Posted by: nancyisanders | January 31, 2015

Mentoring Moments with Nancy

Sanders Nancy I 2014

Welcome to Mentoring Moments!
From time to time some of you precious writers and fellow scribes e-mail me with questions and thoughts. It’s always so great to hear personally from so many of you!

I’ve decided to start this occasional column where I spend time answering some of these questions that come in. Hopefully, this will help each one of you to gain more confidence, more skills, and more success as you move forward in your writing journey.

Here’s the first question that we’ll talk about today:

Does word count matter in nonfiction? Are agents & publishers accepting nonfiction manuscripts longer than 500 words?

What a great question, don’t you agree? And so timely both in today’s market and with the nonfiction writing we’re doing right now here on my blog.

Here’s the short, direct answer:
Each publisher and each agent has their own preferences.

Let me explain more fully. My agent, for example, really wants me to keep my nonfiction picture book manuscripts less than 800 words because she tries to market them to the trade market. (The trade market includes the kinds of books you’ll find at a bookstore where parents will pick them up and buy them.)

On the other hand, if you are trying to write nonfiction to submit to the educational market, some publishers just want nonfiction manuscripts of 25-50 words for a kindergarten reading level where some publishers want 3,000-5,000 words in a nonfiction picture book manuscript for a 3rd or 4th grade reading level.

The best thing you can do is choose a mentor text, or current published nonfiction picture book. Make sure it was published in the last 3 years or so.

Count the number of words in this title. Often, you can find this information at a handy site, Renaissance Learning. For example, CLICK HERE to see the word count in my nonfiction picture book, D is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet. Isn’t that a whopper?!!! Just type in the title of the book you want to look up and it will show you its word count, too, if it’s listed on this site.

Once you know the word count of your mentor text, go ahead and make YOUR manuscript a similar length. Then when you submit this manuscript to a potential agent or to the publisher themselves, be sure to tell them that YOUR manuscript is similar in length to the title of your mentor text. Even agents who normally prefer a certain word count in a nonfiction manuscript might be open to looking at it if they understand that a certain publisher is publishing books of that same length.

Happy writing. (And counting!)

Thanks for joining me today in MENTORING MOMENTS WITH NANCY.


  1. Thank you Nancy, for always sharing. I use Renaissance to research word count. It’s a helpful tool. I don’t know how you keep up, and keep adding to your pile of things to give to us. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for all you do.

    • Mona, it’s for writers such as you that motivate me to do what I do. Thank you so much for your kind words. Hugs to you!

  2. Thanks, Nancy, for providing an indepth answer to this question. I know I will keep this in mind as I write my own nonfiction stories.

    Thanks for all you do for the writing community!

    Take care,

    Donna L Martin

    • So glad you find this helpful, Donna!!!! Hugs to you today!

  3. Hi Nancy,
    The Renaissance Learning Site is a great resource to quickly find word counts. Thanks for saving me some time.

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