When reading a book, you consider how lengthy it is, especially when you’re on a reading schedule. The length of a book determines how fast it will take you to finish reading its content. However, I have often wondered if there is a standard average book word count that every writer must use.
The average book word count varies depending on the genre, purpose, and the writer’s choice of book length. For instance, publishers consider novels to be books with a word count of 50,000 to 110,000 words, regardless of the genre. On the other hand, shorter stories range from 5,000 to 10,000 words.
As a writer, my target audience is my first consideration when deciding on the length of my book. Though I mostly deal with non-fictional novels, sometimes I had to explore other book genres, each with the expected word length. The right word length makes it easier for my audience to know what to expect.
If you’re a reader, then you probably have a preference for the type of books you read. If you prefer shorter books, then longer word lengths might discourage you even if it’s a genre you love. Either way, the average book word count greatly affects both writers and readers.
In this article, I shall walk you through all you should know about book genres and their average book word count.
How Many Words Are in an Average Book?
An average book depends on the type and genre of the book. Different books have expected word counts the writers should not exceed. However, the average word count in a book ranges from 50,000 to 100,000 words.
Novellas, which are smaller than an average novel, have a word count that ranges from 20,000 to 50,000 words. Once a book exceeds 100k words, it becomes an epic and some publishers might consider it too long for any audience to read.
Fantasy and sci-fi novels are an exception, as some can have a word count of 150,000. The reason for this is the elements these books contain. Most times, they talk about other worlds that are beyond earth or simply exist as the imagination of the reader.
However, such lengthy books must have engaging content for a publisher to consider releasing it to the market. Sometimes, the writer might consider breaking such books in series to reduce the word count.
What Is the Average Book Word Count of a Novel?
It is ideal that when you’re writing your first novel, you should aim to keep it between 80,000 and 100,000 words. While you can call anything with a word count of over 40,000 words in a book, 50,000 words are the minimum. Anything over 110,000 words is excessively long for a fiction work in places like the United States.
They do not set these rules in stone, and a writer can decide to exceed this word count. For instance, there are approximately 175,000 words inside the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien. The longest of this trilogy has 200,000 words.
Those epic sagas are the rare exception to the usual word count restrictions. Still, they have maintained their popularity amongst readers. Movie producers even took a liking to the series and made it into a movie which came out as a success. Notwithstanding, you’ll want to keep your novel as short as you can.
Various forms of literary fiction have varying word counts, depending on the genre. A good suspense thriller must keep the storyline flowing in order to keep the reader engaged. Thus, thriller books should have a word count of between 70,000 and 90,000 words.
For science fiction and fantasy novels, word-building is an art form that requires skill and dedication. Because of the requirement to develop a completely new world, this genre takes longer to complete than others. Books like these have word counts that range from 100,000 to 120,000 per book.
For romance books, not every love story is as grand as Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Today’s romantic stories are usually enjoyable and quick to read, which makes them a popular genre. The length of some of them is as little as 50,000 words, making them perfect beach reads. A high-end romantic novel should have a word count of 100,000 words maximum.
Historical fiction is often lengthy because of the need to flesh out an imagined historical world for the audience to fully understand the historical concept. Historical fiction novels are approximately 100,000 words.
How Many Words Are in a Nonfiction Book?
Because there are so many subgenres in nonfiction, there is no set word count guideline for nonfiction works. If you’re writing a nonfiction book, research the genre to discover how long previous books in that genre are. With memoirs, for example, the word count is often between 80,000 and 90,000.
What Is the Expected Word Count of Book Genres?
As I said earlier, the genre of a book determines how many words you will find in the book.
For general fiction, you will find 300–1500 word flash fiction, and 1500–30,000 words for a short story. Fiction novellas are short stories of 30,000–50,000 words while fiction novels range from 50,000 to 110,000 words.
For genres of fiction, a writer should write 70,000–100,000 words in mainstream romance and 40,000–100,000 words in a romance subgenre. For instance, a young adult book should contain 50,000–80,000 words. There should be 90,000–120,000 (and even 150,000) words of science fiction or fantasy and 80,000–100,000 words in historical fiction.
For fiction genres like thrillers, horrors, and crime, a writer should write 70,000–90,000 words.
Children’s books have a different word count. Picture books contain 300–800 words for children below 5 years. 200–3500 words is adequate for early readers while there should be 4000–10,000 words in children’s chapter books.
