It’s not so simple a question, after all.
Genre norms do provide some clues for your novel’s word count. But when you’re writing a novel, you need more than that.
You need to know what your target readers expect. When they pick up your book, will they be disappointed if the spine is less than an inch thick?
Or are they likely to want something they can finish more quickly?
How many words are in a novel that most of your ideal readers are looking for? And where do you get this information?
How Many Words Are in a Novel?
Right now, when it comes to the average novel word count for most fiction genres, the sweet spot is 90,000 words.
Those are typically divided among the three acts of a story in the following way:
These are rough estimates. You don’t have to abruptly end your Act One content at 22,500 words. Just use these numbers as a guideline.
But what if your word count is way off from 90,000 words? Will that hurt it?
Anything around 40,000 words and below is actually a novella — not a full-length novel. And, generally speaking, novellas are harder to sell.
If you’re a well-known author like Toni Morrison or Stephen King, you have little to worry about. But if you’re a new author, stick with book lengths that have better odds.
There’s such a thing as too many words, too.
Anything over 150,000 is beyond the upper ideal word count for epic fantasy, and books that long are harder to sell, too – especially if you’re new.
So, if you’re submitting a debut novel of nearly 200,000 words, don’t be surprised if agents and publishing houses turn you down or ask you to do some trimming.
Here are some word count guidelines by genre:
How Many Words Per Page in a Book?
There’s a reason we talk more about the average word count for a book than the average word count per page. The latter depends on your font size, font type, and page size, as well as your margins, indents, and line spacing.
One page of a Microsoft Word (set to the default size of 8.5″ by 8″) with single-spacing and a 12 point font, would typically have about 1,000 words.
Your typical printed book, on the other hand, can have an average of 300 to 475 words per page, depending on what you or your formatter chooses for the following:
Once you know the average word count per page, you can guesstimate how many pages your book will have by dividing your total word count by about 390 for a 5.5″ by 8.5″ book or 475 for a 6″ by 9″ book.
How Many Words in A Novel Chapter?
If anyone asked you, “How many words in a novel chapter?” you wouldn’t be a freak for not knowing what to say. Word count per chapter can vary widely.
But for the sake of helping you look good (and giving you an edge when you’re writing a novel of your own), here are some examples to consider:
If you’re aiming for the average of these options with a 90,000 word novel, try dividing it into 21 chapters, with an average word count of 4,250 per chapter.
The average word count per chapter for novels is between 3,000 and 5,000 words. But again, this is only a guideline.
Ultimately, how you end each chapter is more important than how long it is. If your reader gets to the end of a chapter, and you’ve given them no reason to keep reading, they’re likely to close your book and never return to it.
Give them a chance to process what you’ve told them in each chapter. Then give them a reason to come back for more.
To do this, keep the following in mind:
- Give a foreshadowing of things to come — Just a hint can make your reader curious.
- Hint at a meaningful connection or question — For example, tie the current scene to a past event or memory.
- End with a cliffhanger — Leave your reader wondering what will happen next.
- Introduce a shift in point of view (POV) — Mix it up with different perspectives.
How Many Words in a Romance Novel?
Generally, the word count range for a romance novel is 50,000 to 80,000 words.
If your novel is a blend of genres — say romance and fantasy or romance and sci-fi — the word count tends to go as high as 90,000 words or more.
Cozy mysteries, which often include a romantic subplot (sans erotica), can run about 70,000 to 75,000 words.
Literary or commercial women’s fiction, which often includes romance, has an average word count of 80,000 to 110,000.
Sub-genre romance novels — including regency romance, inspirational romance, romantic suspense, and paranormal romance — have a wider range. All have a minimum 40,000 words, with the maximum hovering around 100,000.
For mainstream romance novels, the word count is between 70,000 and 100,000.
How Many Words in a Nonfiction Book?
Standard nonfiction books on comprehensive topics like business, political science, psychology, and history are typically 70,000 to 80,000 words long.
Memoirs can run longer, though they don’t have to. They generally focus on anecdotes from the subject’s life that support a central theme or message. Their average word count rage is 80,000 to 100,000.
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Biographies cover the whole life of the subject, so they run longer at 80,000 to 200,000 words.
How-to and self-help books are generally shorter than all of these. Maybe you’ve already guessed why.
How Many Words in a Self-Help Book?
Most people looking for help from a book want to find something that will help them as quickly as possible. So, they’re less likely to want a book with a spine of two inches or more.
In fact, word counts for these books run between 40,000 to 50,000 words. Given a standard font size of 11 and an average word count per page of 475 for a 6″ by 9″ book (a standard size for nonfiction), that means your 50,000 word book will have roughly 105 pages.
If you chose a smaller size — say 5.5″ by 8.5″ — your average word count per page would be more like 390, giving you a page count of about 128 pages.
Since print cost depends on page count, keeping that lower means you can either keep the price lower or earn more in royalties for each book you sell.
How Many Words in a YA Book?
If you’re asking, “How many words are in a book written for young adults?” welcome to this section! If you write YA fiction (or want to), I’m rooting for you. Popular as this genre is, there’s always room for high-quality, relatable stories.
Great fiction isn’t just about entertaining your reader, after all. The best stories we read while growing up have a way of shaping us.
Back to business, the word count for YA fiction ranges from 50,000 to 80,000 words, though there are some well-known exceptions:
As a rule, when you’re a first-time author, it’s best to stay within industry standards. The first Harry Potter novel stopped at 76,000 words. As popular as it became, the author could afford to deviate from the word count guidelines.
For every successful exception, though, there are a hundred (or more) authors whose books never make it to publication.
Because most editors are unwilling to gamble on an unknown author’s book with a word count of more than 100K. And there’s nothing wrong with starting within the word count guidelines to get your writing career off to a smoother start.
The first book in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series — The Lightning Thief — has 86,826 words. True, it goes over 80,000, but it stays under 90,000.
The longest book in this series — at 97,069 words — is the fifth, The Last Olympian. And it still stays under 100,000 words.
The next time someone asks you, “How many words does a novel have?” you can share what you’ve learned from this article. Feel free to send them here for more info, too — especially if they’re interested in writing books of their own.
In the meantime, I hope you found this useful. Wherever you are with your work in progress (WIP), may every day of writing bring you closer to a satisfying launch day.
If you’re wondering, now, how to write faster to get to that day even sooner, read this post for 12 effective tips.
The point of all this, after all, is to help you create bestselling books your readers will love as much as you do (if not more).
To that end, let us know how we can help you reach your writing goals. And may today’s inspired action get you closer to one of them.