You’ve probably read other articles like this before, but here’s my take on it.
Although there is no fixed word amount, there are generally recognized guidelines depending on their genre and audience. Younger audiences have smaller attention spans and therefore cater to short, fast-paced books; adults are more tolerable with long manuscripts. Science fiction and fantasy works tend toward a high word count since the writer develops a fictional world. Historical fiction, Young Adult, Westerners, and Mysteries tend towards a lower end of the spectrum–of course, there are always exceptions.
Keep in mind these are generalized word count brackets.
General Book Types:
- Flash Fiction: 300 to 1,500 words
- Short Story: 1,500 to 30,000
- Novellas: 30,000 to 50,000
- Novels: 50,000 to 100,000
- Romance: 40,000 to 100,000 words
- Mystery/Thriller/Horror: 70,000 to 90,000
- Horror: 80,000 to 100,000
- Historical: 90,000 to 100,000
- Sci-fi/Fanasty: 90,000 to 130,000
- Poetry: 5 to 3k
- Picture Book: 400 to 800
- Play: 1k to 32k
- Middle Grade: 25k to 40k
- Young Adult: 50k to 80k
Ultimately, these listings are a guide, not necessarily a strict rulebook. You can have your long epic fantasy and do well with it. However, for new writers, it is best to start small and work your way up. Once one’s legacy is built, agents and publishers can reference this track record. This increases the chance it gets published regardless of word count or even prose finesse (if you have enough avid fans who will buy the book, publishers will overlook certain shortcomings, since they know the books will rake in profits regardless).
Another thing to remember is: quantity alone does not a good book make. You have to earn your manuscript, one word at a time. If a document is 150,000 words long but fills its pages with redundant vocabulary, it won’t read well. Adverbs and excessive prose often slog writing; an attempt by the writer to look professional. As a general rule of thumb, the shorter the word/phrase is, the better. The simpler a manuscript is, the more people can read it, and the more can enjoy it.
Each word in a manuscript should contribute to the book in at least one of the following ways:
- Character progression
- Plot development
- Environmental immersion
There are exceptions, but if you find a word that doesn’t fit one of these criteria, it can usually be removed. You don’t want to be overly descriptive either. Half of the fun comes from the reader’s imagination; give half and let the reader form the rest. This stimulates the reader’s mind, bringing with it a sense of fulfillment. Remember, a book is as much of a journey for the writer as it is for the reader.
Thank you for reading. 🙂