How Much Should We Worry About Word Count?

This post popped up in my Facebook memories yesterday.

IMG_1459

Now, let’s get a closer look.

bodywash copy

Aside from the obvious difference in word choice/reading level, there is a noticeable difference in length. The marketers must think guys don’t have time to read their body wash labels before they buy.

For the record, I’ve never read a body wash label in the store. I wonder if anyone has. These descriptions are better left for those times when you forget to take your phone to the bathroom when you may be there awhile.

Seems to me guys would need a longer body wash description for that purpose. Ha!

Anyway.

Let’s talk word counts. The men’s wash has 37 words, counting the hyphenated ones as one word, like Word does.

The women’s wash has 77 words. That’s more than twice as many words as the men’s wash.

It made me wonder if there are word-count guidelines for advertising copy, and I realized that there has to be. Industry standards and all. And you would think the word count has something to do with the size of the bottle, but that’s not true in this case. The bottles were the same size.

So it comes down to targeted readership.

(This is the part where I might be a little offended if I were a dude, but I think the purple prose of the women’s side makes up for it.)

short book quote

Credit: ebook friendly

There must be a guideline in the advertising world about word count/reading level for genre-specific products, just like there are guidelines for novels.

The question is this: How much should we worry about book length?

This post offers some guidelines. It says 80K-90K is average for a Commercial Adult novel, with Fantasy allowing for longer lengths and books like YA and Westerns being shorter (but there’s a range in all genres).

But again, does it matter much if your book is outside these parameters? From the article:

You have agents like Nathan Bransford (now formerly an agent) and Kristin Nelson who say that you shouldn’t think about word count, but rather you should think about pacing and telling the best story possible—and don’t worry about the length. Yes, they’re right, but the fact is: Not every agent feels that way and is willing to give a 139,000-word debut novel a shot.

long book quoteBeing an indie author, I don’t have to worry so much about book length, but readers still subconsciously “expect” a book to last a certain amount of pages/time. My books are all on the short side of the spectrum – I like my stories to be tight and fast-paced. Occasionally, reviewers mention that (especially for Drake and the Fliers, which is a YA and a little more than 50K). Even so, Project Renovatio, which is shorter than Drake, was accepted by a traditional publishing house before I ran with it myself. So maybe book length doesn’t matter as much as we think.

What do you think? Do you worry about book length?

 

 

23 thoughts on “How Much Should We Worry About Word Count?

  1. Word count should tied to format. A printed book requires a certain heft and feel. A digital book is more tied to length of read and how the words dance on the page. I have found that the word count best suited to blog posts is around 500.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kind of agree. Digital is potentially a format all of its own. Visions of readers in crowded trains, buses -on a sun longer-in a café, getting stuck into an on screen e -book. This suggest a crisp direct presentation, which can be scrolled through. Not too much elaboration. I’ve not started re-writing print editions-yet!! to accommodate this. They are available on Kindle. Tend to hope the reader likes the Kindle edition and then maybe, maybe wants to own the print copy. The suggestion is out there- that print copies most likely will have more text than the digital version, although this is possibly not the case.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve heard ebooks tend to shorter than print – I guess that makes sense if you include the 30-page ebooks that only exist in digital form. I agree about the blog post length. I tend to skim longer ones, lazy reader that I am. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My women’s fiction runs on the shorter side too as I purposely set out to write something that busy working parents much enjoy during those milliseconds of free time they manage to somehow squeeze in. My speculative fiction is longer because it involves some world building, but still not epic length.

    I think it matters to a point, that point being price. If I am buying an ebook at $7.99 US, there better be some pages to turn, but between $99 – $4.99 the word count rarely factors into my decision to buy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree about the length factoring into cost. I’ll only spend that much on an ebook if it’s recommended to me by a friend. I’ve seen some negative reviews for very short works (around 30 pages) that sold for $2.99. I’d say that’s high for something so short, though the reviewer should have checked the page count maybe.

      My reasoning for writing shorter stuff is the same as yours, mainly because as a reader I just don’t have the attention span to stick with something that will take months to read. LOL

      Like

  3. An epic story might call for epic length! My novels usually run to 100,000 words on first draft. They then experience pruning, re-writing of chapters-more immediate-getting to the point etc.. Galactic Mission my new novel -yes science fiction- ran to about 130,000 words. I got hung up about only writing novellas of sixty thousand words. Yes, Galactic Mission was going to be epic-in length, at any rate! It’s now in the eighty thousand word range. So much for epic length! The point is that the story can be padded out, but you risk losing the reader’s interest and attention. That said, there is a readership for well written everyday experiences. Memoirs can resonate with readers and everyday events can be described with charm and wit. I agree that it can be genre that gives expectation of length in content. A good story well told, that entertains, and holds the reader’s attention, from beginning to end, is the target length, for me at any rate!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The writing advice in recent years has been towards less wordy description or “purple prose” and more action. We’ve gone from the likes of Dickens to the likes of Lee Child–not to say that one is not necessarily better than the other, but the trend has certainly changed. Hearing what readers have to say about published books in the context of a book club shows how some people look for descriptive writing while others admit to habitually skimming it.
    Pacing preferences appear to be personal, but writers and readers are products of our times.
    I have to wonder, though, if the marketing of hair products is something that’s been tried and tested or if these conventions are based on anything other than weird industry traditions.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m obsessed with cutting word count, extracting as much meaning as possible from as few words as possible. I love the challenge, find it really cathartic. Fat, rambling passages give me the shivers 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My novel, Red Flags, is pretty long– well over 100,000 words. As an indie author who published via CreateSpace, my main concern was making the book affordable. I played around with various fonts and print sizes. The end result was a 400-page paperback. To make sure the print wasn’t too small, I showed the proof copy to some older folks whose vision isn’t as good as it used to be. They said they could read it OK, so I was good to go.

    Liked by 2 people

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