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Thread: Published scifi novel word counts

  1. #1
    I'm plenty of fish in the sea ANinfinity's Avatar
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    Published scifi novel word counts

    Anyone care to post the lengths of scifi novels?

    Normally 50k words+ is considered a novel. And normally something in the range of 70k - 150k (depends) is considered over the first publishing hurdle.

    But can you guys think of any published scifi novels the skirt these "limits"? And what are the word counts of some famous novels regardless of the range above?

    I can list them in this post as you add them.To start it off, I believe

    Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is roughly 46,000 words long.

    Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five is 49,459 words long.

    Robert Heilen's Starship Troopers is 84,769 words long.

    Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is 100,609 words long.


    The following thanks to inarticulatebabbler:


    John Scalzi's Old Man's War is 90,566 words; The Ghost Brigades 103,335 words.

    Joe Haldeman's Forever Peace is 104,759 words

    Frank Herbert's Dune 185,723 words

    Kevin J. Anderson's Hidden Empire 171,596 words

    Orson Scott Card's Ender's Shadow 140,238 words

    Ben Bova's Mars 175,598 words

    C.J. Cherryh's Hammerfall 157,557 words

    Paul Di Philippo's Steampunk Trilogy 88,693 words

    Steve Perry's The Musashi Flex 91,922 words

    Larry Niven and Jerry Pournell's The Mote in God's Eye 178,674 words

    Octavia E. Butler The Parable of the Sower 101,065 words

    Philip K. Dick Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep 61,237


    The following posted bye eyeblink:


    Cassandra Clare, City of Bones - 130,949

    Anthony McGowan, Hellbent - 66,824

    Melissa Marr, Wicked Lovely - 73,426

    Stephenie Meyer, Twilight - 118,975

    Simon Morden, The Lost Art - 115,175

    Patrick Ness - The Knife of Never Letting Go - 112,022

    Peadar O Guilin, The Inferior - 98,774

    Meg Rosoff, How I Live Now - 46,920 (it's arguably borderline SF)

    Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl - 144,616

    China Miéville, The City & The City - 107,940

    Cherie Priest, Boneshaker - 145,503

    Catherynne M. Valente, Palimpsest - 103,670

    Robert Charles Wilson, Julian Comstock - 181,494
    Last edited by ANinfinity; 10-18-2010 at 06:01 PM. Reason: on android didnt catch spelling error

  2. #2
    Delerium ex Ennui Xelebes's Avatar
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    Some chronicles, sagas and trilogies are considered single works. Lord of the Rings comes to mind with 454 000 words in all. Jordan's Wheel of Time has 3 304 000 words in all. Stephenson's Baroque Cycle & Cryptonomicon has 1 540 000 words.
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  3. #3
    I'm plenty of fish in the sea ANinfinity's Avatar
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    I'm surprised that more people don't find this fascinating. Word count has been extremely interesting to me. I would have thought more people would have posted word counts by now. I'm going to research more.

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    Cat Lady childoflight's Avatar
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    Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is roughly 46,000 words long.
    My brother LOVED that book. Mmm.. When he told me about it I almost started crying, though.. trying to imagine a world without books is imagining a very sad, dismal world.

  5. #5
    I'm plenty of fish in the sea ANinfinity's Avatar
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    Yeah, I'm surprised writers and readers don't hate that book, we would have nothing to do.

  6. #6
    Not-so-new PortableHal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by childoflight View Post
    My brother LOVED that book. Mmm.. When he told me about it I almost started crying, though.. trying to imagine a world without books is imagining a very sad, dismal world.
    I loved the book, too.

    I'm impressed by how much Bradbury did with his 46,000 words. I wish I could do as much with 80,000 words.
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  7. #7
    Pissin' Everyone off, 1 at a time Inarticulate Babbler's Avatar
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    80 - 120k is what Sci-Fi likes these days:

    John Scalzi's Old Man's War is 90,566 words; The Ghost Brigades 103,335 words.
    Joe Haldeman's Forever Peace is 104,759 words
    Frank Herbert's Dune 185,723 words
    Kevin J. Anderson's Hidden Empire 171,596 words
    Orson Scott Card's Ender's Shadow 140,238 words
    Ben Bova's Mars 175,598 words
    C.J. Cherryh's Hammerfall 157,557 words
    Paul Di Philippo's Steampunk Trilogy 88,693 words
    Steve Perry's The Musashi Flex 91,922 words
    Larry Niven and Jerry Pournell's The Mote in God's Eye 178,674 words
    Octavia E. Butler The Parable of the Sower 101,065 words
    Philip K. Dick Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep 61,237

    Keep in mind Heinlein. Dick, Vonnegut and Bradbury didn't just break into the market. Slaughterhouse Five was copyrighted in '69, Starship Troopers in '59, Fahrenheit 451 '50 (Under the title The Fireman in Galaxy Science Fiction), and even Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game was published in 1977--33 years ago. Publishing has changed. Readers and their expectations have changed.


