How important is word count to a book publisher?

News, trends, and the future of publishing
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How important is word count to a book publisher?

Post by EarthSpirit » October 1st, 2018, 7:07 am

I will hope it useful for the community :)
Word count matters — more than it should in my opinion. As a reader I love the huge word count novels Steven King has written and the very short gems Tom Robbins has penned. Word count doesn’t matter to me but unfortunately I’m in the minority. How to write a 10 page paper in one night? The fashion for word count changes with the times. This year it has become much shorter. I’m talking about reader preference now. Your potential readers no longer want to commit enough of their precious time to wade through a book of more than 100,000 words, no matter how brilliant. Novels of less than 70,000 words used to be considered short stories but now publishers are selling them as full length novels. There is another factor very important to publishers that is driven primarily by word count — page count. Traditional publishers want to publish print editions to put in bookstores — hardcover first, then paperback, then Ebooks maybe. Printing is very expensive. Publishers look at word count to determine how many pages the book will run. As a self publisher I can tell you the POD companies charge about $15 to “cover their printing costs” for a 100,000 word book of normal size height and width. I’m sure traditional publishers weigh potential sales revenue against costs, chief of which is printing cost.

As Marion pointed out, too few words is bad for traditional publishing too. It would make the spine too thin to read the title on a bookshelf. So I’m guessing the sweet spot these days is between 60,000 and 100,000 words. More for epics, less for cheap cliche romances.

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