Writer’s Corner: An Author’s Word Count Primer

Writer’s Corner: An Author’s Word Count Primer

When it comes to pitching your book, word count matters. You don’t want to write a picture book that runs the length of 2000 words and expect a publisher to pick it up. Unless of course your last name is Disney, then you may be rolling into the storybook realm. But I digress.

Yes, there are word count rules dictated by factors such as age, attention spans, sales, publishing, and printing demands. And occasionally, publishers and agents are unfortunately pressed to reject a book solely because the author didn’t adhere to the guidelines. You certainly don’t want to cut compelling content just to sell your book. Of course, there are exceptions such as an author’s clout, brand, industry name, or a uniquely enthralling story. But exceptions must be earned and are rarely granted.

So, plan before you start writing. And while publishers may have specific word counts that differ slightly from the norm, to help you chart your next best-seller, here are some general word count guidelines:  

  • Picture Books: 400-1,000 words with the ideal length around 600 words
  • Early Reader: 200-4,000 words with ideal length around 750 words
  • Chapter Books: 4,000-15,000 words with the ideal length around 10,000 words
  • Middle Grade: 20,000-65,000 words with ideal length around 30,000 words
  • Young Adult: 45,000-100,000 words with ideal length around 80,000 words
  • Literary and Commercial Fiction: 80,000-100,000 words
  • Adult Romance: 80,000-100,000 words with Category Romance ranging 40,000-75,000 words
  • Mystery and Thriller Adult Fiction: 70,000-110,000 with Cozy Mystery ranging 70,000-85,000
  • Historical Fiction: 80,000-120,000 words
  • Sci-Fi and Fantasy: 80,000-125,000 words
  • Self Help and How-To Books: 40,000-50,000 words
  • Memoir: 50,000-100,000 words
  • Standard Nonfiction: 45,000-85,000 words

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