View Full Version : Mystery Novel Wordcount

12-19-2004, 05:15 AM
What would be a reasonable wordcount for a new author's manuscript? My latest WIP is a parody of the mystery genre, and my current goal is 80K. Would that be a good length?

12-20-2004, 02:33 AM
The typical first published mystery is about 65,000 words, although of course whatever length works, works. Quality is the prime concern.

However, it's my understanding that a short, tight mystery is far more likely to sell than a longer one, and that most first mysteries are a little bloated. Some, of course, sell anyway but would have been better if they'd had the fat rendered right out of them.

Before you attempt to sell your 80,000 word manuscript, read it over one more time to make sure that every scene, every paragraph, every word needs to be there. If they do, then it's ready to go!

I tend to write 'fat,' so there's always trimming to be done. For me, a 20% reduction is word count is a reasonable goal. For you, something more modest might be just right.

Let us know how it's coming along, okay? Great!

12-20-2004, 09:03 AM
Actually, I just started writing it, so I'm VERY glad to learn that 65K would be a good length. I have a very hard time writing anything longer than 50K, so 65K will be much easier for me than 80K!

12-20-2004, 11:57 PM
A good average is about 65k. My agent said this is pretty much the low end, with a top of about 75-80k and an absolute bottom of 60k.

So you're in the ballpark, maybe a bit high.

Both of my private detective novels are in the 65k-68k range.

12-21-2004, 01:56 PM
A novel should be as long as it should be to get the story told properly. 60-65K is on the low end, but acceptable. And 100K isn't unhread of by any means.

Mine run right at 80K.

In reality, the idea is to always check publisher's guidelines for what they want. It's the best way of knowing how long a novel should be.

But any publisher is more interested in a good novel than in a novel of a certain word length, which means any publisher will take a very good 100K novel over a not quite as good 60K novel.

12-23-2004, 10:21 AM
Thanks to all of you for your help! :D

12-23-2004, 10:11 PM
And 100K isn't unhread <sic> of by any means.
Agree & understood.

I'm just saying that the mystery genre tends to be shorter (from 65k to 80k) and that for a new writer, an overlong novel might be less acceptable.

This is simply the economics of the thing, where a long novel would run a higher list price, and breakout sales might be lower. An established writer has less of an uphill battle.

By no means should a new writer brutalize the book and attempt to shoehorn a longer story into a slimmer package. But the traditional mystery is usually told in fewer words, as it by definition normally turns upon a single establishing incident (the murder).

03-21-2011, 11:04 PM
Anyone know if this advice is still current? Last entry here was 2004... I am sitting on a 72K mystery, no bites yet, not sure if it's my QL, length, writing style or deodorant. Can anyone help with this particular question?

03-21-2011, 11:09 PM
Anyone know if this advice is still current? Last entry here was 2004... I am sitting on a 72K mystery, no bites yet, not sure if it's my QL, length, writing style or deodorant. Can anyone help with this particular question?

I would think 80,000 would be the lower limit. When I was querying my first novel, an agent told me that 68,000 was too short. But that was the early Numties too . . .

03-21-2011, 11:26 PM

03-21-2011, 11:32 PM
80 is a good number to shoot for, but 70 isn't too short if your Q is good and your pages are solid. Mine was... um... I forget now... somewhere in the vicinity of 75K when I signed with an agent.

03-22-2011, 12:35 AM
Jude and Gothicangel. Thank you both.

This being my first time around the block I guess I am tweaking everything. I have revised my QL so many times... I have written to query shark, I haven't posted one in the cooler yet but suspect I will shortly.

I have some ideas about expanding the novel word count if need be, though I think my story is pretty tight and for the sake of a reader, would rather toss it than fill it full of empty calories. Needs must in the end.

I was also wondering if I am pitching to the wrong agents - all mine are out of Jeff Herman's Guide but I suspect that the competition is fiercest in those arenas...

For now, thank you for your help... and fingers crossed

03-22-2011, 12:40 AM
Give it a shot, Toffeehead!

As for agents, are you checking www.agentquery.com and www.querytracker.com? Lots of great info on those sites. :)

03-22-2011, 02:56 AM
The safe range is generally 80k to 100K, but you have to check publisher's guidelines. There is no other way of knowing what they want at any given time.

03-22-2011, 04:48 AM
Jamesaritchie - I think I'm coming round to your way of thinking. Whichever way I look at it 80K seems to be the magic number.