Words, smurds…how many to use

When I was hosting my local writer’s group meetings, one of the most frequent questions to come up was ‘What is the average word count for xyz type novel?’

The answers have been pretty consistent over the years, however, there seems to be a few minor changes, according to CA Marshall, Freelance Editor, Lit Agent Intern and YA writer.  You can find her complete blog here but I’ll share the highlights with you below.  Remember, there are always exceptions to the rules. When in doubt, check and double-check the Agent’s and/or Publisher’s website for submission guidelines.  Happy writing and editing!

Average Word Counts

Micro-Fiction – up to 100 words
Flash Fiction – 100 – 1,000 words, usually no more than 500.
Short Story – 1,000 – 7,500 words
Novellette – 7,500 – 18,000 words
Novella -20,000 – 45,000 words
General Novel – 50,000 -110,000

Genre Guidelines

Picture Books -200-500 words
Early Readers – 500-2000 words
Chapter Books – 5,000-10,000 words
Middle Grade – 25,000-45,000 words, most averaging 35k.
Young adult – 55,000-90,000 words
– YA contemporary tends to be on the shorter side, 60-70k
– YA fantasy, sci-fi, and paranormal tends to fall on the longer side due to world building, 70-90k
Adult – 70,000-115,000 words
– Romance – 85,000-100,000 words
– Cozy Mysteries – 70,000-85,000 words
– Mysteries, Horror, Crime – 75,000-95,000 words, most averaging 90k
– Sci-fi and Fantasy – 80,000-120,000 words, most averaging 100k-115k
– Literary and Women’s Fiction – 80,000-100,000 words


5 thoughts on “Words, smurds…how many to use

  1. Ugh! I just hit 115,000 word again. I had another epiphony (did I spell that right?) Well, darn the word count! I’m gong with it! I’ll cut something later. At least mine’s Fantasy, so I’m still close, but it might be considered YA Fantasy… so I’m scooting a line.


  2. I’ve been hearing that publishers are looking for slightly shorter fantasy novels, as there’s a feeling they got too long. Is this correct?


    1. It depends on who you talk to. Many publishers now are competing with the self-publishing business, e-books and the economy, so they are re-thinking how much they want to spend on producing a novel. First time authors will have a hard time selling their debut novels to one of the big six and even some indie publishers if it’s over 100,000, BUT, there are always exceptions. If your novel knocks the socks off the publisher and/or agents, then they are a little more forgiving of word count. Still, I would do your homework and read up on the agent’s/publisher’s websites submission guidelines. They will tell you what your word count should be for the type of novel you are submitting. Of course, make sure you’re submitting your novel to the right agents and/or publishers. Remember, YA fantasy word count will be less than adult fantasy as a rule. However, that rule can, and often is, broken, as is evidenced by the Harry Potter series and more recent debut releases such as Divergent.

      Here is a great article by Colleen Lindsay, ex-agent who focused on fantasy and sci fi that discusses this issue of higher word count. http://bit.ly/fxWsM

      The publisher I recently submitted to have word counts posted on their website, but the debut novels they have released have slightly more word count than what they posted, proof that if your novel is a good one, most publishers will bend a little. Good luck with your writing.


  3. Hey thanks for the post. It seems pretty accurate as a guideline and very helpful in figuring out what you want to write and for whom.


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