    Fantasy:
    Brandon Sanderson's Elantris 199,091 words
    Robin Hobb's Assassin's Apprentice 164,088 words
    Robert R. McCammon's The Wolf's Hour 197,684 words
    Dan Simmons's Ilium 220,520 words
    David Gemmell's Legend 113,314 words
    WIP = Iceborn - Epic Fantasy/Thriller (154,000 words)
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    ow efkelley's Avatar
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    A book is as long as it takes. Some authors write shorter, some write longer. Don't sweat it too much. And don't pad your story! Readers can tell.
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    Spec Fic Writer Sevvy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Inarticulate Babbler View Post
    80 - 120k is what Sci-Fi likes these days
    Yeah, 50,000 seems to be the low word count for a novel because of NaNo's popularity. I'm not knocking it, I'm just saying that this is the first place I heard of that word count and it seems to be where everyone I know gets it from. Inarticulate's estimate seems to be correct from my reading experience as well, though I was surprised to see that Elantris was nearly 200,000 words. Didn't seem that much when I was reading it.

    A very interesting discussion.
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  10. #10
    Cat Lady childoflight's Avatar
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    Yeah, I'm surprised writers and readers don't hate that book, we would have nothing to do.
    I know, I seriously started crying because I couldn't fathom a world without books.. no books to read, no books to write.. how terribly sad that would be!

    Also: I'm pretty sure the guy who wrote it wrote it in like a week or something.. not quite sure on the details, but I think he was borrowing a typewriter so he had to do it sorta fast. Regardless, I'm impressed.

  11. #11
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    As Inarticulate Babbler postulated, I think it is unhelpful to look at the word counts of 'classic' SF books and use that as a guide to the length an author should aim at for their own work. Publishing has changed since many of these books appeared. Quoting them as examples is just going to lead to disappointment

  12. #12
    i write words Aidan Watson-Morris's Avatar
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    A book is considered 50,000 words or about.

    This changes with different publishers' and agencies' guidelines.

    Looking at other book's word counts is kind of pointless.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by waylander View Post
    As Inarticulate Babbler postulated, I think it is unhelpful to look at the word counts of 'classic' SF books and use that as a guide to the length an author should aim at for their own work. Publishing has changed since many of these books appeared. Quoting them as examples is just going to lead to disappointment
    It would also be more useful to make sure you're looking at the word counts of debut SF novels, rather than novels written later on in their career.
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  14. #14
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChaosTitan View Post
    It would also be more useful to make sure you're looking at the word counts of debut SF novels, rather than novels written later on in their career.
    QFT

  15. #15
    I'm plenty of fish in the sea ANinfinity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aidan Watson-Morris View Post
    A book is considered 50,000 words or about.

    This changes with different publishers' and agencies' guidelines.

    Looking at other book's word counts is kind of pointless.
    Disagreed.

  16. #16
    Pissin' Everyone off, 1 at a time Inarticulate Babbler's Avatar
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    50k is a perfectly acceptable length for YA or Mid-grade. YA is usually 50 - 80k, 50 k is standard Mid-grade.

    Waylander is correct in saying my reference was toward focusing on today's market. I am also in agreement with Chaos Titan that--unless you've already published your first novel--looking at any novel other than a first novel won't give you correlative knowledge on the average accepted length of such. In fact, the only reason I did not use ALL first novels is I couldn't get all of their word counts.

    Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time novels were progressively more than 200k, Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind was well over 200k, Brent Weeks's The Way of Shadows most assuredly capped that, too--but I can't show you exact numbers. Fantasy is IN, so readers right now are expecting door-stoppers. Cherie Priest juist guessed Boneshaker--though not her first--was about 125k. I would've guessed higher due to the size of the book, but that's Steampunk and a growing trend in Sci-Fi.

