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Writer's Room => Picture Books (PB) => Topic started by: teresa-klepinger on January 31, 2018, 11:39 AM

Title: Current word count trends
Post by: teresa-klepinger on January 31, 2018, 11:39 AM
I know that picture books are getting shorter and shorter. I heard 600 words is the sweet spot. Now I'm hearing 500. Then I hear that if your story takes more words, then that's what it takes and just do it well. I've trimmed and trimmed  my ms and it's 718 words. Am I out of luck? Will the pendulum ever swing back to stories with more depth?

One note, my ms is an adoption story co-written with an adoption therapist to deal with issues that come up in families.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: JFriday on January 31, 2018, 11:59 AM
Well, that story is more of a niche category. A publisher who is specifically looking for adoption stories would be more likely to be fine with a longer word count. The commercial stories should be shorter, but even then, sometimes you see longer ones.

JMO, but I'd say tell the story you need to tell and then see what a publisher who is interested in adoption stories says about the length.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Melissa K on January 31, 2018, 01:22 PM
That word count is relatively high, but not so high as to make it a huge red flag. If the story is awesome and exactly what it needs to be, go with it. Send it out there and see what happens. And at the same time, keep writing more stories and pushing yourself to produce shorter ones too.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on January 31, 2018, 08:28 PM
Is your story nonfiction? I ask because nonfiction can be longer.

Tell the story in the number of words it needs, but make them the exact right words. (A critique group can be invaluable here. You'd be surprised at what you miss when looking at your own work.) Look for niche publishers for this type of story. Meanwhile write more stories in the current word count and hope they sell. Good sales will help your niche book too.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: teresa-klepinger on January 31, 2018, 10:17 PM
It isn't nonfiction. It would be categorized maybe as "bibliotherapy."

Is 500 words really the new limit?
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: HaroldU on February 01, 2018, 08:11 AM
From what I see, published picture books with separate authors and illustrators often run 500-700 words, while books by author-illustrators tend to be considerably shorter. That makes sense, when you think about it.

Question: are you sure you've written a picture book? I work with writers, and I often find that manuscripts that people are struggling to jam into picture book lengths are better suited to be early readers or even the core of a chapter book...
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: 217mom on February 01, 2018, 10:02 AM
Question: are you sure you've written a picture book? I work with writers, and I often find that manuscripts that people are struggling to jam into picture book lengths are better suited to be early readers or even the core of a chapter book...

Harold is spot-on, as ususal. My first three years of PB wrtiting, I was writing MG stories in disguise... I call those years "tuition."

Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: mrh on February 01, 2018, 10:33 AM
Is 500 words really the new limit?

It's not that new. At an SCBWI session I attended, the New York editor said, "Five hundred words!" In the sense of "that is your limit if you want a crack at a sale." That was 10 years ago. I've heard that 200-300 is closer to the norm now. However, some publishers outside the Big 5 will do them longer. Peachtree is/was one, though I don't know if that's changed. Your book does sound like it's aimed toward a niche market, and you may find a publisher there who will do them longer.

Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Vijaya on February 01, 2018, 10:44 AM
It isn't nonfiction. It would be categorized maybe as "bibliotherapy."

Is 500 words really the new limit?

Sounds like a niche book. Have you looked at Magination Press to see whether your story would be a good fit?

Harold is right.

In addition, some PB mss are actually outlines of novels :grin3  And some are better suited as a magazine story. Good luck!
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: teresa-klepinger on February 01, 2018, 10:58 AM
Interesting comments. I submitted it to Magination Press a few years ago, but I've made changes since then. It's definitely meant to be read with an adult, most likely in a therapeutic setting.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Teresa Writes! on February 01, 2018, 12:33 PM
It's not that new. At an SCBWI session I attended, the New York editor said, "Five hundred words!" In the sense of "that is your limit if you want a crack at a sale." That was 10 years ago. I've heard that 200-300 is closer to the norm now.

200-300! Wow, that's short. I've been good at keeping my new MS under 500 words, but they still tend to be at least 400.

I feel like lately I have heard a couple of people in the industry suggesting that maybe PBs are going to start getting a little longer  now, but I can't remember where I heard that.  I kind of hope so: I don't think I have a gift for the very sparely worded stories that seem to be popular now.

Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: teresa-klepinger on February 01, 2018, 12:57 PM
Don't get me started on child language development and the need for rich vocabulary and beautiful sentences and growing their verbal abilities through books...
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Tori on February 01, 2018, 05:35 PM
From what I see, published picture books with separate authors and illustrators often run 500-700 words, while books by author-illustrators tend to be considerably shorter. That makes sense, when you think about it.

Question: are you sure you've written a picture book? I work with writers, and I often find that manuscripts that people are struggling to jam into picture book lengths are better suited to be early readers or even the core of a chapter book...

Absolutely! An editor at Scholastic told me that my picture book was really a novel struggling to get out! It was finally published as a MG novel by a university historical press!
Thanks, as always, for your wisdom, Harold!

Aloha,
Tori :pizza :palmtree
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: dewsanddamps on February 01, 2018, 06:44 PM
I feel like lately I have heard a couple of people in the industry suggesting that maybe PBs are going to start getting a little longer  now...

Oh, sweet Louisa May Alcott, I hope so. A lot of our kids' favorites--and mine--were the longer ones.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on February 01, 2018, 08:55 PM
I've also heard some say picture books will get longer again. The pendulum swings. But we'll see.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Hopeful on February 02, 2018, 06:21 AM
When I was young, there were picture story books for older children ages 6-10.  Are they still being published or are they extinct?  Those books had 1000 – 3000 words.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Jayca on February 02, 2018, 06:32 AM
When I was young, there were picture story books for older children ages 6-10.  Are they still being published or are they extinct?  Those books had 1000 – 3000 words.

Very few and far between, Hopeful. But maybe they'll come back around.

Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: mrh on February 02, 2018, 07:33 AM
What Jayca said. By that age, teachers and parents want them in early readers, chapter books and middle grade.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: HaroldU on February 02, 2018, 08:08 AM
In addition, some PB mss are actually outlines of novels :grin3  And some are better suited as a magazine story. Good luck!

Yes. And this is something experience will help you figure out--and your critique group. Keep writing.

Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: HaroldU on February 02, 2018, 08:10 AM
Don't get me started on child language development and the need for rich vocabulary and beautiful sentences and growing their verbal abilities through books...
Shorter texts in picture books doesn't preclude that. Those longer stories (the 3000 word stories that Hopeful mentioned) are still getting published, but in a different format.

I like longer picture books, myself. But the shift from a library-dominated market to a bookstore/Amazon-dominated one means that the wants of parents drive much of what gets published for the picture book age group. We need to educate parents. Until we can do that, just understand that the market has shifted. Children's books today are different from what we grew up with, and as writers and editors we need to try to understand where we are.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Hopeful on February 02, 2018, 08:26 AM
So much for the Polar Express (word count 1000+).  Sigh!
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: 217mom on February 02, 2018, 08:45 AM
Back to the matter of the shrinking word count, I wrote a ranty post about it some time ago...  :sigh

http://mirkabreen.blogspot.com/2011/11/shrinking-word-count.html

But I do think that the tone, theme, characters and overall voice are far more relevant to a successful PB than the 500-or-bust word count issue.   :yup
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Pons on February 02, 2018, 08:47 AM
More than once I have had a small child put his hand on a page to keep me from turning it. I was finished reading, but he wasn't finished exploring the illustrations. Obviously, we can both wait to turn the page while we take more time with the pictures, but I wish for a better balance between text and illustrations, so the whole experience is more cohesive. Some PBs are splendid with 500 words, but some need more. I don't want to go back to the days of 3,000 word PBs, but I long for more flexibility in the publishing world.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: HaroldU on February 02, 2018, 09:07 AM
Pons, I don't think flexibility is gone. Picture books like Sophie's Squash and Yard Sale and others are still getting published, with word counts of 600 and 700 or so...  The idea that they have to be 200 or 300 words, which is widely mentioned "common knowledge," just isn't entirely accurate, or is based on books by author-illustrators, which are different.

