The 400 Page Book
July 23, 2019 6:34 AM   Subscribe

I recently noticed that most of the novels I look to recommend are around 400 pages. Is this a publishing standard length or just me?

If it matters, I read a lot of scifi/fantasy, so that's where most of my recommendations were focused, and I was explicitly trying to not recommend 'bricks' (books in the 700+ page range).
posted by dinty_moore to Writing & Language (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
"A study of more than 2,500 books appearing on New York Times bestseller and notable books lists and Google’s annual survey of the most discussed books reveals that the average length has increased from 320 pages in 1999 to 400 pages in 2014."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:45 AM on July 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You've correctly identified a trend, yep. There's a lot of info here about how publishers implicitly and explicitly push for novels to be certain lengths, because too-short or too-long novels are harder to sell. "Bricks" tend to be written by already-successful authors who have enough cred to overcome this.

For SFF novels specifically, that page lists 100,000-115,000 words as an ideal length (longer than literary fiction). Printed novels are around 250-300 words per page, so that translates to between 333-460 pages, exactly as you observe.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:25 AM on July 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Hello, I worked in publishing production. 384 pages is a manufacturing sweet spot — makes the most efficient use of materials. If there is any reasonable way to set a mass market mss to come in at 384 (manipulating font, size, leading, dimension of text block, chapter openings, back/ front matter), the publisher will try to make it happen.
posted by apparently at 10:54 AM on July 23, 2019 [9 favorites]

Best answer: You've already got a good answer, but Metafilter's own Charlie Stross wrote an essay about this: Why books are the length they are.
posted by adamrice at 4:27 PM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

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