Word Counts by Genre

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.

 

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

 

 

Picture Books

  • 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)

Short Stories

  • Flash Fiction — under 500 words (often writing exercises)
  • Short story — 1,000-10,000 words

 

Novella

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

 

Novels

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.

 

Westerns

  • 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

 

 

Romance novels

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

 

 

Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense

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

 

Paranormal

  • 75,000 – 95,000 words

 

Horror

  • 80,000 – 100,000

 

Memoir

I guess this kind of depends on who you are but for us ordinary folks stick with

  • 80,000 – 90,000 words

 

Literary/Commercial/Women’s

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

 

Crime Fiction

  • 90,000 – 100,000 words

 

 

Fantasy

  • 90,000 – 120,000 words

 

 

Historical

  • 90,000 – 110,000 words

 

 

Sci-Fi

  • 90,00 – 125,000 words

 

 

Epics

  • Over 110,000 words

 

 

 

 

ADULT NON-FICTION

 

  • 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)!