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Question

For those who have been published or are in the publishing industry:

  • Can a new author get a longer work published these days? (near 200,000 words)
  • Would it be smarter of me to try and break it into 3 parallel stand-alone novels that interact with the same time period, events and world but take the perspective of individual characters? Or is there no time for that in the publishing world?

Background

I'm about to finish my first novel's first draft. The total word count of the book is 201,969. I still have one more chapter to write and an epilogue to tie it all up. The whole project will be roughly 210,000 words before revisions (close to a 500 page paperback). This has happened because I have a three main characters/protagonists, many locations, and several distinct plot arcs. I thought it would all come out at about 150,000 and was wrong.

All of the stories work together as well as they can for being a first draft and with revisions I plan on tightening that up. But, when I look at each character they're not too far off from a 1/3rd of the book each, which means each characters arc is approaching the minimum word count for a book of their own.

The book is hard to pitch with how much is going on inside of it, so I'm starting to question whether what I've really done is written the 1st draft for 3 novels at once. But, I also need to do some serious revisions and my plan is to really tighten the story up. Still, cutting 75,000 words and keeping all the characters is going to be difficult. Which means that perhaps the easiest solution is to just axe one of the main characters from the role of protagonist and drop the story that follows them. This would immediately get me into wordcount range. Not necessarily impossible, but difficult. While I'd appreciate any sage advice on the situation, my real interest is what my next steps should be given the existing market.

Last I heard publishers were interested in 2-book deals, not 3-book deals; but that was well over a year ago.

Regardless of which direction I go, all stories are relevant to the next novel in the outline which brings everything to a close. I'm just trying to decide if this is trunk or not. Is this a mistake, and I now move onto something shorter and better for the mistakes I've learned from? Or, is this type of work marketable?

I'm aware genres matter in answer the question. The work is fiction, what I'd call post-post-apocalypse, not hard-sci-fi, but soft sci-fi elements. Sub Genres: Mystery, War.

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Yes, but as you said it also depends on the genre. Here is an article, why a first author should write to word count.

Basically, science fiction and fantasy (your main genre) is 110,000 words, and mystery (your sub-genre) will be 80,000 words.

The article says that publishers are risk averse with new authors. Every extra page (or four pages really) costs them more money. Very long books alienate at least some buyers, particularly from an unknown author (Rowling or Stephen King have a huge fan base that will be undaunted and may take a price hike too).

Publishers do not make twice as much money for a novel twice the typical word count, so unless your writing is killer, and they can't stop turning the pages, and believe it will be a bestseller, they will not take it. Of course, just hearing it is nearly twice as long as average may generate a rejection letter, due to halving their profit margin and increasing their production and marketing budgets to reduce that profit margin even further.

As a first time author, find a story that sticks to the word count. Also it wouldn't be bad to break it in two or three (some repetition and "what previously happened" can be tolerated in a trilogy to let each stand somewhat on their own, so you may have three books there).

Here is another link on famous novel word counts.

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Are you sure your novel is 200,000 words long? The common experience of editors is that most submissions by first authors need to be cut by about a third. Make sure you have gone through competent beta-reading, distanced yourself from your novel through at least a three month period of working on something else, and done a revision.

The fact that you are yourself unsure whether you have written one story or three indicates to me that you need to first understand your plot and rewrite your novel along that understanding, before your think about wordcount and submission.

  • You shouldn't write that "This should be a comment" as that is a reason to delete answers that are not really answers. You already have more than 50 reputation so you should be able to comment already. Also, this looks like valuable information for judgning the length of a first novel. Why not edit this and add a couple sentences that answer the core question of how many words are considered good and get reputation for a valid answer that expands the horizon of the future readers that have the same or a similar question? – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Jan 23 '18 at 11:41
  • @Secespitus Why would I repeat what Amadeus has already said? – Son of a Son Jan 23 '18 at 12:06
  • Every answer is evaluated on its own. Without answering the question you are... welll... not answering the question. And there is a flag for that, which is called "not an answer" and says "This was posted as an answer, but it does not attempt to answer the question. It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether." Therefore your post might be deleted if you don't answer the question. If you only want to add a little, slightly related but not relevant point, you can use the comment feature, not the answer feature. – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Jan 23 '18 at 12:13

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