When it comes to writing a book, there are a lot of different factors you have to consider.
Not just in making the contents interesting, but also to make sure they adhere to printing and publishing standards.
The overall word count of any book is incredibly important when it comes to your finished manuscript.
If it’s too short based on what type of book it is, then it will cause problems, but the same can be said for if it’s too long.
There is a sweet spot when it comes to your word count, and it purely depends on the book itself.
Whether it’s a novel or a children’s book, a romance novel, or a science fiction novel, each has its own word count requirements, and we’ll be going over them in this article. So let’s get started.
How Many Words Are In A Novel?
Books come in all shapes and sizes, but the most popular kinds of books are usually novels.
If your book is a novel, then you should know that the general rule of thumb is that the word count should fall between 80,000 to 100,000 words in total.
Novels can be as short as 40,000 words if needs be, but it is recommended that your novel is no shorter than 50,000 words minimum.
If you really want to make sure you’re in the safe zone though, then you should make sure your word count reaches just over 80,000 words.
Just to put that into perspective, The Return of the King, the last book in J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is 137,115 words in length.
All of his books in this trilogy are over 130,000 words. But you will rarely find books that reach word counts of this length.
Taking it even further than that, A Dance With Dragons, the fifth book in George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire series clocks in at a massive 422,000 words.
These two book examples are both from the epic fantasy/high fantasy genre though, so these are not common word counts you will come across.
How Many Words In Different Genres
When it comes to novels, the genre also plays a massive role in what the overall word count is going to be.
Different genres have different word counts that are considered to be acceptable, so let’s have a brief look at some of them now:
Science Fiction And Fantasy
These particular genres focus quite heavily on world-building and because of this, they need more words to truly immerse the reader in these fantasy worlds.
They usually have a word count of something between 90,000 to 120,000 words.
This genre is all about keeping the plot moving forward and keeping the reader engaged.
The usual word count for thriller novels is between 70,000 and 90,000 words.
This genre is a bit like science fiction and fantasy in the sense that it has to focus on world-building to immerse the reader in the time period.
Historical fiction novels are usually about 100,000 words in length.
Romance novels are probably the most varied in length because they usually read quite quickly, but some are a bit more fleshed out.
They can be as short as 50,000 words, but some romance novels are closer to 100,000 words in length.
This genre doesn’t really have a definitive word count. Non-fiction novels can be part of lots of different genres, so it has a lot to do with whatever the subgenre is.
You can look this up for yourself quite easily. One example of non-fiction books is memoirs, and they usually fall somewhere between 80,000 and 90,000 words in total.
As you can see, each genre heavily impacts the overall novel length and word count.
It really depends on what sort of novel you are writing, but if you follow these guidelines and stay within these word counts, you should be fine.
How Many Words Are There In A Novella?
If you’re not writing a novel, there are plenty of other types of books that still have a recommended word count. One of these types of books is a novella.
A novella is a sort of like a mini novel. It’s longer than a short story, but not long enough to be considered a full-blown novel.
Typically, novellas will fall anywhere between 10,000 to 40,000 words.
There’s even a shorter version of a novella which is known as a novelette, that is usually somewhere between 7,500 and 17,000 words in total.
How Many Words Are There In A Short Story?
Short stories are pretty much exactly what it says on the tin: a story that is short!
These written works are generally very small and their word count is smaller than novellas and even novelettes.
Short stories are typically anywhere between the 5,000 to 10,000 words mark.
If you don’t want to write 5,000 words though, short stories can be as short as 1,000 words if needs be.
There are also even shorter versions called “flash fiction” that is usually no longer than 500 words in total.
How Many Words Are There In A Children’s Book?
Children’s books are usually designed for children who are at the age where chapters start to come into their reading.
They are a bit more in-depth than books for younger children, but they aren’t as complex as a full-blown novel.
Children’s books usually fall somewhere between 1,000 to 10,000 words in total.
How Many Words Are There In A Picture Book?
Picture books are designed to help younger children get into reading, but they are usually still at a stage where a proper book is too complex.
Picture books allow children to familiarize themselves with words and phrases with the help of pictures.
The writing in these books is usually very minimal, so they don’t usually exceed the 500 to 600 word count.
Why Word Count Is Important
All of the “rules” for word counts are more like guidelines, but when you follow them, it can dramatically improve your chance of being published.
Shorter books are more marketable, and if you’re just starting out, publishers are more likely to take these shorter books on.
One of the reasons this is the case is because longer books, especially novels, are way more expensive to print.
You also have to keep in mind that audiences who actually read the books are used to their books being a particular length and word count, so if you can stick to the status quo, you can keep them engaged for longer.
The number of words that should go into a book purely depends on the genre, type, audience, and how well known you are as a writer.
When books are shorter, this is helpful for more unknown authors.
As you start to build a better reputation though, you’ll be able to get books with higher word counts published a lot easier.
Hiring an editor will help you stick to the right word count too!