What Is The Ideal Length For My Novel?

By on January 14, 2016
What Is The Ideal Length For My Novel? - Writer's Life.org

It may seem strange to ask the question ‘how long should my novel be?’ Surely a novel should be as long as it needs to be to tell the story? While this may be true in some ways, if you are hoping to find a publisher for your novel, it is actually highly important to pay attention to its length and not to deviate too much from the guidelines.

The aim of any publisher is to make money from the books they sell. While they will always be on the lookout for the next big thing, successful publishers are a business, they know what they want, and what works in the market. They are in a risky business. If they invest time and money into a book that doesn’t do well, they could easily end up loosing money.

Because of this if they are willing to take on a new author, they will expect the book to be around 100,000 words. The reason for this?  For a start it is likely that the book will be overwritten, and therefore would benefit form being cut down, leaving a tight and polished manuscript. On a more practical level however the longer the book, the greater the cost to the publisher, not only having to edit it, but literally more words means more paper and ink, and greater shipping costs too.

It is important to note that different genres have different word counts which are considered acceptable by the editors who work in publishing houses (the ones who will decide whether or not to take on your book). For example, if you are writing teen fiction it is best to keep your novel at around 80,000 words. Mystery, romance, and horror novels however should all be around the 100,000 word mark for first time authors.

This is not to say however that you should try to cram your story into a small novel just for the sake of it. Editors are trained to see the sales potential of a book regardless of its word count. You should keep in mind however, that if you present an editor with a huge manuscript of 120,000+ words it is going to take a lot more convincing them that they should take it on.

Similarly it is good to remember that you can’t expect publishers to take on your novel if it is ridiculously short. People simply won’t spend their money on novels which are very thin. Think about it, wouldn’t you be suspicious of a book under 50,000 words in length, claiming to be a great work of fiction? Stories need time to develop and to engage their readers - so don’t rush your work either.

With so much competition these days, it is important to give yourself the best chance possible if you are hoping to get published. Of course the most important thing is to present an exceptionally interesting and well-crafted piece of work. If you can do this you are likely to stand out, regardless of the length of your novel.

Bethany Cadman -contributor

Bethany Cadman -contributor

About Ty Cohen


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *