Novel Length = 60k, no 100k, no wait 50k, no no 80k

pages

What length should your first masterpiece (debut novel be)?

After I started writing, I started reading blogs and forums and looking for answers to questions this being one of them. The vast amount of information out there is a little overwhelming. The genre of your work affects the length of your novel as well.

Here are just some of the answers I found (k stands for 1000):

  • never submit a debut novel over 50k
  • a debut novel needs to be at least 70k to be considered
  • fantasy, debut or not, should be at least 100k
  • agents are looking for novels with more meat (hence larger books)
  • agents are looking for short debut novels to introduce authors to the public

Let me say upfront, you write until your done and then edit. I got that, but I’m a goal-oriented gal, visually oriented, which means I like to see progress. So, I arbitrarily picked 50k for my rough-first-exploratory draft that way if I go over it will be a bonus. I made myself a word graphic, and I have displayed it over on the right. It’s a fun way to get me to write too!

For my novelist readers:
What was the length of your debut novel or what are you planning to make it?

For my reading readers:
What size novel do you prefer to read from a debut novelist?

Update: As of 2017, the standard, average length for an adult debut novel — when looking for an agent or publisher — is 80k. Young adult is 60k and Middle Grade is 30k. I pooled the numbers from several agent/agency/publisher sites. Scifi and fantasy will go higher due to world-building, but don’t go over 110k for an adult debut.

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14 Comments

  1. I think it depends on the genre. I write mystery and not a cozy mystery which I believe is shorter so I make my novels about 90K.

    ann

  2. As an avid reader and proofreader of any genre, I don't pay much attention to the size. The important thing is the flow and whether or not the book holds my interest. Sometimes you really hate to see a novel end! Debut or not, books between 50 and 100K are preferrable to me. Unless they're a compilation by two or three authors – then shorter is okay…

    By the way, please stop by my blog today – a special Monday post with an award is waiting there for you! ♥

  3. I have seen different word counts mentioned for different genres, so I guess it's important to fall into those parameters. Most of what I read, commercial and women's fiction, seems to be in the 80 to 100k range.

  4. My first draft was 120,000. I've whittled that down to 78,000. I think you have to write as many words as it takes to tell the story and not any more or less.

  5. Oh I so wish I had the patience… I am just hoping that one day I can copy and paste my blog together ;0)

  6. I think you have to have an idea of what publishing house you're targeting too. If you're writing for Harlequin, then you have to know what length they require. If you're in YA, you have to know what most of the YA lines require. Since I write historical, I checked what the major houses I was targeting required and aimed for that.

  7. isn't 50k considered a novella? And who's buying novellas?

    I just aim for 80K – for almost all genres, that's a good goal

  8. The genre I write (MG) is supposed to come in approx 70,000. I initially wrote 180,000 – dropped it to 50,000 – went back up to 100,000 – it's now sitting at 79,000! Blah blah blah….I exhaust myself… 🙂

    I find it's easier to trim the fat than fill in huge holes. Well, that's my thoughts on the matter anyway.

    Great post!

  9. See! Isn't it confusing? Everything I’ve read says a novella it 30-40k tops.

    P.S. I’ve not done a stitch of writing today!

  10. For my YAs I always shoot for about 65k, but I let them be as long or as short as they need to be. For MG, about 35-40k.

  11. I don't really care how long a debut novel is? If I've heard it's good and the strory opens well, I'd read something very long or something short. I think for readers it's the story that matters; word count matters to publishers of debut authors because if it doesn't sell well, they're out a lot of money.

    Corra

    from the desk of a writer

  12. There's so much conflicting advice out there, some from the agents themselves!

    My debut novel is 75,000 words. It's YA dystopian. My agent said that was a great length for a debut, and we worked together to cut over 8000 words to get it to that length. She thought it was too long for a debut.

  13. I read all lengths, although if it's longer than comparable books and by a debut novelist I might think about it a little longer. My own tend to come in around 80,000-85,000 words.

  14. About 90 YA paranormal romance

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