Word Counts

This is a question I get a lot:

What is the average word count for the different genres? What would you consider too long/too short?

First let me say, the word count on a book is less important than tight, good writing. You need as many words in your book as it takes to tell a good story. Of course, you can go overboard with this. A 200,000 word romance is going to have a hard time finding a publisher, as is a 7,000 word historical fiction. With that in mind, here are a few thoughts.

There is no hard and fast rule on word count. It will differ between publishers and between authors. For example, books for children usually top out around 40,000-50,000 words. But how long was JK Rowling’s longest book? The Order of the Phoenix was 257,154 words.

Debut authors usually fall on the shorter end of the spectrum, while established authors can get away with longer books.

If you’ve got a series, especially if it’s very popular, the later books can be longer. For example, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight logged in at 544 pages (already quite a bit longer than your average teen novel) with Breaking Dawn at 756 pages.

Here are a few general guidelines:

  • Short novel (children) = 10,000 to 40,000
  • Medium novel (teens) = 50,000 to 75,000
  • Adult novel = 80,000 to 120,000

As for differences in genres:

  • Young Children = 10,000 to 40,000
  • Middle Grade = 25,000 to 40,000
  • Young Adult = 45,000 to 80,000
  • General/Commercial = 80,000 to 100,000
  • Historical = 85,000 to 100,000
  • Horror = 80,000 to 100,000
  • Literary = 80,000 to 120,000
  • Mysteries = 80,000 to 100,000; cozies & hobby mysteries generally a little shorter, while thillers are a little longer
  • Romance = 80,000 to 100,000; category/imprint romances (like Harlequin, etc.) are often quite a bit shorter
  • Sci-Fi/Fantasy = 90,000 to 120,000; epic or high fantasy is usually on the longer end
  • Westerns = 50,000 to 80,000

Here are some approximate for page counts:

  • 40,000 = 160 pages
  • 62,500 = 250 pages*
  • 75,000 = 300 pages*
  • 90,000 = 360 pages
  • 100,000 = 400 pages
  • 125,000 = 500 pages**

As you can see, this is NOT an exact science.

*Best range for new authors

**Need to be an experienced author or really, really good to publish a novel that’s over 125,000 words.

5 thoughts on “Word Counts”

  1. Thanks for this handy guide! It's nice to have some kind of idea of a word count to aim for.

  2. Just discovered your blog. I tried to subscribe via email but feedburner said the site couldn't do that? How can I get your posts via email?

  3. I think this is really helpful and I'm going to bookmark it. It may not be an exact science but it's a great ruler.

  4. Laurisa, don't know what the problem is but that link has never worked quite right. Deleted it and am now using the Blogger version. You can find it at the top of the sidebar.

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