More on Word Count

Dear Miss Snark,

I know editors claim the story should determine the length of the book, but I have also heard publishers get squirrely when ms length passes 125,000 words. It also seems that historicals tend to be a bit thicker, 150,000 or so.

How long is too long? At what point does the word count become a liability for you in pitching a novel?

When the weight of the pages exceeds the body weight of a pink tammed, cigar smoking, t-bone chewing, MoMA loving poodle.

100,000 is a sort of benchmark. Too much over (like 125,000) and you'd better be able to show me a synopsis that has plot to die for, and a pretty well written partial. Anything under 50,000 and I'm not so sure that's a book either.

I won't even consider something over 150,000 words for a new writer. Remember, I don't represent historical fiction and I don't represent SFF and those two categories are famous for Big Ass Novels.


MW said...

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I'm looking in your direction.

Talk about a monster debut.

Anonymous said...

Historical SFF. That just about requires two big asses yoked together, doesn't it?

Laraqua said...

Most GIANT novels could use some pruning, in my opinion, but then I'm a fan of Ed McBain. Stephen King does some whoppers sometimes and while each scene is good, some of them do drag because there's been too much of this kinda scene before. Although, if a person wrote a 200,000 word novel and trimmed it to 150,000 words, their novel would be a hulk, yes, but probably a well-pruned one.