Are you eager to write your first book? Trying to figure out how long it should be? Do you think page count is irrelevant? Think again. In the publishing business, size does matter!
Many publishers have very strict length requirements. Writing a historical romance? It better be between 100,000 to 125,000 words if you want it published by Avon Books. Are you writing a mystery? Well, donâ€™t be long winded about it. Most mystery novels run between 60,000 and 65,000 words.
I know, I know. Many of you are bristling at the idea of meeting word length requirements. You may have romantic visions of writing the next Ulysses. What about challenging the status quo and writing literature for literatureâ€™s sake? Well, of course I would never discourage anyone from such a lofty goal, but I will make one suggestionâ€”keep your day job.
If you want to be a published author, itâ€™s important to be aware of industry expectations. But where do these expectations come from? I wondered the same thing until I read The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall. Marshall, president of the Evan Marshall Agency, explains the logic behind these quotas in the chapter â€œGetting Off to the Right Start.â€
According to Marshall, a number of factors determine the ideal book length, and most of them are economic. From a manufacturing standpoint, books need to meet cost effective length requirements in order to be profitable. From a marketing standpoint, paperbacks need to meet certain length requirements in order to fit a predetermined number in one of those bookstore shelf pockets. Book size even determines how many books will fit in a shipping carton. And then there are consumer expectations. Readers are accustomed to certain types of books being of a certain length. Satisfying the readerâ€™s expectations means your book has a better chance of making it off the shelf.
So how do you determine which length is suitable for your book? Well, Marshall suggests tracking down the publisherâ€™s tip sheet. To do this, you must first classify your novels genre, and then determine which publishers specialize in those genres. Not all publishers have tip sheets, however, so Marshall gives this alternate approach. Find five or six books within your books genre, and then follow this simple formula:
Book pages x lines on a full page x 9 = number of words
Using the average of these five or six books, you will come up with a rough estimate of how long your book should be. I know, itâ€™s not very romantic, but it is practical. Getting published is challenging enough without sabotaging yourself. If youâ€™re serious about being a published author, find out what the publishers are looking for and stack the deck in your favor.
Republished with permission from Modern Matriarch. Stop by for reviews and Interviews from award winning writers.