Pen writingAt some point before submitting, a writer must confront the big question out there : What kind of word count is acceptable to literary agents and publishers?

Fortunately, there’s a VERY helpful post for writers from Writer’s Digest on word count, broken down by genre.

This is something you may not have considered until the moment you start pitching. I know I was shocked when I started having agent sessions and some were telling me they like to see first author publications somewhere around 70-75,000 words. I found that so surprising since I very rarely read books that short.

While I still don’t think I have much interest in writing a 75,000-word novel, I have learned that in my genre of women’s fiction, 80,000-99,000 words appears to be the ideal length for first time authors. This is hard for me, and generally requires lots of cutting.

Sci-fi and fantasy genres are generally above that range (100,000-120,000), and young adult below (55,000-69,000).

A lot of the discussion I’ve heard centers around the costs in taking on a first-time author. Bigger books cost more money to print, and that’s an economic risk most publishers prefer not to take a for a first-time offer. Although, I have received different advice from some agents, saying that often book publishing for new authors is in digital first, where length is less of an issue, and longer stories may be considered.

And you, writers? Do you struggle with word counts? Do you think these are good guidelines for writers to keep in mind?