We recently got a query for a 2000-page book. Yup, all those zeros are for real. But the author wanted to make sure that we didn’t discriminate based on the length because this book was really good.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how good a book is when it’s that long. It’s just not financially feasible – we can’t charge more than $7.99 for a mass-market in the current marketplace, and a book with 2000 pages would simply cost more in printing than profit, no matter how well it sold.
Astute writers may have noticed that those word-count requirements have been changing over the last several years in companies across the board. I did a quick look at breakevens (an Excel spread sheet where we plug in projected variables and try to figure out how much money the book makes in royalties and profit) for the last few years. Paper costs went up about 25% from ’06 to ’08, and the next few years aren’t likely to reverse the trend. The only way to make up that difference is either shorter books or higher prices.
Most manuscripts I get these days from published authors are probably closer to the 80,000- to 85,000-word mark, which is a good target for newer authors to keep in mind.