If Martin Cavannagh of Reedsy keeps sending me material for my #amwriting Monday posts, Imma hafta puddim onna payroll. Maybe as poorfrader or sumpin.
ANYWAY, the Reedsy folks have put together a post on novel lengths. Yes, that’s supposed to be plural. If you don’t already know, lemme tell ya: Different genres generally have different ranges of word count. Books for different ages have different ranges of word count. Even different publishers can have different ranges of word count they prefer to see.
As always, you need to check a publisher’s or agent’s guidelines before submitting the book. Better yet, have a word count range in mind — not before you write or as you write, but certainly as you edit.
This Reedsy post covers most, if not all, of the bases, including the fact that there will always be exceptions. Also including the fact that you’re heading for heartbreak if you count on being one of those exceptions.
As for my title, I asked an agent once how long my fantasy novel needed to be, and he said, “How long is a piece of string?” The answer supposedly being, “How long does it need to be?” The appropriate answers, though, might have been, “How long does a publisher want it before they’ll look at it?” or “How long does a reader looking for your sort of book expect?”
‘Cause, look: Maybe you write for your own pleasure or artistic expression, but once you step into the marketplace, you’re in somebody else’s sandbox. You write for you; you sell for the buyer. If that irritates or sullies you, I’m sorry. Either accept and deal with that or you might as well go all Emily Dickinson and fill a desk drawer with with your work. Even if you self-publish, if you want to sell your self-published book, you need for somebody to buy it, amIright?
Think of word count within or just outside expectations as a tool in your grasp, rather than as an imposition. If you choose to (or feel you must) ignore what the marketplace advises, try to realize you choose to put that tool aside and to work without it. Maybe that will alleviate some of your frustration, if you don’t sell as quickly or in as much volume as you expected.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Read some of the articles on Reedsy. They’re quite good!