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Thread: what's the real minimum novel length?

  1. #1

    what's the real minimum novel length?

    hey, I'm new around here, but I've been reading the posts and a lot of people seem pretty knowledgeable. I just had a quick question - what's the real minimum novel length to get published? Everyone so far seems to say 40,000 words is the minimum for it to be called a "novel." I've written a story that's just over 40,000 words long, so technically it's a novel, but how difficult will it be to get published?

    To quote some famous military guy, "if the minimum wasn't acceptable, it wouldn't be called the minimum." Is 40,000 word count truly the publishable minimum?


  2. #2
    Ooo! Shiny new cover! Absolute Sage Cathy C's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Hiding in my writing cave
    It sort of depends on the publisher. Here's how it works:

    500-1,000 words - Flash story
    1,000-10,000 words - Short story
    10,000-40,000 - Novella
    Now, TECHNICALLY, over 40,000 constitutes a "novel." However,
    40,000-60,000 - Novelette or "Novel Lite"
    60,000 and up - Novel

    The trick is finding a publisher to put out a book of less than 60,000 words. Some category romance and category horror books are in the 50,000-60,000 range, but it's very hard to find a home for a 40,000 novel. Some publishers such as Ellora's Cave (and their new non-erotic imprint, Cerridwen Press) will take something as small as 45,000, but a mainstream publisher will have a problem.

    However, Laurell Hamilton just announced that she will be publishing a "Novel Lite" of about 55,000 based on her well-known Anita Blake Vampire series, mid-next year, so it's not completely unheard of.
    Good luck!
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  3. #3
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
    Join Date
    May 2005
    My debut novel which I've just written comes in at 55K, ie around 225 pages, from perusing recent fiction I'd say that's around the minimum. Having said that there's plenty of examples of shorter stuff, just read Erlend Loe's debut "Naive" which can't be more than 45K.

    My first draft came in at 43K words, on the advice of a publisher I beefed up some minor characters and added a couple of new chapters without obviously padding it, might be worth a try...

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW
    Join Date
    Feb 2005


    The "official" lengths are as follows.

    Micro fiction--Usually under 100 words.

    Flash fiction--Whatever the editor says it is, but usually under 1,000 words.

    Short short--under 2,000 words.

    Short story--2,000--7,500 words.

    Novelette--7,500--17,500 words.

    Novella--17,500--40,000 words.

    Novels--Over 40,000 words.

    Getting a 40,000 word novel published is not impossible, but it's the next thing to it, especially for a new writer. Established writers can get away with novels that are shorter, or longer, than can new writers.

    The real question is what genre is the novel? Each publisher has pretty strict length guidelines for each genre, each line of books, and they seldom stray more than 5,000 words one way or the other from these guidelines.

  5. #5


    hm.. my "novel" is probably classified as science-fiction, although the sci-fi themes aren't exactly overwhelming to the reader or anything. I could probably add more details and stuff, which actually leads me to a 2nd, related question:

    is there such a thing as too detailed? I've written this pretty concisely, without adding much detail at all (I feel that way, anyway). Should I add a lot more? Is it possible to add too much?

    Once again, thanks for all your replies!

  6. #6
    Good to be back AprilBoo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    It's definitely possible to add too much detail. Beef up where it's important - add depth to your characters or twists in your plot. Describing every single piece of furninture in a room or giving blow-by-blow accounts of minor actions is going to look like padding.

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW
    Join Date
    Feb 2005


    The way to make a novel longer isn;t by adding detail. That's just padding. If you want to make a novel longer, then you add a new character or a subplot.


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