I'm so sorry! I think I sent all of you a message rather than posting this as a discussion here. My question was, as a first time novelist, I wondered if there was a word count limit that agents and publishers look for in a manuscript. Could a manuscript be too long? 

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Make the book the very best it can be.  You don't want to waste the first contact.

From the studies I've made, it generally seems to be accepted that a publisher wouldn't risk anything more than 100,000 words for a newbie. Mainly because if they didn't sell, they would have wasted more money than they needed to in production costs. Anything less than 70,000 words might run the risk of being classed as a novella - even harder for a new writer to sell.

Hi Roger,

You make a good point but in genre fiction the word counts vary as to what constitutes a novella.

I write romance and our word counts are a bit different than other genres. I would suggest people do their research as there are differences.

All the best,


You guys have all been a huge help! Thanks so much for the information and encouragement and advice! I went through the first three pages and am already down 30 words. :) I have my work cut out for me, but I know what needs to be done now, so that helps. Big thanks!!

Good advice here, Kelli. 60-120K is good for historical fiction and 80-100K is often desirable. Mind you, Russians are famous for being long-winded. Yes, get rid of unnecessary procedural, ditto greetings and departures. ie. cut to the chase. Time signifiers can often go too eg. today, then, next etc.

70-90 K words is fine. However, the state of publishing is in an odd funk. On demand publishing, "independent" publishers, and the ubiquitous eBook universe lets the marketplace vet your work. Now that I'm here, why not tell it as I see it completely? Doing the agent boogie is a futile often frustrating dance that'll lead to dozens, maybe hundreds of rejection letters each as crummy as the next. Agenting for first-time unknown authors isn't worth the time, and anyone still fantasizing about this needs to step back, and rethink their strategy. You've got a book. Everyone's got a book. Do you have any kin in the business? If the answer is no, skip the agent dance because frankly sending query letters, sample chapters, and all that razzmatazz isn't going to have that golden payday. Maybe someone will read what you've written, give it the nod, and shop you around--That prose better sing and your narrative has to jump off the page, and the fiction better be out of this world. Why? Because for every keystroke in this post there's a new book being uploaded at one among many free publishing sites today (at least). Good luck with the competition. If, and that's one serious if, someone says "sign here," you better have a few books ready in the wings. If an agent rolls the dice with I'd hope that author's representative has a law degree because there's no contract without issues that'll haunt your career for decades. I may sound jaded, that's fine, but I'm also a realist. I've been around the block a few times, and I favor time over wishful, often magical thinking. There's not much to be had for an agent in the "new novelist" world--Ten, maybe twenty percent of nothing? Easy math. I may be dashing some dreams, but the world's wicked ways of words in the publishing world don't get aired much. These days, if you're not doing it yourself: finishing a novel, paginating, font choice, design, etc., and so on, how wonderful can your words be if that manuscript, regardless of length sells five books out of a ten thousand book run? Go on, call around the shipping and handling departments of the Big 3 1/2 and ask a clerk how many fill in the blank literary giant's books have been returned. Simple math. Books aren't selling, and no major house is going to "discover" an ordinarily slush piled piece and catapult it to the bestseller list because of a good agent. You're kiddin' yourself. Study what others have done, and then start your next book before you even start collecting rejection letters. Cheers.

Um...I'm not sure how to reply to that comment, Peter. Thank you for candidly sharing your thoughts. I'm a first time novelist, but I'm not brand new to the business of writer and publishing, so I think I have a fairly realistic idea of what to expect. Self publishing is an option I'm entertaining, but I'm not going to jump the gun on it until I've exhausted my efforts first. I believe in this book, and in the power of my writing. I'd be lying if I said I don't really care if 1 or 1,000 people read my words. I would like as many people as possible to read this book.

But I do understand the realities of the business and realize that the odds of me becoming a best seller are low. I would be remiss, however, to not at least give it a shot, and I'm putting all my effort into making sure this is a book that people will not only want to read, but also want to tell their friends to read.

So I'll keep working, and I'll keep dreaming, and in the end I'll make the decision that I feel is best for me personally as a crafter of words.

Thanks for keeping it real. :)

It was a non-response rant. However, agents and publishers DO care about the numbers. You're an investment. Safely within 70-90K words. Give it a shot, but know the target, terrain, and timing.

Got it. Good advice. Thanks!

You're welcome.

I was taught saying less is more.  Sometimes we worry to much about the word count.  We need to tell the story fully.  I have found being to "chatty" runs up the word count but does not get us quality.  Move the story along quickly, then take a chapter to let the reader catch their breath, then move it along again.  A fiction novel around 65K to 85K is about right.  On my rewrites I'm always looking to flesh out the chapter, but I have one eye looking at how I can cut out the dead wood. 

Hi Kelli,

What genre is the book?

An epic fantasy would have a longer word count than a category romance. Once you know what genre the book is research what the general word length is for that genre.

Has the book been edited? Many times we keep scenes and characters because we love them, not because they further the plot of the book. Do keep a file for the things you cut. You very well could use them for something else later such as: another story, a freebie for readers after the book has been published.

I hope I've helped.

Good luck!



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