I’ve seen the question come up many times: What’s the difference between a novel, novella and a novelette? The answer in its simplest form is length. However, perhaps the best way to answer this is to break down the types of fiction writing and discuss how publishers look at the importance of appropriate lengths of works. Keep in mind, these are mostly rule-of-thumb guidelines to follow—there are always exceptions. For instance, despite being a Young Adult novel the manuscript of Twilight was some 150K words. The publisher cut it down to 118K words.
Here’s a guide to some very basic novel questions, such as the types of fiction, generally accepted word count per genre and how to estimate the page count of your manuscript.
TYPES Of FICTION
- Flash Fiction–Generally 300-1,000 words
Flash fiction is extremely brief. There is no widely accepted definition of the length of this category or even what ‘rules’ to follow. Other names include sudden fiction, micro fiction, micro-story, short short and postcard fiction.
- Short Story—1,001-7,499 words
Intended as a story that can be read in one sitting. Found in various types of publications, including magazines and collections.
- Novelette–7,500-20,000 words
Novelette length is often difficult to sell on account of being considered too long to comfortably fit in a magazine and too short for a novel. Often, novelette’s are used as installments of a greater novel.
- Novella–20,000-50,000 words
Most ideal for the electronic publishing, as the online audience doesn’t often have the patience to sit through a lengthier novel.
- Novel–50,000-110,000 words
The word count (WC) acceptability often varies by genre, but typically for print publishers a minimum WC of 70,000 is preferred for a first novel.
WORD COUNT BY GENRE
- Adult Commercial—Between 70,000 and 100,000 is safe with the median of that being most acceptable.
- Sci-Fi and Fantasy—These genres are the acceptance to Adult Commercial, as they tend to run longer on account of lengthy descriptions and emphasis on world building. 100,000-115,000 may be more fitting of a range.
- Middle Grade—Ideal range between 20,000 and 45,000 depending on the specific age range. For instance, books aimed at 12-year-olds can be closer to the 45,000 range, while simpler middle grade books should be closer to the 20,000-30,000 range.
- Young Adult—55,000 to 70,000 is a great range—beyond that may be fine so long as it’s necessary. I used the example of Twilight hitting the 118,000 mark, but personally I don’t understand how that novel got off the ground and have strong suspicions of mass brainwashing.
CALCULATING THE PAGE COUNT OF YOUR NOVEL
Typically, industry standard length is about 250 words per page, so a 300-page novel would be about 75,000 words. One thing to realize is why publishers often prefer to keep the word count down a bit. A 500-page novel (125,000 WC) is going to take up nearly double the space of a 300-page novel on a shelf, and will cost more to print. So they typically shy away from these unless the author is well-known.
To calculate your page count, take your word count and divide it by 250. Granted, this number may vary is you have special formatting, such as beginning chapters halfway down the page.
Remember, all of these are rules of thumb estimates and you can find this stuff all over the net. Ultimately, your story has to work well, but these are a few guidelines that may help in attracting a publisher.