Monday, July 27, 2009

Interesting YA Facts

(Don't forget about Alan Baxter's blog tour - we're up to day 7 already. Only two more days till his guest appearance here.

Don’t forget that for the duration of the tour (until July 29th) you can get ebook editions of both RealmShift and MageSign for just US$1 each. This is an offer exclusive to Smashwords. The beauty of that is that Smashwords offer the books in a variety of formats, including Kindle friendly .mobi editions. (If you're lucky enough to have a Kindle...)

To get your special priced copies all you have to do is enter a discount code at the checkout. This will change the price from the usual US$3.50 to a special price of US$1. Go here for RealmShift and enter code ZR95S at the checkout; go here for MageSign and enter SF97B at the checkout.)

But this post isn't about reminding you of things wonderful and adult fiction related...

I've still been pondering the lengths of novels in different YA categories. As many of you have pointed out, if my current WIP finishes at 40-45K, some agents may consider it a novella. If I over expand with a new subplot or ten, then some agents would consider over 80k to be too long.

As an aspiring novelist, we should be looking to remove as many hurdles as possible - writing the damn thing in the first place followed by all the revision, editing and rewriting is hard enough, you don't need to be cutting off your nose to spite your face in regards to finding someone to sell it when you're finished.

So, I figured I'd try and find out what the norm is and an easy way to keep that information up-to-date. General consensus is somewhere between 40-80k will have an agent, somewhere, willing to have a look, but I want to narrow that range so we have a greater chance of success.

Firstly, regardless of the numbers you come up with and how long your beloved masterpiece is, always check individual agents/publishers guidelines to see if your manuscript meets their requirements.

Now, exactly how long should that manuscript be?

Over at Modern Matriarch is an article discussing this topic. The important bit of information here is this:

So how do you determine which length is suitable for your book?...Find five or six books within your books genre, and then follow this simple formula:

Book pages x lines on a full page x 9 = number of words

To simplify this further - a standard size mass market paperback has around 36 lines of text per page making your formula: Number of pages x 36 x 9

For example:

Fahrenheit 451 - 192 pages x 36 x 9 = 62208 words
Where the wild things are - 48 pages x 36 x 9 = 15552 words
Brave new world - 288 pages x 36 x 9 = 93312 words

How about some more recent titles.

Twilight Book 1 - 544 pages x 36 x 9 = 176256 words!
Harry Potter (1) - 309 pages x 36 x 9 = 100116 words (book 7 has 784 pages!)

What about recent releases from lesser known authors:

Resurrection (Wicked) by Nancy Holder - 416 pages x 36 x 9 = 141264 words!
Totally Fabulous by Michelle Radford - 256 pages x 36 x 9 = 82944 words

So far, all the YA books I've looked at have been what many would consider on the longer side, apart from the classic "Where the wild things are" which only has 48 pages, but then that isn't in a standard format and is more for younger kids.

So lets find some on the smaller end. (Thanks to Jamie for the classics)

Of Mice And Men - 112 pages = 36288 words
Animal Farm - 128 pages = 41472 words
Lord of the Flies - 190 pages = 61560

More recent...:

His name was death - 128 pages = 41472 words
Jade Green - 176 pages = 57024

So, yes - Cate is very correct in her statement that 'a story will be as long as it's supposed to be', and you need to research the agents/publishers so you send it only to those who will look at the manuscript length you've written.

But many don't publish the lengths they're after so I've gone ahead and looked at a whole bunch of recently published YA novels and have come to the conclusion that the range to hit the majority of agents/publishers will be more like 50-65K. (155 pages - 200 pages)


For those of you who just sit down and write without an outline - just sit down and write - and know that I hate you ;cP

For those of us who need an outline, you need to be looking at around 20 chapters with 2500+ words in each. This should give you something that is fast paced, snappy, and if the content is right, a page turner readers will enjoy.

As an outliner, or a plodder as some people label it, I very much go by the formula Alexandra Sokoloff suggests as part of her story structure technique. With a target of 20 chapters it becomes a simple breakdown of Act 1 being around 8 chapters (first 60-80 pages), Act 2 being around 9 chapters (page 61-125 or 81-170)and Act 3 being 3 chapters (126-155 or 171-200).

Does all this sound like I'm being overly formulaic? Do I sound like I'm trying to make this too much like slot A goes into flap B? Is art something that should not be tied down with such mundane constraints?

I agree, but I also want to be published and these are the numbers the industry is tending to publish. I'm not saying if you write something of 40K (or 120K) that you won't be published - I think I've shown plenty of examples to say otherwise, but the majority of current debut authors in YA fiction are within these parameters and the majority of agents/publishers are requesting to read manuscripts of these lengths.

If nothing else, it's a starting point to aim for.

Make of it what you will...


  1. Check out the ren learning site - - they give the exact word count for thousands of YA / MG books. I use it as my guide.

    I've never had the novella problem with agents (though mentally I always cringe when I call a 30,000 word book a book) and I do believe if you write a fantastic story, the length won't matter.

    The first Lemony Snicket book was only 24,130 words.

  2. Cate beat me to the AR booklist! (marvelous resource, I might add)

    I only had one agent reject The House Eaters out of hand, dubbing it a "novella". Said agent represents mostly fantasy, and fantasy tends to run long...even YA.

  3. the spiderwick chronicles were ridiculously short, 109 pages but they were short pages and full of illustrations. Even Because of Winn-Dixie was in the 113 page count and it was an award winning book in the last decade.

  4. Interesting stats. And thanks again for the support.

  5. And I hate people who don't have worse grammar skills than a monkey ; )

  6. Sorry about the delay in getting back to this - been busy.

    Cate - Thank you heaps. I shall be delving into this a great deal over the immediate future. I think I shall also post a link to it on the sidebar for everyone else.

    Nat - just, as well I; do then don't it! ;c)

    Everyone - could it be just me struggling with the notion of writing something short in relation to 80k+?