too long (?)

I have now seen two articles written by people who know the publishing business that say that the wordcount range for middle grade novels should be 20000 to 45000 words. My novel is 80000 words. I read a lot of middle grade fiction. I write it because it’s something I like to read, but I never realized they were that much shorter than other books. I decided to look up wordcounts of a bunch of middle grade books I’ve read to see if they really are that short. The wordcount numbers are from this educational bookstore site:

The Story of the Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit 52537
Scepter of the Ancients (Skullduggery Pleasant book 1) by Derek Landy 67424
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman 67380
The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett 72878 (upper middle grade)
The Bad Beginning (Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events book 1) by Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler) 24130
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis 36363
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowlling 77508
Truckers (The Bromeliad Trilogy book 1) by Terry Pratchett 47851
Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C Wrede 50540
Half Magic by Edward Eager 35849
The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander 46928
Holes by Louis Sachar 47079
Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper (The Dark is Rising book 1) 75001
The Wizard of OZ by L.Frank Baum 40508
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh 57648
Martin the Warrior (in the Redwall series) by Brian Jacques 88502
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle 49965
The Princess and the Goblin by George McDonald 50949
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl 23843
100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson 59764
The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein 58512
Spellbinder by Helen Stringer 82297
[EDIT: I added a few more which I thought about & looked up after I first posted this. Later on 7/22/11 added four more books I read recently.]

…As you can see, only 5 of the 22 (2 of 14 when I first published this post) books I looked up were within the middle grade novel wordcount those articles gave. (To be fair, three others were very close, but including those that’s still less than half.) When I looked up a book in a series, I looked up only the first one* because once an author gets the first book published, they have a little more leeway with the others. Somehow, Brian Jacques and JK Rowling got a publisher to look at their first books which were supposedly twice as long as they should be.

I had been wondering how I’m going to shorten my novel so that agents will look at it. From this bit of research I don’t think I’ll have to shorten it quite as much as I had originally thought, but I’ll still look for any unnecessary parts I could cut in my revising.

*Martin the Warrior in the only series-book on this list which isn’t the first one in its series. I listed this one because it’s the only one I read in the series. I did look up book 1 also, and it was longer.

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About David A Justiss

a fantasy novelist.
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