Yes, the eternally exciting subject of WORD COUNT.
How much is enough? How much is too much? Amazon used to have a “search inside the book” option that let you know how many words were in a book. I found this endlessly fascinating. Obviously, I don’t have many hobbies. Alas, Amazon doesn’t do this anymore.
It made me realize that one book by a rather famous writer was only approx. 45,000 words long, but since it was set with larger type and spaced out leading (the term for the space between lines), it came out to around 300 pages.
I was going to buy the mass market paperback of Pillars of the Earth, but the type was so, so tiny I couldn’t do it without jeopardizing my already tired eyes if I read it (I ended up getting it on Kindle, a format in which typesetting doesn’t play much of a part…and my eyes are grateful for it).
It all depends on the publisher’s graphics and typesetting department. They need to fit a book on an alotted number of pages. More pages = more printing costs, so I can understand trying to shrink things — but hopefully not jeopardizing readability.
I tend to stay well under 100K for my single titles. I write fairly sparse — not a lot of space given to long descriptions. Since, well, I’m not a fan of writing them. I like writing dialogue, which tends to be a bit snappier in word count and pacing.
I received my ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) of BLOODLUST, which clocks in at 282 pages. I had to go back and double check my word count to see that it was virtually the same as NIGHTSHADE, which clocked in at 325 pages. I guess readers might think it’s a shorter book (if they give this sort of thing any thought), but it ain’t! It’s just typeset that way. And it looks fab — all lean and fit, like a Victoria’s Secret model — if I do say so myself.
(Note: I’ll be doing a blog giveaway for a couple ARCs really soon.)
I always spend way too much time in a first draft worrying that my book is going to be long enough. But it always comes in right where it should, usually between 80-90K. I don’t think I’d want to write much longer than that.
Anyway, thought I’d share my final word count and final printed book page count of some of my books, just for reference sake.
BLOODLUST — 84,800 words, 282 pages
NIGHTSHADE — 86,400 words, 325 pages
BITTEN & SMITTEN — 92,900, 369 pages (If I wrote this now, I’d probably trim 5K from it — at the time I thought a book HAD to be 100K and I felt bad that this wasn’t)
TALL, DARK & FANGSOME — 83,200 words, 334 pages
THE DEMON IN ME — 95,200 words, 323 pages (wow! I had no idea this one was so long!)
SOMETHING WICKED — 94,800, 348 pages (this one too! But more pages than TDiM, so you see what I mean about typesetting!)
DEMON PRINCESS: REIGN OR SHINE — 65,200, 274 pages
Young adult novels traditionally were shorter than single title books, but that’s changed a lot since Twilight and its ilk. For example, the YA I’m writing right now, DARK KISS, will likely clock in at about 80K — it just gives a bit more room to stretch my legs. But I just don’t see myself writing the 150K tomes I’m seeing out there. I don’t think I have that much to say!
I was actually a little surprised by the word counts above — especially those of the Living in Eden series. I don’t actually count words when I’m doing a first draft. I count pages. I aim for about 320-350 manuscript pages. If I can get anywhere near that, then I’m satisfied. I write in Microsoft Word, using double-spaced Times New Roman, 1″ margins at top and bottom, 1.25″ left and right. Here’s an example of how a finished manuscript page looks (and yes, it’s a very small sneak peek of BB&B, which is the next book I’ll be focusing on after I finish the YA):
So, basically, if you’re worried about how long your book needs to be…don’t. Just write the story, don’t try to pad in extra words or paragraphs just to plump things up, and trust the process to turn out a book the length it was meant to be. Just keep in mind, for single titles, try to aim for over 80K and you’re golden!