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What's the Right Length for a Young Adult Novel?

When getting ready to pitch your novel, it's important to know if your project aligns with industry standards. Here, Scott Francis outlines some key information for young adult authors.

Q: I'm working on a middle-grade novel, and I'm worried that it's too long. What's the appropriate length for middle-grade and young adult novels? —Anonymous

(The Key Differences Between Middle Grade vs Young Adult)

A: The are no set-in-stone rules when it comes to the length of middle-grade and young adult novels. It varies from publisher to publisher and project to project. Middle-grade novels can range from 10,000 to 30,000 words, and young adult novels can range from 25,000 to 50,000. Recently, though, the Harry Potter series and Christopher Paolini's Inheritance trilogy have offered page counts exceeding what anyone though middle-grade readers could handle. And YA novels, which have grown in popularity, can often be the same length as a standard novel (80,000 words).

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) does offer length guidelines in terms of the appropriate number of manuscript pages for various genres (meaning the number of pages a writer would submit to a publisher). For fiction, they suggest middle-grade works be anywhere from 40 to 150 manuscript pages and YA from 175 to 200 pages.

What's the Right Length for a Young Adult Novel?

Consult listings in the current edition of Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market for information on both fiction and nonfiction word counts for various publishers. Also, consult submission guidelines for individual publishers that interest you.

It's unlikely your work will be automatically rejected if your submission exceeds a publisher's guidelines by a few thousand words. However, if they generally publish mid-grade books that are around 25,000 words and you send them 65,000, you'll likely get a quick rejection. Try your best to stay in the ballpark, but also do what's appropriate for your story.

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