- Keep it under 100k. Once a book hits six digits, an alarm goes off in my head. If I detect any wordiness in the sample, I reject.
- Books that hit 120k should only be tightly-edited fantasy, SF, or thrillers. Tightly-edited means you removed every fluff and flower possible. The book is long because of intense plot twists or multiple POV, not from channeling Tolkien.
- Historical fiction is the exception to everything. It can hit 120k without concern. But don’t go too far beyond that.
- Books may go over their word count range if they’re particularly high-concept. I see this in high-concept YA, literary, and women’s fiction.
- If your book is a genre romance, keep it on the shorter side. Romances tend toward shorter.
- Your book will only be rejected for being too short if you’re under 50k. (For romance, under 40k.) If you’re under 50k, I assume you don’t know what you’re doing.
- Shorter is better than longer. Lengthening a good book is easier than shortening one. Agents know this and it figures into their decision.
TLDR: books within their genre range > books shorter than range > longer than range.
Maximize every word and read Stephen King’s ON WRITING.