K... So here's the deal. I'm looking to get a close estimate on how long the typical YA fantasy is. Now, I know all that jazz about, tell the story it doesn't matter if you're honest-- ect. BUT, if the thing is like 120,000, well obviously that's a problem in that particular genre, I would imagine.
I have searched the forum here, and come up with nothing specific to this question. I have also looked around on google, and from those sites I got the consistent number range of: 25,000-70,000. I'm just looking to narrow that down a bit. I'm wondering if anyone here has knowledge of an appropriate goal to shoot for when working on a YA book.
Pay limited attention to what various sources are saying. Go the YA section of the bookstore, pull out a few normal-sized books, and count the words.
No, I don't mean one by one. Count the number of characters on an average full line (including spaces) and divide by six to get words. Count the number of lines on a full page and multiply by words to get words/page, then multiply by the number of pages to get total words. Don't worry about extra white space at the ends of chapters, or even paragraph indents--they're going to want your book to be about the same size, not the same word count.
Then you can do the same thing with your book. If it's typed in proper manuscript format, you can just multiply the number of pages by 250. If it's on a word processor, however, you'd better count the number of lines on a page first, since most word processors leave a little more space between lines of Courier than a typewriter does (typewriters would have put 25 lines/page; word processors typically will have about 23). But if you have 1 inch margins and 12 point font, then you can figure 10 words per line. If your word processor says 120,000 words, you'll probably come out with something substantially larger--maybe 130,000-145,000.
Can your book be split in half? That would probably be a good size. However, the Peter Pan prequels (Peter and the Star Catchers, and Peter and the Shadow Thieves, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson) are both (I would guess) about 130K-150K words, figured by this method. But for a new writer, I'd say the odds of pushing something that long are really slight.
[This message has been edited by rickfisher (edited July 24, 2006).]
Amazon has a remarkable new feature: text stats. Click on it for any book, and it gives you a page of "stuff", including word count. So you could spend some time looking at popular YA books and get an idea of what's working in the market today.
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Also, do you truly mean YA or middle-grade or what? Differences abound for the different age groups. I have a friend writing middle grade novels and she aims for the 30k range. I'm aiming for the 60-80k range on my YA/teen novel. 50k is a happy medium that seems to work for a variety of ages.
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The average size novel has approximately 250 words per page. This is average, not the rule. Very large fantasy books and the like will cram in upwards of 300 words per page to shrink page count (and thus printing costs), and others will play with the font and margins to to make a book look bigger, but when it all boils down 250 is the magic number.
So I would take rickfisher's advice and look at similar books to yours that are on the shelves and get page counts. Multiply by 250 and you have your rough word count average.
Now you will want to be careful with your research. Only look at the first book in a series, if applicable. As a series ages a writer can get away with more pages (take Harry Potter for example, book 5 was about 5x longer than book 1). Now, based on what I've seen in the book stores, nothing scientific, this would be my break down:
Contemporary Fantasy (Lemony Snicket) = 30k-50k words or 120-200 pages
Standard fantasy (Harry Potter in the beginning) = 50k-85k words or 200-~350 pages.
High fantasy (Eragon) = 85k+ words = 350+ pages.
[This message has been edited by Jammrock (edited July 24, 2006).]
Jammrock, I think that 250 words only applies to manuscript pages. Most paperbacks are in the 400-450 range.
FYI and slightly off-topic, if you submit to Penguin Putnam, they want the actual wordcount, not the manuscript wordcount (250 * number of pages). This is important because the manuscript wordcount is usually higher than the actual wordcount, which will make them feel like the story is too long. I have a friend who is an YA editor there. Mine was 70,000 by manuscript count, which seemed long to her, but 56,000 (actual wordcount) seemed about right.
When you start submitting, check with the publisher to see how they want you to count the words.
MaryRobinette, looks like you are spot on. I had always heard 250 for mainstream fiction, but it looks like that number is only when publishers want to make a book look longer than it really is. Found this link that has some great info on page count and word count:
I'll answer for Mrs. Kowal, since I got here first....
Actual wordcount is exactly what it says--go through the manuscript and count every actual word. Or, faster and easier, let your wordprocessor do it for you. Short story publishers almost always want the manuscript page calculation, because they want to know exactly how much space your story will take in their magazine. The actual wordcount is less accurate for this, because the people who use all short words and few paragraphs will fit more words on a page than someone who uses all long words with lots of paragraph breaks.
Book publishers are more variable, some preferring the wordcount based on manuscript pages (because that's what they're used to), others preferring actual wordcount, because it's so easily available, and just about as good so long as you know that that's what you're dealing with.
Note that even "actual" wordcount is not wholly reliable--different word processors will give you slightly different numbers for this, depending on how they count words. But the numbers won't be different enough to cause your publishers confusion.
[This message has been edited by rickfisher (edited July 25, 2006).]