And as someone else commented, word count isn't the only thing that matters in picture books. Overall, I see more variety (in approach, subject matter, style, and so on) in the picture book market today than existed in the "golden age" of the 50's and 60's (or whenever we think that was...).  Let's celebrate that.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: teresa-klepinger on February 02, 2018, 09:46 AM
As someone interested in child development as well as writing, it makes me sad that children would go from 300-word picture books to early readers. Not all four and five-year-olds are ready to listen to novels. Chapter books and early readers by definition have limited vocabulary. Where in there would they be exposed to a more complex story with rich vocabulary and sentence structure that stretches their minds?
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: HaroldU on February 04, 2018, 01:42 PM
In those longer picture books I mentioned. Or picture books like Last Stop on Market Street, which I believe is around 750 words.

Or in those even longer picture books that were published in the past and that are still available in bookstores and libraries.

Of course, if parents aren't buying them or checking them out, then children may not experience them. Perhaps the SCBWI could start a campaign on this, as I mentioned before?
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Jayca on February 04, 2018, 02:10 PM
Absolutely nothing against some of the beautiful, longer, more classic-style stories, but I do think there is great value in many of this era's shorter PBs. And I don't think brevity necessarily = a story that isn't complex. Short PBs leave more room for conversation, I think. Without spelling everything out, kids are taught to read/listen on a deeper level. There are often clues and surprises in the illustrations. And there's often a subplot to be uncovered, too. There's time for these things because their whole attention span hasn't been used up with 1000+ words of text. When my kids were younger, I really appreciated PBs like this. My kids and I spent just as long reading and discussing one of these books as we would have spent just reading a longer one. There was room for me. And more room for my little one to draw his/her own conclusions on each spread. I write PBs (pretty much all under 500 words) and I love weaving rich vocabulary words into my texts.

Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: teresa-klepinger on February 04, 2018, 03:15 PM
Such a great discussion. Such a great group of people. And Harold, how do we get this campaign for longer books started? We should call it the "Both/And" campaign? Short books AND longer ones! Revive the picture storybook! Sign me up!
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on February 04, 2018, 06:33 PM
When my kids were around three, they both enjoyed the world of Richard Scary. We read Cars and Trucks and Things That Go daily. We looked for Goldbug. We names every car and truck. We followed specific subplots. Sometimes I read less, sometimes more. It took an hour for each full read, less if I didn't go through the side pieces, like how the road is constructed or skipped the search for Goldbug (which the kids had memorized anyway). This is an illustration and word heavy book that's still in stores. More text doesn't have to mean less depth in listening. Sometimes more is more.

This doesn't mean that many shorter books aren't brilliant as well. Visual literacy is also an important skill that can't be fully learned without exploring different types of visuals. I think there is room for all kinds of books. It's all how we explain the need to the consumers and gatekeepers.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Melissa K on February 04, 2018, 07:53 PM
I think about this topic a lot because my four-year-old son regularly falls in love with older, longer stories. He loves plenty of the new shorties too, but there's room for pretty much all lengths of book in our house and in our reading life.

From what I've seen of his friends' bookshelves and witnessed of their interactions with their parents, I get the sense that there are plenty of kids who still get to experience those longer stories. I live in an educated pocket of the country and our playdates are mostly with families that make education a priority, but I can say for sure that there are at least some kids who hear longer stories.

At conferences the publishing professionals always say parents don't have time to read more than 500 words, but in my world parents pretty regularly sit down on a weekend and read for half an hour with their kids. When you're reading through a pile of books, it's not like you're noticing if you're reading a 400-word story or a 700-word story. Much longer stories do register, but they only mean you end up reading fewer total books in a sitting--not a problem if the kid is engaged and happy.

I think the pressure for brevity forces writers to do some amazingly creative things--but I also think the worship of brevity has maybe skewed a bit too far.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on February 04, 2018, 08:29 PM
Melissa, that's exactly it.

Kids are reading chapters younger, but that doesn't mean they don't enjoy pictures anymore. And parents will read fewer longer books, but they still get read.

