What is the line between novella and novel? At what point does an agent/editor ask, "Did 20,000 words fall between the couch cushions?"

For first-time novelists, the knot is the fact publishers do not want to spend more in printing costs than possible. I can attest to this as someone in the magazine business. This means word counts for first-timers should be lower. But how low? I've heard 70k, 60k and even as low as 50k. What do you think?

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The piece I am currently working on is based on a real person, and I had almost nine chapters written before I really got into my research. Once that was done, I had to work what I had into the story to achieve the same outcome. Anyway, it comes in at just under 180,000 and the publishers are beside themselves waiting for it.
This is actually my second book written. The first one was too graphic for the publishers, and there was no way to tone it down without killing the story. I have kept up with them since my first submission with them, and they are really anxious about my new work. I just finished it (unless they tell me to do more) and will be sending it off Monday morning. I'll certainly let everyone know when it comes out to pick up a copy. Keep your eyes peeled for a title of The 22nd Degree.
You might have a tough time getting a agent to pick up a crime story that's less than 70,000. Of course there are always exceptions, but I keep hearing that 75,000-80,000 is supposed to be the sweet spot for genre fiction.

I did a little searching and ran across a July 2009 post from literary agent, Jessica Faust. She says:
"My answer is when in doubt think 80,000 words, give or take. I don’t think that you can ever go wrong with 80,000 words whether you’re writing mystery, romance, fantasy, literary fiction, or nonfiction."

And here's a little blurb from Chuck Sambuchino, who edits the Guide to Literary Agents put out by Writer's Digest:
80,000 - 89,999: Totally cool
90,000 - 99,999: Generally safe
70,000 - 79,999: Might be too short; probably all right
100,000 - 109,999: Might be too long; probably all right
Below 70,000: Too short
110,000 or above Too long
As a reader, I prefer books to be 200 - 300 pages, I am put off reading a book that's very long (say more than 450 pages).


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