Do You Know Your Genre’s Word Count?


There are things that you really don’t discover until after you start sending your manuscript out into the writing world. There were things I wished I had known before I started sending out that first really sad query letter. I could’ve avoided some very embarrassing rejection letters, but I just didn’t know.

Even though I had a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in creative writing, there weren’t classes devoted to the art of writing a query letter or a proposal, submitting to an agent and what to expect after getting an agent. Sure, I had maybe a 20-minute section in class that glazed over the submission process, but it would’ve saved me a lot of time and embarrassment if I just knew the basics. So, this week, I’ll be covering a few of the things that I wished I had known. When you read them, you may think, “Oh Grace, that’s really pitiful you didn’t know about that….” Haha well, I didn’t. Let me help you not make the same mistakes that I did. Confessions of a newbie novelist:

For my first historical fiction novel, I submitted it with only a 50k word count. Sigh. Yeah, that’s only the halfway mark for most historical fiction pieces, but the agent was very kind and gently told me that I needed to increase my word count. Thankfully, I had already started “book two” of my “series.” Yeah, so I smashed them together and got a whopping 75k word count novel. I edited it a bit and started to send it out again. See? I told you it was sad. (The novel has since been shelved. I’ll fix it one day, but I need some distance to gain perspective annnnnd strength to revamp it because it’s going to take work to make it fit into the CBA Guidelines. With that being said:

Know Your Genre’s Word Count!

I’ve compiled a list of average word counts as just a guide to give you an idea of what agents and publishers look for in word counts in the different genres. Also, be sure to check with each agency/publisher that you will be sending your work to for their specific guidelines as well. Each agency is different, so be sure to do your homework before sending out your proposal to give your book the best chance to get that wonderful YES!

Fantasy: 90,000 to 100,000

Historical Fiction: 85,000 to 120,000.

Literary / Commercial / Women’s Fiction: 80,000 to 110,000

Mysteries / Thrillers / Suspense: 70,000 to 90,000

Non-Fiction: 70,000 to 110,000

Novella: 20,000 to 50,000

Romance: 85,000 to 100,000

Western: 80,000 to 110,000

Young Adult Fiction (YA): 50,000 to 80,000

As a debut writer, I’d recommend doing about 2k over the minimum word count to be safe. I’ve heard that publishers tend to not want to take the risk publishing a debut writer if their work is over 100k because more words equal more pages and thus, the more money they have to invest on a debut author. When you have one published novel under your belt and it does well, increase that word count!

Happy writing!

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About Grace Hitchcock

Grace Hitchcock's first novella, The Widow of St. Charles Avenue, released in Barbour Publishing’s The Second Chance Brides Collection August 2017. Her second novella will release in Barbour Publishing’s The Southern Belle Brides Collection in 2018. She has a Masters in Creative Writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in History. Grace is a Louisiana Southerner living in Colorado with her husband, Dakota, and newborn son.

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