When Your Words Count Against You

For writers on the road to publication, it's a good idea not to alienate the agents and editors who make that possible. Submitting a manuscript that runs far too long (or shorter than the norm) is an easy way to a quick rejection. Learning the typical word counts for your genre is part of understanding the business of publishing.

Try to think like an agent. Two manuscripts come across your desk, and both exhibit strong writing and great ideas. One project is 150K, and the other is 90K. Which will you choose to spend your time on? One book will need extensive editing and revision, including convincing the author to cut a significant number of words. The other may need some revisions, but is more or less ready to go.

How many is too many?

Keeping your manuscript in the ideal range will make it easier for you to find an agent, and for your agent to find a publisher. Let's run down some lists of word counts.

Chuch Sambuchino on word counts for different genres.

Agent Mary Kole on word counts for children's books.

And a recent post by agent Colleen Lindsay about the latest in word counts.

Why can't publishers just print it the way I wrote it?

Another point regarding word counts concerns the economy. The longer your manuscript, the more it costs to print, ship, and store. If you're a debut author, why should a publisher take a greater fiscal risk on an unknown?

But what about Twilight, you might ask? There was a debut author with an exceptionally long manuscript. Check out what agent Kristin Nelson has to say on the subject.

Agent Nathan Bransford explains why there's a trend toward shorter books.

How do I keep my words down? 

If you are planning a book, read Nathaniel Cassani's post about how to estimate the length before you begin.

And if you've already written your manuscript ant need to tighten it up, read through this post

Also, check out the cool "paragraph squaring" method.

How do you keep yourself from being too wordy? Or do you let yourself go and cut later?


  1. Thanks Deb!
    I two enjoy righting.
    Your knot a loan ;-)

  2. Hi Kerry-

    Might you be interested in some free editing services? : )

  3. Great links with valuable info again, thanks.


  4. I do revise, revise, revise prior to submission. I find it's easier to just let go and write when I'm trying to complete a draft. Then, I go through my checklist of my common mistakes.

  5. Thanks for stopping by, Stacy and Terri. I struggle with keeping myself from revising so much that I stop writing new words!




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