When it comes to word count, size matters…

I’ve been busy re-writing my manuscript. Why, you may ask? I thought you were querying literary agents? Well, I received feedback from one agent that sent a chill down my spine and has caused me reevaluate my entire book.

She said, “Truthfully, it’s a little short for today’s market–most women’s fiction is in the 80,000-100,000 word range.”

Yikes! 80,000 words!! My book was almost 52,000 words. How had I undershot the word count goal by so much? I immediately jumped on Twitter and Google to try to find out if this is just one person’s opinion or industry standard.

When I first started my book, I thought it was a romance. As I got further into the plot, I realized that romance was one of the sub-plots, but not the main focus. As I’ve blogged before, I have struggled with slotting my book into the correct genre. Now that I know DOG DAZE OF SUMMER falls into the women’s fiction category, specifically the sub-genre chicklit,  I should have known the word count I was aiming for was closer to 80,000.

And while there are differing opinions on book length, all that I’ve read says not to expect the be the exception to the rule. I’ve read repeatedly that most agents want a book that’s right around the 80,000 range.

At a high level, here are optimal word counts by genre:

  • Literary/Commercial/Women’s — 80,000 to 100,000
  • Romance — 50,000 to 100,000
  • Young Adult — 50,000 to 90,000
  • Middle grade — 25,000 to 45,000
  • Novella — 20,000 to 50,000

It was particularly helpful to find some examples of word count from well-known books:

  • Fifty Shades of Grey 105,000
  • Divergent 105,000
  • Can You Keep a Secret 100,000
  • Joy Luck Club 91,400
  • Gone Girl 86,400
  • The Colour Purple 66,500

Some additional references:

Word Count for Novels and Children’s Books: The Definitive Post

Word count by genre: How long should my book really be?

PS Literary Agency agent Carly Watters #askagent session

Infographic: word counts of famous books

Word Count for Famous Novels (organized)

Word Count