How Many Words In A Novel? [A Word Count Guide]

Before writing a novel, it’s always good to set targets.

Usually, that target will be however many words you would prefer to write.

How Many Words in a Novel? [A Word Count Guide]

However, there are other matters to consider too. After all, you’ve undoubtedly seen novels of different sizes, so how long do they have to be?

A novel can be 40,000 words. Many people aim for 50,000, depending on how long the book is and the genre you’re writing for.

It depends on how long the book is and the genre you’re writing for. Let’s go into detail.

How Many Words Should A Novel Be?

Everyone categorizes novels at different lengths.

While many books are classed as such if they contain 40,000 words, NaNoWriMo won’t class your work as a novel unless it has a minimum of 50,000.

However, many publishers will accept 40,000 words as a reasonable minimum requirement for a book. 

However, they can be longer. 40,000 and 50,000 are the minimum lengths, with other novels going beyond 100,000 words.

Most word counts are in place to help find a home for a story in a specific genre.

Typically, you and your readers can expect most fiction novels to have between 80,000 and 90,000 words. 

Why Do Word Counts Matter?

When you write your first novel, it can seem like word count won’t matter.

However, many publishing houses have set guidelines in place.

So it’s always good to know what rules you need to follow when sending it to agents. 

Printing costs are higher for longer novels, so if there are more pages, the more it will cost them.

They may be reluctant to sell a debut novel that’s too long, as it may not break even.

Having a longer book succeed financially is a challenge, so a shorter one has better chances.

That’s because shorter novels are easier to sell to a larger audience.

If you don’t have an established fanbase, you may find that readers will be unlikely to commit to a larger novel.

When you’re writing your first novel, you want to tempt your readers, and the best way to do that is through a shorter book.

Not only will they expect a shorter book, but depending on the genre, they will have different expectations.

You don’t want to ignore those expectations in your first book.

Then, the final issue is about agents and publishers seeing a longer book.

Your publisher may become more concerned about your writing style if it’s a lengthy novel.

It may show that you struggle with editing or may not understand the plot or pacing in a story.

To show that you’re not a rookie, you need to edit your writing in a way that shows you understand how to structure a novel.

Once you show that you understand how novels work and sell enough, you can write a longer story.

After all, you’ll have an established audience and reputation then. 

How Many Words Can I Expect In A Fiction Novel?

You can usually find contemporary and literary fiction with a length of 80,000 words and upwards of 110,000 words.

In many cases, contemporary and literary novels need to follow set guidelines.

Typically, shorter books tend to sell more, and there are reader expectations regarding these novels.

How Many Words Are In A Fantasy Or SciFi Novel? 

If you’re looking at a novel in the fantasy or science fiction genre, you’ll be expecting some longer reads.

You can expect any book in the fantasy and science fiction section to be upwards of 100,000 words, with some exceeding 140,000. 

These novels are always thicker than most due to the amount of world-building involved.

Fantasy and science fiction novels tend to have more details due to the number of elements that make them more immersive.

You can expect some authors, such as Brandon Sanderson, can write upwards of 400,000 words in his novels.

How Many Words Are In A Romance Novel?

Romance novels are often shorter than other books.

They’re a popular genre and often lie between 80,000 and 100,000 words.

However, you’ll find that romance publishers tend to stay around the same word count, unlike fantasy novels.

They have strict guidelines and requirements for how many words are allowed. 

You should always check with the publisher if you are thinking of writing a romance novel to get it published.

They should have plenty of details available on their submission guidelines pages.

How Many Words Are In A Middle-Grade Novel?

Middle-Grade novels tend to be between 40,000 and 50,000 words, targeting a younger audience.

They need to be shorter to be more accessible to readers, so younger readers may not be as interested if you have a longer book than expected.

How Many Words Are In A Young Adult Novel?

Young adult novels are longer than middle-grade novels, often varying between 70,000 and 80,000 words.

Some stories may go beyond this word count, but usually, the first book in a series will stick to these guidelines.

In some cases, these allow younger readers to find them more accessible.

However, you should also remember that young adult novels often merge with other genres. 

How Many Words Are In A Mystery Novel?

Mystery novels tend to be between 70,000 and 80,000 words, as they tend to be a quick read.

They’re designed to be written in a way that you can enjoy them in a short period.

These novels tend to be shorter, so they can focus on the mystery aspect of the story.

If they go too long, you may find that the pacing and plot may struggle. 

How Many Words Are In A Thriller Novel?

Thrillers are fast-paced, so you can’t expect a long book, or the pacing will drag.

So, you can typically expect them to be between 70,000 and 90,000 words.

If they’re part of a series, they tend to involve more character development, so they’ll never be too long.

How Many Words Are In A Historical Fiction Novel?

More research is needed for historical fiction novels, so you can often expect them closer to 100,000 words. However,

they can go upwards of 150,000 words. Historical fiction needs to be longer due to the description required to flesh out the world.

In many cases, the length of historical fiction is decided by the topic you’re writing about and the market’s demand. So, you may find the word count fluctuates at times.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the word count guidelines in each genre can help debut authors get noticed by agents and publishers.

Many newbie authors are tempted to write longer novels to get their story out, but that can be a red flag for agents.

Instead, stick to the guidelines for your first novel to establish your audience.

If you want to publish a longer book, you can always do so once you’ve built your reputation as a writer. 

Depending on the publisher, they may have stringent rules about following their guidelines. If not, they may not read the work that you send them.

Alan Reiner

Alan Reiner

Hi, my name is Alan Reiner and I have been in the writing industry for almost seven years. I write articles that can span from 200 words all the way to 20,000 words every single day. How do I do it? With a lot of determination. All my way through school and college, I hated long-form assignments. I could never get into the groove of working on one piece for an extended period of time. My pieces were always late because I didn’t have the motivation to type them, let alone edit them.