Word Counts

“MANUSCRIPT TITLE is complete at 76,000 words…”

You’re all used to seeing that word count in query letters. But let’s just talk about it a little.

For those of you who are unsure, yes you can round your word count. I say round it to the nearest thousand. In fact, it’s a little weird to me if the word count isn’t rounded at all.

I mean, I’d never say, “Wow, your book is 57,322 words long. Good thing, because if it was 57,323 I wouldn’t read it.” Also I never compare the word count of the actual manuscript to what the query letter says (“What do you mean this manuscript has 64,342 words? The query letter says it only has 64,340 words. How dare they!”)

Basically, the word count is just to give the reader a general feel for how long the book is. Honestly, I don’t even notice it unless it’s abnormally high or low. If it’s too long, I worry that there are too many unnecessary details slowing up the plot. If it’s too short, I worry that the author has hurried through the manuscript and that it will be confusing.

Just what range is normal depends on the age group and genre. For example, 35,000 is reasonable for MG, but would probably be short for a YA novel. Likewise, I’m not surprised to see fantasy novels be longer than contemporary.

So check what range is normal for your age group and genre. If your novel seems to fit, just round the number and don’t worry about it. There are more important parts of the query for you to focus on.


2 thoughts on “Word Counts

  1. I’ve had editors tell me 60-80K is the sweet spot for my upper MG urban fantasy, but if normal MG is 35K, is this right?

    • Well the editors know better than I do. And nobody really “knows.” But fantasy is almost always longer, so don’t worry about it. Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series, for instance, has books that are quite a bit longer than your average MG.

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