View Full Version : fantasy novel length

Kempo Kid
09-05-2004, 07:10 AM
I'm shopping my fantasy novel around to agents now. I've gotten a couple requests for the full manuscript, both ultimately rejections. Many of the responses I've gotten are of the "not enthusiastic enough" variety. I'd revise the book if I had a handle on what to fix, what to change. "Not excited enough about the book/premise/characters" doesn't give me anything to go on, though. <img border=0 src="http://www.absolutewrite.com/images/EmoteShrug.gif" />

But the novel is 115,000 words long, somewhere between 450 to 500 pages in Courier 12. Would the length alone be enough to get it rejected?

I'd rather not revise it at all. It's finished. I'm happy with it. And I'm busy writing the sequel now as well as outlining some mystery novels.

<img border=0 src="http://www.absolutewrite.com/images/EmoteHeadbang.gif" />

09-05-2004, 10:22 AM
115K is not too terribly wrong. If the book was too long for them, they'd probably tell you so.

People say "not excited enough" when they mean it didn't hold their interest. They're just being polite. And you can't really expect them to give you guidance on fixing your book, even if all you want is some specific notes on what didn't work. They don't have the time.

Have you read Slushkiller? (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html)

Good luck with your new book.

09-05-2004, 05:10 PM
It is unliekly they read the whole book in most cases, you might need to make the first few chapters more grabby -- i.e. through them into the action, develop a strong hook. That's just a guess, though.

09-05-2004, 08:09 PM
If length was the only thing they didn't like, they'd probably be ready to offer you a contract with the stipulation that you edit it down to the length they want. I would focus on the other issue and look for ways to add tension and excitement, especially early on as suggested by veingloree.

09-06-2004, 03:35 AM
I don't believe length is the problem, either. I read on the novel writing board that publishers like fewer than 120,000 words for fantasy, and your novel falls within that limit.

So it's back to "doesn't hold my interest..." :ack

That's harder. Has it been read by beta readers who know what makes a novel tick? If not, maybe you need to go back to that step.

09-06-2004, 08:23 AM
I doubt very much if length had anything to do with it. If anything, 115K is a bit shorter than most fantasy novels. A lot shorter than many. And 115K falls well within the guidelines of all the fantasy publishers I know.

09-06-2004, 08:15 PM
Teresa Nielsen Hayden at a panel at Worldcon said that the bookstore chains are looking for shorter works of fantasy -- a smaller book leaves more space for other books. While 'big fat fantasy' used to be the norm, now they're moving toward shorter pieces.

09-07-2004, 12:18 AM
Since you're getting full ms requests, you're doing something right with your queries. My suggestion would be to go back and analyze your queries/synopsis.

I like to think of the query as the "best parts" of the story. The best of the characters, the best of the story....

How you described your characters and story in the query should be the same as it follows through the story. Everything the editor wanted is written in your query. You just need to decide what didn't play off the same as you wrote it.

I feel like I'm rambling, I hope that made sense!
Good luck!

09-07-2004, 01:56 AM
The only way length would be a problem is if it was YA or middle reader fantasy. But the more experienced guys are right, they would have told you if that was a problem. My YA fantasy is at the high end of word count at 85k. Still acceptable, but pushing it.

The others have given good advice as to the 'enthusiastic enough' part.


Kempo Kid
09-10-2004, 08:09 AM
Thanks for the comments everyone.

I'm still going to keep trying to send it out. From what I've been told, 20 rejections is not enough to stress about, so maybe it just hasn't hit the right buttons with the right agent. As last resort, I may find a workshop and exchange manuscripts with another writer. It was workshopped in the process of writing it, but maybe another set of fresh eyes can see what I've failed to see.

I'd just rather work on newer projects.

09-13-2004, 08:38 AM
I know what you mean about the vague "not enthusiastic enough" thing being frustrating, if they'd just say "It doesn't work because of A, B & C," you have more chance of fixing it. Unfortunately, most publishers would say they're not there to give writers advice.

As far as length is concerned, I don't think you need to worry. The optimal length seems to be 80-120K. I've been told that publishers won't take books over 120K, but few of their guidelines actually say that. I've been trying to flog a 169K novel, and no-one's refused it out of hand because of length. Probably, over 120K reduces your chances a bit, but publishers don't seem to refuse to look at longer works.

09-13-2004, 08:28 PM
I'd just rather work on newer projects.

That's the way to go, Kempo! Send it out again and keep writing.

Go! Go! Go!


(Now to follow my own advice... :ack )

Michael Jinks
09-21-2004, 10:26 AM
I was also told that 80,000 would be idea word count. My Scifi work is nearer to 160 M. I am toying with an idea of dividing it into 4 books. Lots of material should not be a problem in writing. It is saving the good parts. But I am unpublished in the Scifi world, so that is my 2 cents worth.

"There are no happy songs about rich people."
Garden Philosopher
Michael Jinks

09-21-2004, 09:00 PM
The length of a novel should be governed by the length needed to properly tell the tale. :)

That said, the publishers are starting to lean once more towards thinner books according to several of my fellow authors.

Good news and bad news for writers in general. My novels coming out from Meisha Merlin in 2006 and 2007 are Fat Fantasy Novels, and they are being issued in HC to boot. My previous novels and short story collections ranged in the 90,000+ range (but they are not mass market, they are trade editions and neither is more than 400 pages in length).

However, I have two short novels that I am about to start marketing, both under 80,000 words, and am being told they will have a better chance at the moment.

I will say that it seems that readers want fat books because they feel like they are getting their money's worth, but publishers are looking at shorter books because they do want to be able to put more titles (and more copies of a title) on the shelves.