Count Words not Beans

Once an author’s idea for a story begins to gel, there are two considerations to tackle, 1) the genre and 2) the word count.

Word length in General:

Classification Word count
Novel 40,000 words or over
Novella 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novelette 7,500 to 17,500 words
Short story under 7,500 words

Readers of individual genres anticipate certain book lengths and so do publishers. You will see varying sizes depending on who posts them. This list is somewhat of an average guide to book-length expectations in certain genres.

  • Adult commercial & Literary: 80,000-100,000  (80,000 range is best)
  • Romance: 50,000-100,000 word (aim for somewhere in the middle. 65,000–80,000 words
  • Mystery: 80,000 words (Sub-genres tend to be a bit shorter at 70,000–80,000 words.)
  • Science fiction & Fantasy: 100,000–120,000 words
  • Thriller: 90,000–100,000 words
  • True Crime: 90,000–100,000 words
  • Historical fiction: 100,000–150,000 words (This may depend on the topic. 100,000 words offer rich detail without being tedious.)
  • Westerns: 50,000-80,000 (65,000 seems about average)
  • Mainstream women’s fiction: 90,000–100,000 words
  • Memoir/Bio: 70,000–90,000 words
  • Literary fiction: 80,000–100,000 words
  • Young Adult: 50,000–80,000 words (Top end if science fiction or fantasy)
  • Middle Grade: 20,000–50,000 words (Depends on the subject matter and age range)
    • Upper middle grade (12 years +/tweens): 40,000 – 55,000 words. 
    • Simpler middle grade: 20,000-35,000 words
  • Picture books: 500–600 words (32 pages, about one line per page)

One of the biggest differences
between these categories is pace

In a Writer’s Digest article, Chuck Sambuchino (October 24, 2016) wrote:
” … you cannot count on being the exception; you must count on being the rule. Aiming to be the exception is setting yourself up for disappointment.” … “Almost always, high word count means that the writer simply did not edit their work down enough. Or—it means they have two or more books combined into one.”

If you have made a publisher rich, then you can do as you please.

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