    Now, I wouldn't say, "discard everything before 2009," but its value is NOT in getting published in today's market.
    WIP = Iceborn - Epic Fantasy/Thriller (154,000 words)
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  17. #17
    Migam eyeblink's Avatar
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    Here are some debut YA SF/F novels published since 2004:

    Cassandra Clare, City of Bones - 130,949
    Anthony McGowan, Hellbent - 66,824
    Melissa Marr, Wicked Lovely - 73,426
    Stephenie Meyer, Twilight - 118,975
    Simon Morden, The Lost Art - 115,175
    Patrick Ness - The Knife of Never Letting Go - 112,022
    Peadar O Guilin, The Inferior - 98,774
    Meg Rosoff, How I Live Now - 46,920 (it's arguably borderline SF)

    All of these are debut YA novels, though Ness had had two adult novels published previously. Morden had had a novella published previously.

    Stats from the YA/MG-specific Renaissance Learning site. I posted this list (plus some non-SF/F titles) previously in a thread in the YA forum.
    Last edited by eyeblink; 10-18-2010 at 11:10 AM.
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  18. #18
    Migam eyeblink's Avatar
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    And here are some of this year's Hugo nominees, courtesy of the Worldcon Hugo voters' packet. Some of these counts include prelim material:

    Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl - 144,616
    China Miéville, The City & The City - 107,940
    Cherie Priest, Boneshaker - 145,503
    Catherynne M. Valente, Palimpsest - 103,670
    Robert Charles Wilson, Julian Comstock - 181,494

    The Bacigalupi is a debut novel.

    Related thread: why are SF/F novels so long (and, I'd argue, overlong) these days?
    Last edited by eyeblink; 10-18-2010 at 11:13 AM.
    "The afterlife is like Aldershot." (from Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel)

    Out Stack and Other Places, collection out now from Midnight Street Press

    Works in progress:

    Partings and Greetings (YA) - 75,254 words complete draft. On sub.

    Conor and Me (YA) - 44,033 words and counting

    "The End of All Our Exploring" (short fiction) - 6740 words and counting

  19. #19
    Delerium ex Ennui Xelebes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eyeblink View Post
    Related thread: why are SF/F novels so long (and, I'd argue, overlong) these days?
    The British market has books that are a bit longer than the North American market, by about 10 or 15%. Largely, this is due to an expectation from the audience with certain movies re-enforcing the stereotype (The Neverending Story, Lord of the Rings, etc.)
    I try to write novels and poetry but it would appear that making music is a more fruitful endeavour for me.

  20. #20
    ow efkelley's Avatar
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    Also, a thicker book allows publishers to justify a higher cover price. Trees being so incredibly pricey, you know.
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  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Inarticulate Babbler View Post
    80 - 120k is what Sci-Fi likes these days:
    One thing I'd add is that most agents/publishers seem to keep an 80 - 100K range for novels from new authors.

  22. #22
    I'm plenty of fish in the sea ANinfinity's Avatar
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    I just wanted to say that it is very hard to find word counts. Now the counts may mean nothing at all to one, but you know what they say... one man's trash is another man's treasure.

    I am hoping that we can make this the most complete and comprehensive list of Sci-fi novel word counts available on the internet. It is already probably the longest. Let's keep it going.

    as several posters have mentioned, comparing our own novels to some of these is unhelpful because many lower novel counts were not debut novels. We could have some listed under a "debut novel" header to distinguish them, but I think it is interesting to see the word counts of any scifi novel.

  23. #23
    Pissin' Everyone off, 1 at a time Inarticulate Babbler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ANinfinity View Post
    I am hoping that we can make this the most complete and comprehensive list of Sci-fi novel word counts available on the internet. It is already probably the longest. Let's keep it going.
    Amazon has a section called "Text Stats" under the "Inside this Book" section (scroll down on the page under "More About the Author"), which has the published wordcount, number of "harder" words and number of words for the dollar. Check it out. Here's Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/081...pf_rd_i=507846
    WIP = Iceborn - Epic Fantasy/Thriller (154,000 words)
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  24. #24
    I'm plenty of fish in the sea ANinfinity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Inarticulate Babbler View Post
    Amazon has a section called "Text Stats" under the "Inside this Book" section (scroll down on the page under "More About the Author"), which has the published wordcount, number of "harder" words and number of words for the dollar. Check it out. Here's Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/081...pf_rd_i=507846
    That's awesome! I wish I had know that. Now my conundrum... I can't find it. I tried following your directions but I have the observation powers of blindfolded zombie.

  25. #25
    Spec Fic Writer Sevvy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ANinfinity View Post
    That's awesome! I wish I had know that. Now my conundrum... I can't find it. I tried following your directions but I have the observation powers of blindfolded zombie.
    It's right underneath the reviews section. Starts with Inside This book, Text stats is in the new section.
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