Seeking Traditional Publication: How Long Should Your Manuscript Be?


Excellent post. I would like to see more recent ‘norms’ than 2008 figures, but those are all I seem to find when searching the net. I agree…Colleen seems to know her stuff so these are nice figures to keep handy.

H L Petrovic

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Greetings Brave Adventurers,

I’ve spent a lot of time researching manuscript lengths on the internet (mostly as either an avoidance tactic to actually writing, or when the word count of my project begins to balloon out of control).

There’s good news and bad news when it comes to suggested manuscript word counts. The good news is that these rules of ‘word counts’ are broken all the time. The bad new is, that they’re usually broken by seasoned authors, sequels or that extraordinary run-away bestseller (and while we all think that’s probably us, it just as likely probably isn’t). Of course, us Fantasy / Sci-Fi writers are the worst culprits when it comes to phone-book word counts. Bigger is better, right?

So what is ‘industry standard’ when it comes to manuscript word counts?

The follow list is taken from the website:

http://theswivet.blogspot.com.au/2008/03/on-word-counts-and-novel-length.html

There’s a lot of conflicting information on the internet. Of the…

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4 thoughts on “Seeking Traditional Publication: How Long Should Your Manuscript Be?

  1. Back when I was trying to get my teen novel published (14 years ago), I was consistently told that my 350 page manuscript was way too long, so I split it into two books. Nowadays, I think things are a little less stringent. I might have been able to get away with the longer ms, especially considering how popular Rowling’s books were and how large some of them got. As Jennifer mentioned, her figure for a printed novel sounds about right.

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  2. From what I heard from agents and editors at writing conferences in 2012 and 2013, YA in the 60-80k is normal and first adult novels in the 80-90k is the sweet spot. If it’s fantasy you can go to 100k and be fine. These are just benchmarks and of course there are always books that are longer and shorter that do get published. But those are the most recent word count ranges I’m aware of. 🙂

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    1. I’ve heard that 50,000 is the comfort spot for YA, of course, with a little leeway for world-building in Fantasy.

      I think this is due to concerns about the cost of competitive printed books. I’ve also heard that teens like the feeling of accomplishment in finishing a novel, so they stray from longer ones. That, or course, depends on the teen.

      In the digital world, I can’t see it mattering, but when I look at requested word counts, most seem to be 50,000. I have seen a few at 60,000 though. In both cases, they say that the rules can be bent.

      Editing changes the word count on the final product, anyway.

      I just write, and see where it goes. I’m not going to pad with fluff to make a word count, and I’m not going to cut something critical either. If I’m over a particular publishers requirements, I’d send to someone else. If I’m under… No biggie. There’s a big market for novellas as well these days.

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