Word-count Guidelines

Recently, I was invited to write a short story for an anthology, Gone by morning, and I’ve really enjoyed creating a story for this. One of the bumps I stumbled on though was keeping my story to the word count limit

There’s a lot of debate about word count limits and guidelines. So I’ll start by saying this: Guidelines are not rules, they are guidelines. And Guidelines exist for a reason. 

A manuscript’s word count is important for two main reasons:

  • Reader expectations
  • Printing costs 

Publishing standards change based on reader expectations and market cost. Now, if readers of a certain genre in a certain category are used to a certain standard, it only makes sense to keep your product within that standard to sell to that audience. 

For example, if YA fantasy readers have come to expect 80,000 words roughly, it only makes sense to keep your manuscript around that average. 

I figured that, like me, some may not actually know the standard industry word count guidelines. So, here are some guidelines that may help: 

  • Micro fiction – under 500 words
  • Flash fiction – 500 to 1,000 words
  • Short story – 1,000 to 7,500 words (this can stretch to 8,000)
  • Novelette – 7,500 to 19,000 words, roughly
  • Novella – 20,000 to 40,000
  • Novel – over 40,000 or 50,000

These are rough guidelines for different types of stories. When we go to genres, there are also word-count expectations there too. 

  • Literary / Commercial / Women’s fiction – 80,000 to 110,000 words
  • Crime Fiction – 90,000 to 100,000 words
  • Mysteries / Thrillers / Suspense – 70,000 to 90,000 words
  • Romance – 40,000 to 100,000 words, but for mainstream romance novels 70K-100K
  • Fantasy – 90,000 to 120,000 words
  • Paranormal – 75,000 to 95,000 words
  • Horror – 80,000 to 100,000 words 
  • Science Fiction – 90,000 to 125,000 words
  • Historical – 80,000 to 120,000 words
  • Young Adult (YA) Fiction – 50,000 to 80,000 words 
  • Middle Grade – 25,000 to 40,000 words
  • Picture Books – 500 to 700 words
  • Non-Fiction – 70,000 to 110,000 words

Like I mentioned, these are guidelines, and there are many who have gone against the norm and their books have still made it. So, if you’re an indie author/writer, it’s really up to you in the end. 

When you write your story, you’re writing it for you. When it comes to publishing, the book is being published for your reader. 

Hope this helps. Let me know what you think. 

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