out now!!!! Toothpaste's Avatar
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    I wouldn't just say "and up". Most agents consider 120 000 the top end even for Fantasy books. Fantasy is the genre that tends to allow for longer works, but for a first time author it is very difficult to sell something over that 120K mark. So unless you want to be the exception to the rule, unless you have a work that is just stunning and every single word counts, I'd keep it no longer than 120 000.

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW alyssalynne's Avatar
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    Thank you. What is the minimum range that would be acceptable? Based on my outline and what I've drafted so far, I'm estimating it would be in the 80-85K word range. Is that too short?

  5. #5
    OUTCAST is out now!!!! Toothpaste's Avatar
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    No that is perfectly acceptable, in fact I can hear the cheer going up from all the fantasy agents out there!


    (80K is usually the bottom end. You'll see word ranges 80 - 120K typically)

  6. #6
    No Time For Chitchat, Kemosabe. badducky's Avatar
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    I've heard the magic page number where costs and discounts and distro and earnings magically align is at 362 pages from one publisher.

    That doesn't mean anything as far as wordcount, but it gives you some idea of about what range you'd like to be in to make sure your book is as cheap to produce as possible.

    This is only at that one publisher, though. Different publishers are going to have a different magic number.

    Really, the best thing to do is write the best book you can. Shorter novels get published all the time, as do longer ones. The question is always quality, not quantity.
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  7. #7
    Inarticulate Herb MumblingSage's Avatar
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    Can you find a book from that publisher and figure out how many words through page there are on average?
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  8. #8
    Writing Anarchist DeleyanLee's Avatar
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    Look at publishers' submission guidelines. That'll spell it out and is the final authority to my experience.
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  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW MDSchafer's Avatar
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    Its also different based on subgenre. Epic fantasy and other "High fantasy" genres are a bit longer, Urban fantasy, not so much.

  10. #10
    Bored Fanatic Straka's Avatar
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    What would you say the average Urban Fantasy is? I'm came out to be 105K
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  11. #11
    ray of motherf#%&ing sunshine ink wench's Avatar
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    Straka, I think that would be fine. Even urban fantasy requires worldbuilding. In my limited experience, the range seems pretty much the same for urban and epic.
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  12. #12
    She of Many Names Irysangel's Avatar
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    Actually, I agree that UF skews shorter. Anything over 100k in UF, you're going to have a harder time getting in the door.

    My BFF is contracted with Ace, and her contract specifies 95k and not one bit over.
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  13. #13
    No Time For Chitchat, Kemosabe. badducky's Avatar
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    Even Epic Fantasy skews shorter than you might assume these days.

    Pat Rothfuss, and David Anthony Durham turned out some bug-crushers (very, very high quality, well-written bug-crushers both of which I give two hearty thumbs up...)

    Compare that to my book, or Shadowbridge by Gregory Frost, or the DnD novels and media tie-ins that are often the gateway drug to Epic/Heroic Fantasy... Not all of these books are long. Some of them are barely longer than novellas.

    Heck, you can pick up the original Elric books in their first printings, and they can't be more than 80,000 words a pop. Seriously, I re-read the first one just because I saw it at the library and thought it'd be fun to re-read. It was. It took less than four hours.

    This assumption that epic/heroic fantasy books skew long ought to be investigated further before anyone assumes it's true. I suspect, with just glancing at my bookshelf as evidence, that there's a wider spectrum of word-lengths in epic/heroic fantasy, but one that still averages out in the 80,000 word range on the whole.

    Still, I wouldn't mind a number-cruncher to prove me wrong. I didn't do anything scientific to reach my result.
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  14. #14
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin SnowtheWolf's Avatar
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    Here are a few word counts I did when trying to figure out when to stop.

    The formula I used was #words=#pages X lines on full page X 9 (came from Writer's Digest I think).

    Dune - 207,045
    Neuromancer - 97,907
    The Hobbit - 92,907
    1984 - 86,040
    Childhood's End - 79,920
    Brave New World - 68,742
    The Mad God's Amulet - 51,120 (which btw, is about the same as the Elric novels Canadian editions)
    The Word For World Is Forest - 48,672
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    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    You might want to use word counts from books younger than say 30 years?

