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Old 06-25-2008, 06:12 PM   #1
alyssalynne
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Question Average word count for a fantasy novel?

Hi I'm working on my first novel (a fantasy adventure). I'm using a feature length script I wrote as the basic outline for the story which I'm finding very helpful so far. This is all pretty new to me, so I'm wondering what the average word count range should be for a fantasy novel?
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Old 06-25-2008, 07:30 PM   #2
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100K and up is acceptable for a fantasy even for a first time author.
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Old 06-25-2008, 08:44 PM   #3
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I wouldn't just say "and up". Most agents consider 120 000 the top end even for Fantasy books. Fantasy is the genre that tends to allow for longer works, but for a first time author it is very difficult to sell something over that 120K mark. So unless you want to be the exception to the rule, unless you have a work that is just stunning and every single word counts, I'd keep it no longer than 120 000.
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Old 06-25-2008, 10:57 PM   #4
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Thank you. What is the minimum range that would be acceptable? Based on my outline and what I've drafted so far, I'm estimating it would be in the 80-85K word range. Is that too short?
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Old 06-25-2008, 11:26 PM   #5
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No that is perfectly acceptable, in fact I can hear the cheer going up from all the fantasy agents out there!


(80K is usually the bottom end. You'll see word ranges 80 - 120K typically)
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Old 06-26-2008, 12:03 AM   #6
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I've heard the magic page number where costs and discounts and distro and earnings magically align is at 362 pages from one publisher.

That doesn't mean anything as far as wordcount, but it gives you some idea of about what range you'd like to be in to make sure your book is as cheap to produce as possible.

This is only at that one publisher, though. Different publishers are going to have a different magic number.

Really, the best thing to do is write the best book you can. Shorter novels get published all the time, as do longer ones. The question is always quality, not quantity.
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Old 06-26-2008, 12:35 AM   #7
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Can you find a book from that publisher and figure out how many words through page there are on average?
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Old 06-26-2008, 12:51 AM   #8
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Look at publishers' submission guidelines. That'll spell it out and is the final authority to my experience.
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Old 06-26-2008, 04:06 PM   #9
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Its also different based on subgenre. Epic fantasy and other "High fantasy" genres are a bit longer, Urban fantasy, not so much.
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Old 06-26-2008, 04:14 PM   #10
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What would you say the average Urban Fantasy is? I'm came out to be 105K
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Old 06-26-2008, 08:01 PM   #11
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Straka, I think that would be fine. Even urban fantasy requires worldbuilding. In my limited experience, the range seems pretty much the same for urban and epic.
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Old 06-26-2008, 09:33 PM   #12
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Actually, I agree that UF skews shorter. Anything over 100k in UF, you're going to have a harder time getting in the door.

My BFF is contracted with Ace, and her contract specifies 95k and not one bit over.
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Old 06-26-2008, 10:26 PM   #13
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Even Epic Fantasy skews shorter than you might assume these days.

Pat Rothfuss, and David Anthony Durham turned out some bug-crushers (very, very high quality, well-written bug-crushers both of which I give two hearty thumbs up...)

Compare that to my book, or Shadowbridge by Gregory Frost, or the DnD novels and media tie-ins that are often the gateway drug to Epic/Heroic Fantasy... Not all of these books are long. Some of them are barely longer than novellas.

Heck, you can pick up the original Elric books in their first printings, and they can't be more than 80,000 words a pop. Seriously, I re-read the first one just because I saw it at the library and thought it'd be fun to re-read. It was. It took less than four hours.

This assumption that epic/heroic fantasy books skew long ought to be investigated further before anyone assumes it's true. I suspect, with just glancing at my bookshelf as evidence, that there's a wider spectrum of word-lengths in epic/heroic fantasy, but one that still averages out in the 80,000 word range on the whole.

Still, I wouldn't mind a number-cruncher to prove me wrong. I didn't do anything scientific to reach my result.
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Old 06-26-2008, 11:56 PM   #14
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Here are a few word counts I did when trying to figure out when to stop.

The formula I used was #words=#pages X lines on full page X 9 (came from Writer's Digest I think).

