Re: Novel Word Count

#1
I have heard that "new" authors shouldn't make their first book more than 60,000 words. Its harder to market or something along that line. Going by that logic, should I be aiming to make my first work self-contained? 

I like the idea of world building and coming up with new stuff, but the process of writing itself can be a drag unless I am dialed in. The last thing I need is for something I put a lot of effort in bomb.

Re: Novel Word Count

#2
I've heard 80,000 words, though I don't have any first-hand knowledge of what publishers are looking for. 60k sounds like it would be meant for a younger audience--maybe young adult?

As for making your book self-contained, I don't know. It's easier to market a series, and I'm sure publishers have realized that as well. It may depend on the genre. In fantasy, they might want a series. In political thrillers or "literature", they might want a single book. In murder-mysteries, they may want a protagonist who can headline a loose collection of procedurals.

Re: Novel Word Count

#3
Depends on the genre and audience. It differs between YA, fantasy and other genre of fiction. Adult fantasy has the most leeway. Which is around 80,000 you could likely push 90k, but you will have issues with trying to find a publisher the longer your novel gets. Most publishers and agents will have the word count they are looking for on their submission page.

You may want to strive for something a little more self-contained because, even if it's a series, you still want to focus your writing and editing on that first novel. Mostly because you are going to end up editing your work if you get accepted and the edits they have you do may affect something in the series making it moot. Certainly, you can write a novel with it being a series in mind, and you could probably plan for it and get a draft down. However, I wouldn't write an entire series out before submitting. You're going to make it harder on yourself in the end.

Re: Novel Word Count

#5
This applies to published, physical copies of novels. In the world of webnovels, especially ones that are published for free, these rules don't apply.
Why? Because the number one reason why new authors shouldn't write too long first novel is beause it costs a lot to print it and most publishing companies will not take these chances with a no name. Even then, they'd prefer to split the novel into several parts and charge money for each one.

Re: Novel Word Count

#6

Sake Wrote: This applies to published, physical copies of novels. In the world of webnovels, especially ones that are published for free, these rules don't apply.


This is an important point to make. I assumed Holosheepknight was referring a book that would be submitted for publication, and I referenced publishers in my response accordingly, but I didn't explicitly state that web fiction follows different rules.

Re: Novel Word Count

#7
I think I'm starting to figure out the system here. I also get the feeling that readers prefer stories that already have at least 5000 words if it is a new release. I released my 3rd chapter last night, 2 days after I uploaded my first 2. The views so far haven't really trickled down. Total word count is a little over 3000. 

I have a feeling that if I started a new series with a 10k word prologue, I might see a higher initial view count. Or will that in turn make readers expect 10k words every chapter? 

Re: Novel Word Count

#8

Holosheepknight Wrote: I think I'm starting to figure out the system here. I also get the feeling that readers prefer stories that already have at least 5000 words if it is a new release. I released my 3rd chapter last night, 2 days after I uploaded my first 2. The views so far haven't really trickled down. Total word count is a little over 3000. 

I have a feeling that if I started a new series with a 10k word prologue, I might see a higher initial view count. Or will that in turn make readers expect 10k words every chapter?


I'm pretty sure the number of chapters is more important than the word count. Readers want to know that the author will be posting consistently, and won't give up on the story a few chapters in.

Re: Novel Word Count

#9

Holosheepknight Wrote: I think I'm starting to figure out the system here. I also get the feeling that readers prefer stories that already have at least 5000 words if it is a new release. I released my 3rd chapter last night, 2 days after I uploaded my first 2. The views so far haven't really trickled down. Total word count is a little over 3000. 

