(Article #1 in the An Author's Dreaded Questions series that I have just decided to start. Have any dreaded questions you hate to answer? Tell me in the comments and we'll take a look at them later on!)
"So, how long is your book?"
I've gotten this a lot since people have learned that I've finished. I tried saying, "Well, it's about eighty thosuand words," but it was always met with a blank stare. (I never could decide if this look meant I'd done the impossible, or if eighty thousand was a lame excuse for a book in their opinion. I still don't know.)
"Well, how many pages is it?" They ask this after the blank stare, because, really, 80,000 words means very little to them. They know a couple thousand from essays and the like, but 80,000 just doesn't really compute.
I never know how many pages my stuff is. I don't keep track of my typed pages (8.5"x11"), because that can vary depending on line spacing, font size, and tab indentions. (However, for all of you dying to know, it's 171 pages, with what looks to be double spacing between the paragraphs.) And I have absolutely no idea how many pages it would be in a normal book, because that can vary a lot, too.
This past week I went and looked at my list of popular books and their word counts. I thought I created it so that I could set a word count goal depending on the genre I was writing in. (No YA Contemporary Romance that's 120,000 words, for example.) But I've found another use.
Instead of telling people that my book is "about the length of a normal YA teen novel" (yes, I know "YA teen" anything is redundant...I just throw them both in and hope they'll have seen a Young Adult book somewhere before and know what I'm talking about), now I can tell them that it's about the same length as [insert popular book here].
Turns out, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is 85,141 words. So now I'm saying that it's about the same length as that, and communication has been much more fluid. People nod their heads and understand the size of what I've written. It makes sense. It's not the 500,000+ words of Victor Hugo, but neither is it the 40,000 of most Middle Grade novels.
So, in order to create better communication for authors everywhere, I give you the list. Click on it. Explore. Can't find a book you want to compare yourself to? There's a link there to the AR Bookfinder, the only place on the internet that I've found that has word counts of popular books.
Actually, my book length was closest to The Queen of Attolia, which made my day more than any comparison to J. K. Rowling. (Yes, I know I'm weird.) However, most people haven't heard of Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen of Attolia, so Chamber of Secrets my comparison shall remain.