Word count does matter

People will tell you that the word count of your novels doesn't matter. This is largely true. While you're writing, you should be worrying about the writing and not the word count. However, what it doesn't say is that word count really matters if you seriously want to be published.

So, as I didn't wish to recieve any nasty surprises (namely my novel being too short), I sent queries out to a number of agents in Australia where I live. I am writing an epic fantasy novel, and I believe it is also young adult. So here's what went down with the agency, Australian Literary Management:
When it is ready, I plan to submit my manuscript to Australian Literary Management. I was wondering what kind of range would be acceptable as far as word count for an Epic Fantasy novel.Also, when stating the word count should I be using the word count that Microsoft Word tells me? If not, which method should I use?

Dear Ryan,

A word count given by microsoft word is fine. As a rough guide fantasy novels can be anywhere in the range of 100, 000 words to roughly 160,000 words.

Best regards, Karen Colston
That was where I started to get worried, because for my novel I am aiming for between 70,000 and 100,000.
Thank you for your prompt reply. If the novel was marketed as a YA Fantasy, would 70,000 to 100,000 words be too short? I may have to integrate the idea of the sequel to reach the 100,000-160,000 mark, which is entirely possible, but I'd prefer not to.

Dear Ryan,

Yes that word count would be fine for the YA market, unfortunately though, we are not looking at any YA material at this time. A list of literary agents can be found on the Australian Literary Agent's Assoc website; www.austlitagentsassoc.com.au/index.html

Best regards,

Karen Colston

So there we go. This agency wouldn't accept my manuscript if it wasn't within the range they were looking for. As you can see, the number of words that are needed are dependent on the genre you are writing. A young adult, epic fantasy novel would have a word count of 70,000 to 100,000, as opposed to a general fantasy which would be 100,000 to 160,000 words.

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zellakate said...

This was a good post. :)

Is there a guide anywhere online or in a writing/publishing book that explains the general word limit for the different genres? For instance: what would be acceptable in historical fiction or mysteries and/or crime fiction? Or is each publisher different? I am assuming, based on what I've read, each publisher has its own guidelines, but these word limit guidelines are fairly standard across the industry. Am I wrong? :)

Ryan Sullivan said...

No, Zella, you are as right as one can be with today's technology. Unfortunately, there is no official site that I have found that will tell you what the general guidelines are, however while you search you will find many of the sites give approximately the same ranges, so you could use those as a general reference.
Actually, just now I found an incredible site I think will be useful to you. http://ezinearticles.com/?Genre-Novels---Word-Count-Rules,-Subgenres,-and-Guidelines-For-Getting-Your-Book-Published&id=2545501
It gives all the word counts and what defines the genres.

From this I have found:
Historical fiction: 85,000-100,000(sometimes a little over)
Mystery: 75,000-100,000

You will find that fantasy novels very often break the rules and go far over the "limit", as in 300,000 word epics, but these generally won't be published unless you have had many books published before.

zellakate said...

Ryan, Thank you so much! That was a very helpful link. In fact, I saved it as a favorite! :)

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Welcome to The Dark Corner of the Mind. My name is Ryan Sullivan and my aim with this blog is to help others with their own writing, as well as to make note of some of my own writing endeavours.

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