No one ever told me I was too short

You hear a lot of writers lament the changing marketplace. One very popular lament goes something like this:

I took too long to write my brilliant wizard/vampire/whatever book and now the market is FLOODED with books that are similar to mine and no one will ever want to BUY it! AIIEEE!!!!

I'm not going to talk about that.

I bring it up because I am also getting nervous about the changing marketplace, but for a totally different reason.

My book may be too short.

Oddly, by "too short" I don't mean that the book needs more words to be a good book. I could be wrong (and frequently am) but I think the book has a good flow.

Here's the problem: When I started writing seriously in the early 2000's, the range for YA books was about 40k to 60k. Everything I read and everyone I talked to said, for a first book, 60k was the ABSOLUTE LONGEST that was sellable.

When I started writing Houses, the book I'm currently rewriting/shopping around, I didn't have a specific word count in mind. But the idea of 50-60k was lingering at the back of my brain. I don't know how long the first draft was (it was handwritten) but the second draft came out to about 50k.

Meanwhile, the market was changing around me. 80k word YA books are appearing, some even by first authors. YA fantasy especially tends to be longer. And 50k is considered on the short side.


I figured revision would solve that. In my early writing years I was a put-inner, big time. But not only has the market changed, my writing style has changed. Despite adding a couple of new scenes and lengthening some more, the book refuses to get longer.

In fact, I'll be lucky if it even HITS the 50k mark.

Now, I've been informed by Ally Carter and Kristin Nelson that "how long should my book be" is the wrong question to ask. I should be asking "how important is pacing in my novel?" So I'm working on the pacing and trying not to be nervous.

I'm failing.

What do you think? Is there still a market for shorter YA's out there?


  1. I was just thinking about this today. Yes, I think there is still totally a market!

  2. I think there is, for sure. Yeah, maybe books are getting longer, but I think publishers still prefer small.

    What I've noticed is more the trend these days are series. Especially with fantasy. It's rare to find a stand alone YA fantasy these days. So, does your story has series potential? That could solve your problem right there.

  3. I think if you force it to be too long just because of the market you will make it so you drag it out and readers will not want to finish it. I personally love a great short book than a slow paced long book. But than again i am not the best to give advice on the subject. lol.

  4. 50K is a bit short for a YA in today's world. But the quality and appeal is important. I would check the sites and blogs of agents who rep YA and see what their guidelines are or what they recommend on their blogs.

    Straight From Hel

  5. I'd say there is still a market for short YA fiction but mostly in the form of series'. It also depends on the publisher and agent. Many guidelines still allow for the shorter word count and it can be adjusted from there if you land an agent or publisher and they have a concern. If the story grips them and the word count is within the guidelines you shouldn't need to worry.

  6. PJ- Oh, I hope so! How long was Emerald Tablet?

    Renee- As a matter of fact, the book is a stand-alone that could be a series. (In fact, I've already got the first scene for the second book in my head. Shhh, don't tell.)

    Lizzie- Hey, that's great advice. Padding for the sake of padding is never a good idea. And you are kind of my target market.. :)

    Helen- Good idea. I know a lot of it is agent/publisher preference. And most of the people I've looked at so far at least say 50k is acceptable, though short.

    Cindy- Yeah, series seem to be a big thing again. Good point about adjusting (if needed) when I get an agent or publisher. Expert advice would probably be necessary anyway. :)

  7. THE EMERALD TABLET is about 65K and it is MG. I've been thinking on this and it seems realistic YA comes in shorter while fantasy YA comes in longer. But I have to agree with the pacing comment.

  8. See- it used to be that 65k was long for a YA book, now it's acceptable MG. And fantasy does tend to run longer. I asked Cindy Pon what the final word count for Silver Phoenix was and she said 79k. I guess I'll query it and find out! :)

  9. Of course there's a market for not-so-long YA books. Not all kids like to dive in to a ginormous book! And I think that most really long books that I've read recently could have been plenty shorter without hurting the story at all.

    I tend to write short, but so far my novels have been MG, not YA (except for my recent verse novel) and around 25,000 to 30,000 words.

  10. Longer isn't always better. Case in point: Twilight.

  11. Which belatedly reminds me - if you want to studiously make your book longer, you could liberally add a bunch of adverbs.

  12. Rebecca- Thanks! That's comforting...

    Nic- BWAHAHAHA! So. True.

  13. I think there's a market for kids who don't necessarily like to read, or who have had difficulty reading and are easing into it. My aunt teaches remedial reading, and I'm sure the pre-teens and teenagers who she works with don't want to read long books, but don't want to read starter chapbooks that are for kids much younger.

  14. Hmm... That's a good point. When I was in high school, we had to read a certain # of pages per sememster. There were kids who chose the shortest books they could find so they wouldn't go over. (not me, of course!)


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