Middle graders can handle simple and well-constructed works of 25,000–40,000 words.
Though there are no specified word counts for non-fiction works, there are standards that other non-fiction books follow. Non-fiction books related to business, history, political science, psychology, history and related fields have word counts that range from 70,000 to 80,000 words. Memoirs are longer, with a standard word count of 80,000–100,000 words.
Biographies have word counts of 80,000 minimum and a maximum of 200,000 words. Self-help books and “Do It Yourself” usually have a word count of 40,000–50,000.
How Many Pages Are in a Book?
To get an estimate of how many pages your book will contain, divide the word count by the number of words per page. The normal manuscript layout of a double-spaced page in font 12 contains approximately 250 words. If you’re using a single spacing format, then a font 12 will give you 500 words on a page.
When you upload a file to Amazon to create an eBook, Amazon calculates the number of pages based on the word count in the file you have uploaded. Following the publication of Kindlepreneur’s survey of his readers, Dave Chesson discovered that the average length of a fiction page is 280 words, while nonfiction has an average of 230 words.
The difference in both book types could result from the length of each word. Non-fiction has longer words in a sentence than fiction novels.
Using Dave Chesson’s formula, a fiction book of 80,000 words will have 286 pages. In the same vein, a non-fiction book of the same word count will have 348 pages.
With this, a short story will have a minimum of 25 pages while Novellas will have a minimum of 66 pages. Self-help books of 40,000 words will have a minimum page count of 133. A young adult book of 50,000 words will have a minimum of 166 pages.
I wrote an articele about what is the average number of pages in a book, you can read here about the average word and page count per genre.
The pages of your book also depend on your trim size. In the publishing industry, “trim size” refers to the “book size.” After the publisher binds each copy of the book, they automatically “trim” it to guarantee that each page is the same size as the previous page.
The trim size determines the width and height of the book. The smaller the trim size, the greater the number of book pages. It also determines the thickness of the spine.
The Importance of the Average Book Word Count for Publishers
Publishers do not just offer average book word count based on what appears to be logical. Instead, they base their policies on the expectations of their customers. When submitting manuscripts, publishers recommend they fall within a word count range that people prefer when purchasing publications similar to yours.
This is because it is only worthwhile investing in your book if it will actually sell and generate profits. Regarding the word count regulations, there are two major exceptions. The first is self-publishing.
In self publishing, writers publish their books independently and at the own expense. With self-publishing, readers are more forgiving of excessive length because they are not obligated to buy the book.
The second is e-publishing. E-books do not have page numbers, so the word count is less relevant if you only intend to publish your work online.
What Can Go Wrong If You Write a Book That Is Longer Than the Recommended Length?
A book that is too long or too short can encounter significant difficulties during the publishing process, which makes it less appealing to publishers.
Consider the case of a novel with an excessively long word count. That it is a larger book means it will cost more to produce from beginning to end. Non-printing costs, such as higher shipping costs and additional warehousing space, add up over time, as does the cost of a longer editing process.
This would force the publishers to set it at a higher price than other books in the same genre. However, boosting the price to compensate for these expenses may deter some readers, especially since most of them usually pay specified amounts for books in certain categories.
It is possible to imagine that a shorter book will be more appealing to publishers. Smaller books will cost less to manufacture. While writing smaller books has its perks, a short book presents its own set of challenges.
Because of the book’s small spine, it’s difficult to locate on the shelves. When readers compare it to a similarly priced book that is closer to the length of another novel in the genre, they may consider it is not worth the money they spent.
The Importance of the Average Book Word Count for a Writer
A writer should have a word range to help determine which category the book falls into. If you plan to write a novella, then your book should fall within the word count range of novellas. If you plan for more lengthy works, you can settle for a comfortable word count for longer novels.
Word count also helps you know what your audience wants. Do research on books in the genre you intend to write on and know what their word counts are. This will give your book a better chance of selling.
The numbers above are typical recommendations. When you deviate from these rules, you’re asking readers to go above and beyond their expectations. Though it is not compulsory to follow these standards, keep in mind that each genre has its own set of expectations.
If you’re a first-time writer, sticking to the standard word count gives you a better chance of selling. Using these figures also serve as a starting point for your writing objectives. Before exceeding expectations, make a name for yourself in the book publishing world.
After you have several publications for readers to choose from, you can decide to expand your writing further.