Novel Length

For a while, I've considered 50,000 words or more to be novel length. Probably because I read that on the SFWA site back when membership was my hard-fought goal. But is this word count set in stone or something more arbitrary, depending on publishing trends?

Each of the books in my Spirits of the Earth trilogy is 120K. My Captain Quasar novels are 80K each. BackTracker is my longest at 150K, and Madame Antic's Hotel Grotesque was my shortest at 60K. But this year, I've written a couple of 50K books: Uncommoner: A GrimFarce and Murders at the Manor. Are they too short to be considered novels?

Walk into any bookstore (that's still in business), and you'll find most fictional works to be around 300-400 pages. Why? Because that's what sells, and publishers like to give their customers what they want. 50K is more like 170 pages or so. That's...really short.

But historically, what books have been around 50K? Here are a few: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Great Gatsby, The Invisible Man, As I Lay Dying, The Giver, and Fahrenheit 451. These novels have been around for a while, but they're still being read all over the world. So my latest efforts will be in good company!

In my experience, stories tend to let me know when they're done. Some want to stay short; some want to go a bit longer; and some have a whole lot to say. So I don't argue. Both Uncommoner: A GrimFarce and Murders at the Manor were based on novella-length manuscripts I wrote thirty years ago, so being able to double their respective word counts and make them better stories overall was a win. I'm pleased with how they turned out, and I look forward to making them available for you in eBook, paperback, and audio next year.
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