Fantasy Novel Word Count Expectations

So if you follow my blog and forum posting you’ll notice I’ve been struggling with this question: What is the word count expectation for a debut fantasy author?

I have heavily researched the all-knowing inter-webs and come up with a lot of conflicting information. But I’ll divulge what I think it all means. Basically, first time epic fantasy novels need to be in a range of 80-120k. The higher range reserved only for excellent work. And of course there are exceptions to the rule, this is just generalizing.

Here is a short list of the most notable word counts of famous novels (for the purposes of this blog):

(Rounded up)

Brave New World: 65k

Harry Potter: Philosopher’s stone: 77k

The Hobbit: 92k

Twilight: 119k

Why shorter word count? Follow the money.

More pages means more cost. And longer books means the consumer is spending more time on a book that will probably cost the same whether it is 90k words or 120k words. That means less books are being sold (if you want to be dramatic).

Of course if e-publishing this isn’t quite as relevant. But I wouldn’t want to limit myself to just one side of the market. People still like real books. (I’m one of those creeps that smell mine when I buy a new one, you’ve done it too am I right)

But anyone who loves fantasy novels knows that most of them tend to run long. And we want them to run long! It’s a completely new world with new continents (maybe planets, galaxies ect…) and physics and who knows what else. We need some time to digest all of that.

From what I see, fantasy authors get this ‘bonus word count’ luxury after they’ve already gotten a foot in the door in the publishing world. Again, follow the money. Publishers and book stores don’t feel it’s such a risk, but rather an opportunity to sell these books. J.K. Rowling Order of the Phoenix is 257k words! But that was only after becoming one of the most famous writers in modern history. So I’m pretty sure that just proves high word count has to be earned.


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