Many new writers know of the two main categories of writing: Novels and Short Stories. Occasionally emerging writers are also familiar with the term Novella but this is where things start to get ‘sticky’. Certain genres do well as novellas and certain others not so much. And then, if you can believe it, there are over a dozen forms of Flash Fiction (smaller than a Short Story) and something called the Novelette…
Let’s break this down.
Flash Fiction: 6 – 1000 words (6 word stories, micro-fiction, postcard fiction, short short stories, sudden fiction, etc.)
Short Story: 1000 – 7,500 words
Novelette: 7,500 – 17,500
Novella: 17,500 – 40,000
Genre Specific Word Counts.
Picture books: 350 – 600 words
Early Readers: individual publishers set targets according to reading level, but under 3,500
Chapter books: 6,000 – 10,000
Middle Grade (or tween novels): 30,000 – 45,000
Young Adult: 55,000 – 70,000
Adult fiction: 60,000 – 90,000
Sci-fi/Fantasy: 80,000 – 125,000
Romance: 55,000 – 100,000 (depending on the sub-genre)
So what does this mean for you?
It lets you know if you’re close to the average or not. Books outside the average (smaller or larger) are rarely taken on by traditional publishers (unless you really are an exceptional writer for your genre or you have a good track record as an established author). The importance of knowing if you’re in the ‘pocket’, the ‘zone’ or the ‘sweet spot’ lets you know on a different level what kind of big-picture editing you may need to do for your piece. Also, if specific word counts are not given, just genre preferences then you are expected to know the industry standards.
If you decide to self-publish a 55,000 word adult SFF/F novel, then I highly recommend that you research this market before publishing. It’s one thing to ‘get your work out there’ and entirely another to entice other people to read it 😉 If you’re too far off the beaten path it might do you more harm than good.
Happy Editing 🙂