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How Long Should Your Book Be?

By on November 06, 2014 . Category Column

How Long Should Your Book Be?

Short Answer: Your book should be as long as it needs to be, but not longer. So whatever it is you need to write to tell your story to its fullest, WRITE THAT.

 

Long Answer: Well…

 

Distinctions

There are actually classifications for works of fiction based on word count. They are, generally speaking, as follows:

 

Flash Fiction: 0 – 3,000 words

Short Story: 3,000 – 8,000 words

Novelette: 8,000 – 17,000 words

Novella: 17,000 – 50,000 words

Novel: 50,000 words and up

 

There is an added category—Epics—which is 100,000, or sometimes 200,000 words and more. But this isn’t always acknowledged.

 

There are also other distinctions. For example, depending on the target age or specific genre of your novel, length might vary a bit. Here are some notable distinctions within the industry:

 

Middle Grade: 20,000 (for younger MG readers) to 55,000 (for older MG readers)

Young Adult: 50,000 – 70,000, though you can safely get into the 80,000 range if the story warrants it

Adult (Commercial & Literary, including Memoirs): 75,000 – 100,000 is a good range, and comfortable for most industry pros.

Sci-Fi and/or Fantasy: 100,000 – 120,000 is a good range, as these genres can run a bit long due to extensive world-building and more necessity to explain the settings.

 

I’ll say again that you should write your book the way it needs to be written—don’t box yourself in or force more words out when it doesn’t feel right just to fit a bracket someone else set. However, it’s nice to know the guidelines and industry standards (even if you’re self-publishing) and give yourself a reference point.

There will always be exceptions to the rules. Some writers rock their genre with word counts well above or below the norm. It’s good to be aware, though, so you know if you’re querying publishers or agents what they’ll think when they see your word count.

And keep in mind that, in some cases, a higher word count will be seen as an inability on the writer’s part to self-edit. Low word counts can be seen as lacking detail—I was told by someone in #PitchWars that my 40,000 word manuscript was too short for most agents.

 

Again, it’s all highly subjective, so use these guides to your advantage…then write whatever your story requires!

 

What’s the current or predicted word count of your work in progress or latest book?

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