A while back, former literary agent Colleen Lindsey (currently working with Penguin Group) posted the following list of industry standard word counts on her blog. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but in general, these numbers seem common:
YA fiction = For mainstream YA, anywhere from about 45k to 80k; paranormal YA or YA fantasy can occasionally run as high as 120k but editors would prefer to see them stay below 100k. The second or third in a particularly bestselling series can go even higher. But it shouldn’t be word count for the sake of word count.
paranormal romance = 85k to 100k
romance = 85k to 100k
category romance = 55k to 75k
Anything under 50k is usually considered a novella, which isn’t something agents or editors ever want to see unless the editor has commissioned a short story collection. (Agent Kristin Nelson has a good post about writers querying about manuscripts that are too short.)
But writing shorter works can be very helpful and lucrative. I’ve written stories in a variety of lengths, depending on the publisher I’m targeting. Also, I’ve used shorter length stories to “test the waters” in genres I’ve never written in before. Not only is it a good practice, but it also forces me to write fresher and more succinctly. After I’ve finished a novella or short story, the question is often “Now what do I do with it?”
If I don’t have a target already in mind, for example an anthology or a call for submissions from a publisher, then I sit on it. These make great free reads or promotional works for when I have a full-length book coming out. They’re also good for branding. If your sub genre is Viking romances, for example, help establish yourself in that area with shorter works about Vikings, either as free reads or indie published.
Size matters, but we all know it’s really about how you use it. 😉
Sandra Jones, author ~ legendary romance