How Long Should My Book Manuscript Be?

Word count: what an issue. You’ve spent months or years working on a book and now all the agent wants to know is, “How many words?”

There are important reasons why you should pay attention to word count.

First, each category and genre has an average length. This goes far beyond novels vs. novellas. It’s about how long is too long for a romance novel, how short is too short for a spy thriller, what’s the average for a young adult novel, how much leeway does a work of literary fiction have? The answers are specific to each category. Writer’s Resource can help you determine if your book is appropriately long.

Second, first-time authors (authors who have not been traditionally published) are held to different standards than other authors. Generally, a first-time author should never go above 100,000 words. Certain genres like some subcategories of thrillers, historic novels, and certain types of other fiction and nonfiction books can run 110,000 to 115,000…but anything above that is pushing the boundary too far.

Why? Because print costs rise exponentially above 100,000 words. Publishers will sink money into marketing you and your books with the hopes that it will build an audience. Your second or your third book will be much less restricted by length if your first one is successful. But until you have that proven fan base, publishers want to cut their risks.

Cut your risk of rejection by knowing what’s expected of your manuscript…first-time author or not!

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2 thoughts on “How Long Should My Book Manuscript Be?

  1. Laine Cunningham Post author

    Thank you for that extra info! Each category of fiction and nonfiction have ranges like this one you mentioned that was recommended by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers.
    There’s a post coming up on novellas as a new trend. So that’s even more reason to keep an eye on your word count. I don’t recommend that you really worry about it too much until the first draft is done, though. Otherwise it can interrupt the creative flow.

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