How many words…?

I didn’t post anything yesterday, because, if you’re following my Twitter feed, you would have seen I was busy writing. Wednesdays are always a busy day in my ‘real’ life as well.

While I wasn’t posting, I looked at the blog stats occasionally, and one of the questions people typed into search engines and arrived at this site (don’t ask me why) was: how many words in a novel?

This is a question I’ve seen coming up many times in all the sites I’ve been involved in, or am still involved in. I’m going to recite here what I’ve learned. If any of it is different from your experience, please post in the comments (see note 1).

All these figures are approximate, and for every range, there will be a number of books with word counts outside this range. These are not absolute numbers. See also note 2 below.

Novella: 20,000 – 40,000 words
Novel: anything over 40,000 words, but most novels under 70,000 or over 120,00 words are not considered marketable, unless in genres below:

MG: 40,000 – 60,000 words
YA: 60,00 – 90,000 words
general mainstream fiction: 70,00 – 110,00 words, of which crime and romance usually fall in the lower wordcount brackets. For fantasy novels, the word count may be as high as 140,000 words. Science Fiction is usually a bit lower.


1. If you haven’t commented on this blog before, it may be a while before your post shows up, especially if you do so between 11.30pm and 9am Australian Eastern Standard Time (= GMT +8). I have to manually approve those posts, and I hate to disapoint, but I’m not online permanently.

2. These are all ball-park figures, and they can, and do, get bent occasionally. However, the further outside the range, the better your book has to be. To cut a long story short: if you’re an unpublished author and you try to sell a crime novel of 300,000 words, forget it. Get out the machete and cut it by two-thirds, which is probably not a bad thing anyway.


3 comments on “How many words…?

  1. Hehehe last year I was doing some stuff on YA writing for a uni assignment and found heaps of people on forums going “I have a 180,000 word YA novel, but I think it’s not long enough?” and other people responding “If it’s good enough writing, agents/publishers will take it all!” and such things.

    Research is important for any writer, even if only to find the appropriate word count accepted for that type of novel!

    • Totally! I’m a bit reluctant even to leave in the ‘there are exceptions’ clause, because the people who latch onto these exceptions are the ones most likely to need a rigid would count.

  2. Personally I think that “2/3 hatchet” could be taken to the vast majority of fantasy work out there as well – so much of it is just words for words sake.

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