Dune - 207,045
Neuromancer - 97,907
The Hobbit - 92,907
1984 - 86,040
Childhood's End - 79,920
Brave New World - 68,742
The Mad God's Amulet - 51,120 (which btw, is about the same as the Elric novels Canadian editions)
The Word For World Is Forest - 48,672
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Old 06-27-2008, 12:03 AM   #15
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You might want to use word counts from books younger than say 30 years?

Publishing has changed,sadly. Most of my fave books would never get published today
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Old 06-27-2008, 12:38 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IdiotsRUs View Post
You might want to use word counts from books younger than say 30 years?

Publishing has changed,sadly. Most of my fave books would never get published today
LOL, Point taken
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Old 06-27-2008, 02:20 AM   #17
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You know I hate to be a dissenting voice here because I agree that over about 120k is getting difficult but.....

A couple of weeks ago an acquiring editor from a decent-sized UK fantasy publisher came to talk to my writing group and he took the view that longer is better (with the caveat that it has to be well-written).
Maybe that is just for this publisher.
I think I still believe that you should keep it below 120k, but it is not cut and dried.
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Old 06-27-2008, 04:00 AM   #18
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The raw word count is 100k.

But without the words "winter," "harsh," "sword," "chalice," "lord," "oath," "enchanter," "bide," "farewell," "sorrow," and "blade," it's 85k.
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Old 06-27-2008, 10:44 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by waylander View Post
You know I hate to be a dissenting voice here because I agree that over about 120k is getting difficult but.....

A couple of weeks ago an acquiring editor from a decent-sized UK fantasy publisher came to talk to my writing group and he took the view that longer is better (with the caveat that it has to be well-written).
Maybe that is just for this publisher.
I think I still believe that you should keep it below 120k, but it is not cut and dried.
You can get away with more in the UK ( John Jarrold reckons about 140k is average iirc) but it needs to be wonderful as there are so few publishers / agents for fantasy in the UK. They might publish 8 new authors a year for the whole of the country.
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Old 06-27-2008, 11:46 PM   #20
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I just took a sampling from my books, and I must be doing something wrong.

Even the shortest novels were coming out at about 100-120k. I didn't even pick up the Big Fat Fantasy tomes to check.
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Old 06-28-2008, 01:02 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IdiotsRUs View Post
You can get away with more in the UK ( John Jarrold reckons about 140k is average iirc) but it needs to be wonderful as there are so few publishers / agents for fantasy in the UK. They might publish 8 new authors a year for the whole of the country.
Tell me about it. Mine recently received a full set of rejections from the UK publishers
102k in length BTW
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Old 06-29-2008, 01:29 AM   #22
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Question

How about historical fantasy (non-epic)?

Quote:
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Its also different based on subgenre. Epic fantasy and other "High fantasy" genres are a bit longer, Urban fantasy, not so much.
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Old 06-29-2008, 01:33 AM   #23
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How about historical fantasy (non-epic)?
Keep it below 120k if you can
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Old 06-29-2008, 09:43 PM   #24
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Quote:
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Tell me about it. Mine recently received a full set of rejections from the UK publishers
102k in length BTW
Yep. I went through pretty much every agent and publisher of sci-fi and fantasy in the UK too. Mine is complete at 130K, so maybe that's why the US agents didn't even request a partial.
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Old 08-07-2014, 07:30 PM   #25
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Well, just because I love to roil the pot and make people think outside the box a bit, I came across a word count on some (not really epic) fantasy works by an unknown author. They clock in with some fairly modest as well as some pretty hefty word counts:

257k +
198k +
190k +
169k +
106k +
84k +
77k +

These were all written by the same author. (btw, the whopper at the top of the list wasn't the first book published.) Anyone care to take a guess as to who got away with writing such door stops and still, not only getting published as a complete unknown, but making a career out of it?

Highlight below to find out!


Harry Potter Books
Philosopher’s Stone-77,325
Chamber of Secrets-84,799
Prisoner of Azkaban-106,821
Goblet of Fire-190,858
Order of the Phoenix257,154
Half Blood Prince-169,441
Deathly Hallows-198,227

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