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Fractured fairytale - stil 500 words and under?

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Hello all,

I am working on a fractured fairytale at the moment and was wondering if the 500 words and under "rule" still applies. No need to read between the lines here - I am finding it tough!

One book published by Nosy Crow comes to mind - 'Cinderella's Sister and the Big Bad Wolf' by Lorraine Carey. It has around 850 words.

Another reason I ask is that I recently read that fairytales, and retellings, are usually aimed at the older age of the picture book spectrum and therefore may be longer.


Your thoughts are much appreciated!
#1 - November 26, 2015, 12:58 PM

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I know the 500-or-less rule seems hard and fast, but there is room for leeway if the story warrants it. The SkippyJohn Jones books clock in at about 1250 words and they have been very successful. Older children can handle more words. The pendulum has swung way over to very few words, but that doesn't mean it might not swing back a little bit.
#2 - November 26, 2015, 01:06 PM

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I suppose I think you can only get away with it if you are already an established author!
#3 - November 26, 2015, 01:11 PM

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I doubt anyone could give you a definitive answer. There's probably only one way to find out - try it and see.
#4 - November 26, 2015, 01:21 PM
I've Got Eyes! - Amicus Ink (August 2018)

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Yes, of course. I just wondered if anyone had heard/noticed anything specifically regarding fractured fairytale's.
#5 - November 26, 2015, 01:29 PM

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My guess is that it depends on the fairy tale. CINDER EDNA is something like 1600 words, I forget exactly. It's hard to write a FF of Cinderella or Snow White in 500 words or less. Of course, I sold CE a long time ago.

But I have another similar story that's even longer that was purchased several times by various publishers, including one fairly recently. It had some problems, so it never got published--but not because of the length. (It had more to do with illustration difficulties.)

Having said that, an agent I know told me she hasn't sold a picture book longer than 600 words in years. If someone falls in love with your story, anything is possible. But with so much competition these days, the fewer problems you make for a publisher (and a long story IS a problem), the greater your chance of selling it.

Just my opinion...
#6 - November 26, 2015, 03:26 PM
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Having said that, an agent I know told me she hasn't sold a picture book longer than 600 words in years. If someone falls in love with your story, anything is possible. But with so much competition these days, the fewer problems you make for a publisher (and a long story IS a problem), the greater your chance of selling it.

Just my opinion...

Good advice.
#7 - November 26, 2015, 04:37 PM

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I really don't think that 500 words or less is a rule. It's the sweet spot, but most publishers that I've looked into indicate that a picture book is 1000 words or less. Write the story, revise until all the extra words are out.

I've read some longer books & really enjoyed them (even though I groan when my kids ask for really long ones). And read some shorter ones and felt they were too sparse to really tell the story (although many with few words are fantastic).
#8 - November 27, 2015, 06:50 AM
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I think the current belief about PB length ignores the complexity of the market--speaking generally about PBs but this also applies to fairy-tales, whether fractured or otherwise. Yes, there are a lot of short (sub-300 word) PBs out on the market, but those are typically created by author-illustrators. The PBs I have seen published with a different author and illustrator in the past couple of years have generally fallen into the 400 to 800 word range.

But you can go longer than that too. If you go too long for PB, there's also easy reader and the interesting very young chapter book area.

Write your story the way it needs to be written. Don't be wordy, but if it needs to be longer than 500 words, it needs to be longer.
#9 - November 27, 2015, 12:13 PM
Harold Underdown

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Write your story the way it needs to be written. Don't be wordy, but if it needs to be longer than 500 words, it needs to be longer.

Like the guy with the purple crayon says, I say, too!
#10 - November 27, 2015, 01:45 PM

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Thanks everyone. I appreciate your taking the time to comment - especially on such an unanswerable question. I have certainly noticed that author-illustrator texts tend to be shorter. I imagine they think more in pictures.

I'll try and write it as 'tightly' as possible without getting overly hung up on the 500 word mantra!

Thank you,
Bruna
#11 - November 29, 2015, 02:06 AM

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