I've sent several rejections over the past couple days. That's never fun. I get so many that I'm often just looking for the first thing wrong to make me weed a proposal out of the pile. I know that's not what any prospective author wants to hear, but it's true.
Many times that "first thing" is word count. Our guidelines clearly state that a Heartsong novel must be between 45,000 and 50,000 words. So, it's a little frustrating when I get submissions with more or less than that. The cover letter might even say something like, "I know your guidelines say 45,000-50,000 words, but I'm hoping you'll consider publishing my story anyway."
Sorry, but probably not. The exception to that would be if the story sounds so fantastic and the word count is just a little off (like no more than 5,000 under or over) that I'd be willing to work through adding or cutting in the editing process.
Why am I such a stickler to the word count? What would it matter if one Heartsong had 42,000 words and another had 57,000? Well, 45,000-50,000 words are what fit nicely in 176-page, mass market size paperbacks. And that's the format Heartsongs always are. No bigger, no smaller. No more pages, no less. If we changed the format, we'd have to change the deal with our printer, which would change the cost of printing, which would change the cost of the book, which would change the cost of being a Heartsong club member....
Sometimes established Heartsong authors turn in manuscripts that are over or under word count, and they can tell you that I email back asking them to beef it up or cut it back. If the story is over 50,000 words it won't fit into 176 pages, and if it's less than 45,000 words, we'd end up with a bunch of pages to either leave blank or fill up with advertisements. (A couple ads are great, but no paying reader wants too many!)
So, there's the scoop on Heartsong word count. What an exciting blog entry, huh? :) But I hope this is helpful information to those of you who'd like to write for Heartsong, and I hope to see fewer submissions saying, "I know my word count is off, but..."