}); [{"id":426,"date":"2015-04-05T06:51:20","date_gmt":"2015-04-05T06:51:20","guid":{"rendered":"http:\/\/manuscriptagency.com.au\/?p=426"},"modified":"2015-04-05T06:55:27","modified_gmt":"2015-04-05T06:55:27","slug":"word-count-by-genre-how-long-should-my-book-be","status":"publish","type":"post","link":"http:\/\/manuscriptagency.com.au\/word-count-by-genre-how-long-should-my-book-be\/","title":{"rendered":"Word count by genre: How long should my book really be?"},"content":{"rendered":"

Publishers and agents are typically inundated with manuscript submissions from authors seeking publication. And as a result, \u2018the authorities\u2019 (as I shall hereby refer to them as) are looking for reasons to reject your book. The standouts are standouts, and speak for themselves. But for every standout manuscript there are hundreds of manuscripts that are hard to place \u2013 could they be best sellers if they found the right audience? More often than not they are looking for reasons why these manuscripts shouldn\u2019t <\/em>make their lists. And scrutinising the word count is one such method of reducing their \u2018slush pile\u2019.<\/p>\n

\u2018The authorities\u2019 ask for a list of details in your cover (query) letter for a reason, it is their way of determining your understanding of your own work, the market, your competition etc. They want you to make their jobs as easy as possible \u2013 not because they are lazy, but simply overwhelmed. They need reasons to throw your manuscript in the bin and move onto the next one \u2013 and it\u2019s not because they are horrible people who want to force people to \u2018fail\u2019, it comes down to time pressures really.<\/p>\n

They also are looking for ammunition to take into \u2018the pitch\u2019 meetings, where they know if they are not prepared, then it will be a bloodbath. The truth\u00a0is that, even if they love your manuscript and believe in it, they still need to convince \u2018the suits\u2019 (aka the sales and marketing department). \u2018The authorities\u2019 know that by pitching a manuscript that comfortably fits into a saleable category they have a much better chance of \u2018selling\u2019 your book to \u2018the suits\u2019.<\/p>\n

Word count comes into this overall equation. Most literary genres have expected word lengths, which have been driven by audiences \u2013 in terms of their own expectations of the genre, as well as our (the professionals) expectations of them (an obvious example for this: children\u2019s books need to be shorter than science-fiction for adults, simply because children don\u2019t have the attention span that adults possess).<\/p>\n

Adhering to the expected word count demonstrates that you understand your market. It also shows that you have the ability to pace your narrative and make every word count (that you are disciplined at self-editing).<\/p>\n

Publishing realities such as \u2018production costs\u2019 are another reason that \u2018the authorities\u2019 need you to respect word count expectations. The greater the word count = the larger the book = more sections and pages that are required to be printed = upping the price of your book once it hits the shelves. And why would a publisher want to spend more on producing a book and then taking the risk of selling it at a higher price point than they have to? Ultimately, if they have five other books in your genre that are \u2018as good as\u2019 your book then what would persuade them to publish yours? It would have to be pretty darn good to demand a higher sales price point and the chance of losing sales to a cheaper book in the same genre.<\/p>\n

Now, this doesn\u2019t mean that you have to compromise your manuscript and make it homogeneous, however by trying to tick a few boxes it might well help you find publication. And keep in mind that although there are always<\/em> exceptions to the rule\u2026don\u2019t count on it that you are that exception.<\/p>\n

So, with the above in mind, here is a rough guide for expected word lengths for adult fiction. (You can read more about Children\u2019s Fiction HERE<\/a>.)<\/p>\n

Here are the general figures that you\u2019ll want to know:<\/p>\n