PDA

View Full Version : pulse on word count



stumblebum
11-23-2014, 10:21 PM
Anyone care to speculate on what publishers are accepting these days in terms of word count? I can never tell with Urban Fantasy. Is it a near enough cousin to fantasy to get away with a larger word count? Or is shorter better?

I ask because at its current length, my ms has slipped above the 100k word count, and that makes my palms sweat...

Maryn
11-23-2014, 10:59 PM
I don't write it myself, but based on what I see in stores, I'd estimate you're into too-many-words territory for a writer lacking a proven sales record. A small amount of research suggests that as recently as 2013, agents sought urban fantasy in the 75K to 95K range.

Maryn, hardly the expert

stumblebum
11-23-2014, 11:51 PM
Maryn, hardly the expert

...but respected nonetheless.

Maryn
11-24-2014, 12:57 AM
Aw, shucks!

Maryn, drawing a circle in the dirt with one toe

rwm4768
11-24-2014, 04:37 AM
You'd probably be best keeping it under 100,000 words. You might manage at a little bit longer if it's really good, but I think 80K-100K is the sweet spot for urban fantasy.

Keep in mind that you will probably be able to cut some words as you revise.

Laer Carroll
11-27-2014, 12:34 AM
Write it the size it needs to be. Publishers will accept long books if they show potential for sales. Fantasy especially seems to go long if what we see in book stores is a good measure of size.

On the other hand, lean is better than fat, so make sure your extra wordage delivers something readers want and are willing to pay for.

TWErvin2
11-27-2014, 12:56 AM
Finish up the first draft. Then go back and revise/edit. Maybe it'll be shorter. But as was said, the book will need to be as long as it turns out. The other option is to go back and do a lot of revision, removing plot threads, which can be time consuming as such revision tend to have ripple effects throughout the novel.

It might be better to just finish the novel (edits/revisions, etc.) and send it off to agents/editors at whatever length it ends up, being the best story you can make it. Then move on to the next project, planning and plotting based upon what you learned with the previous novel.

The time and effort expended in trying to majorly rewrite the first novel to make it shorter could be spent on completing a second novel. Two manuscripts to send out to find homes instead of just one.

Lillith1991
11-27-2014, 01:31 AM
Write it the size it needs to be. Publishers will accept long books if they show potential for sales. Fantasy especially seems to go long if what we see in book stores is a good measure of size.

On the other hand, lean is better than fat, so make sure your extra wordage delivers something readers want and are willing to pay for.

Honestly, I see this as an excuse for someone to write a overly long manuscript. "The ones in the store are long, so go ahead and write a long book."

This may work in Hist. Fantasy, Epic, or High Fantasy, because you're creating new worlds. But that does not follow that UF, which most commonly is set in our world/time, should be that long. The amount of worldbuilding in UF and Contemp Fantasy is different than needed for some sub-genres, and saying it can be long because it's fantasy doesn't ring true to me. I'm more apt to say that some forms of fantasy can be longer, while others fall within what is seen as "normal."

Laer Carroll
12-01-2014, 03:40 PM
Write it the size it needs to be. Publishers will accept long books if they show potential for sales. Fantasy especially seems to go long if what we see in book stores is a good measure of size.
Honestly, I see this as an excuse for someone to write a overly long manuscript. "The ones in the store are long, so go ahead and write a long book."

No, it's a clue that QUALITY is more important than QUANTITY.

Cathy C
12-01-2014, 04:49 PM
Sorry, but I have to disagree, Laer. Yes, quality is important, but the decision about length is more than just about the story. While it's not as important in ebook format, in print books (and I DO write urban fantasy) length is important because of the reality of supplies. 100K is contained within a particular size of cover that's pre-cut and ordered in bulk by the publisher. It can fit from 90K with wider gutters (margins) to around 110K with narrow gutters--without adjusting the font size, which readers often find annoying. Speaking as someone who writes long, my editor is frequently frustrated with me because even though the text is good and interesting, the book has a budget and something has to give. If she chooses to include the text, custom cover stock has to be ordered and likely there will be a reduction in available funds to market. We did make that choice once (the book came in at a whopping 132K :o ) and I had to accept that marketing suffered as a result. However, the choice was easier because I already had an established fan base so it wasn't as important. But for a queried book? It might have been easier to look at the next manuscript in the stack. :Shrug:

That's not to say that editors are not willing to overlook length in a book they love, but I try very hard to stay within the 100K contract length because I don't want my editor (and me!) to be faced with that choice.