    Publishing has changed,sadly. Most of my fave books would never get published today




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  16. #16
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin SnowtheWolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IdiotsRUs View Post
    You might want to use word counts from books younger than say 30 years?

    Publishing has changed,sadly. Most of my fave books would never get published today
    LOL, Point taken
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  17. #17
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    You know I hate to be a dissenting voice here because I agree that over about 120k is getting difficult but.....

    A couple of weeks ago an acquiring editor from a decent-sized UK fantasy publisher came to talk to my writing group and he took the view that longer is better (with the caveat that it has to be well-written).
    Maybe that is just for this publisher.
    I think I still believe that you should keep it below 120k, but it is not cut and dried.

  18. #18
    Ah-HA! Smiling Ted's Avatar
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    The raw word count is 100k.

    But without the words "winter," "harsh," "sword," "chalice," "lord," "oath," "enchanter," "bide," "farewell," "sorrow," and "blade," it's 85k.
    Last edited by Smiling Ted; 06-27-2008 at 07:07 AM.
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  19. #19
    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waylander View Post
    You know I hate to be a dissenting voice here because I agree that over about 120k is getting difficult but.....

    A couple of weeks ago an acquiring editor from a decent-sized UK fantasy publisher came to talk to my writing group and he took the view that longer is better (with the caveat that it has to be well-written).
    Maybe that is just for this publisher.
    I think I still believe that you should keep it below 120k, but it is not cut and dried.
    You can get away with more in the UK ( John Jarrold reckons about 140k is average iirc) but it needs to be wonderful as there are so few publishers / agents for fantasy in the UK. They might publish 8 new authors a year for the whole of the country.




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  20. #20
    Company Man MattW's Avatar
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    I just took a sampling from my books, and I must be doing something wrong.

    Even the shortest novels were coming out at about 100-120k. I didn't even pick up the Big Fat Fantasy tomes to check.
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  21. #21
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IdiotsRUs View Post
    You can get away with more in the UK ( John Jarrold reckons about 140k is average iirc) but it needs to be wonderful as there are so few publishers / agents for fantasy in the UK. They might publish 8 new authors a year for the whole of the country.
    Tell me about it. Mine recently received a full set of rejections from the UK publishers
    102k in length BTW

  22. #22
    What happened to my LIFE?! childeroland's Avatar
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    Question

    How about historical fantasy (non-epic)?

    Quote Originally Posted by MDSchafer View Post
    Its also different based on subgenre. Epic fantasy and other "High fantasy" genres are a bit longer, Urban fantasy, not so much.

  23. #23
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by childeroland View Post
    How about historical fantasy (non-epic)?
    Keep it below 120k if you can

  24. #24
    practical experience, FTW StephenJSweeney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waylander View Post
    Tell me about it. Mine recently received a full set of rejections from the UK publishers
    102k in length BTW
    Yep. I went through pretty much every agent and publisher of sci-fi and fantasy in the UK too. Mine is complete at 130K, so maybe that's why the US agents didn't even request a partial.

  25. #25
    practical experience, FTW
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    Well, just because I love to roil the pot and make people think outside the box a bit, I came across a word count on some (not really epic) fantasy works by an unknown author. They clock in with some fairly modest as well as some pretty hefty word counts:

    257k +
    198k +
    190k +
    169k +
    106k +
    84k +
    77k +

    These were all written by the same author. (btw, the whopper at the top of the list wasn't the first book published.) Anyone care to take a guess as to who got away with writing such door stops and still, not only getting published as a complete unknown, but making a career out of it?

    Highlight below to find out!


    Harry Potter Books
    Philosopher’s Stone-77,325
    Chamber of Secrets-84,799
    Prisoner of Azkaban-106,821
    Goblet of Fire-190,858
    Order of the Phoenix257,154
    Half Blood Prince-169,441
    Deathly Hallows-198,227
    Last edited by TheWordsmith; 08-07-2014 at 07:34 PM.

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