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Genre Discussions > Do you care about word count?

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message 1: by Amber (new)

Amber Foxx (amberfoxx) | 61 comments In a mystery writers' group I belong to, a discussion came up about the word count limit agents want for various genres of mystery and thriller. 70,000 to 80,000 words for cozies, and no more than 90,000 for other mystery and thriller genres. It seems to me that if a book is tightly written, it should be as long as it needs to be to tell the story and develop the characters without any fluff. I like mysteries that have depth, not just plots, and can enjoy a book that's 500 pages as much as I can enjoy one that's 275 pages, as long as both are well crafted. In fact, if I like a story, I don't want it to be over in a hurry. I'll choose a book based on many factors, but never its length. What about you? Any thoughts on this?


message 2: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 36265 comments I'm more likely to turn down a book if it is too many pages. Especially if it is a new writer to me.


message 3: by Faith (last edited Jun 30, 2016 05:36AM) (new)

Faith | 344 comments There seems to be a terrible trend of "book bloat" at the moment. Some books may need and deserve the length, but I think most authors need to give up some of their precious words. A lot of books feel really padded.


message 4: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 927 comments Fillers fillers fillers! It ruins a book. So many books could be good with an editor!


message 5: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 927 comments Faith, that cat is beautiful!


message 6: by Amber (new)

Amber Foxx (amberfoxx) | 61 comments Interesting so far. I have not run into the bloat problem in genre fiction, though I've read a few literary novels that were self-indulgent in that way--padded. Sometimes I'll read a mystery and feel that it was crammed to stay under the word count, and that perhaps allowing it to go a tad over would have let the author write better.


message 7: by David (new)

David Freas (quillracer) | 2384 comments Pages and word count never affect my decision to buy a book or pass it up.

Like others, I've read 200 page books that were bloated and slow-moving and 600 page books that were taut and engaging.

What I dislike in books of any length are long passages describing scenery or emotions. If you tell me a character's angry, I know what he's feeling. I don't need another 2 paragraphs exploring it in depth.

I agree with you, Faith, about the trend of 'book bloat' lately. I notice it most often in series books, where each one is a little longer than the one before. The first book is about 200 pages but by the 10th, they run 500 - 600.

Sometimes the information filling those pages leaves me thinking it's just the author showing off how much research he did. Now he's got all this neat information he feels compelled to share with the reader even though it adds nothing to the story.


message 8: by Faith (new)

Faith | 344 comments Sherry wrote: "Faith, that cat is beautiful!"

Thanks. She's my sweet rescue cat.


message 9: by Faith (new)

Faith | 344 comments Quillracer wrote: "Pages and word count never affect my decision to buy a book or pass it up.

Like others, I've read 200 page books that were bloated and slow-moving and 600 page books that were taut and engaging.
..."


I agree with you about the series, the books just keep getting longer and less interesting. It's like they are getting paid by the word. Some people may enjoy reading all the details that don't advance the story. I tend to skim them. Some stories may be big enough to justify 800 pages, but not many can pull that off.


message 10: by Amber (new)

Amber Foxx (amberfoxx) | 61 comments Quillracer wrote: "Pages and word count never affect my decision to buy a book or pass it up.

Like others, I've read 200 page books that were bloated and slow-moving and 600 page books that were taut and engaging.
..."

I know what you mean about the apparent need to display one's research, even if it doesn't add to the plot.

You mentioned not liking descriptions of emotions. I had a critique partner (I didn't work with her very long) who kept telling me to give more visceral detail of my characters' feelings, with every single emotion. While it's useful for getting inside someone, it can get overdone.

I like good scene-setting descriptions, personally, if they are tight and effective. The place can be a character. I'm thinking of the way Warsaw is brought to life in Jane Gorman's A Blind Eye. Not dull, not slow, but essential to the mood and to the protagonist's experience as an American in Poland.


message 11: by David (new)

David Freas (quillracer) | 2384 comments Amber wrote: "You mentioned not liking descriptions of emotions. I had a critique partner (I didn't work with her very long) who kept telling me to give more visceral detail of my characters' feelings, with every single emotion. While it's useful for getting inside someone, it can get overdone."

I don't mind some exploration of a character's emotions, but I don't need to read every nuance of what the character is feeling. I stopped reading Elizabeth George for this reason. She'd devote a page to describing how sad, happy, depressed, or elated a character was.

"I like good scene-setting descriptions, personally, if they are tight and effective. "

'Tight and effective' is the key. Too many authors feel the need to detail the environment surrounding the characters in great detail, as if readers are too dense to picture it in their minds unless it is described down to the last rock or blade of grass. Stephen Booth is a prime committer of this sin. In one book, he spent half a page describing the view out a suspect's front window, for Pete's sake.


message 12: by Annette (new)

Annette Macintyre | 70 comments I agree re book bloat. If I'm reading a book with a good plot that goes on and on with descriptions, I skim. Some books (the really good ones) I stop and re-read the prose or short descriptions because they are so beautifully written.


message 13: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 13746 comments Amber wrote: "In a mystery writers' group I belong to, a discussion came up about the word count limit agents want for various genres of mystery and thriller. 70,000 to 80,000 words for cozies, and no more than ..."

