Okay, so now I'm totally confused about word counts for epic fantasy novels. In researching this on the web and elsewhere, I'm seeing word counts all over the map.
John Jarrold, UK agent, in 2008 said this: "120,000 words is the short end of the fantasy market. No difference whatsoever for first-time authors - the reader going into a bookshop won't know you're a first-timer, the majority will be looking for Big Fantasy."
Another blog post making the rounds for the US market says 90k-120k.
Yet, one major fantasy publisher says 95k is the minimum they will accept for epic fantasy.
If you look at epic novels from debut authors on the shelves, you'll find novels that range from 400-700+ pages long. I don't see any 90k epic fantasies, figuring about 300 words/page using the method (lines on page x 9 words per line x no of pages), which I believe is some sort of standard method. The most recent debut fantasy novel I've seen is over 200,000 words. In an interview, the author says editors did not at all blanch at the size.
Even a 400-pg novel is 125,000 words, and these are a minority. Avg length among debut novels is probably closer to 500 pgs.
As a consumer, I don't know who's a debut author and who isn't and I'm not buying an epic fantasy novel that clocks in at 300 pgs or less.