What's the right size for a Lao American book?

One frequent question that comes up as we prepare for the 3rd National Lao American Writers Summit in San Diego is "How long do our books and stories need to be to get published?" So, here are a few of our thoughts to start with.

There’s no hard and fast official rule about what constitutes the “correct” length of a story or a book of poetry. A good story should be written long enough to say what it needs to say, not one word more, not one word less. Though, obviously, this can frequently be a matter of highly divided opinion. Here are some current approximations we've seen from others in the publishing industry:

Novels: 40,000-50,000 words is usually considered the minimum qualifying threshold. (160 pages). Of course many people get intimidated by the trend of contemporary authors to crank out miniature phone-books.

Novellas: 17,500 to 40,000 words, or about 70 to 160 pages.

Novelettes: 7,500 to 17,500 words, or 30 to 70 pages.

Short Stories: Under 7,500 words. Special categories include drabbles at 100 words, and flash fiction is usually considered under 300 words. A dribble is considered 50 words or less.

Full-length Poetry Book: 48 pages minimum by the US National Endowment for the Arts standard.

Chapbook of Poetry: 10-39 pages.

Long Poem: 50+ lines and/or 500+ words.

Short Poem: Under 50 lines and/or 500+ words.

Children’s book lengths can vary considerably depending on the age group you’re looking at, but roughly speaking, most of the ones our readers are familiar with are well under 32 pages and usually under 400 words. This will change depending on the subject and the author.

These standards have changed over time, and will continue to do so as readers develop different tastes based on new media and technology available, such as e-books.  Keep your eyes open, but as writers, it's the content quality, not the quantity that should matter the most.

Nor Sanavongsay