Word Counts by Genre
Just how long should your book be? There are no hard and fast rules, no word count police (at least I don’t think there are), but based on my research here are some “safe” guidelines.
- 500-700 words
Middle Grade (MG)
Target age group 8 to 12.
- 20,000-35,000 words for younger middle grade
- 40,000-55,000 words for older middle-grade students
Young Adult (YA)
There are many sub-genres in this category, but this is a good range for a mainstream novel. The target age group for this category is 13 to 18.
- 50,000-80,000 words
ADULT FICTION (commercial and literary)
- Flash Fiction — under 500 words (often writing exercises)
- Short story — 1,000-10,000 words
A story can be written in any genre, but if it falls within this word count it is a novella.
- 10,000-40,000 words
Anything over 40,000 falls into the novel category. Few novels are that short these days. Usually, the minimum word count would be 50,000 words. Most fall between 60,000 and 100,000 words.
- 50,000 – 80,000 words
New Adult Fiction
Frankly, I’m not sure what this is, but I found it on a couple of lists, so I’m including it. The best I can determine it is a coined by the industry for the industry with a target market in the 18 to 30 age bracket.
- 60,000 – 85,000 words
There are a lot of sub-genres in this category: historical, paranormal, erotica, contemporary, chick lit… The author has a lot of leeway with word count in this category. A good word count target? Somewhere in the middle.
- 50,000-100,000 words
I lumped these genres together because they have the common element of suspense. Again, there are a lot of sub-genres: historical, paranormal, cozies, contemporary…
- 70,000 – 90,000 words
- 75,000 – 95,000 words
- 80,000 – 100,000
I guess this kind of depends on who you are but for us ordinary folks stick with
- 80,000 – 90,000 words
Although very different genres, they tend to demand about the same word count. Debut authors might want to stay on the low end of the range.
- 80,000 – 110,000 words
- 90,000 – 100,000 words
- 90,000 – 120,000 words
- 90,000 – 110,000 words
- 90,00 – 125,000 words
- Over 110,000 words
- 70,000 – 110,000 words
Non-fiction is often queried before it is written (whereas fiction is queried after the novel is complete). Therefore the word count is an estimate of the length of the final project.
Again, these are guidelines. However, if you are a debut novelist, it is recommended you keep the word count on the lower end of your genre range. I can pretty much guarantee your debut novel of 150,000 words won’t get a shot, no matter how good your query, synopsis and first chapters are. It just won’t happen.
Happy writing (and editing)!