Seeking Traditional Publication: How Long Should Your Manuscript Be?


Greetings Brave Adventurers,

I’ve spent a lot of time researching manuscript lengths on the internet (mostly as either an avoidance tactic to actually writing, or when the word count of my project begins to balloon out of control).

There’s good news and bad news when it comes to suggested manuscript word counts. The good news is that these rules of ‘word counts’ are broken all the time. The bad new is, that they’re usually broken by seasoned authors, sequels or that extraordinary run-away bestseller (and while we all think that’s probably us, it just as likely probably isn’t). Of course, us Fantasy / Sci-Fi writers are the worst culprits when it comes to phone-book word counts. Bigger is better, right?

So what is ‘industry standard’ when it comes to manuscript word counts?

The follow list is taken from the website:

There’s a lot of conflicting information on the internet. Of the many sites I’ve looked at, Colleen seems to really know her stuff. I highly suggest you read the whole article. It is very good.



MG fiction =  25k to 40k, with the average at 35k

General YA fiction =  45k to 80k

Paranormal YA / YA fantasy = up to 100k (sometimes up to 120k)

Paranormal Romance = 85k to 100k

Romance = 85k to 100k

Category Romance = 55k to 75k

Cozy Mysteries = 65k to 90k

Horror = 80k to 100k

Western = 80k to 100k

Mystery / Thriller / Crime Fiction = 90k to 100k

Historical Mystery / Noir = 80k to 100k

Chick Lit = 80k to 100k

Literary Fiction = 65k to 120k



Generally, 100k is the perfect manuscript size. Yup, 100k. Anything over 120k would have to be extraordinary.

—> hard sf = 90k to 110k
—> space opera = 90k to 120k
—> epic/high/traditional/historical fantasy = 90k to 120k
—> contemporary fantasy = 90k to 100k
—> romantic SF = 85k to 100k
—> urban fantasy = 90k to 100k
—> new weird = 85k to 110k
—> slipstream = 80k to 100k
—> comic fantasy = 80k to 100k
—> everything else = 90k to 100k

For publishers, its all about the dollar. Bigger word counts mean more shipping costs, less books on shelves, more editing and production time.

Of course, if you’re planning to self-publish – who cares, right?

As for me, it’s back to the chopping block.


    1. Hi Charles! It seemed really low to me too. When I look at the phonebooks of fantasy on my shelves it seems impossible they are that length, even with ‘white space’ to bulk them out. The big authors write much longer works. These numbers were more for starting out authors wanting a traditional publisher to take a chance on them (consider Steven king’s Carrie – a tiny volume compared to his later stuff). What you do once you’re ‘in the fold’ seems like it’s up to the author! And of course, exceptions abound, even for first-timers!

  1. Reblogged this on Y.A. Scribbles and Scoops and commented:
    Excellent post. I would like to see more recent ‘norms’ than 2008 figures, but those are all I seem to find when searching the net. I agree…Colleen seems to know her stuff so these are nice figures to keep handy.

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