As a reader, I never felt that a good book was too long, even over a thousand pages. and I’ve never found a bad book short enough.
One of the most common questions I get asked by writers: “how long should my manuscript be?”
You are reading: Word counts for books
well, different publishers look for different lengths for different genres. useful, huh? 😊
there are general guidelines, which I will list below. but it is important to know that these are not hard and fast rules.
Just be careful not to go too far and remember that a great idea and good writing trumps everything.
That doesn’t mean you can submit a manuscript twice the length recommended by an editor. but rules are made to be broken, and the most successful publishing phenomenon in history did just that.
Harry Potter books are young adult titles, and publishers generally look for manuscripts in the 50,000 to 80,000 word range. jk rowling’s series of records began with two titles at the higher end of that spectrum and ended with five that blew the benchmarks.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone — 76,000 words
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets — 85,000 words
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — 107,000 words
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — 190,000 words
harry potter and the order of the phoenix — 257,000 words
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince — 168,000 words
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows— 198,000 words
See Also: Picture Books about Memorial Day
Those titles also wiped sales records. the first one alone has sold more than 120 million copies, and the rest have sold at least 65 million each.
Obviously, my point is not that you should submit a first book of close to 200,000 words. I’m just saying that some things are more important than the number of words.
however, it would be wise to stick to these suggested script lengths.
How many words does a novel have?
Average novel word count is typically around 85,000, but can range from 50,000 to 120,000.
sometimes they are shorter: the lion, the witch and the wardrobe from c.s. lewis, the great gatsby by f. scott fitzgerald and fred gipson’s old yeller range from 35,000 to 50,000.
At the higher end are novels such as Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (119 394), Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s List (134 710) and war and peace by Leo Tolstoy (587,287).
Publisher guidelines vary, so check their website or contact them directly to find out what they expect along the way. don’t deviate from their suggestions.
The most important thing, especially if you’re concerned about your manuscript being too short, is to keep your scenes precise, to the point, well-edited, and polished. make every word count and never let your total result from unnecessary words. editors see through the fluff instantly.
if you need more words, they should come from better written scenes.
how many words per page in a book?
Depending on the amount of dialogue versus narrative and paragraph length, the average page of double-spaced manuscript in microsoft word (the standard for sending to editors) falls within about 225 words. (visit here to learn how to format your manuscript).
Of course, a printed book will be single spaced and will contain about one and a half to two times as many words per page of your manuscript.
book word count range by genre
microfiction: from 5 to 350 words
examples: the 6-word story attributed to ernest hemingway (google it), running away from complexity by jon mcgregor, golden years by edith pearlman, first year widow by joyce carol oates
picture books for children: 400 to 800 words
examples: green eggs and ham by dr. seuss, the giving tree by shel silverstein, madeline by ludwig bemelmans, miss nelson is missing by james marshall
flash fiction: 500 to 1000 words
examples: the pedestrian by ray bradbury, a haunted house by virginia woolf, a telephone conversation by mark twain
short story: 1,500 to 5,000 words
examples: luck by mark twain, the telltale heart by edgar allan poe, the door by e.b. white, the elephant’s son by rudyard kipling, a small cloud by james joyce, the great anthrax by nathaniel hawthorne
novel: 10,000 to 50,000 words
examples: the old man and the sea by ernest hemingway, a carol by charles dickens, breakfast at tiffany’s by truman capote, animal farm by george orwell
mid-grade fiction: 20,000 to 55,000 words
examples: the one and only ivan by katherine applegate, charlotte’s web by e.b. white, island of the blue dolphins by scott o’dell, walk two moons by sharon creech
juvenile novel: 50,000 to 100,000 words
examples: lois lowry’s the giver, john green’s the fault in our stars, rick’s percy jackson: the lightning thief riordan, the hunger games by suzanne collins, the maze runner by james dashner
novel for adults: 50,000 to 120,000 words
examples: the hobbit by j.r.r. tolkien, anne of green tiles by lucy maud montgomery, all the pretty horses by cormac mccarthy, to kill a mockingbird by harper lee, i >gulliver’s travels by jonathan swift, my sister’s keeper by jodi picoult
devotional: 30,000 to 50,000 words
examples: doing my best for your highest by oswald chambers, jesus call by sarah young, new morning mercies by paul david tripp , morning and evening by charles spurgeon
self-help: 40,000 to 90,000 words
examples: how to win friends and influence people by dale carnegie, the 7 habits of highly effective people by stephen r. flock
memories: 50,000 to 90,000 words
examples: a moving party by ernest hemingway, out of africa by karen blixen, all creatures great and small by james herriot , the story of my life by helen keller, a long way gone: memories of a child soldier by ishmeal beah
narrative: 50,000 to 110,000 words
examples:Boys on the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympicsby Daniel James Brown, In the Air: A Personal Account of Mt. everest disaster by jon krakauer, seabiscuit: an american legend by laura hillenbrand
biography: 50,000 to 110,000 words
examples: the diary of anne frank by anne frank, i am malala: the story of the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the taliban by malala yousafzai, the hideout by corrie ten boom, just as I am by billy graham
research your gender
the j.k. aside from the rowling/harry potter phenomenon, it’s important to adhere to the conventions of your genre.
study the competition. also research publishers’ submission guidelines.
Never fill out your manuscript just to meet a word count guideline. if yours is too short, restructure it and add more written stuff. editors see through the fluff in seconds.
And remember, maintaining word count is important, but what makes or breaks your chances with an editor is the quality of your manuscript.