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Old 03-13-2010, 06:35 PM   #1
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Books for 8-12 year olds: Question about length

Hi guys - I'm taking a stab at my first MG book right now - gearing it for the 8-12 year olds.

Is a 25K word manuscript too small for this age group to actually sell? it seems so short to me when compared to other manuscripts I've written. But I know that if I add anything more than a couple thousand during my editing stage it will be filler, and I'm not a fan of filler.
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Thanks guys,
S

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Old 03-13-2010, 06:50 PM   #2
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If you can get another 10k in there, it'd be better. I know my MG ms that we're shopping now started at 29k and is now 35k and it's for the same age range as yours.
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Old 03-13-2010, 07:07 PM   #3
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Thanks RoseColoredSkies,

Mine is sitting at 27,800 - So I might be able to push it to low 30,000's or even 35K. Do you mind if I ask, did you snag your agent with a query for a 29K word MG novel? or did you have it at 35K before that happened?

Cheers,
S
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Old 03-13-2010, 07:12 PM   #4
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I think 25k is fine, especially if the writing is very tight and every word counts. My MG manuscript is just under 28k, and my agent never once mentioned it being too short.
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Old 03-13-2010, 07:27 PM   #5
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I think 25k is fine, especially if the writing is very tight and every word counts. My MG manuscript is just under 28k, and my agent never once mentioned it being too short.
Thanks Hedge. I had a previous MG that was much longer and I realized there was quite a lot of extraneous info thrown in. So with this one, tight writing was what I was going for. I just wasn't sure if agents would reject based on the length alone.
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Old 03-13-2010, 08:28 PM   #6
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Some will. I know one of the secret agents on Miss Snark's First Victim said she doesn't look at MG under 30K. But most other agents I've asked say they don't look at the word count. They look at the writing. Make it as long as it needs to be, in other words.

Try as I might, I just haven't been able to get mine over the 25k mark, either. So I'm hoping it won't be a problem!
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Old 03-13-2010, 10:16 PM   #7
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SWH -- While it's true that some agents, and perhaps even editors, will reject a book if they feel the word count is too low, I wouldn't sweat it too hard. Yet if it really worries you, set it aside for a while and work on something else. When you come back to it, you'll be amazed how you see parts of the plot that can be fleshed out more without simply adding a bunch of fluff.

Even though my book is currently on submission, I'm still tinkering with. But I'm not trying to bring the word count up. I'm just fleshing out a few scenes and adding a bit more texture. The end result will be a slightly longer book but also a slightly better book. Whatever you decide, all the best of luck. The word floating around is that editors are especially looking to acquire more MG.
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Old 03-13-2010, 11:03 PM   #8
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It also depends on genre and market. Fantasies need to be a little longer. Books for MG boys are often between 25k and 35K.

You can find the word counts of published children's books at the below link. Search for the book and then click on the title. The word count will then be displayed with some other info.

For instance, Dan Gutman: The Homework Machine - 26,448, The Kid Who Ran for President - 34,098, Getting Air - 32,270,

Mike Lupica: Hot Hand - 27566, Two Minute Drill - 28470

http://www.renlearn.com/store/quiz_home.asp
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Old 03-13-2010, 11:45 PM   #9
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Thanks RoseColoredSkies,

Mine is sitting at 27,800 - So I might be able to push it to low 30,000's or even 35K. Do you mind if I ask, did you snag your agent with a query for a 29K word MG novel? or did you have it at 35K before that happened?

Cheers,
S
My MS when I snagged my agent was about 34k so I only added about 1k before we started subbing.
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Old 03-14-2010, 12:26 AM   #10
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Quote:
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It also depends on genre and market. Fantasies need to be a little longer.
I've often wondered why fantasy is expected to run longer. Is it because of all the world building that goes into it?
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Old 03-14-2010, 12:38 AM   #11
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I've often wondered why fantasy is expected to run longer. Is it because of all the world building that goes into it?
Yes. My understanding is that it's because of the world building, but if a particular audience for a particular genre tends to like a longer book, then longer books of that genre might be more marketable and therefore more desirable.
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Old 03-14-2010, 01:10 AM   #12
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Gotcha.
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Old 03-14-2010, 06:34 AM   #13
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Re: fantasy: World building, of course, but also I think that once the world is built, there's the urge to linger there. Once the book is over, there's no going back to that place (until the sequel comes out). So the reader wants the experience to last.

Literary/contemporary is so focused on character, and the world is supposed to feel familiar--in the sense of Oh, yes, that's exactly right, the author really knows and speaks the truth. It's more like a poem. You don't need, shouldn't need, a lot of words to build the experience.
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Old 03-14-2010, 03:40 PM   #14
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MG would usually be between 20 and 30k, about 100 to 150 pages.
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Old 03-14-2010, 06:55 PM   #15
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I think I posted this in another thread recently (or do I just think I did?), but I'll post here too.

My first MG is about 45K and my contract for my next one is for 50K. There's a wide range because some MG is marketed more to the lower age range of 8-10, and some more towards the 11-12 group. It also depends on what reading level the company is targeting. The Dive series books by Gordon Korman are short, under 150p, but it seems like they are trying to draw in reluctant readers, because it is an adventure series with older kids.