I have a feeling that if I started a new series with a 10k word prologue, I might see a higher initial view count. Or will that in turn make readers expect 10k words every chapter?
views in the beginning can seem random and unfair
watching numbers stay the same can be too much to bare!
later though, an audience WILL find their way to you
patience and persistence is the best that we can do
FancyDrakan

Re: Novel Word Count

#12

Sake Wrote:
NovelNinja Wrote: In my entire career, I have never heard this particular pearl of wisdom. My advice is to ignore it.

just google "how long should my novel be" it's one of the first answers

Then I don't think you understand the question you Googled. Most novels are in the 60k-80k range. However, this is an industry average. The largest single genre is romance, which doesn't tend to do grand, sweeping epics. Thrillers tend to be in the same range because of their fast pacing. SF&F, on the other hand, is a much smaller part of the market and yet tends to have far larger books. They normally need more room for worldbuilding, but also SF&F fans like meatier books. Since it's a far smaller segment of the overall market, the average book size is lower than the average SF&F novel. 

On top of that, most novels have steadily increased in size over the decades. SF&F's love of large books took off in the 80s, as SF&F fans are often early tech adopters. This matters because once you have a personal computer sitting in your home (with as much as 640 kilobytes of memory, wow! wait, that was mine . . .) it's a lot easier to do multiple drafts and move items around. Cut and paste once meant literally cutting pieces of paper and pasting them in new arrangements. This spread to other genres in the 90s, and so the average romance novel increased in size . . . just not as much as you had with SF&F. 

Regardless, I have never heard someone say "You're a new author, don't bother trying to write beyond 60k." There are plenty of reasons why a novel is too long or too short that have nothing to do with the author's previous number of drafts. Expect to go through a lot of words that don't entertain people. Lots of people here love reading Brandon Sanderson, and he's now one of the heavyweights in the fantasy field; but his first published novel was the twelfth he'd written. His second was his sixth written, after a lot of changes. 


Royal Road, and web publishing in general, is a two-edged sword. You can put your work out there for people to see, but if you don't realize how many words the great authors wrote to get so good then you might get discouraged by your own first stories. Just strive for the best you can with every new chapter. You're not in a race against Sanderson, Tolkien, Mary Higgins Clarke, or Jane Austen. You're in a race against yourself from a year ago, from a month ago, from last week. 

Re: Novel Word Count

#14

NovelNinja Wrote:
Sake Wrote:
NovelNinja Wrote: In my entire career, I have never heard this particular pearl of wisdom. My advice is to ignore it.

just google "how long should my novel be" it's one of the first answers

Then I don't think you understand the question you Googled. Most novels are in the 60k-80k range. However, this is an industry average. The largest single genre is romance, which doesn't tend to do grand, sweeping epics. Thrillers tend to be in the same range because of their fast pacing. SF&F, on the other hand, is a much smaller part of the market and yet tends to have far larger books. They normally need more room for worldbuilding, but also SF&F fans like meatier books. Since it's a far smaller segment of the overall market, the average book size is lower than the average SF&F novel. 

On top of that, most novels have steadily increased in size over the decades. SF&F's love of large books took off in the 80s, as SF&F fans are often early tech adopters. This matters because once you have a personal computer sitting in your home (with as much as 640 kilobytes of memory, wow! wait, that was mine . . .) it's a lot easier to do multiple drafts and move items around. Cut and paste once meant literally cutting pieces of paper and pasting them in new arrangements. This spread to other genres in the 90s, and so the average romance novel increased in size . . . just not as much as you had with SF&F. 

Regardless, I have never heard someone say "You're a new author, don't bother trying to write beyond 60k." There are plenty of reasons why a novel is too long or too short that have nothing to do with the author's previous number of drafts. Expect to go through a lot of words that don't entertain people. Lots of people here love reading Brandon Sanderson, and he's now one of the heavyweights in the fantasy field; but his first published novel was the twelfth he'd written. His second was his sixth written, after a lot of changes. 


Royal Road, and web publishing in general, is a two-edged sword. You can put your work out there for people to see, but if you don't realize how many words the great authors wrote to get so good then you might get discouraged by your own first stories. Just strive for the best you can with every new chapter. You're not in a race against Sanderson, Tolkien, Mary Higgins Clarke, or Jane Austen. You're in a race against yourself from a year ago, from a month ago, from last week.