So,

Laer Carroll
12-04-2014, 01:12 AM
Sorry, but I have to disagree, Laer.

You are quite right in everything you say - EXCEPT that we have a disagreement. I said that quality is MORE IMPORTANT than quantity. NOT that the size of the book is UNimportant.

I suggest only that we complete the book, focusing on the essential core of the story, before we worry about the size of the book. Then we can more profitably try to trim it further without crippling it. Often we never fully understand what we've created until we've finished creating it. We may try to create a fairly standard romance or mystery or contemporary or whatever only to find that we have a potential blockbuster on our hands, or a ground-breaking literary work. One that publishers are willing to support regardless of their usual size guidelines.

stumblebum
12-04-2014, 11:51 PM
My ambition is to slip this puppy in under the 100k mark, which I will do no matter how many of my sweet darlings I have to murder in the process.

I'm not sure if you guys have run into this, but I have a few betas looking over the manuscript, and they have me adding content, which puts me in the awkward position of choosing which old bits to swap for new ones while axing 10% and watching out for ripples in continuity.

Whew. This part of the process is taxing.

Laer Carroll
12-13-2014, 12:44 AM
Anyone care to speculate on what publishers are accepting these days in terms of word count?

Any answers that begins "Publishers want ..." is automatically wrong. Not a one is a clone of any other. Every one is different. We sometimes speak of the Big Five as if they are all the same. That is the mark of the na´ve.

Further, if you examine the roster of publishers, you'll see that there are a couple dozen mid-level SF/F publishers who put out anywhere from 70 to 20 new titles a year. And that there are a couple hundred smaller publishers (wrongly described as "indie" as if that were a virtue, and true).

Each is as individual as a human being. Which is why it's a good idea to have an agent, who knows the human faces of the publishers to whom your book will be sold. And who may have very different ideas of what will sell, and why.

CAMueller
12-18-2014, 09:39 PM
Chiming in with agreement that typically UF books run between 80K and 110K, with debuts almost always under 100K.

If you pick up most MMPBs for debut urban fantasy titles, you'll see they all have similar page lengths. There's a reason for this (as Cathy explained so well).

That said, try not to stress too much about the word count on your first draft. As you get more feedback and begin revising, you'll likely find yourself adding new pieces and cutting away the unnecessary parts. When you start tightening the prose, you can start watching your word count.

zanzjan
12-18-2014, 10:08 PM
Also, if an extra 5k makes the story clearly better, don't sweat it (50k more? Perspire buckets!)

If it's good enough, an agent or editor will give you guidance on how (or IF) to trim it down.

Persistence1010
05-20-2015, 10:40 PM
Hey stumblebum! I have the opposite problem. I think my finished manuscript is only going to be about 60-65,000 words. I know in YA a low word count is accepted but I am worried about the adult urban fantasy market. I may just send it out anyway and then move on to the next series I am working on.

danthony
11-29-2015, 08:58 AM
It sounds like the general consensus here is to keep an urban fantasy under 100K words, but how much under that number is safe? I'm searching for an agent right now and have had a couple tell me my manuscript is too long at just 100K. I'm trying to cut it down but not sure how far I need to go. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

Southpaw
11-29-2015, 05:05 PM
It sounds like the general consensus here is to keep an urban fantasy under 100K words, but how much under that number is safe? I'm searching for an agent right now and have had a couple tell me my manuscript is too long at just 100K. I'm trying to cut it down but not sure how far I need to go. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

From what I've read on well-known author's sites (in the genre) and agents, it's 80-90K (closer to 80) for adult books.

PeteMC
11-30-2015, 04:09 PM
Like everything, I think it depends on a lot of things. My debut was submitted and accepted at 76k and the final version that's gone to print is almost exactly 80k after all the edits have been applied. Book 2 is the same length, with the third that I'm currently writing looking like it's going to come in a bit longer, maybe 90k but no more than that.

They're all UF by the way, in the same series.

danthony
12-01-2015, 01:19 AM
Awesome. I think I know where I need to go with this now. I've managed to shave off about 5K so far, and the book seems a lot sharper for it. I'll keep going and try to get it as close to that 80K mark as I can. Thanks for the info, guys!

PeteMC
12-01-2015, 02:44 AM
You're welcome, and good luck!