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Old 03-14-2010, 07:16 PM   #16
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I think I posted this in another thread recently (or do I just think I did?), but I'll post here too.

My first MG is about 45K and my contract for my next one is for 50K. There's a wide range because some MG is marketed more to the lower age range of 8-10, and some more towards the 11-12 group. It also depends on what reading level the company is targeting. The Dive series bookds by Gordon Korman are short, under 150, but it seems like they are trying to draw in reluctant readers, because it is an adventure series with older kids.

The Dive series is a good example. Those books are really not stand-alone. It's one story divided into three books for the reason you stated, to attract reluctant readers. That demonstrates a desire on the part of the publisher to keep the books short regardless of the actual length of the story. Many of Korman's series are like that. BTW, the Dive series is an excellent series for boys and girls, but one that reluctant readers are likely to enjoy.

Also, Jud mentioned that some books should be longer because readers want to "linger." I couldn't agree more. I remember looking for longer books when I was a child for that very reason.
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Old 03-15-2010, 12:45 AM   #17
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My MG, which snagged me an Agent and got me a meeting, detailed editorial notes and good consideration (still ongoing) from a large british publisher, is only 24K. Before reading it, a lady from another publisher said it needed to be 20K longer. However, from those who've read it, the length is perfect, if anything 500 words or so too long. It's a humorous adventure story but not fantasy, and it's not really looking for the lower side of MG either. Don't worry about pushing up the word count. It's what words you use that counts, not how many of them you use.
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Old 03-15-2010, 03:31 AM   #18
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My MG, which snagged me an Agent and got me a meeting, detailed editorial notes and good consideration (still ongoing) from a large british publisher, is only 24K. Before reading it, a lady from another publisher said it needed to be 20K longer. However, from those who've read it, the length is perfect, if anything 500 words or so too long. It's a humorous adventure story but not fantasy, and it's not really looking for the lower side of MG either. Don't worry about pushing up the word count. It's what words you use that counts, not how many of them you use.
I couldn't agree more. I just finished reading The Underneath. It's a good book with beautiful writing, but I felt it was needlessly long. The author repeated some ideas and sentences many times. I got the impression she either didn't have anything else to say at that point, didn't trust that her reader would remember it from the last time she said it, or she was deliberately trying to reach a specific line count. I thought the last 1/4 of the book dragged the story out to the point that I was anxious to be done.
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Old 03-18-2010, 06:53 AM   #19
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My MG is around 62K. On the longer side, judging from the comments here. It's not really fantasy, so there isn't much world building. Just a lot of story, I suppose!
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Old 03-20-2010, 09:12 AM   #20
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I'm revising my MG, and trying to keep it to around 45K. It's good to see, though, that there's a good range of word counts for published (and soon-to-be-published) MG out there.

A related question I have is about chapter length. I understand it can vary, but what's the average in word count per chapter? And how many chapters are usual for MG?
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Old 03-20-2010, 05:50 PM   #21
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This is something else that will vary wildly between writers. I usually keep my chapters around 1500 words. But if I have a couple of consecutive chapters that are much shorter, say 700 to 800, I'll allow myself room to follow that up with a longer chapter of about 2000 words just for variety. And of course the number of chapters is dictated by the overall word count. My last MG (28,000 words) had 25 chapters. I'm on chapter 15 of my WIP and a little over halfway finished.
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Old 03-20-2010, 10:05 PM   #22
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Well, it seems my MG (upper MG at that) is longer than others here. I've got it at the moment around the 70,000 words. But it is a fantasy, so they're allowed to be longer than the norm.

Interesting about the chapter lengths, though. My first chapter (currently up in the SYW forum) runs at a tad over 2000 words. I'm trying to make most of the chapters about that length, although a few are longer. One reaches 5000 words. Although I do have a few shorter chapters at around the 1k mark.
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Old 03-20-2010, 11:03 PM   #23
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I usually keep my chapters around 1500 words. But if I have a couple of consecutive chapters that are much shorter, say 700 to 800, I'll allow myself room to follow that up with a longer chapter of about 2000 words just for variety. And of course the number of chapters is dictated by the overall word count. My last MG (28,000 words) had 25 chapters. I'm on chapter 15 of my WIP and a little over halfway finished.
Thanks for this info. My current chapters are rather long, because I tried to keep the manuscript to 10-12 chapters (I don't know why, I just did). Now, I see I can have more chapters which are shorter. This actually works better for my ms, because of the pacing.
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Old 03-21-2010, 12:09 AM   #24
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Thanks for this info. My current chapters are rather long, because I tried to keep the manuscript to 10-12 chapters (I don't know why, I just did). Now, I see I can have more chapters which are shorter. This actually works better for my ms, because of the pacing.
Remember your audience haven't been independent readers for all that long, and some may still be reluctant to read a whole novel. Seeing shorter chapters helps them feel like getting to the end is doable. The last MG I read (The Underneath) had about 120 very short chapters.
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Old 03-21-2010, 12:16 AM   #25
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Thanks, hedgetrimmer! Great advice!
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