Updated: Jul 30, 2022
You have an idea for a book, but one question plagues you—a question many writers have been seeking an answer to.
How long should my book be?
While the creative in me wants to yell, "It's completely up to you because it's your art and self-expression!" and, "Who cares about rules when it comes to your story?" the realist in me does believe in understanding what today's trends show and what industry standards remain. Below are the basic questions a new writer or author should ask themselves about their book in order to determine what their word count goal should be.
Before we get started, why is length significant when considering your book? Depending on how you publish, word count can be a huge determining factor for a publisher glancing at your manuscript. Too short and you might not have enough material to grab and keep a reader's attention. Too long and you risk looking unpolished and inexperienced.
Even if you are self-publishing, most audiences know how long a book in their favorite genre typically is. Deciding how long your book should be hinges on a few simple questions.
What kind of book are you writing?
Whether you are writing an epic across multiple novels or a simple children's book, the word count for each type of book has a generally accepted range. Novels are considered anything between 50,000 to 110,000 words. The novel's shorter cousin, the novella, is anything between 10,000 to 40,000 words.
Short stories usually cap in around 10,000 words but can be anything above 1,000 words. Children's books come in the same range as short stories with anything between 1,000 to 10,000 words. Young Adult fiction is a popular genre that should come in at 50,000 to 90,000 words. Because of the bigger themes and development in fantasy and sci-fi YA, they tend to be on the higher end of that range.
This leads us to the next question to consider: what genre is your book?
When I started researching this topic, I had no idea that genre played a part in setting a word count goal. I am a fan of the fantasy genre, so I wanted to learn about them first. Fantasy and Science Fiction are both higher word count genres, bigger stories and bigger worlds need more words. They range from 90,000 to 120,000 words.
Adult romance is arguably the most consistently popular genre in books, with many sub-genres, such as historical romance, being equally as successful. But what is a good word count for romance? Aiming for a word count goal of between 70,000 to 100,000 words for romance would keep you within the mainstream trends.
Suspenseful reads such as thrillers and mysteries normally clock in around 70,000 to 90,000 words with standard non-fiction falling even shorter with 70,000 to 80,000 words.
So my final question is, can you answer the questions above for your own writing?
If you haven't really considered what type of book you want to write or the genre you want to write it in, that's okay. There is still a word count goal you can set. If you are a first-time writer, you want your book to be marketable and cost-effective. It is easy to forget but longer books cost more to print. If you are just starting out, consider setting a goal of 90,000 words. Unless it is a short story or for early readers, 90,000 words is a great story length across the different types of books and genres.
90,000 words / 300 words per day = 300 days. You could have your book written in a year. That is an attainable and exciting goal.
If you have even more questions about specific word counts for novelettes, flash fiction, middle grade, memoir, self-help, picture books, or anything else I may have missed, check out these articles I found at The Write Life and Writer's Digest with lots of great resources.
So, how long should a book be?
However long you want. It depends on multiple factors, but in the end, you are writing the story and it's up to you to get it on paper. Go, write. I believe in you.
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Breanna Bartels is a creative exploring all her new interests in life. Along with being an avid book lover, she is a photographer and videographer with her own company, Candid Mirth. In the spaces between art and work, she is venturing into writing. She prefers a used book to a new one and has fanatical plans to own a used bookstore one day. When she isn't home attempting some new venture, she enjoys camping and hiking with her husband, Danny, and their two dogs. Reach out to her for creative opportunities or to discuss a good book! You can find her many projects here.