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I have been working on a non-fiction (mostly biographical) article that currently is about 9,000 words and I have perhaps 30% more to go, so perhaps the final article would be 12-14k words or so. I have some ability to trim it, but it feels like its natural length ought to be at least 9,000 words even if trimmed, and beyond that it would lose a lot of interesting material. It's aimed at a moderately intellectual readership, and I'd like to sell it to more than a niche journal.

My question is: what can I do with it? I notice that many general interest magazines accept manuscripts up to about 4,000 words, perhaps 6,000. So it seems my article is too long. I have seen that in the Best Magazine Writing 2007 the word counts (estimated by me) ranged from 6k up to 19k, with an average at 10k, but that doesn't square with the numbers above, so I suppose these longer pieces were greenlighted based on the writer's credentials (of which I have none!).

I think it would work quite well as a ~30 page book chapter in a book, but I don't have the rest of a book to write on this topic or related. If I could find an editor putting together such a book from multiple authors, that would work, but I have no idea how to find that--and of course, such a collection is unlikely to exist.

Am I doomed to have to severely cut it down to a third of its current size to get it published? Or do you think I could find a magazine that would take a 9-10k long version?

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I think that if you have yet to finish the article, it's probably premature to speculate on the finished length. When you are done with your first draft, you'll probably realize that either some things are extraneous or that you missed something. When you've done several rewrites and THEN you have a 14k word long piece, that's when you should decide what to do with it. Ultimately though, you'll probably end up cutting a third of it not just to get it published but to make it better. – Joel Shea Jul 31 '11 at 13:50
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I believe if the material warrants it, certain magazines will make an exception and agree to publish the full work. Another option might be to offer the article as a two-parter, or perhaps even suggest it as a serialized article. If you can identify natural break points yourself, then it would be easier for you to make that kind of suggestion. You don't want to make the editor work any harder than necessary!

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