Word count advice

There are many good places to get advice on the ideal word count for a particular category of book. This post by agent Jennifer Laughran is one of them. The post is from 2011, but the advice is still good.

The 100,000-word psychological barrier for debut authors, mentioned at the end, is real. I battered my own head bloody against it for a long time. I have an extensive Excel spreadsheet of word counts for well-known books, including many debut books of famous authors. Damn few of those debut books were longer than 100,000 words, although many later ones by the same authors were (robust sales give an author a lot of leeway).

Remember, the slush pile for the average reputable agent is so enormous that there are probably several “deal killers” the assistants are told to watch for and instantly hit the “reject” button without further examination. I suspect “over 100,000 words” for a new author is one of them.

Maybe you’re looking at your 150,000 word debut novel and saying that each and every word is essential. This is probably not true, but if you think it is, and you’re determined to go ahead at that length, do it with your eyes open and knowing that you’re setting the bar much higher for getting it published.

“Pitch Madness” again

The latest Pitch Madness contest opened a little while ago, and it’s on until midnight Eastern on the night of the 24th.  Details at Brenda Drake’s blog.

I pitched Zorya again, but just for fun I did a test pitch for Castle Falcon. It’s not eligible for the contest, so I didn’t enter it, but here it is, a 35-word pitch and the first 250 words:

Tom Alan Brosz
YA Fantasy
Word count: 145,000


Two modern children exploring their ancient and mysterious castle home discover frightening secrets about their father’s history, along with strange creatures and dark forces that could be unleashed onto the world.


Once upon a time, there was an immense castle crouched near the base of a range of low, heavily-wooded mountains.

This was no elegant fairy-tale castle with flag-topped towers spiking into the sky. It was vast and sprawling, with massive turreted outer walls built of gigantic blocks of roughly-hewn stone, black with the patina of centuries and crusted with moss and lichens. Within those walls the castle’s grounds were covered with mansions, halls, outbuildings and scattered ruins, laid out in a maze with no pattern or architectural consistency. Inside these buildings were hundreds of rooms of all shapes and sizes. There were dark catacombs, airy parlors, hidden chambers, attics, quiet cloisters and expansive courtyards open to the sky. There were corridors and passages beyond counting, soaring stone buttresses, and worn slate roofs with brooding and broken gargoyles perched on their edges.

Two children had lived in this castle all their lives, and they loved their ancient home even more than they loved video games.

Katie Falcon and her brother Zach simply called it “the Castle.” In nearby Monte Vista, an isolated small town in the American Northwest, people called it “Castle Falcon” when they were talking to tourists but sometimes called it “The Wizard’s Place” when they were quietly talking to each other.

It was the first really warm day of spring. Katie, who was almost fourteen and eager to be sixteen, had kicked off her tennis shoes and was curled up in a nest of pillows on the cushioned platform of the big bay window in her room.