Recommended Fantasy Under 150K

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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: Recommended Fantasy Under 150K

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » January 11th, 2010, 12:24 pm

A number of years ago I did the whole word count research and got one number. And I did it again recently, out of necessity, and got another. Times have changed, and changed decidedly in favour of the shorter novel. The economic and publishing situation has imprints looking to push down cost and risk. And that means shorter, tighter novels.

Now, I think there is still a market for longer works. But if you're a debut the risk might be too great. Write a shorter novel that succeeds and builds a fan base... and more leeway in terms of length might be negotiable. They're not going to ask George R.R. Martin or Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson to hold it down to 300 pages. But Joe Blow just starting out...
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Re: Recommended Fantasy Under 150K

Post by commando8 » January 11th, 2010, 1:39 pm

I'll be the first to admit that I don't know the market as perceived from a publishing standpoint, but if the market segment consistently reads fantasy novels >150K, I would think it would be less risky to put out fully-fledged 200K fantasy novel rather than a 100K quick, cut-down story. Those 100K stories are not what they are looking for.

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Re: Recommended Fantasy Under 150K

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » January 11th, 2010, 2:01 pm

To some extent I agree, but I think publishers are looking at profit margin, price points and the risks of low sales. A 200K book that underperforms might be far more financially damaging than a 100K book that does the same. And there are lots of shorter fantasy novels that do very well. I think the idea right now is to have the writer prove themselves to an audience first. Sort of a safety net. Though if your book is good enough you might still have a chance with an overly high wordcount. But you're narrowing your own field. No perfect solution, certainly.
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Re: Recommended Fantasy Under 150K

Post by commando8 » January 11th, 2010, 2:24 pm

You're slowly convincing me :)

I can't disagree with you from a business standpoint - take multiple small risks and fewer big ones - it's a common practice in any industry (I do it all the time in my day job!!). I guess I just have to trust that publishers know how to maximize profit and adhere to the stipulations they've dictated if I want a shot at selling them my products...

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Re: Recommended Fantasy Under 150K

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » January 11th, 2010, 3:05 pm

Glad to be convincing!

Though, as I said, I do agree with you to an extent, in that there is a market (particularly in fantasy) for long books, and I wish editors would be a little more willing to gamble on quality regardless of length. But, in the end, it really is still about quality. It's not impossible to write something long and succeed (Patrick Rothfuss, say, though it took him awhile). But, more likely, is that if you write something 180K and the writing is great... you may not get an immediate deal but you might very likely find people willing to work with you. A balance of the practical and the prophetic.
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Re: Recommended Fantasy Under 150K

Post by knight_tour » January 13th, 2010, 2:02 am

I am one who thinks the publishers are wrong for Fantasy. I take a very skeptical view of short fantasy novels. They need to really stand out for me to buy them, like A Wizard of Earthsea. I don't mind short books in other genres, but for fantasy I really like some meat on them.

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Re: Recommended Fantasy Under 150K

Post by RebeccaKnight » January 14th, 2010, 5:27 pm

I'm slowly coming around to shorter fantasy novels, and really enjoying them :). I'm a huge fan of George R.R.'s, so don't get me wrong--I love me some door stoppers! However, we have to consider that it's been a decade or more since the giant fantasy book came into vogue, so those of us who are used to them are probably just in the habit and skeptical of the new.

Newer readers may make up more of the market and be shifting toward smaller books. In fact, I've been surprised to hear that from folks on other forums that they're doing just that. Readers now are actively seeking shorter, "less intimidating" books. I think people see it as a time investment--what if they don't like it? They're not only out however much money, but they're out weeks of their lives, versus a shorter time period. From that perspective, I can see why things would be changing :).

Course, I could be totally wrong ;).
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Re: Recommended Fantasy Under 150K

Post by Elizabeth Poole » February 7th, 2010, 7:47 pm

Just throwing my two cents in, since I recently did a survey on what is the "acceptable" word count for fantasy, versus the word count of a lot of first time fantasy novels, and Ink is correct.

Jim Butcher, for example, wrote the first of a series, and then went on to write the second and third. Each book could stand alone (it's urban fantasy, and a darn good series), but gets progressively longer in length. Storm Front, the first book, weighs in at 90K if I am not mistaken. Lately the books in his series are getting longer, around the 100k-130K range.

This proves to be true for other authors as well. Their first couple of books are within the industry standards, and then as the books start to sell, word count goes up.

Right now the perception is "short books are selling" so that's what a lot of people are looking for. It doesn't mean rip apart you 160K epic, just be aware that it's going to scare some agents/publishers off. Of course, all it would take is a few blockbuster doorstops, and long word counts are in, but this is what we're working with at the moment.
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Re: Recommended Fantasy Under 150K

Post by commando8 » February 8th, 2010, 12:33 pm

Right now the perception is "short books are selling" so that's what a lot of people are looking for. It doesn't mean rip apart you 160K epic, just be aware that it's going to scare some agents/publishers off. Of course, all it would take is a few blockbuster doorstops, and long word counts are in, but this is what we're working with at the moment.
I'm becoming more and more convinced of this. I've got another 100K novel that I think might fit the current market, so that's become my focus.

As for some of the recommendations above, I unfortunately haven't been impressed yet, but I'm still looking...

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Re: Recommended Fantasy Under 150K

Post by NHWriter » February 12th, 2010, 9:17 pm

Ink wrote:A number of years ago I did the whole word count research and got one number. And I did it again recently, out of necessity, and got another. Times have changed, and changed decidedly in favour of the shorter novel. The economic and publishing situation has imprints looking to push down cost and risk. And that means shorter, tighter novels.

Now, I think there is still a market for longer works. But if you're a debut the risk might be too great. Write a shorter novel that succeeds and builds a fan base... and more leeway in terms of length might be negotiable. They're not going to ask George R.R. Martin or Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson to hold it down to 300 pages. But Joe Blow just starting out...
When asked about page count, the president of DAW said that she wanted to keep page count to reasonable levels, but if the writing was good, page count be damned. Pat Rothfuss' debut novel totaled 250,000 words and made it to the New York Times' best seller list.

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Re: Recommended Fantasy Under 150K

Post by NHWriter » February 12th, 2010, 9:19 pm

Lois McMaster Bujold's Challion books (CURSE OF CHALLION, PALADIN OF SOULS, and THE HALLOWED HUNT) are all 150k I believe. Certainly not as long as her Sharing Knife books.

While most of the fantasy books I read are 250k, the one I'm writing right now will finish around 150k.

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