Word Count Confusion
Blogger: Mary Keeley
Did you know that every little detail you include–or leave out–in your book proposal reveals something about you? That’s why we stress on this blog that you need to put as much effort into preparing it as you do writing your manuscript. One of those details that results in a keep-reading or an instantaneous reject-now response from the agent or editor is your word count.
Yes, the word count you provide on your summary page communicates more than the fact you know you need to include it. It shows how well aware you are of the acceptable range for your genre and that you have complied with it. It’s especially important for debut authors to get this right.
Publishers don’t arbitrarily designate these varied ranges for mysterious reasons or to be difficult. A number of factors go into the equation that include a balancing of the following:
- the cost of goods (COG) to produce a typical book in the genre
- the average sales potential based on recent history for the genre
- the reasonable length needed to write a compelling book in the genre
- the price readers are willing to pay for a book in the genre, based on historical sales data
It isn’t an exact science, and in some cases there is good reason for going outside the normal range. But here are some general word count ranges to target in the genres our agency primarily represents.
Adult Fiction: 75,000 to 100,000. Historical novels are at the top of the range because of the historical detail that is necessary to include. Contemporary and suspense should be somewhere between the lower end and somewhere near the top end.
YA Fiction: 45,000 – 70,000
Middle Grade Fiction: 30,000 – 40,000
Novellas: 40,000 – 50,000
Nonfiction: 40,000 – 55,000
Narrative Nonfiction and Memoir: 40,000 – 50,000
YA and Middle Grade Nonfiction: 40,000 – 65,000
A word count that is much lower than the acceptable range alerts the agent or editor that your novel or nonfiction book probably hasn’t been adequately developed. A word count that is much higher than the average range tells the agent or editor your work probably needs to be tightened. Excess words, phrases, paragraphs, or even whole chapters need to be trimmed. Not only does that work fit your book within the acceptable range, but it most often also results in a better book. You want to address these issues BEFORE you submit your proposal. The word count range can be a helpful tool for you.
Your word count is one of many details in your proposal the communicate volumes of information to the agent or editor. If many of you indicate you are interested in a refresher on creating a proposal, I’ll reserve that topic for a future blog.
Where does your WIP fall in the range for your genre? In what ways do they help you as you map out your book?
Do you know the word count to target for your genre? Here is a list. Click to Tweet.
The word count on your proposal communicates volumes to an agent or editor. Here’s why. Click to Tweet.