I've been told it's all related to the shift from school and library as the primary sales focus for picture books to trade as that focus because kindergarten students are reading chapters. But I still hear about picture books being used as mentor texts in K-2 classrooms, so I don't know. I think there is a complex socio-cultural phenomenon behind this shift. It seems reasons include teachers, parents, shortening attention spans and a few other things. But this could be a catch 22. Maybe parents are reading shorter books because that's what is available and this plays into the shortening of attention spans. I just hope the pendulum really does shift more toward the middle, where a book has the number of words it needs for its story--no more or less.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Mii on February 19, 2021, 02:41 PM
I just got told this today. That 500 words is the max! It really puzzles me, because I thought "early readers" were more of an inside industry production (i.e. the big publishing houses prefer to do early readers with their own staff writers, rather than pay contracts to external writers)
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on February 19, 2021, 06:40 PM
I just got told this today. That 500 words is the max! It really puzzles me, because I thought "early readers" were more of an inside industry production (i.e. the big publishing houses prefer to do early readers with their own staff writers, rather than pay contracts to external writers)

Partially true. Some are open to them. Some hire authors through their agents and some use book packagers. But some picture books are converted into early readers or, at least, work as both because of simple vocabulary and repeated elements.

500 words is a guideline. The key is to use only words that are necessary to show the story while letting the illustrator show everything illustrations can.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: k_leh on February 19, 2021, 08:27 PM
I just got told this today. That 500 words is the max! It really puzzles me, because I thought "early readers" were more of an inside industry production (i.e. the big publishing houses prefer to do early readers with their own staff writers, rather than pay contracts to external writers)

Got the same situation recently. But I stuck at 600 words! I guess new trends are just unavoidable. We have to adjust
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Hopeful on February 20, 2021, 07:34 AM
The trend of super low word count picture books has been going on for years.  Think of how successful Mo Willems' picture books have been and his first picture book was published way back in 2003.   Publishers didn't want to miss out so they all hopped on the bandwagon.   Those who claim that fiction picture books can have up to 1000 words need to wake up and smell the coffee beans.  It's significantly shorter than that and it's been that way for quite a while now.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: HaroldU on February 20, 2021, 07:52 AM
I am jumping back in to point out that the "shorter" picture book "trend" goes back decades. Look at two classic picture books,  Where the Wild Things Are and The Snowy Day, both published in the early 1960's as examples.  Each is just a little over 300 words. Such books weren't recently invented. Typically such picture books are author-illustrator creations, though not always.

The long-term trend I DO see is this: As the children's trade market gradually shifted from libraries to bookstores in the 70's, 80's, and 90's, publishers increasingly had to cater to parents, who wanted kids to read "real" books. Parents want early readers and early chapter books. The picture storybook -- the format for those 1,000-word and up stories--has become almost extinct, with only Patricia Polacco able to publish in it anymore (perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration).

Are there actually more of short PBs being published today than 50 years ago? I don't think anyone has actually done the research to determine that, but that has become what we all believe. For what it's worth, I see "longer" PBs, maybe 400-700 words, written by an author and illustrated by someone else, still being published. If you're a writer, look to those as mentor texts, not ones created by an author-illustrator.

Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Hopeful on February 20, 2021, 08:37 AM
I think the difference seems to be that in earlier times, there was more of a mix of word count ranges for fiction picture books.  I still remember when "The Polar Express" was published in 1985.  That picture book has over 1000 words, but no one thought anything of that word count back then.  Nowadays, you don't have that mix of short and long word count fiction picture books.  It's just all low word count fiction picture books these days.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: 217mom on February 20, 2021, 08:50 AM

For what it's worth, I see "longer" PBs, maybe 400-700 words, written by an author and illustrated by someone else, still being published. If you're a writer, look to those as mentor texts, not ones created by an author-illustrator.


This^, precisely. Most who lament the shorter word counts are writers only, fearing our contribution is disappearing. {I do think there are fewer PBs published that are not by writer-illustrators.} It has become more evident that  PBs are the illustrators and the illustrating writers' place to shine. But for those (like me) who don't illustrate, look to the published books by writers that don't illustrate as indications of the current publishing market. Yup, they're longer.

Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: HaroldU on February 20, 2021, 09:02 AM
Exactly, 217mom. No 1,000 word ones like Polar Express, but still some being published in the 400 to 700 word range, if you look. It's not just the 300 and under ones--though they do tend to be the ones that get prominently displayed, which may be part of the reason people have come to believe that that's all that is getting published...
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: teresa-klepinger on February 20, 2021, 09:58 AM
One more issue I run into, and what may be contributing to the 200-300 word books, is that so many agents are looking only for author/illustrators.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Hopeful on February 20, 2021, 10:00 AM
One more issue I run into, and what may be contributing to the 200-300 word books, is that so many agents are looking only for author/illustrators.
  Yes.  I've noticed that as well!

Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Mii on February 20, 2021, 10:21 AM
One more issue I run into, and what may be contributing to the 200-300 word books, is that so many agents are looking only for author/illustrators.

This! That's the trend that's most alarming. If you can write but can't draw, they're not interested!
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: 217mom on February 20, 2021, 10:22 AM
One more issue I run into, and what may be contributing to the 200-300 word books, is that so many agents are looking only for author/illustrators.
That's ALWAYS been the case, and in years past it was even more so than now. Used to be that no agent would represent a PB writng-only author, so you had to be a writer of MG/YA as well and then (only) your agent would also sub your PB texts. The commission was too low on text only advances & royalties. I didn't even consider looking for an agent until I knew I was committed to MG writing as well. Back then, PB were subbed directly to publishers without agents' intercession.
Times changed, and as more publishers closed to the unagented, agents took on to subbing their clients' PBs texts, though the author-illustrators were always preferred. But at least now if you only write PBs texts there are some agents looking for that.

As others have repeatedly said, writer must grasp the fact that picture books are the illustrators' media. They are art books with text, not stories with occasional art, such as were common in our childhood.

Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Vijaya on February 20, 2021, 11:24 AM
As others have repeatedly said, writer must grasp the fact that picture books are the illustrators' media. They are art books with text, not stories with occasional art, such as were common in our childhood.

I'm still reading a lot of picture books and I'm seeing a lot of variety, from short to wordy, and many different types of pictures. My favorites are ones that are poetic, with lots of room to breathe, like those of Liz Garton Scanlon or Amy Krause Rosenthal (RIP) and beautiful art.

I didn't have any picture books as a child. We were told stories, of course, and I learned to read when I was 6 yrs old; the books had line art. I loved comic books (the tales were all Indian mythologies). When I look at some of the PBs published now with full-color pictures, they feel like priceless works of art in my hands. So rich! And it's the perfect marriage of words and pictures.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: yaara-c on February 21, 2021, 12:22 AM
Thank you everyone for this fascinating discussion, I am just pondering this myself at the moment as I have written a new story and was thinking about how to make it shorter and shorter after realizing the word count standard now is no longer between 500-800 but much lower, to my dismay. I am an illustrator as well but I love words and I'm not very happy with this trend.
I do feel that this is hurting the child's ability to deal with more complex text and it doesn't prepare him as well to read "real books" later on, where there are no helping pictures.

I also feel that some children get much less out of such books and really need more words. Maybe this is true for kids that do have a longer attention span or that are not as visual. I see this with my son, he simply has no interest in such books although they are age appropriate for him and we always end up reading older classics which have a lot more text in them. 

500 words is a guideline. The key is to use only words that are necessary to show the story while letting the illustrator show everything illustrations can.

About this - I was wondering, is it really ok for the text to have so little descriptions of the action that it doesn't stand on its own? Especially when submitting to agents, and although I will include illustration notes and a picture book dummy, is it really ok for the story to not be understood from the text alone? And will the agents really take the time to work out the action from the little storyboard sketches...?

Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Vijaya on February 21, 2021, 06:07 AM
You can always have art notes. Have you seen Linda Ashman's treatment of RAIN or NO DOGS ALLOWED? Check them out. She's a wonderful writer and teacher.
https://lindaashman.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/RAIN_Submission.pdf
https://lindaashman.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/No-Dogs-Allowed-Submission.pdf
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: yaara-c on February 21, 2021, 06:24 AM
Thank you so much, Vijaya, this is very helpful. Would you mind sharing your source for these? Was it her personal website or is there a place where I can see more documents like these?
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: 217mom on February 21, 2021, 08:10 AM
In the links vijaya pasted^ the manuscript reads very much like a truncated screen play  :wow
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: JFriday on February 21, 2021, 08:44 AM
It does read like screen directions! And hardly any words at all. Fascinating.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Laurel Gale on February 21, 2021, 09:40 AM
Thanks, Vijaya.  That's a good example of art notes.