To me this topic is like advertising. Everyone says it doesn't influence them. Multitudinous studies indicate that it does.

In terms of selecting a book for purchase, especially, a book under 250 pages may seem like not a good value. A book over 450 pages may seem like a major life commitment. Between 275 and 375 fall the vast majority of books adults read. We all read chunky books from time to time, but -- on average and notwithstanding our protestations to the contrary - few of us read more than 5 books over 500 pages in a given year. Regardless of quality. Selecting a book is a leap of faith. How much faith is required and how much principle is involved may differ from reader to reader, but publishers have to play to the market and aggregated buying and reading decisions.

On a related note, if one wants reviewers to read an ARC and timely post a review, that effort will be more successful with books of a size that isn't intimidating. The results show what none of us admits. Size matters :)


message 14: by Ian (new)

Ian | 59 comments Faith wrote: "There seems to be a terrible trend of "book bloat" at the moment. Some books may need and deserve the length, but I think most authors need to give up some of their precious words. A lot of books f..."
I totally agree and love the term 'book bloat'.


message 15: by Amber (new)

Amber Foxx (amberfoxx) | 61 comments Carol wrote: "To me this topic is like advertising. Everyone says it doesn't influence them. Multitudinous studies indicate that it does.

In terms of selecting a book for purchase, especially, a book under 250 pages may seem like not a good value. A book over 450 pages may seem like a major life commitment. Between 275 and 375 fall the vast majority of books adults read.


Can you direct me to any of those studies? I'm interested in getting data as well as personal opinions. Thanks!


message 16: by Faith (new)

Faith | 344 comments Amber wrote: "Carol wrote: "To me this topic is like advertising. Everyone says it doesn't influence them. Multitudinous studies indicate that it does.

In terms of selecting a book for purchase, especially, a b..."


You might be interested in this blog.
http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-b...


message 17: by Bill (new)

Bill If it's well-written, I don't care how many words or pages there are. I may hesitate about trying a book by a new author if it looks too long, but if the premise sounds interesting, I may still give it a go. I do agree with some of the comments above about book bloat. Some successful authors seem to feel that as they grow more successful, they have to make their newer books bigger and bigger. I don't really see the point.


message 18: by David (new)

David Freas (quillracer) | 2384 comments Maybe it's not the authors doing, Bill. Maybe it's the publishers wanting/demanding bigger books from the author so they can make more money by charging more for them.

I'll bet the author's royalties don't go up along with word/page count.


message 19: by Faith (new)

Faith | 344 comments I haven't seen pricing correlated with book length (except for audio books). However, for authors in the kindle unlimited program they get paid by the number of pages read, so it's possible that is an incentive for some authors to add pages. I also think there is a lot of inadequate editing going on.


message 20: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 13746 comments Faith wrote: "Amber wrote: "Carol wrote: "To me this topic is like advertising. Everyone says it doesn't influence them. Multitudinous studies indicate that it does.

In terms of selecting a book for purchase, e..."


Faith - this is fascinating. Thanks for sharing. It's fascinating how precise those guidelines are,especially considering how page count can be manipulated by the font and margins selected.


message 21: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 13746 comments Bill wrote: "If it's well-written, I don't care how many words or pages there are. I may hesitate about trying a book by a new author if it looks too long, but if the premise sounds interesting, I may still giv..."

Funny. I always thought this was a failure of editing, or, to be honest, the more an author has sold the more leverage she has to threaten to go elsewhere; so if she doesn't appreciate being edited, and the books will sell regardless, out the door they go lest that best-selling author be lost to the competition.


message 22: by Bill (new)

Bill Carol wrote: "Bill wrote: "If it's well-written, I don't care how many words or pages there are. I may hesitate about trying a book by a new author if it looks too long, but if the premise sounds interesting, I ..."

You're probably right. I was making unproved assumptions with my thoughts..


message 23: by Denise (new)

Denise Baer I don't give word count too much thought. My published novels are around the same word count, which I'm aiming toward with my current manuscripts.

Like someone said earlier, it doesn't matter how many pages as long as it's written well. But sometimes, I'm just not in the mood for a long commitment. :)


message 24: by Annette (new)

Annette Macintyre | 70 comments Carol wrote: "Bill wrote: "If it's well-written, I don't care how many words or pages there are. I may hesitate about trying a book by a new author if it looks too long, but if the premise sounds interesting, I ..."

I so agree re the editing problem.


message 25: by Amber (new)

Amber Foxx (amberfoxx) | 61 comments Faith wrote: "Amber wrote: "Carol wrote: "To me this topic is like advertising. Everyone says it doesn't influence them. Multitudinous studies indicate that it does.

In terms of selecting a book for purchase, e..."


Thanks for the link to the Writer's Digest article. Sambuchino is the expert on getting a book traditionally published through finding an agent. Interesting that he mentions the cost of producing a longer book as one of the reasons publishers prefer to avoid them with new authors, though not the only reason.


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