Friday, July 10, 2009

How Long is a Book? Determine Your Novel's Genre, Subgenre, and Best Word Count

By Ronnie Smith

How long should your book be? How long a book should be depends on the genre and the intentions of the writer. If you want to self-publish, it doesn't matter how long your book is or isn't because you have total control. But if you're seeking a traditional New York publisher, here are some guidelines for how long a book should be.

Please note: These are generalized guidelines for genre fiction only. There are always exceptions to the "rules." Be sure to do your own research based on your unique needs and goals. These lists of sub-genres are substantial but not entirely inclusive. There are always many ways to combine genres.

How long is a fantasy novel?

A fantasy novel contains approximately 80,000 to 100,000 words.

Sub-genres of fantasy novels include: alternate history, Bangsian fantasy, comic fantasy, contemporary fantasy (urban fantasy), dark fantasy, fairytale fantasy, heroic fantasy, high fantasy, historical fantasy (Celtic fantasy, steampunk, wuxia, medieval fantasy, prehistoric fantasy), juvenile fantasy, low fantasy, fantasy of manners (mythic fiction), romantic fantasy, science fantasy (sword and planet, dying earth), superhero fantasy, sword and sorcery, and more.

How long is a romance novel?

A stand-alone (single title) romance novel contains between 80,000 and 100,000 words. Category romance (such as those imprints published by Harlequin) are generally short. Each imprint has a specific word count. If you want to write for Harlequin, identify your imprint first.

Sub-genres of romance novels include: adventure romance, African-American romance, category romance (aka "series"), chick-lit, contemporary romance, dark fantasy, erotic romance, erotica, fantasy, futuristic romance, GLBT romance, gothic romance, historical romance, inspirational romance, interracial romance, mainstream, military romance, multi-cultural romance, mystery/thriller, paranormal romance, Regency romance, science fiction, single-title romance, suspense, sweet romance, time-travel romance, traditional romance, urban fantasy, women's fiction, World War II romance, young adult, and more.

How long is a historical fiction novel?

Historical fiction novels are generally between 85,000 to 100,000 words, though some are longer.

Subgenres of historical fiction novels include: alternate history, historical fantasy, historical romance, sagas, sword and sandal, historical whodunit, sub-genres pertaining to era (as in Renaissance, medieval, Civil War, WWII, etc.), and more.

How long is a mystery novel?

Mystery novels vary in length between 75,000 and 100,000 words. If the mystery has elements of thrillers, the book may be longer. If the mystery is a "cozy" or part of a series, it may be shorter.

Sub-genres of mystery novels include: amateur sleuth mystery, courtroom drama, cozy mystery, crime, fantasy, hardboiled mystery, historical mystery, medical mystery, police procedural, private detective, serial killer mystery, science fiction, supernatural, suspense, technical thriller, thriller, true crime, Western, whodunit, and more.

How long is a thriller novel?

A thriller novel can be between 90,000 and 100,000 words or more.

Sub-genres of thrillers include: action thrillers, conspiracy thrillers, crime thrillers, disaster thrillers, drama, eco-thrillers, erotic thrillers, legal thrillers, spy thrillers, techno thrillers, and more.

How long is a horror novel?

Horror genre novels can include between 80,000 and 100,000 words.

Subgenres of horror include: body horror, cross genre (slipstream), dark, detective, erotic, extreme, ghost, gothic, Lovecraft, noir, occult, psychological, quiet, supernatural, surreal, suspense, weird, and more.

How long is a young adult novel?

Young adult (or YA) novels can between 40,000 and 75,000 words, depending on the targeted age group.

Young adult novels generally have the same sub-genres as adult novels. Edgy YA tackles controversial or tough issues.

How long is a Western novel?

Western novels can be between 45,000 and 75,000 words.

Western sub-genres include: coming-of-age, buffalo runners, celebrity, detective, fantasy, Gothic, horses, Indians, inspirational, land rush, law and lawmen, mining, Mormons, mountain men, mysterious rider, railroads, romance, science fiction, series, sweet and savage, the West still lives, town marshal, wagons West, and more.

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