Tara Lazar also has examples of how she does art notes. Hers are a LOT shorter. She likes to call them action notes. https://taralazar.com/2019/08/05/art-notes-are-action-notes/ 
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Vijaya on February 21, 2021, 10:55 AM
Yaara, I discovered them on Linda's website: https://lindaashman.com/  and she has many more resources here: https://lindaashman.com/how-to-write-picture-books/more-resources/

My art notes tend to be very short. With one magazine piece, I actually sent in a drawing with crayons because a picture really is a thousand words.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: yaara-c on February 21, 2021, 10:56 AM
Thank you Vijaya!
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Pons on February 21, 2021, 02:17 PM
Thanks for the links, Laurel and V. I really enjoyed them. Lots of great information.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: yaara-c on March 24, 2021, 01:37 PM
I have been pondering the Linda Ashman manuscripts since Vijaya kindly shared them here.
I do wonder, can I use these as an example? How "typical" are they?
I noticed she uses the page numbers in her manuscripts, is that standard, or at least acceptable to do?
 
As I already worked out the page breakdowns (I am an author- illustrator) I would feel more comfortable using page numbers in the same way she did instead of trying to figure out how to present this as a story with paragraphs, if that makes sense.

Any advice on this would be most welcome!

Thanks
Yaara
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on March 24, 2021, 06:07 PM
Since you're the person designing the book and doing the art and you'll submit a dummy, there is no harm in you paginating the manuscript. Some editors love it because it helps them visualize the final product. Some don't because it breaks of the flow of reading. It's just another indication of the subjectivity in publishing. But, again, this is part of the illustrator's and designer's roles anyway.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Vijaya on March 24, 2021, 06:32 PM
Yaara, as an author-illustrator you'd be submitting both a manuscript and dummy (with rough sketches and perhaps a couple of finished spreads) so you don't need to indicate page breaks in the text portion. I know many editors like having paginated mss but that happens later in the process. Good luck!
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: yaara-c on March 25, 2021, 04:28 AM
Thank you Debbie and Vijaya! Very helpful and informative as always, I really appreciate all your help!:)

I'm getting a bit off topic here but I was wondering if you could perhaps refer me to somewhere on SCBWI or online with more information and / or samples of submitted manuscripts?
 I would like to see more examples except the ones that Linda Ashman shared.

I have found some information about this in Ann Whitford Paul's excellent book but she didn't include a sample of prose text. Also, I found other tips online that were partially contradicting with what she suggests to do which is why I'm a bit confused at the moment :D

Thanks again,
Yaara
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Vijaya on March 25, 2021, 06:36 AM
I haven't looked at the book in several years but they used to do a really good job. It's under SCBWI online publications: https://www.scbwi.org/online-resources/the-book/
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: yaara-c on March 25, 2021, 06:52 AM
Thank you Vijaya!
How silly of me, I already downloaded the new version of the book when it came out but completely forgot to look for what I need in there :D
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: yaara-c on March 31, 2021, 05:37 AM
Hi again,

I was wondering what are your thoughts on a word count of 454? Is that hitting the red mark or is still considered ok?
I really wanted to cut it down to 300-something but just couldn't do it. I has hardly any descriptions or actions, it's told in first person and is mostly dialog and the narrator's thoughts about what's going on. Also, 3 of the words are sound effects;D
Do they still count as words?
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: Vijaya on March 31, 2021, 06:05 AM
Hi Yaara, without seeing your story I can't say anything meaningful about it but a story needs to be as long or as short as you need to tell it. With word counts, I always approximate when I submit to the nearest 10 for a PB, so I'd say 450 words. And yes, I count all words in the story except for title and art notes, if they happen to be there.
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: dkshumaker on March 31, 2021, 06:19 AM
Yaara, I agree with what Vijaya said. Word counts are important, but story is most important. Have you had a critique group read the story? Do they feel the story is long, short, or just right?
Title: Re: Current word count trends
Post by: erika-romero on April 08, 2021, 01:34 PM
It's not that new. At an SCBWI session I attended, the New York editor said, "Five hundred words!" In the sense of "that is your limit if you want a crack at a sale." That was 10 years ago. I've heard that 200-300 is closer to the norm now. However, some publishers outside the Big 5 will do them longer. Peachtree is/was one, though I don't know if that's changed. Your book does sound like it's aimed toward a niche market, and you may find a publisher there who will do them longer.




Glad to hear my 275 word manuscript will not be considered too short. It’s so much shorter than my others (ranging from 450-650), which made me a bit nervous.