So "they" say an MG novel should be somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 words. Definitely not more than 70,000 words, or less than 40,000 words. Using these as my guidelines, I did some research into the word counts of best-selling books in my genre:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: 76, 944
Series of Unfortunate Events, The Bad Beginning: 24,744
A Wrinkle In Time: 52,587
The Hobbit: 95,022
Artemis Fowl: 56,924
Percy Jackson, Book 1: 86,826
Interesting, huh? I just picked these titles randomly, whatever popped into my head. Obviously, all of them are best-sellers or classics. And only TWO of them are within the suggested word range. Most are significantly longer, but the first Lemony Snicket book barely rises above the level of an extended essay.
Here's the kicker. Although my list suggests that word count isn't all that important, I'm not arguing that we should disregard suggested word lengths. In fact, just the opposite. The truth is, most of those books were written by established authors or they were written overseas. In this country, in this moment in publishing, I think you're shooting yourself in the foot if you turn up with a super-long or super-short opus, especially if you're unknown. They're always looking for reasons to burn through submissions.
But it is food for thought, no? I know personally, I pay attention to word count. I've always envisioned my current book as one of a series of relatively short books (between 40k and 50k words each). My other two novels fell right between 55k and 60k words. What about you? How much does word count matter when you sit down to plan a project?