by Tamera Lynn Kraft
Many times a writer will write a novel, edit it, polish it, write a great query letter and proposal, and submit it to a publisher or agent only to find the word count is wrong. Here are general guidelines for the word count publishers are looking for with different genres. Keep in mind that specific publishers may have different word count preferences.
Fantasy Genre: Fantasy novels can contain between 80,000 and 150,000 words approximately. Fantasy novels can be a little longer than other novels, and they are sometimes serialized.
Romance Genre: A stand-alone romance novel is normally between 80,000 and 100,000 words. A category romance novel (like those published by Harlequin) is generally shorter, usually around 60,000 words, and each “imprint” will have its own criteria.
Historical Fiction Genre: A stand-alone historical book may be 85,000 to 100,000 words. Publishing a book longer than 100,000 words is difficult (especially for first-timers), but historical novels are sometimes longer. Historical category romances are shorter, generally about 60,000 words.
Mystery Genre: Mysteries vary in length. Stand-alone mysteries (which may have some overlap with thrillers) may be between 75,000 and 100,000 words. Cozy mysteries, like those in a series, are often on the shorter side, about 50,000 to 60,000 words.
Suspense/Thriller Genre: Thriller novels generally run between 90,000 to 100,000 words (loosely), but they can be a little longer as well.
Speculative Genre: Speculative and Horror novels vary in length and are generally between 80,000 and 100,000 words.
Young Adult (YA) Genre: Generally, YA books run between 40,000 and 75,000 words, depending on the target age group.
Western Genre: Westerns tend to be on the shorter side, anywhere from 45,000 to 75,000 words.
If you’re not sure where your novel fits on this list, the general rule of thumb is a stand alone novel is generally 80,000 to 100,000 words. A tradeback or category genre novel (a novel generally printed in paperback by a company that puts out many standard genre novels a year) is between 50,000 and 75,000 words.