I'm not trying to discuss this with you, because I also don't think first novel should be 60k. I'm just saying it's a popular opinion, and it's literally what google tells you when you type "how long my first novel should be" which is were a lot of writers got that idea from.

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Re: Novel Word Count

#15

Holosheepknight Wrote: I have heard that "new" authors shouldn't make their first book more than 60,000 words. Its harder to market or something along that line. Going by that logic, should I be aiming to make my first work self-contained? 

I like the idea of world building and coming up with new stuff, but the process of writing itself can be a drag unless I am dialed in. The last thing I need is for something I put a lot of effort in bomb.


This depends on your expectations and your genre. Science-fiction and fantasy tend to double or triple that 60,000 mark. Fiction, romance tend to be closer to the 60-100,000 mark. However, these are rough guides.

Let your story breathe as long as it needs to, and don't force it beyond what is needful. 

Re: Novel Word Count

#16

L.R. Wrote:
Holosheepknight Wrote: I have heard that "new" authors shouldn't make their first book more than 60,000 words. Its harder to market or something along that line. Going by that logic, should I be aiming to make my first work self-contained? 

I like the idea of world building and coming up with new stuff, but the process of writing itself can be a drag unless I am dialed in. The last thing I need is for something I put a lot of effort in bomb.


This depends on your expectations and your genre. Science-fiction and fantasy tend to double or triple that 60,000 mark. Fiction, romance tend to be closer to the 60-100,000 mark. However, these are rough guides.

Let your story breathe as long as it needs to, and don't force it beyond what is needful.


If he wants to get traditionally published then I wouldn't really say he should try and write a 120.000 to 180.000 word novel as a debut.

I suggest looking up how many of those so-called 'epics' were debut novels. Usually the authors that wrote them already had a solid reputation in the industry thanks to previous works.

Not to mention some of those epics (even some of the very succesfull ones) could really use some trimming down.

Re: Novel Word Count

#17

TheShadowOfZama Wrote:
L.R. Wrote:
Holosheepknight Wrote: I have heard that "new" authors shouldn't make their first book more than 60,000 words. Its harder to market or something along that line. Going by that logic, should I be aiming to make my first work self-contained? 

I like the idea of world building and coming up with new stuff, but the process of writing itself can be a drag unless I am dialed in. The last thing I need is for something I put a lot of effort in bomb.


This depends on your expectations and your genre. Science-fiction and fantasy tend to double or triple that 60,000 mark. Fiction, romance tend to be closer to the 60-100,000 mark. However, these are rough guides.

Let your story breathe as long as it needs to, and don't force it beyond what is needful.


If he wants to get traditionally published then I wouldn't really say he should try and write a 120.000 to 180.000 word novel as a debut.

I suggest looking up how many of those so-called 'epics' were debut novels. Usually the authors that wrote them already had a solid reputation in the industry thanks to previous works.

Not to mention some of those epics (even some of the very succesfull ones) could really use some trimming down.

I agree with you there, about trimming modern "epics" down to a more reasonable size. Often, particularly in modern fantasy, there is far too much telling me what's going on inside character's heads, and not enough showing me what they're doing (if they're doing anything but navel gazing). It's hard to be a hero when you're sitting around bloviating about your feelings and problems. However, I think your numbers are skewed by the broad variation across genres. Let's take a look at some of the "recent" bestselling debut novels, particularly in Fantasy. From Joe Abercrombie's twitter:

Quote: The Blade Itself, The Warded Man, The Way of Shadows, The Name of The Wind, The Lies of Locke Lamora, all in the 200,000 range our more.

Taking this further to my own bookshelf right across the wall, Rage of Dragons, a self-published debut that's done very well, is 108,000 words long. Jumping over to sci-fi, pulling debut novels, or sophmore works by relatively unknown authors (at time of publication) from the last ten years off my shelf, Ancillary Justice is 104,000; Dark Run is 103,000; Arkwright is 98,000; Half-Made World is 134,000; Revelation Space is 157,000, and VN is 116,000. You'll note also that there are a few "epics" in there that you might recognize, and a few you likely don't. Despite the modern status of something like Revelation Space, it's not significantly larger than a relatively unknown imprint publication like VN.

I'm not cherry picking those numbers, nor did I omit a single entry of those I grabbed. They were taken up at random and I ran a quick google search on the title and word count. Older science-fiction and fantasy novels were shorter, but after 1990 or so, they've really swollen, again in these genres. I don't know why the common parlance hasn't changed when talking about expected novel length in these genresAnd that's not even touching on Tolkien, Martin, Jordan, or any of the other volumetric writers. Mistborn, Sanderson's first novel, is 208,000 words! His modern fantasy, such as his Stormlight Archive stuff is half again as large, at 315,000+. We could split hairs and say, "Well, what about smaller, more contained novels like the Dresden Files?" Those books are physically smaller, right? Surely they're in the 60-80,000 range. Wrong. They're all 85-150,000 (Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/dresdenfiles/comments/29lhkq/word_count_for_all_books/). So, I encourage you to check out the debut novels of those authors. The trend, after 1990, in Sci-fi/Fantasy will be the same. 

Here's what I think is causing this miscommunication: writing colleges and workshops (both of which I have attended, and graduated), are not often geared towards genre writers. They typically focus on "plain" fiction, where word counts are smaller and more manageable. As a genre writer sitting in these classes I was usually bewildered by the smaller expectations put on these assignments. "Plain" fiction doesn't require much, if any, worldbuilding. It doesn't require explanations of magic, or technology. It typically doesn't have twisting, mind-bending explosive endings (Jack Reacher books aside). So they're literally smaller genres than our speculative veins. Therefore, we should be telling people who desire to eventually publish sci-fi/fantasy that the target ought to be 80,000-120,000+, because that's what their specific niche market will expect. If they're only publishing here on RR, that's different. This platform is beautifully suited to serials of all lengths.

However, I'll redirect you to my initial point, to really underline it:  This depends on your expectations and your genre. Let your story breathe naturally, and don't worry about the word count. It may not even be a full novel, and that's perfectly OK too. In fact, that might be the best way to proceed, learning to write short stories and novellas and then, once your legs are under you, learning to put together an entire novel or long-form serial.

Re: Novel Word Count

#18

L.R. Wrote:
TheShadowOfZama Wrote:
L.R. Wrote:
Holosheepknight Wrote: I have heard that "new" authors shouldn't make their first book more than 60,000 words. Its harder to market or something along that line. Going by that logic, should I be aiming to make my first work self-contained? 

I like the idea of world building and coming up with new stuff, but the process of writing itself can be a drag unless I am dialed in. The last thing I need is for something I put a lot of effort in bomb.


This depends on your expectations and your genre. Science-fiction and fantasy tend to double or triple that 60,000 mark. Fiction, romance tend to be closer to the 60-100,000 mark. However, these are rough guides.

Let your story breathe as long as it needs to, and don't force it beyond what is needful.


If he wants to get traditionally published then I wouldn't really say he should try and write a 120.000 to 180.000 word novel as a debut.

I suggest looking up how many of those so-called 'epics' were debut novels. Usually the authors that wrote them already had a solid reputation in the industry thanks to previous works.

Not to mention some of those epics (even some of the very succesfull ones) could really use some trimming down.

