Monday, February 11, 2013

Size DOES Matter!

I've been noticing questions around the social blogging and networking stratosphere.  It's something that I was curious about when I first started out and I thought now might be a good time for a refresher.  Especially since many of you may be tidying up your NaNoWriMo offering and are wondering exactly where in the industry it would fall.

As the title of this blog would suggest, I am going to give you my opinion of what length certain types of novels should be.  While I have culled my information from several sources, I must confess that the blog run by Chuck Sambuchino for Writer's Digest is always my Go-To for answers of this technical nature.

Several things to remember when shopping your book:  your books length will be considered by proposed publishers simply because longer books cost more to produce.  Your 125,000 word opus may be perfect to you, but unless you are writing high fantasy, most Houses will balk at the length.

So, read on, and I hope you find your book among these genres and lengths.
Anywhere between 40,000-75,000 words.  Anything under that could effectively be called a novella and a novelette would be anything under 20,000 words.  With the trend in YA being trilogies, each could be around 60,000 words apiece.

Between 20,000-45.000 words.  If it's longer and geared to a slightly older audience, but not yet falling under the YA category (think "pre-teen" or "tweener"), you should really refer to the work as upper Middle Grade.  Incidentally, several people in the industry that I consider to be In-The-Know have predicted the Middle Grade genre to be The Next Big Thing.

This is an area where longer books are acceptable.  With all the world-building going on, you likely need those extra pages.  Not to mention the descriptions of gadgets and machinery all new to us as the reader.
Therefore, 100,000 words is perfectly acceptable.  Anything over 115,00 will likely be questioned as to the length.  At this point, you have to consider if your epic fantasy might not be better served split into TWO Epic fantasy books.  Again, sometimes it boils down to cost.

With all the sub-categories of romance there are (contemporary, historical, regency, paranormal, time-travel, chick-lit and erotica) the guidelines are fairly equal for them.  Between 60,000-80,000 words for a single-title release.  The interesting thing about the Romance category, if the book is in a series, the word count goes down.  And category romance, like for Harlequin and Avon, they have specific and stringent guidelines as to word count and you are expected to stick to them.  Make sure you check with the websites as to the word-count requirements.

Near and dear to my heart, this category only runs a bit longer than Romance and YA.  Between 75,000-90,000.  But think of someone well-loved like Stephen King and you will see that horror can be short and brutal or long and psychologically drawn-out.  His short story collections are almost as popular as his mind-bending sagas.

With any luck, you will recognize your book's length and genre within these lines.  But please note:  the length of a book is only a general guideline.  If you have written an amazing book with only 43,000 words, don't pad it unnecessarily just to up the word count.  Publishers spot that a mile away.  The best advice I can (and always) give, is to just write a good book.  Also, there are TONS of other categories.  And twice that many sub-categories.  You may have written a book that doesn't fit in ANY published category. (Familiar with Chicken Soup for the Soul?)  But one of the first things you will be asked is who is your audience? Hopefully, you already know.  If not, I will cover that in another blog post.  :-)

Remember, just write a good book!


  1. Perfect timing on your post, Samantha. I forwarded it to an aspiring author friend.

  2. Great informative post, Samantha! I excited to be in the Next Big Thing category! LOL! Hey, you never know! Cheers and best wishes for all your publishing ventures both big and small!