“My thesis is 270,000 words.”
I heard these words in a small group session I led at a local writers’ conference.
A writer friend of mine, Shayla Eaton with Curious montage, was sitting on the escape. We threw knowing glances at each other, and since I didn’t want to break the literary heart of this poor memoirist, I signaled Shayla to take the lead.
As gently but as directly as she could, she explained to the memoirist that a 270,000 word memoir was excessive. Even if it self-publishes, the cost per copy would be high, and few readers will find their way through such a work – especially for someone who is not famous.
And no agent or publisher would look even beyond that number.
The prose could be as light as Fitzgerald’s. The life story could be as compelling as Lincoln’s. The platform could be as wide as Oprah’s. But no agent would know because they would see “Memory: 270,000 words” and press Delete before continuing to read.
So what number of words should a dissertation be?
Besides, how long should a book last? How many words are there in a typical novel? What is the ideal word count for a book?
If you are writing your first novel or any book, you are probably asking yourself these questions.
The short answer is: long enough to tell the story but short enough to consistently hold the reader’s interest.
The long answer is, well, longer.
Why is the number of new words important?
Word count is important because every book, regardless of genre, has an inherent contract with the reader. But this contract depends on the genre of the book.
For example, when a reader takes a thriller, he has certain expectations of what he is about to read. This includes scenes like “the hero at the mercy of the villain”, but it also includes the length of the book. Because thrillers are all about the thrilling action and maybe the development of a character (especially if it’s part of a series), the word count isn’t huge. Thrillers tend to be between 70,000 and 90,000 words long.
If you’re not a thriller writer, I won’t keep you going. At the end of this article, you will find a guide to suggested word count lengths for most popular genres.
My point is that your gender will likely dictate your word count. There are exceptions, like YA books over 250,000 words, but these tend to be outliers, and novice writers rarely, if ever, become an outlier.
Additionally, knowing your word count before you start writing can help you better plan your story arc as well as your writing schedule.
How many words are there in a novel?
And what is the average length of other types of books?
Before we dive into the specifics of gender-based word count, let’s take a look at the larger picture of average book length.
For most publishers, a book is “novel length” when it is between 50,000 and 110,000 words.
At a writers’ conference I attended recently, publishing veteran Jane Friedman said 80,000 words are good for most fiction, less than 60,000 words is not territory in length novel, and over 120,000 is probably too much.
Writer’s Digest recommends 80,000 to 89,999 words as “100% safe range for literary, mainstream, women, romance, mystery, suspense, thriller and horror.” This represents approximately 300 double-spaced pages.
In “Describe your book in 3 easy steps“Says editor Shawn Coyne,” The average novel today is about 90,000 words long. Great epic stories can be 120,000-200,000 words long. “But, he also mentions that”The Wizard of Oz was 40,000 words. The old Man and the Sea was about 25 to 30,000 words at the top. “
Coyne uses the Nanowrimo word count length of 50,000 words for his examples, calling 50,000 words a good foundation to build on.
So what does this mean to you, author?
If you are working on a novel length book, aim for at least 50,000 words – but better to aim for 90,000 words. Editorial cropping is inevitable.
However, you’ll want to take your gender into account as well.
How many words should my book be?
Here are the average word count ranges by genre.
Number of general fictional words
Fiction genres count words
- Mainstream romance: 70,000 to 100,000 words
- Romance subgenre: 40,000 to 100,000 words
- Science Fiction / Fantasy: 90,000-120,000 (and sometimes 150,000) words
- Historical fiction: 80,000 to 100,000
- Thrillers / Horror / Mysteries / Crime: 70,000 to 90,000 words
- Young adult: 50,000 to 80,000
Number of words in children’s books
- Picture books: 300 to 800 words
- First readers: 200 to 3,500 words
- Chapter Books: 4,000-10,000 words
- Average grade: 25,000 to 40,000 words
Number of non-fictitious words
- Standard documentaries (Business, political science, psychology, history, etc.): 70,000 to 80,000 words
- Memory: 80,000 to 100,000 words
- Biography: 80,000 to 200,000 words
- Instructions for use / self-help: 40,000 to 50,000 words
All of these are average book word count ranges and should not be taken as the final word count you need to achieve in your book. We all know of outliers in every genre that have been published far below, or far beyond, those words matter.
Use these numbers as a benchmark for your writing goals.
Know what readers expect in terms of word count of your genre (even if the reader is unaware of their expectations for the length of a book).
How many words per page can you expect in a book?
This is another common question, and for most writers it should be easy to answer using a “word count” function in your writing tool.
If you write in Microsoft Word, “word count” is an option under “Tools.” Do you prefer something different? Here’s how to find the word count in Google Docs. You can also track the word count in Scrivener.
The average single-spaced document entered in 12 point font contains approximately 500 words per page, but this can vary greatly depending on your formatting.
So if you have an hour to write and want to cut down to 300 words, you might be wondering how many pages are 300 words – and the answer is less than one! Feasible, right?
If you’re thinking bigger and wondering, for example, how many pages are 50,000 words, just divide your target word count (50,000) by 500 (since that’s the average words per page). Your answer here is 100 pages.
Don’t let these commas instill fear. Fifty thousand words is not so much divided into five days a week for a year. That’s only 193 words per day of writing!
This is an updated version of a story that was posted previously. We update our articles as often as possible to make sure they are useful to our readers.