Every writer worries that their manuscript isn’t the “right” number of pages. Since books come in all shapes and sizes, the publishing world judges submissions not by pages, but by word count.

It’s easy enough to calculate with your writing software, but no one ever tells you how long something should be. While there are exceptions (Twilight was way longer than normal, When The Emperor Was Divine was way shorter), for the most part, if your manuscript is too far outside the lines, an agent or publisher won’t consider it. Your manuscript is supposed to be complete and perfect before you submit it. Especially if it’s too long, professionals will assume you didn’t edit it enough, and aren’t going to want to read your early “draft.”

Here are the standard word counts by genre:

    Adult/Romance/Mainstream Fiction/Memoir/Non-Fiction
    80,000 – 90,000 words
    Sci-Fi & Fantasy
    100,000 – 115,000 words

    Young Adult
    60,000 – 75,000 words

    Middle Grade
    25,000 – 45,000 words

    Picture Books
    500 – 600 words

Again, ignore the exceptions and shoot for the rule. Your novel might be perfect at 150,000 words, but if that number alone turns off the majority of people you submit it to, you’re much better off trimming it down to 80,000 (or turning it into two separate books).

Everyone always mentions J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series as being successful and having huge books, but the truth is, her first one wasn’t that long. While the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was a (crazy) long 257,045 words, the first one, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was just 76,944 words. After you’ve sold a few million copies, publishers will indulge you too!

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