How long is a book ?

Tunnocks TeacakePhil: Once upon time, a long while ago (or so it seems now), two people had written some words and were contemplating turning these into a book. They chatted over the divider between their desks and wondered if this were possible. One of them (the one who does web stuff, not colouring pens and glitter) punched the question above into Google and got an answer.


That’s eighty thousand words.

Put it this way, if you had a delicious Tunnocks Teacake for each word and piled them on top of each other, the construction would reach nearly 2.5km into the sky. That’s a lot of teacakeage and more than even I could eat, in a single sitting at least. My esteemed colleague would want to run around the equator 4 times to burn off the calories if she tried to eat them. Incidentally, if you do try this, go for the dark chocolate version as they are a calories a cake lighter…

Anyway, I checked this number in several places and it appears to be correct. 80,000 words is the average length for a first novel. Once you’ve reached Rowling-like importance to your publisher then you can knock out double this, but then I suppose by that point you aren’t thinking about fitting your writing in around the day job.

So, we had a scary figure. At this point the word count was no more than 3000, which seemed a hell of a long way to go.

At this point someone will be shouting at the computer about writing the story and letting it find its own length. That’s good, but if you want to sell a book to a publisher you better give them something they want. JKR can pitch up with a pile of paper and she will be welcomed with open arms. Even when it’s no more than a mountain of A4 the latest work will be at the top of the Amazon best sellers list. The first time writer can’t expect to be treated with anything like such accommodation. If we wanted to turn our story into a commercial proposition then we wanted to get an idea what this meant.

From a personal perspective, this was a real shock. I write for a few hobby magazines and my editors like pieces up to 2000 words long. Most come in at around 1500 which everyone seems happy with. The subs don’t have to do too much work and the result, with photos, fills 4 pages and lets the designer produce something that looks pretty without any slabs of text. Now I was looking at 40 times this length. That’s 2-3 years of my normal output and would have to be produced while working and carrying on the other writing.

Blimey. Was the idea strong enough for that ? Could we muster the effort to do it ?

Time for another teacake. Only 79,999 to go…


Leave a comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.