Author Topic: Word Count for Debut Novels  (Read 2255 times)

Offline SincerelySinclair

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Word Count for Debut Novels
« on: September 08, 2019, 02:06:07 PM »
I've been debating myself about this issue for some time but I can't decide if 65K is too short or too long for a debut novel.

I understand perfectly that agents don't want a 100k plus novel from a new author (too risky for starters) and that new writers get rejected all the time due to their excessive length but what about novels being too short? Is 65-60K too short for an agent to take interest in or is it just right? I'm still editing my novel so things may get shorter or longer depending on how I think each chapter flows, but I would like to know everyone's opinion.

My main concern is how each chapter flows. I don't want to add on unnecessary paragraphs to appease some golden rule of novel-length if it compromises the story.

Offline jcwrites

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Re: Word Count for Debut Novels
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2019, 03:57:01 PM »
My experience from surfing publisher websites indicates that 60k is the minimum. Agents may want a heftier count to allow room for editing, so 70k might be their norm.


Offline Johnny 5

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Re: Word Count for Debut Novels
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2021, 10:25:55 AM »
Late reply but in case others come this way, I am told 70k to 80k is the sweet spot.

The Notebook was only 52k but still exploded.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2021, 10:27:41 AM by jonny_555 »

Offline littlewritings

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Re: Word Count for Debut Novels
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2021, 03:05:17 PM »
I will say this: Agents will absolutely reject you if your novel is too long or too short for the genre you're writing in. No agent will take on an 80k MG novel, no agent will take on a 30k romance novel, or a 300k novel in literally any genre. If you're close to the expected work count, it likely won't make a huge difference, but if you're way over or way under, an agent won't touch it, because the work it'll take to get the book to a point where they are able to sell it may not be worth it.

While there are outliers (like The Notebook, although I'll also note that this book was published about 25 years ago and genre conventions change), a word count that is massively off the mark will often be an easy rejection for an agent.

As for the 60k question: You might get away with it if it's YA contemporary, but in any other genre, that'll probably be too short.

Offline Johnny 5

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Re: Word Count for Debut Novels
« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2021, 04:56:09 AM »
Haha @littlewritings - my first version of my MG fantasy book was 84K and I was told off for that too. My very first personalized rejection said that it was too long. When I read your comment I instantly recalled my mistake with that one :)
« Last Edit: April 01, 2021, 12:45:12 PM by jonny_555 »

Offline Donnettetxgirl

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Re: Word Count for Debut Novels
« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2021, 11:09:38 AM »
I think if an agent really likes the story, even if it has less of a word count than normal, they will accept it. Unless their website states otherwise.

You never want to add words just for the sake of bringing up the word count. If you are really in doubt you could always add a few scenes, but if you do, I'd make sure those scenes pushed the story along. But I really think you're okay.

I do know there are a lot of publishers out there that call for a 60K word count for certain series. Carina Press and Harlequinn are two. 

Offline lucidities

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Re: Word Count for Debut Novels
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2022, 01:01:03 PM »
Got a manuscript that's too long by a lot? I suggest simply omitting every third word.

It was dark and night. . . .

Offline Prophecies

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Re: Word Count for Debut Novels
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2022, 09:05:17 PM »
What about literary fiction? 72,000 ish words should be fine for UK agents. My novel has a speculative edge!

Offline KeithCashin

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Re: Word Count for Debut Novels
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2022, 04:02:48 AM »
Really depends on the type of book your writing, there is multiple guides online that I found, the below is a general list,

Within the world of literary fiction, different genres follow more specific word count targets:

1. Thriller: A good suspense story has to keep the plot moving to keep the reader engaged. The ideal count for a mystery is a 70,000 and 90,000 word novel.

2. Science fiction and fantasy: Sci-fi novels are an art in world-building. The need to invent a completely new environment makes this genre longer than others. A fantasy novel will usually have 90,000 to 120,000 words.

3. Romance novels: Not every love story is an epic like Wuthering Heights. Romantic plots now tend to be fun, fast reads. Some are as short as 50,000 words—the perfect book for a beach vacation. The high-end romance novel word count is 100,000.

4. Historical fiction: Fleshing out an imagined historical world lends itself to a higher word count, so historical fiction tends to be closer to 100,000 words.

5. Non-fiction: There is no definitive word count guide for non-fiction books due to the many subgenres. If you’re writing a non-fiction book, be sure to look up that category to find the length of similar books. For example, memoirs are generally 80,000 to 90,00 words.

Source -


Source -

Offline DrCCat

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Re: Word Count for Debut Novels
« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2023, 05:34:34 AM »
I came across a source that suggested this:

Word counts per book genre:

    Memoir – 45,000 to 80,000
    Self-Help Book – 30,000 – 70,000
    Fantasy Novel – 50,000 – 150,000
    Sci-fi Novel – 50,000 – 150,000
    Romance Novel – 50,000 – 90,000
    Mystery Novel – 40,000 – 80,000
    Horror Novel – 40,000 – 80,000
    Dystopian Novel – 60,000 -120,000
    Contemporary Novel – 60,000 – 90,000
    Young Adult Book – 60,000 – 90,000
    Middle-Grade Book – 20,000 – 55,000

And according to Kindle

Fantasy, historical fiction, and horror novels are about 15% longer than other genres.

In one case, a fantasy book was in the top 25 best sellers with approximately 42,000 words (less than half of the average length for this category). Word count matters, but rules can still be broken!

I'm sitting at 50k for my fantasy so who knows whats the best.
Aut inveniam viam aut faciam - attributed to General Hannibal