Which is why this week, The Literary Mercenary would like to provide some rough guidelines for writers who are trying to figure out how much is enough, and how much is too much.
|Mileage, and word count, may vary.|
The General Guide to Novel Length
The following numbers come from The Writer's Digest, and you can check them out right here, if you're curious. They're a few years old, but judging from my own research and conversations with those working in the industry, they seem pretty reasonable.
For "standard" manuscripts:
- 80,000 - 89,999 is completely acceptable
- 90,000 - 99,999 should be just fine
- 100,000 - 109,999 pushing your luck
Those numbers are a ball park for your "average" novel. However, some genres have different averages. Science fiction and fantasy, in particular, are given a pass on being "too long" because of all the additional world building that has to go into the novels. These genres tend to fall more into the 100,000 - 115,000 word range before you start getting too long.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, young adult books and Westerns are allowed to be much shorter than your average novel. Westerns can get away with 65,000 - 80,000 words, and YA novels can range from 55,000 - 69,000 words without much issue.
If You Really Need To Know... Ask
I want to stress at this point that the lengths mentioned above are general guidelines only, and there's no guarantee they're accurate to any one, specific publisher. You know why? Because every publisher is different. So, in a way, this is a lot like dating advice. You can get general tips about the things that are and aren't acceptable, but if you want to know about that guy or girl you've got your heart and/or genitals set on, you should try asking them instead of me.
|Seriously, email works wonders.|
While you can buy a copy of The Writer's Market, most publishers have their word count guidelines listed on their websites. And if you're serious about getting yourself published traditionally, you should do a quick tour to see which houses you can work with, and which ones simply aren't going to be pleased with a book of your length.
And For The Non-Traditionalists...
I mention traditional publishing specifically, because publishing houses set their own standards. If you're going the self-publishing route, then you are the one who gets to set your standards. Well, you, and your readers. Which is why if you get complaints that your book is too long, too short, too padded, etc., you might want to pay attention. Otherwise, though, if your fans are happy, you're good to go!
As always, thanks for sticking your head in to see what I have to say. If you'd like to help support The Literary Mercenary, stop by my Patreon page, and consider becoming a patron. As little as $1 a month can make a big difference, and help me on my quest to deliver you solid content week after week. If you want to make sure you don't miss any of my updates, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter!