A Word About Word Count

Originally published on my website on 11/3/10 (www.lisalregan.com)

When I finished Finding Claire Fletcher it was 175,000 words. I made no attempt to cut it down before querying agents. I had no idea what the appropriate word count was for a crime/suspense novel (or any novel for that matter) nor did I even realize that there was such a thing as an appropriate word count for a book. I’m someone who likes long books. The longer the better. Because if I really love the book and don’t want to put it down then I’m not going to want it to end. I will want it to continue so the more pages I have to read, the happier I am! I’ve actually NOT bought books because they looked too short. I’ve picked up books in bookstores, read the back of them, thought they were interesting and then saw how many pages they were and concluded that they were too short for me. I thought, “What’s the point of reading this? It’s so short!” So when I wrote my own book “appropriate” word count never entered my mind.

Until I started querying!

I learned the hard way that the range for a book like FCF is between 80,000 and 110,000, the shorter the better. Looking back I’m shocked that any agent would request my manuscript at 175,000 words but 4 or 5 agents did and a couple of them really liked it. Of course they said it was far too long. I cut it down to 132,000 words and had no luck querying.

When I finally got it down to 108,000 words I used the same exact query that I had been using all along and within 2 weeks of querying I had EIGHT requests for the manuscript. As I said, I used the exact same query I had used when it was 175,000 words and when it was 132,000 words—the only thing I changed in my query was the word count and the response I got was a lot better than it had been before.

So for those writers out there who are as long-winded as I am—it might help to really cut your book down. You might think it cannot be done. You might not WANT to do it (I didn’t!) but it can be done and your book will be better for it.


  1. It's interesting to read that agents would respond differently (more positively) to the same query when the word count was shortened. I am currently revising my manuscript, and my first priority had been to shorten it based on this same advice.


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