It’s every author’s age-old question: What is the proper word count my book? It’s also one of those questions for which there’s no right answer. If your material is well-written and captivating, readers are more likely to stick around for 600-plus pages. If the material is poorly written, however, they might move on after just 30 pages.
Word Count for Fiction
In general, word counts for novels range from 70,000 to 120,000 words, depending on the genre—and the author.
J.K. Rowling’s first book in the Harry Potter series came in at 76,000 words, the high end of average for young adult fiction. Each subsequent book in the series exceeded that total, with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, weighing in at a whopping 257,000 words. That is well over the normal range for novels, but it didn’t stop Harry Potter fans from reading every book in the series. As best-selling author Jerry Jenkins notes, “Some things are more important than word counts.”
Crime and Thriller Novels
As mentioned above, genre can also influence word count. Crime and thriller novels tend to run on the higher side—up to about 130,000 words. On the low end, it’d be hard to imagine a crime/mystery novel shorter than 75,000 words. You need time and text to build the plot.
This popular genre averages between 75,000 and 120,000 words, unless you’re writing a saga.
Fantasy and Sci-Fi Novels
These novels tend to run on the longer side—up to 180,000 words, or even over 200,000. At that length, however, authors in this genre need to make sure every word and detail is needed. Don’t add any fluff to these books.
This genre breaks the rules when it comes to word counts. While 120,000 words are the norm, you can write 150,000, 180,000 or even 200,000 words, but you must edit mercilessly to justify increasing length.
Literary novels can also go below the normal minimum. It’s not uncommon to have a 60,000- or even a 45,000-word novel. As with higher-word-count books, however, good writing is a must.
Young Adult Fiction
Because these are younger readers, the word count for YA novels is between 50,000 and 70,000 words, although the Harry Potter series shows that you break that norm with exceptional storytelling.
Middle Grade Fiction
While average word length is 50,000 to 80,000 words, this genre has so much variety that word count depends on the book and its intended audience. The younger the audience, the fewer words needed. A good way to gauge appropriate length is to check out similar books for comparison.
Word Count for Nonfiction
When it comes to nonfiction books, the same rules for word counts apply: It depends on the author, the genre, and the quality of the writing.
Biographies and Memoirs
While the stories of other people’s lives are fascinating, readers don’t want to slog through anything that drags on and on. Average word count ranges from 70,000 to 100,000 words, although biographies of major celebrities or public figures can support a higher number.
Like novels, these books fall into the 70,000- to 120,000-word range. As always, be sure to keep it interesting so you can justify the word length.
For this genre, the sky’s the limit. As long as the book is written well and keeps the reader’s attention, the length doesn’t matter.
Want even more tips for writing your novel? Check out these articles:
- The Best Writing Tip Ever: How I Doubled My Daily Word Count with One Simple Change
- Top 8 Time Wasters for Writers (And What To Do About Them)
- How I Wrote a Book in 60 Days