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Of all the questions I’m asked about writing how long should a book be? is right up there at the top. It comes up so often.
Often, it comes up because someone’s already written 120,000 words and they’ve got their fingers crossed that I’ll tell them that’s no big deal.
Or they’re hoping I’ll tell them that 40,000 is plenty long enough for a novel.
In theory, your book should be as long or short as it needs to be in order for you to tell your story.
And if you’re self-publishing, it really is that easy.
But if you plan on trying to be traditionally published, there are guidelines that are important to know and understand. Because agents and publishers use your book’s length as a way to decide whether or not to pursue your project.
Here’s the thing: Agents and Editors get gazillions of submissions every year. They actually take on a tiny percentage of them. Like, less than ten percent. So, they need a way to quickly weed out what they don’t want.
Manuscript word count is one of those ways. They know they won’t be able to sell a debut novel that’s 120,000 words or 40,000 words very easily, so they just pass.
. . . .
A standard adult or young adult novel should be less than 100,000 words. This is a hard stop for traditional publishing. Once you’re established, you can write longer books, but for a debut novel? Stick to the 70,000 to 90,000 word range. Like glue.
. . . .
Middle grade books are written for readers who are between the ages of about 8 to 12. The standard word count for this type of book is between 35,000 and 55,000 words.
. . . .
There are two kinds of writers out there. Some of us write short first drafts and in revision, we have to bulk things up. Some of us write long first drafts and in revision, we have to lean things down.
So, if your adult or YA book’s first draft is 40,000 words, you have some work to do — just like someone who’s first draft is 150,000 words.
I can practically hear you telling me that your book has to be 150,000 words — there’s nothing you can cut without ruining your story. Or that you’ve told your whole story in 40,000 words and adding anything is unthinkable.
Here’s the thing. If you indie publish, you can publish whatever you want. Including your 150,000 word monster of a book or your very slim volume.
Link to the rest at Medium
PG notes that the OP never discusses the length of ebooks.