Word Count: Does It Matter?

posted in: Fantasy, Storytelling, Writing | 6
Often, writer’s (especially with their first book attempts) just write, trying to finish the book.  That’s the primary goal with dreams of publication on the horizon.  What happens (and this is my experience) is that writers begin to do research and find information on length of the book and how that may or may not affect the book being bought and published for the general public.

When I was younger, this terrified me because I realized that my first book was very large.  Mind you, I’ve decided to love and write epic fantasy because I like a good storytelling challenge.  Now, if you do any kind of quick searches for epic fantasy novel word count, you will find what is quite the endeavor.  Anywhere from 175K to 225K words seems an appropriate average.  This translates to several hundreds of pages both in hardback and paperback, which is quite the commitment for a reader.  It’s even more so for a publisher though who is putting up the money to pay for a wide release of what they hope will be a bestseller.

Publishers are in the book game to make money.  That has to be realized.  Agents are in the book game to make money as well.  They are looking for writers who write something they believe they can sell for a book deal to a major publisher so that the book will hit the shelves at Barnes and Noble and the virtual shelves at Amazon.  Writers are in the game to write.  Sure some look to make money but I’m of the opinion best selling writers have both the skill to write a great story that other people are willing to pay for to read, but also the ability to tell the story in a way only they can.  We’ve got it in us to put the words on the pages.

In the beginning, I wanted to write, get published, and make money.  Not much of a confession since I was 18 and had no idea what else to do with my life at that time.  Now, 32, I want to write and get published.  If I make money in doing so then that’s just an added bonus.  What does this have to do with word count, you might ask?  A lot actually because I cannot sacrifice my story for the sake of believing it can only be published by a major publisher if I get it under 125K words because that might be what the publisher prefers.

From a cost/profit position, I get it.  It’s not easy to sell a new epic fantasy book that stretches several hundred pages and expect a profit all the time.  It happens but there’s a lot that goes into the effort of the agent and publisher to get that money.

For me, I cannot get hung up on length when it comes to my book.  Is it long, yes.  Admittedly so, it is long.  But that is because it is epic fantasy.  It’s the nature of the beast.  My goal is to write, edit, revise, and polish it to the best of my abilities.  Not only that, but it needs to be the best it can be in order for an agent to believe it enough to invest their career, reputation, and time into it.  It’s no easy task but doable and I believe in my writing and storytelling abilities to reach this goal despite the word count.

To all other writers who may venture to read this blog post (are you out there?  I’m not quite sure to be honest), I would encourage you to tell the story from beginning to end as you see fit.  Be prepared to have to cut and revise if your beta readers make suggestions.  Be prepared to spend more time revising sections if an agent believes it will benefit the book, which will lead it to being sold.  If there’s a section that you disagree needs to be cut/revised for whatever reason, make an appeal and state your reason why.  Trust in yourself.

Call to Action: I’m curious to know if book readers turn away from books based on length.  Do you have a preference?

6 Responses

  1. Kacey Henderson

    I’ve never passed up a book based on length. Have you? I’ve seen you read those really thick ones! Love you! You’re doing great with your posts BTW

    • ahenderson

      Only recently have I been putting the thicker tomes aside for smaller ones but that’s because it takes me a long time to get through the longer books. I’ve got to read 50 books this year for my reading challenge and I’m a few books behind. If I can get ahead, then I’ll break out the thick books. I’ve got a few I’ve been looking forward to. Thanks for the kind words as always! (That’s my mom, lol)

  2. Hannah

    I haven’t turned away from a book based on length, just too nuch unnecessary details. Which can be the same but often different. Like in your other post, it’s how cumbersome it is to blast through. But I like fantasies too.

    • ahenderson

      It’s a balancing thing for me. I have several books on my shelf that I look at and think, “It will seriously take me six months to finish that book.” I’m not a fast reader at all. I pay attention to more than just the story being told. I look at the writing style a lot and I’ve learned so much over the years by doing so.

  3. A.S. Akkalon

    I love long books if everything that’s in them matters. Huge descriptions of boring scenery, no thanks. But if I enjoy a book, the longer the better.

    I’m with you on the problem for epic fantasy, though. Can a book even be epic fantasy in under 150k words? I’m currently trying to cut mine from 156k down to 120k. I suspect at the end of this round of edits it will be even longer…

    • ahenderson

      I’m right there with you. Even some popular epic fantasy strays too far into the boring scenery descriptions. I prefer to read forward progress with subtle descriptions.

      I think I’d have to cut my book in two just to get it at 120k :/ Not an easy feat but I wish you luck! Thanks for leaving a comment too!

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