I agree with you there, about trimming modern "epics" down to a more reasonable size. Often, particularly in modern fantasy, there is far too much telling me what's going on inside character's heads, and not enough showing me what they're doing (if they're doing anything but navel gazing). It's hard to be a hero when you're sitting around bloviating about your feelings and problems. However, I think your numbers are skewed by the broad variation across genres. Let's take a look at some of the "recent" bestselling debut novels, particularly in Fantasy. From Joe Abercrombie's twitter:

Quote: The Blade Itself, The Warded Man, The Way of Shadows, The Name of The Wind, The Lies of Locke Lamora, all in the 200,000 range our more.

Taking this further to my own bookshelf right across the wall, Rage of Dragons, a self-published debut that's done very well, is 108,000 words long. Jumping over to sci-fi, pulling debut novels, or sophmore works by relatively unknown authors (at time of publication) from the last ten years off my shelf, Ancillary Justice is 104,000; Dark Run is 103,000; Arkwright is 98,000; Half-Made World is 134,000; Revelation Space is 157,000, and VN is 116,000. You'll note also that there are a few "epics" in there that you might recognize, and a few you likely don't. Despite the modern status of something like Revelation Space, it's not significantly larger than a relatively unknown imprint publication like VN.

I'm not cherry picking those numbers, nor did I omit a single entry of those I grabbed. They were taken up at random and I ran a quick google search on the title and word count. Older science-fiction and fantasy novels were shorter, but after 1990 or so, they've really swollen, again in these genres. I don't know why the common parlance hasn't changed when talking about expected novel length in these genresAnd that's not even touching on Tolkien, Martin, Jordan, or any of the other volumetric writers. Mistborn, Sanderson's first novel, is 208,000 words! His modern fantasy, such as his Stormlight Archive stuff is half again as large, at 315,000+. We could split hairs and say, "Well, what about smaller, more contained novels like the Dresden Files?" Those books are physically smaller, right? Surely they're in the 60-80,000 range. Wrong. They're all 85-150,000 (Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/dresdenfiles/comments/29lhkq/word_count_for_all_books/). So, I encourage you to check out the debut novels of those authors. The trend, after 1990, in Sci-fi/Fantasy will be the same. 

Here's what I think is causing this miscommunication: writing colleges and workshops (both of which I have attended, and graduated), are not often geared towards genre writers. They typically focus on "plain" fiction, where word counts are smaller and more manageable. As a genre writer sitting in these classes I was usually bewildered by the smaller expectations put on these assignments. "Plain" fiction doesn't require much, if any, worldbuilding. It doesn't require explanations of magic, or technology. It typically doesn't have twisting, mind-bending explosive endings (Jack Reacher books aside). So they're literally smaller genres than our speculative veins. Therefore, we should be telling people who desire to eventually publish sci-fi/fantasy that the target ought to be 80,000-120,000+, because that's what their specific niche market will expect. If they're only publishing here on RR, that's different. This platform is beautifully suited to serials of all lengths.

However, I'll redirect you to my initial point, to really underline it:  This depends on your expectations and your genre. Let your story breathe naturally, and don't worry about the word count. It may not even be a full novel, and that's perfectly OK too. In fact, that might be the best way to proceed, learning to write short stories and novellas and then, once your legs are under you, learning to put together an entire novel or long-form serial.


Alright, you seem to have a point and admittedly your advice wasn't bad to begin with since you did say based on genre and expecation. My apologies.

I actualy heard something like what you just said before, but that person said there was a difference between what a publishing house expects and what a literary agent expects.
 
The latter are apparently (don't have any experience with that myself) less willing to pick debut epics and adhere more to the 80,000-100,000 word count even for fantasy.

Do you know anything about that?

Re: Novel Word Count

#19
No--my one interaction with a literary agent was a lot of whistle and no bang, unfortunately. But I think that does make sense. A publishing house has a few layers of filter before your paper gets into their hands, not the least of which is an agent. The agent, meanwhile, has to make sure that not only can you start a good manuscript, but you can carry and finish it in a way they think is likely to make their publisher money, and thereby a happy marriage. So a shorter manuscript to "screen" you makes sense.