But, But, But My Shoes Were Awesome.

I’m a big fan of countdowns.  I count down to holidays, writer conferences, date nights, and of course, the glorious day I can type The End on my manuscript.  If you’re new to the writing world, you may be asking, “How do you know when you’ll reach The End?”  My answer: Research!


Tip 1:  Count words not pages.  I know this sounds simple, but it needs to be said.  Manuscripts are described in terms of word count and genre.  Something I didn’t always know…


A few years ago when I first started writing I didn’t know to count words.  What I did know, (because I’m just a little OCD) was how many pages made up a book.  I admit it.   When I started my first manuscript, I pulled out over 30 historical romances from under my bed and began tallying pages.  I counted words per page and converted that figure to words per page on my computer–since paperbacks and 8 ½ x 11 aren’t the same size.  It was a complicated mess of numbers meant to get my writing in the same range as the authors I liked to read.  I can remember thinking The End resided on page 320 of my document.  Which really doesn’t matter since that is not the way to calculate length of your novel.  That is perhaps the most complicated means of calculating anything.  *face palm* We live, we learn…and I’ve learned a thing or two since then.  Count words.


Why is any of this important if you don’t enjoy counting down to big events as I do? 


Let’s say you take the time to write a manuscript and edit it to perfection.  You schedule a pitch session with an agent at a conference.  You practice your pitch, lose 5lbs, get your hair done and buy new shoes—all to make your dream of sharing your story with the world a reality.  You walk in wearing your fabulous shoes, sit down and say, “My 40,000 word contemporary romance novel is set in North Carolina…” That agent won’t ask for a sample of your work.  Why?  You’ve worked so hard, and your shoes are awesome!  It’s because you said the wrong words.  You called your novella a novel and in doing so, didn’t adhere to publishing guidelines.  Agents want to be able to sell your work because that’s their job. It’s also how they pay their bills and eat.  If you call your novella a novella you are more likely to get a request because they can sell it. It fits into a category and can be filed somewhere in a bookstore.  Another example is if you have a cozy mystery of 140,000 words…it may be amazing, the best cozy ever!  But, you won’t get requests because it doesn’t fit within the requirements of the industry.  However, let’s say you pitch a 75,000 word cozy—requests galore!  Fellow writers, don’t shoot yourself in the foot.  Publishers want consistent novel lengths from their authors.  Pay attention to your word goals and you’ll have more success with your queries and pitches.


Know how many words you need.  If you know what you write, as Jeanette discussed in her last post, then you can look up word counts on all publisher’s websites under the submissions heading.  Pick a publisher you like and start clicking—it’s much easier than algorithms of page numbers.  *grins*


Here is a rough guide based on my experience and observation in the industry: 

*disclaimer* I do recommend that you research the publishing industry and write to the length right for you.  These are only estimates of genre requirements based on my observations.  Research, research, research what you write!


A novella is 35k to 45k.

Middle grade should be around 35k.

YAs are usually 65k.

Romances are 80k to 90k.

Category romance is around 65k depending on the imprint.

Cozy mysteries are 75k.

Fantasy/ Sci-fi are 90k to 110k because world building takes words.

Women’s fiction is 90k to 100k because women are complicated. 😉


As for me, I write historical romance.  My goal is always 90,000 words and I’m contracted for at least 80,000 words by my publisher.  Why are these numbers on my mind today?  Because I’m counting down to The End, of course! Where is your The End?  Comment with your number.   Happy writing and happy researching!



E. Michels



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