The Importance of Word Count

So far I have not used this blog for much more than just news of my books and talking about my friends who have also stepped into the world of publishing. However, one of the reasons I wanted to revamp this blog was to add interesting features to it when I found something that caught my attention. Well, tonight something finally did, and since I am up at 1:30 in the morning and unable to sleep (because it is too hot and sticky), I thought I would write about this little tidbit of information I found tonight. 

As any published author will tell you, one cannot get into a tit for tat on Amazon with the reviewers. It is always best to not even engage them in discussion over what they post. Some are fabulous reviews, and I am sure they are all fabulous people as well, but it is just too daunting a task to keep up with, and sometimes even the critical reviews can help you sell your books. So it is always said from others that we should ignore reviews (for the most part). If you don’t have thick skin, or if you are just having an emotional day, you should definitely not read them! 

Well, I was bored tonight, so I figured I would look over the reviews for my newest book, Snow Storms & Kissing Games. So far I have 3 reviews that are 5 star and 4 reviews that are 4 star! Doing pretty good, if I do say so myself! One review in particular caught my eye though. The story is not a full length novel, and I have it described as being a novella, however the reviewer said it is more like the length of a short story. 

And I was off . . .  – off on a search of the internet to find just what is the difference between a short story and a novella.

I have to tell you, there is a ton of information out there on this subject, and of course no two web sites will tell you the same bit of information, so I pulled up page after page and began comparing them. Then general consensus that I found was this list that both the Hugo and the Nebula contest groups go by:

Short story – 7,500 words or less

Novelette – 7,501-17,500 words (many editors simply lump this category into either the short story or the novella groupings)
Novella – 17,501-40,000 words
Novel – 40,001 or more words

Looking at my three published books (so far):

Chosen – obviously it is a novel. It is 86,967 words. (Consequently, Leaving Bennet Behind, the story from which Chosen and the rest of that series will be taken, had a final word count of nearly 300,000 words.)

Captain’s Log is much shorter at 17,001 words. (Hmmm, I wonder if I could have eliminated just one word… ok, my OCD side is coming out a little). I did not know what to categorize it as, so I just said “An Alternate Tale of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice”. It seemed like a safe bet, and it was my first published book so I can claim newbie status on that one. lol. 

Snow Storms & Kissing Games however I categorized as “A Pride & Prejudice Novella Variation”, and it seems I was right because it clocks in at 12,825 words in length. I guess technically it would be a Novelette, but as the list above states, most people group them in with either short stories or novellas. Obviously I went with the latter. 

So there you have it – a breakdown of just why word count matters. Was this fascinating to anyone, or am I the only one that gets giddy over things like this?







6 comments

  1. Rose Fairbanks says:

    You know that I understand this complaint very well!

    The Gentleman's Impertinent Daughter comes in at 20,737 words and was told it felt like a short story carelessly expanded. Well, it seems I would have expanded 13,000 words then. And the weeks of editing not just by me but others was considered careless. Sigh.

    Keep writing and publishing!

  2. Suzan Lauder says:

    I'm surprised because when I go through my list of 15 or so small and mid-sized publishers, I get mostly 90-120K for a novel. (Low 20 and high unlimited.) Nanowrimo uses 50k as an upper limit, and I've heard that's because they believe below that is a novella.

    I've heard it's double or more for Sci-Fi/Fantasy (yet Penguin says 80k for them), and half for Children/Youth.

    Romantic fiction, chick lit, and small press publishers tend to ask for novels in the 50-90K area.

    From Writer's Digest, for a novel: 80,000 – 89,999: Totally cool
    90,000 – 99,999: Generally safe
    70,000 – 79,999: Might be too short; probably all right
    100,000 – 109,999: Might be too long; probably all right
    Below 70,000: Too short
    110,000 or above Too long

    For a novella: 20-50k words, 30 is average.

    From an Resplendence (erotic publisher):
     Glimmer (short): 12-18,000 words
     Gleam (novella): 19-30,000 words
     Sparkle (category): 31-60,000 words
     Dazzle (novel): 61-90,000 words

    I don't think very many companies publish novellas because I only saw the one that even mentioned them.

    Clear as mud! I think you've done your best to classify your books.

  3. Suzan Lauder says:

    13,000 words is a lot of writing! I find the editing or beta process cuts at least that from each story when I write! I'm repeatedly redundant. Hahaha! Actually, even my own editing cuts 5-10% of the words, just because we all tend to fluff our language.

  4. Sarah Johnson says:

    On this particular story, Rose kept making me add more to it, so it went from 7,000 to what it was finally – so nearly doubled. lol. I don't think she minded the changes though since there were more kissing scenes added.

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