Word Count...get the fire extinguisher

Dear Miss Snark:

Can you tell me what the acceptable word count should be (a range would be helpful) for a young adult action/adventure fantasy novel aimed at an eleven to thirteen year old readership?

I have been told that 60,000 words is the max for a first time writer. Is this true?

Thanks for your help.

Sorry, I have no idea. None. Zero. Zilch. I don't do YA, and I don't do fantasy.

The best way to really figure this out is to look at what's on the shelves in bookstores. Pick a novel in your category. Pick several. Make sure they are front list ..ie published this year. Count the words. You'll get the general idea.

This works for all sorts of genres not just this one. I can tell you one thing, Writers Digest another but what I'd believe first are the actual books on the shelves.


Anonymous said...

My best bud just turned in her YA, first of a series, to a major publisher. The word count was between 60-70K.

I'd go with 60K, you can always put in more words if the publisher wants them.

Anonymous said...

I just discovered this last week (and posted it on my own blog, I was so excited) so for anyone on the slow train like me: Amazon provides word count on any of the books that have a "Search Inside" tag. From the book's main page scroll down to the Inside This Book section and click on Text Stats.

Anonymous said...

Here's another link for word count. Enter the book title, search for it, click on the name and it'll take you to a screen with word count, interest level, etc.


Stacia said...

Most publishers list their word count guidelines on their websites, too.

Anonymous said...

My debut young adult fantasy is out next year - and it's 65,000 words long. The follow up is 75,000 words long. BUT - and it's a big but - my editor reckons the perfect length for a YA novel is between 30,000 and 40,000 words. Any more than that and you're talking a serious wad of paper (and accordingly, increases in expenses for the publisher) so what you've written had better be *seriously* compelling.

Anonymous said...

Coupla caveats:

1. If the story is well-told at 40,000 words, don't go padding it to make 60,000 just because you perceive that to be the desired market length.

2. When you check the books, check the careers of the writers who wrote them. Long-established writers get more leeway. Base your comparisons on newer writers.

3. Different companies have different preferences, too. One company may work very hard to keep books under 50K, while another may have a preferred minimum of 50K. Check those imprints!

Anonymous said...

What Nobody said and Meg said are great places to find word count. The site Meg mentioned is only for children, MG, and YA, I think. I've used that web site many times.

Christine said...

Most middle grade novels run from 40-60K. Just like the adult market, fantasy tends to be longer. And since the advent of Harry Potter (the first of which ran into the 80K range) I would say that 60K for a first novel is fine.

My first book came in at just under 50K when the editor was finished with it.

Anonymous said...

I write YA and have published a variety of books with a wide range of word counts. I think 60k is probably average but longer books are VERY hot right now according to my publisher. Some publishers also like shorter books to sell to the "reluctant reader" market.

I'd tell you what I tell everyone and what any decent editor would tell you, too -- write as much as you need to in order to tell your story and don't worry about it too much. When you've written a really polished final draft that doesn't have a bunch of excess crap in it, it will be the length it wants to be.

If your book is brilliant and polished and edited and still happens to be 100,000 words, you can bet that any publisher worth their salt will still buy it and put some kind of clever marketing spin on the fact that it's longer-than-normal.

Anonymous said...

I have an first novel of 31,000 words. Ethnic story with a strong family orientation. I have heard that this length is unacceptable for a novel, and there is no way it can be published at that length. I can think of ways to expand the story, but doing so would destroy its sense of immediacy and purpose. I would hate to do that. Is there really no market today for short novels?

Jessica Somewhere in the States said...

Angela Johnson's award-winning novels for young adults (such as "The First Part Last") are only about 21,000-22,000 words.