More times than I’d like, my office must send out letters advising aspiring authors that their manuscripts are too short or too long. Much of the time, the author is talented but hasn’t investigated the market well enough to know if the word count is right. Submitting a project that’s simply the wrong word count wastes everyone’s time – including yours. If we mention that your book is the wrong length, for us, this means that your writing and story tempt us, but you’ll need to do more work before we can pursue. By the same token, if a book that just doesn’t grab us and on top of everything else, the word count is wrong, that gives us one more reason to send a rejection.
Don’t let this happen to you.
Which market do you want to pursue?
Because I’m known to be successful with category romance novels, I receive many submissions for this market. Here is the link to Harlequin’s guidelines.
Scroll down that page and you’ll see all the boxes have the expected word count for each word count posted in huge numbers. The word count can be slightly over or under but please obey the instructions on word count as well as the other guidelines.
If you want to write longer novels, aim for a word count of about 90,000. I strongly suggest not going under 85,000 or over 100,000 words. If you are writing for a specialized market with different guidelines, let us know in your cover letter.
The layout of nonfiction books may have more white space, so your project could be viable at 50,000 words, and occasionally 40,000 words. I’d go for at least 60,000 words and no more than 90,000 words for commercial nonfiction. (Divide your word count by 300 and that is an estimate at the number of printed pages the book will have in physical form. 60,000 words ÷ 300 = 200 pages.)
But my book is special!
Yes, your book is special and so are you. But it still must be within a publisher’s preferred word count.
Even though creativity is important, remember that agents and editors still have to pursue books that are market-friendly. An author who knows the market and where her book will fit is a great help to an agent. That’s the author you want to be.
What is the most surprising element of this post?
Do you favor long books or short books?
Other than the Bible, what is the longest book you’ve read?