Word Counts

We’ve had a substantial number of submissions at Literary Wanderlust lately. We always take the time to read every submission with the goal of finding some really great stories to contract and turn into books. Well, that’s not actually true. There is one category of submissions that we reject without reading—books with exorbitant word counts.



Here’s the dealio. If you submit a romance novel but the word count is 190k, we just aren’t going to read the submission. It gets an automatic generic rejection and we won’t even read the query letter.

I know that sounds cold, but we can’t sell a 190k word romance novel, especially from a 1st time author. Readers just won’t buy it. There’s just no point for us to take the time to read it.  Note that this also works in reverse. If your book is too short for the genre, it could negatively affect the submission outcome.

You see, each and every genre has an expected word count. The expected word count is based on reader expectations. In order for the book to sell, it has to be something that the reader will buy. This is a business, remember? We all want to sell books.

To help you figure out if you are in the ballpark for word counts by genre, look at the below list. Note that there are some count variances based on publisher and sub-genre. Do your research so you don’t waste your time writing something that just won’t sell because it is unrealistically long, or too short.  If you can’t find a word count for your genre/sub-genre, look at a good handful of the most recently published books and average the page count.

  • Fantasy: 90-110K
  • General Fiction: 75-100K
  • Historical: 90-120K
  • Horror: 80-100K
  • Literary: 80-100K
  • Mystery: 75-90K
  • New Adult: 60-85K
  • Paranormal: 75-95K
  • Romance: 50-90K
  • Thriller: 70-100K
  • Science Fiction: 90-120K
  • Western: 50-80K
  • Women’s Fiction: 90-100K
  • Young Adult: 60-80K

Yes, yes, there are always exceptions. But you are not it most likely.

The main takeaway is that you should know the expected word count for your genre so you can write something that readers want and expect. If your genre is not listed above, Google it. You will find it listed somewhere. Research marketing categories and genres so you can find the expected plot structure. Then write within that framework. Throw in a lot of creative stuff while you are at it. Then you will have more luck selling it. Size matters. Length matters. Yeah. Get your mind out of the gutter.

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