You are here:

Writing Books/Sky-High Word Count

Advertisement


Question
Hi,
Thanks so much for your time and your help.

I've finished (and edited the hell out of) my first novel, a paranormal romance, which clocks in around 180,000 words. Although I knew while I was writing and editing that word count should fall somewhere within specified parameters in order for a book to be marketable, I've just now learned (after sending six queries) that a high word count is an absolute deal-breaker and will almost always cause an agent to hit delete without even reading the query. This is all due to my own complete idiocy; I should have researched acceptable novel lengths more thoroughly before I began writing.

So...in your opinion, should I cease querying immediately and try to completely overhaul my novel until it's a more reasonable 100,000 or so words? The thing is, I'm not even sure if this is even possible. I'd almost have to just scrap the entire novel and start fresh with an entirely different structure, different pacing, etc., etc., etc., using only the same two main characters, plot, and hook. I think the novel would be so much less for losing one really unique character and a couple of sub-plots.

Am I just...toast? Should I try querying without mentioning the word count, or will an agent see through that immediately and realize something is waaay off with the word count and auto-delete anyway. I just want my first few pages read.

Thanks so much for any advice you can give me. I'm in a pretty tearful state here...all the blood, sweat, and tears, all for nothing because I simply made my novel too long. Aggghhhh....

Answer
Devon:

You've been told correctly.  Overly high word counts are fatal to a first-time author.  At least, in the eyes of publishers and agents.  My first novel was over 300,000 words, and as hard as I tried, I couldn't even get an agent to read it.  They saw the word count and said, "No way."

Yes, you could submit a query without a word count, but since it IS something they look at, this may not help you.  I personally don't think 180k is all that high.  I think a 100k target is ludicrous, especially because the ONLY reason you're being told to shoot for that is so that publishers won't lose as much money when your book - which they will NOT promote, anyway - tanks at the bookstore.

I'll be honest with you, Devon... I despise the publishing industry.  I still write, but I've sworn off conventional publishers.  I don't like how they do business, and I think they're insulting to writers and readers.

The landscape is changing, albeit slowly.  I, for one, refuse to play by their rules.  I may never be a household name, or live entirely off my book sales, but I'll have the satisfaction of retaining my integrity, and knowing my work is better than quite a lot of the stuff being published today.

If you want to converse more about this off-site, email me at mail@vincentmwales.com.  

Writing Books

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Vincent M. Wales

Expertise

I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.

Experience

For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

Education/Credentials
BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.