I am writing Historical Fiction for Adults.

What is the acceptable word limit.

Some places say 80K to 100K

Others say 150K

If it matters, I plan to submit to publishers who accept manuscript WITHOUT agent.

2 Answers 2


Novels, like movies, seem to be getting longer. This is not a criticism; it's merely an observation.

Ten years ago, I would have told you that a novel is anything of 80k words or more. Novellas are typically 50k words or less, and short stories are usually around the 10k mark.

But, I have read some books in recent times that were easily 150k, closer to 200k words. And these have been parts of a trilogy or series of other length. Some of these books are excellent. Others could have used a really good prune.

Here's my view, for what it's worth. Write your story first. Write it well. Then, count the number of words.

If you're at 60k, think about your story. Think about what character development you didn't do that you really wanted to, or what side plots would add context to your story, etc. Then write them.

If you're at 250k words, test whether or not your story needs to be that long, or alternatively whether it needs to be a single book.

Word counts are really good at defining whether the story we've told is a marketable product or not; if it doesn't fit within certain parameters, people might not want to buy it to read it. But, word counts are not a good indicator of whether we have a good story or not. That is a different matter entirely. Of course, your story won't get out there if we don't pander to the marketing and publishing groups, so you may have to tweak. You may have to add more context to your story to make it pass a publisher's thud test. On the other hand, you may have just written your sequel at the same time as the original novel. Either way, it shouldn't fundamentally change your story.

Check with the publishers, see what they publish. Check the average word counts. That will tell you what you really need to know. Don't send a publisher whose largest book was only 100k words a manuscript with 150k, unless you're absolutely sure it's really good. They probably have a bias against long books, thinking them as not getting to the point. Also, vice versa is also true, as some publishers probably don't think short books do justice to the character development.

In that sense, sending a manuscript to a publisher is very much like speaking in public; the first and most important rule is to know your audience, and pitch to them in language they are most comfortable with. Do that, and if your story is good, it will get published.


Typically novels are 50,000 words at minimum (per National Novel Writing Month's rules for the contest) though most publishers will look for more length than that to go with. There is no hard rule on the minimum thought and as always, you should be focusing on telling the story you want to tell, not the length of the story or how much you should pad it to reach novel status.

Novellas are typically 10K to 50K and Short stories are under 10K. Flash Fiction is anything under 1,000 words and Drabble is anything under 100 words. The last two are more contest challenges to maximize story with minimum words.

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