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To be considered a "real" book, is there a rule of thumb about the number of pages one should have? If it has too few then people call it a short story (e.g., Fahrenheit 451) and if it has too many then it's either a Magnum Opus or split into multiple volumes/books (War & Peace, Lord of the Rings).

Is there such a rule of thumb?

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Just for the record: I'm asking this because an earlier question about size was misu0derstood and I think that a question (#349) about the number of pages makes sense. –  Michael Stum Nov 21 '10 at 20:25
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As stated below, written works are more commonly measured in "words" than "pages". –  Vatine Nov 22 '10 at 7:36
    
Writers and editors usually think in terms of content, not the printed product. A standard manuscript page - double-spaced, one-inch margins, and so on -- is generally around 250 words. –  Neil Fein Oct 2 '11 at 13:37

9 Answers 9

up vote 14 down vote accepted

I've seen a lot of discussion about this in a couple of different writer's forums I belong to, and I made a point of writing down a consensus that many of them seemed to reach. While the actual word counts will vary and everybody will have different opinions on what the count should be, this should help to serve as a general guide.

Short story - under 10,000 words

Novelette - 10k-20k words

Novella - 20k-50k

Novel - 50k-100k

Epic Novel - over 100k

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This is a great answer. It provides well-established criteria, used by editors, literary agents and publishers, as a standard for years. Decades actually! –  Feral Oink Jul 24 '11 at 13:06
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50K is a very short novel. I've been told that most novels are over 80K words at least. –  Robusto Sep 17 '11 at 21:58
    
50K is often acceptable for children's novel. –  staticsan Oct 4 '11 at 0:17

It's hard to say; length is usually measured by word count and not page count or thickness. Layout and font choice can change the number of pages a book has without changing the length of it.

That being said, I believe 50,000 words is still the minimum to scratch by as a novel, though most run between 75k and 100k words of late, though it used to be shorter. You can go longer than that but it's harder to sell unless you are established.

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I don't think there are any contemporary publishers accepting novels at 50K, except possibly for series romance. 70K is generally considered the threshold for a full-length novel. –  JSBձոգչ Nov 22 '10 at 15:35
    
Is that language-dependent? Since some languages are longer than others (English < Spanish < German), are minimum word counts the same? –  ggambett Nov 23 '10 at 17:16

A quick look at Baen and I found their Manuscript Submission Guidelines:

Preferred length: 100,000 - 130,000 words Generally we are uncomfortable with manuscripts under 100,000 words, but if your novel is really wonderful send it along regardless of length.

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Word counts offered by publishers are guide lines.

Enough -good words- to tell the story and keep the attention of the audience.

Some folks want to pronounce some magic word count/page count and will will bemoan my answer as wrong. So it goes.

How many manuscript pages/word count are in Joyce's Ulysses? Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow? Pynchon's Crying of Lot 49?

Lot's of authors can hit the word count exactly and never get published....

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Technically, 50k and up is a novel, but in most genres for adults, 80k is the minimum.

Novellas (20k-50k) tend to be very hard to sell because there aren't many markets that even look at them--they're too short to be books and too long to fit in a magazine.

However, with ebooks, length restrictions are being relaxed by some publishers, and novellas can be published as standalone books. (For example, Samhain Publishing publishes ebooks from 12k to 100k, though only those 50k and up will have print versions.)

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It depends on the genre or audience, I believe. I've seen lists all over the place. Googling will give you some answers.

I've seen 80-110,000 for an adult novel, but sci-fi, for example, often goes longer. Young adult will be less, children's even less.

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No there isn't. If you are contributing stories to a magazine, paper or a collection of short stories the editor might have an upper limit and you can ask him or her about it. If you are writing a novel, there is no preset limit. Most classics we read today were originally published in bits on newspapers of those days.

You can follow one JKR did with Harry Potter books. The first book was relatively short, and as the series became more popular the length of the books increased.

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"Guardians of Ga'Hoole" series is relatively short but the series as a whole is quite long. (The stories span over 12-13 books.) Depends though.

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Personally, my work is over 73k so far, but I still have far to go before I'm satisfied. I won't even consider publishing under 100k.

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