When you ask for an ideal word count for your manuscript, the first response you are going to get is “what genre?”. The length you should aim for varies depending on exactly what you are writing and even then, it is flexible. The problem I’ve found is that no two sources ever seem to agree on the ideal length, and it’s also very hard to find a place where all the genres are listed together.
So, for your convenience, I have scoured the internet and all of my “how to write a book” books, and come up with a generic list to help you. I have a few comments on this, but first, lets get down to brass tacks. In this list, “Min” is the shortest length I saw recommended anywhere, “Max” is the longest and “av” is the average. So hit ctrl-F and find your genre below.
High/Traditional Fantasy: Min 90,000 Max 150,000 Av 115,000
Contemporary Fantasy: Min 90,000 Max 100,000 Av 95,000
Urban Fantasy: Min 90,000 Max 100,000 Av 95,000
Romance: Min 40,000 Max 100,000 Av 85,000
Paranormal Romance: Min 85,000 Max 100,000 Av 90,000
Paranormal: Min 75,000 Max 95,000 Av 85,000
Horror: Min 80,000 Max 100,000 Av 90,000
Sci-Fi: Min 90,000 Max 125,000 Av 115,000
Hard Sci-Fi: Min 90,000 Max 110,000 Av 100,000
Space Opera: Min 90,000 Max 120,000 Av 105,000
Romantic Sci-Fi: Min 85,000 Max 100,000 Av 95,000
Chic-lit: Min 80,000 Max 100,000 Av 90,000
Westerns: Min 50,000 Max 80,000 Av 65,000
Memoir/Autobiography: Min 70,000 Max 100,000 Av 85,000
Epics: Min 100,000 Max ??? Av 110,000
Women’s Fiction: Min 80,000 Max 110,000 Av 100,000
Crime: Min 90,000 Max 100,000 Av 95,000
Thrillers/Mysteries: Min 70,000 Max 100,000 Av 80,000
Historical: Min 100,000 Max 120,000 Av 105,000
New Adult Fiction: Min 60,000 Max 85,000 Av 70,000
Non-Fiction: Min 70,000 Max 110,000 Av 90,000
Generic Commercial Fiction: Min 50,000 Max 120,000 Av 70,000
New Weird: Min 85,000 Max 110,000 Av 95,000
Comic Fantasy: Min 80,000 Max 100,000 Av 95,000
Literary Fiction: Min 40,000 Max 120,000 Av 80,000
Short Stories: Min 1000 Max 20,000 Av 8,000
Flash Fiction: Min 100 Max 500 Av 300
YA: Min 40,000 Max 88,000 Av 70,000
Middle Grade: Min 20,000 Max 55,000 Av 35,000
Picture Books: Standard 30-32 pages Min 500 Max 700 Av 600
Phew! There you have it. If I missed anything, please drop a comment and let me know.
I should say that manuscript length is not something which is set in stone, but be cautious if you find yourself straying too far towards either end of your bracket as some literary agents or publishers may just use it as an excuse to reject you. In fact, in my search for this information, I discovered that an excess word count is a very common problem for aspiring writers who are pitching their work. Sometimes it can seem like it’s impossible to cut anything more, but you can always find a way. Be ruthless. You may have to cut out a whole side plot or character arc, but that could be just what the book needs. That said, it’s just as bad to not write enough although, strangely, this seems to be a less common problem.
Word count is particularly treacherous for those writing children’s fiction as the recommended length seems to run on a sliding scale depending on the exact age demographic. I suggest looking at the word counts of similar books but remember, sequels are almost always longer than a debut. So focus your search on authors who are in a similar position in their career and in their book series to you.
If you found this list useful, please click like and follow. And join me again next week when I will be talking about the basics of autobiography.
Feature Image by Keith Williamson