Word counts – Can they be forgotten like the traditional publishing houses?

Just a quick one about word counts, as for those of us who have looked at the advised guidelines, either on the web, via the mouths of agents or on publishing house websites, the size of your book is important, to an extent at least. But from what I gather, this is generally down to things that are no longer valid when publishing in e-format.

Correct me if I am wrong, but the arguments for a minimum word count of 60,000 words (maybe a little less if you have a top-notch agent who kicks arse on your behalf) is really to do with how a book looks and feels as a tangible object, and also importantly, the cost of production and the profit margin that can be made on different sized books.

A novella for example, would have to be sold cheaply, therefore cutting the potential profit margin substantially, which is not a language that the publishing houses like talking (or reading).


With the likes of Kindle, is it not true that the word count is less of a ‘thing’ than before, and us writers should just write the story, in the best way, in however many words the story needs to be told? Is that not our goal as writers?

I once read the absolute minimum word count for a novel is 50,000 words, and the maximum for a novella is 40,000 words! So a manuscript that falls between these two markers doesn’t exist, or does not have the right to be printed?

I’m sure there are many books that have been sold successfully and that fall into that word count range. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a book of around 45,000 words, and has sold millions of copies around the world, which tells me it isn’t necessarily the readers who don’t want these lengths of narrative.

Of course, if when we self-publish, we are playing the long game and still hoping in the back of our minds to be spotted and signed up by the big boys, then sticking to these rules is probably important.

But, if you are an artist and you want to take advantage of this new freedom we have of publishing our work with the ability to reach the world without these imposed restrictions, then go for it!

Write what you want; a short novel, a long novella or a manuscript that is so long that if it was printed on paper you’d need a reading partner to help hold the damn thing!

If you can honestly price your work then I don’t see a problem with it. Most of us newbies are selling books for a couple of quid, or a few dollars, and that isn’t much compared to going to the cinema or buying a new computer game.

Just write well, that’s the only rule you need to stick to.

Night, night 😉


8 thoughts on “Word counts – Can they be forgotten like the traditional publishing houses?

    1. Hi Faye,

      It’s a funny one!

      I also find people differentiate between novel & novella by saying that a novella would have no sub-plots, and events are likely to take place in one location…
      This doesn’t clarify too much for me, as it is perfectly possible (if you pratice brevity!) to write a manuscript set in mulitple locations and with sub-plots in less than even 30,000 words.

      Regardless, as someone who self-publishes in e-format (primarily), these are all just labels that will be added to my work when complete, and not rules that dictate how and what I write.



  1. Yes, I agree. If you’re submitting a manuscript to a publishing house, it’s best to abide by their rules. If you’re self-publishing for the pure art of your work, write what suits you best however it suits you best! I am a bigger fan of the latter in general – art happening the way it should: naturally – but it’s true that some rules may need to be followed to get into the big leagues.


    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Christie. Letting the art happen naturally is a great way of putting it, and yes, it is the way it should be. I would love to finish a project that ticked all the boxes and pleased everyone from readers to agents to publishing houses. That said, as long as I’m happy with my books (long or short), then that is not a bad place to be… especially if they are being well-received by the paying public!


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