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The Accidental Writer: Does Size Matter?

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Unknown-9Unfortunately, I think it does. Different genres have general length guidelines professionals in the industry pay attention to. I don’t think they function as set rules, but more like rules of thumb. Still, for a new author, violation of a rule of thumb probably lands his or her query at the bottom of a long pile of queries that wobbles precariously in the corner of an electronic file cabinet, never to be given serious consideration.

One publisher lists preferred word counts as follows: Children’s Picture Books: 400-2,000,
Lower Grade Chapter Books: 10,000-18,000 (12-15k ideal),
Middle Grade: 30,000-70,000 (40-50k ideal),
Romance/Erotica: 50,000-100,000 (60-70k ideal),
Young Adult: 55,000+ (65-75k ideal),
Others: 65,000+ (ideals vary by genre).

If you’re wondering about page count, usually a standard page is considered to be 250 words.

So, what does this mean? I look at these guidelines less as word counts but story arc restrictions. If you pick a very long story arc for a young adult novel that lands you in 140K words, you’ve probably made it very difficult to publish that manuscript, and you’ve also turned off your target audience. If you hope to deliver a commercial project, think about changing the story arc and dividing the manuscript into more than one story.

On the other hand, fantasy books are generally over 100K words. The industry is basically telling authors that they need to have some length to create a convincing new world. Submit a 60K word fantasy novel proposal and no one will take you seriously.

Different genres have typical word counts. Exceptions exist, but readers in each genre expect a certain story arc. Go outside the established bounds intentionally and knowing that it’ll make your project a harder sell.

Take a look at my newly released psychological thriller Shatter Point. It will keep you up at night! Available at Amazon, B&N and Pleasantville Bookstore. You can follow my ramblings on twitter at @jeffaltabef.

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