As a reader, I’ve never felt a good book was too long, even more than a thousand pages. And I’ve never found a bad book short enough.

One of the most common questions writers ask me: “How long should my manuscript be?”

Well, different publishers look for different lengths for different genres. Helpful, eh? 😊

There ARE general guidelines, which I’ll list below. But it’s important to know that these are not hard and fast rules.

Just be careful not to get too far afield, and remember that a great idea and good writing trumps all.

That doesn’t mean you can submit a manuscript twice the length a publisher recommends. But rules are made to be broken, and the most successful publishing phenomenon in history did just that.

The Harry Potter books are Young Adult titles, and YA publishers generally look for manuscripts in the 50,000 to 80,000-word range. J.K. Rowling’s record-breaking series began with two titles on the high end of that spectrum and finished with five that left the guidelines in the dust.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — 76,000 words

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets — 85,000 words

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — 107,000 words

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire  — 190,000 words

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — 257,000 words

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince — 168,000 words

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — 198,000 words

Those titles also obliterated sales records. The first alone has sold more than 120 million copies, and the rest have sold at least 65 million each.

Obviously, my point is not that you should submit a first book of anywhere near 200,000 words. I’m just saying that some things are more important than word counts.

Nevertheless, you would be wise to come close to these suggested manuscript lengths.

Want to download this infographic to share and reference whenever you like? Click here.

Your Guide to Book Word Counts

Want to download this infographic to share and reference whenever you like? Click here.

Research Your Genre

The J.K. Rowling / Harry Potter phenomenon aside, it’s important to adhere to the conventions of your genre.

Study the competition. Also research publishing houses’ submission guidelines.

Never pad your manuscript just to meet a word-count guideline. If yours is too short, restructure it and add more tightly written stuff. Editors see through fluff in seconds.

And remember, keeping to word counts is important, but what makes or breaks your chances with a publisher is the quality of your manuscript.

How long is your manuscript? Comment below and tell us what you’re working on.

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