Congratulations to everyone who committed this month to drafting a novel for NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. You are awesome!
Lately there's been buzz on the street around word count and genre expectations, along with (real talk) books out there that seriously need to lose some pages.
Reader focus is at an all time low.
Traditional and Indie books are still books and consumers want what they want.
As a multi-genre, fiction writer, I say....let's try and give it to them.
Did they publish a book with 899 pages and call it a paranormal mystery?
As an avid reader who spends on average, seven hundred dollars + a year on my fiction addiction, (Indie and Traditional both) the mystery for me would be why this person didn't get a tougher editor and make it a trilogy?
I am being dramatic and a little snarky to drive home an important point.
Books like this are floating around the marketplace and I did not buy said book, because I simply don't have that kind of time.
Listen to a smart and savvy, literary agent named, Jessia Faust discuss word count in the video below.
I admire her candor and have queried her company in the past with a mystery novel, but thus far no love match for me at Book Ends Literary, at least not yet... and that is totally fine. I will keep improving my pitch, and revising the manuscript, but before the magic happens, word count is integral and can make or break the deal before you even get started. Going over 100k as a potential debut, is also one of the fastest ways to get your work disqualified in a query letter.
Not everyone feels this way about WC, and any of us could be the exception, but it's tough enough to get a contract. Please think about it.
Watch the video and let me know in the comments below what you think!
If you watched the short video, you will understand better what the traditional publishing world expects. I highly suggest subscribing to this channel on YouTube as well.
Why are some authors not following these professional guidelines?
I believe it was Scribner's in New York City in the early 1900s that began qualifying books by genre, which also led to tighter industry guidelines, word count and reader expectation. Before that there were only two types of books, fiction and nonfiction.
The word count suggestions emerged for a myriad of reasons; to save money, to get to the end as soon as possible and because certain genres have more world building: fantasy, historical, science fiction, there is room for additional length to ensure the setting and atmosphere is clearly etched out.
Indies and self-published authors don't have to follow these suggestions... to some that is exactly the point and the choice. I feel you on the creative aspect, and I'm a rebel too, but...
The important thing that some talented writers out there are missing is the reader experience.
Below are some books I have enjoyed and their word count.
Lord of the Flies By William Golding
Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
1984 by George Orwell
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Phillip K. Dick
I used to judge a book by its ability to weigh down my backpack or make my shelf look pretty. I actually still fawn over a beautiful book, as anyone who has read, The Haunted Series or The Irish Phantom Series would certainly agree that aesthetics are important too.
As writers without a department taking care of these things for us, we need to think about marketing, genre expectation, production cost, storytelling, our audience and lastly... creating the most professional product we are able to.
Oh my gosh, I love books. I have always loved books, and in 2022... true-confession y'all, I adore shorter books.
This is a business and as much as I would like to be a literary success, a financial one would certainly be a nice feather to add to the pretty baubles on the writing desk.
Please think about page and word count in a world that has a lower attention span than a goldfish (7 seconds) (humans, 4 seconds.) Yikes!