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The basic question is this: is having a novel with a word count above 100,000 the absolute death of any hopes for publishing a work you may have?

It's come upon me that even with the massive editing I've been doing, that Revenant Blues is going to be a little on the hefty side.

I've taken out big spots of unnecessary dialog, characterization, description. I've even cut most of the ending part out and gotten straight to the big finale.

But. Still. This thing looks like it's going to come to 140,000 - maybe less if I go through again and go line by line and get rid of some of the prose-level flourishes I sometimes indulge in. I could maybe get this sucker down to somewhere in the 130,000-120,000 range. That's if I start wacking away like a weed whacker at everything.

But there is just no way to cut out 40,000 words without taking out chunks of the book that would leave it unable to function.

I've been carving this thing down to nothing but that which is absolutely relevant to the story. I've been cutting out favorite scenes and such - to no avail. The word count keeps staying high.

In one of the books I'm reading on agent-hunting and the like, there's a big emphasis on having a novel that's 100,000 words, and a lot of quotes given by agents to that effect.

But I also noticed that these agents didn't really work in the fantasy field, either. These were people from the literary, suspense, and romance neck of the woods.

So I need people who know. I need people who can give it to me straight. Help!

Date: 2007-02-02 04:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Have no idea, honey! Sorry, hope you get some info. :)

Date: 2007-02-02 05:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Depends a great deal on genre. Romance tends to top out around 90K, which to me is about an hour's read and I ain't paying no $7 for only an hour's entertainment! (Fffttt.) SFF are a completely different breed; you can walk down those aisles and books at 100K are considered practically novellas beside the doorstop books of Alexander, Stephenson, Eddings, Williams, and plenty others.

That said, a first-time author (FTA) is pushed, even in fantasy, to stay within 120K to 130K, maybe max 140K, if the story just can't go down further. (There are exceptions, like Lynch's first-time Lies of Locke Lamora but these are the ones that prove the rule.)

That word-count limit for FTA has a great deal to do, I've gathered, with two things: one, the width of the spine, and two, the way the book is made. A book over about an inch's width will take up more space on the shelf, obviously, which means another book gets shrifted to give your book room.

Second, FTA is more likely to get paperback deal (not hardback, that's even rarer than letting first-time author have 150K+ book, and again, Lynch proves the exception to prove the rule, awesome-writing bastard that he is!), and a paperback over X number of pages -- can't remember the limit -- is going to require more $$ to bind than a book that can just be glued per standard paperback. (That does depend to a certain extent on the publisher; some don't mind if the book falls apart halfway through the first reading.)

In essence: the publishers want as little risk as possible on uproven FTA, plus they know a Massive Tome by unfamiliar name is less likely to get picked up as a "well, I'll try this," and tossed on the buying stack, since many readers don't want to commit that much time/money to unknown.

Alma Alexander, for instance ([ profile] anghara here on the 'net), may be writing 250K doorstops these days but her first English-language SFF books don't weigh in much past maybe 110K, from my guess. Gibson certainly didn't start out writing four-pounders, nor did Stephenson; so if this story can't be told -- as I was advised, as well -- in under 140K, then finish, set it aside, and find one that can, preferably as close to 110K as possible. Then, once you're no longer FTA and no longer unknown, then you can expand.

Unless you turn out to be the next Scott Lynch, in which case all bets are off. ;-)

Date: 2007-02-03 12:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you!

This is so very, very, very helpful. While I don't aspire to such grand heights as Scott Lynch, I can probably get this novel down to a svelte 130k fighting weight (or perhaps a bit lower) without gutting it.

As arrogant as it might sound, I don't think that I've wasted my words, either. I think that the story justifies taking 130k or so of space, and I'm hoping that if I do a good job of making everything else (query, synopsis, and novel itself) appealing that someone might take a chance on it.

Again, thank you a thousand times over. You have not only answered a big question, but made me feel much better.

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