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I decided to ask this question after finding no other similar questions to mine. But anyway, I have a portfolio of unpublished novels that have been thoroughly edited. One is a piece of Christian literary fiction + suspense, a literary suspense while the others are the following an adult speculative novel based in an afterlife, a coming-of-age novel based in an afterlife, and a YA fantasy based in a Jewish afterlife. The word counts for this novel are as follows:

  1. About 65k to 70k for that literary fiction piece,
  2. about 98k for that adult speculative piece,
  3. about 56k for that coming-of-age story,
  4. and 60k for that YA fantasy.

Are these acceptable word counts for a debut novel? I plan on networking with acquisition editors and agents this year, but am worried that my novels are too short.

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50k is generally considered the minimum viable length for an adults' novel, with 60 or 65k+ probably preferred. But novels for younger audiences can be considerably shorter, so your coming of age novel is still right on target if the audience is young. On the other end of things, don't go too far above 100 to 120k as a debut writer.

So all your book lengths are squarely within publishers' preferred ranges.

The logic behind these ranges, for what it's worth, is that readers tend to feel cheated by novels shorter than at least 50k, but over 120k becomes too expensive to print. Also, not every reader wants huge tomes. (I much prefer shorter novels, personally.)

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The standard definition of a novel is based on word count, and your shortest work is barely under what I've long understood to be "novel length" -- 56k words would be a "short novel," which is sold and marketed just like a "novel". All the other works for which you gave word counts are within the standard definition of a novel, by word count.

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  • I was told once that technically anything over 40,000 words is considered a novel, but I see your point. – JRosebrookMaye Jan 28 '20 at 23:05
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Your word counts all seem reasonable except perhaps the 56k for the coming-of-age story (might be too short depending on the target audience).

There are no definitive ranges when it comes to word counts. It largely comes down to the preferences of the agent or editor based on their experience selling the genre.

A smart approach is to use QueryTracker when building your agent list and reference the Manuscript Wordcount report to see what length books they typically acquire in each genre.

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