It might seem like how many words in a novel doesn’t much matter. But that’s where you’d be wrong about the creative liberties of writing. Writing too many words in your novel is just as embarrassing as not writing enough.
A book’s word count does matter and if you get it wrong, this can impact your book sales, reviews, and its overall performance. This is because reader expectations are important when it comes to the overall makeup of your book.
Yes, there are a ton of creative changes you can make depending on the genre and age of your audience, but these have to fall within the expectations of the genre itself.
You can’t give a 9-year-old the fifth (and longest) Harry Potter book and expect them to pay attention until the end. Unless that child is my cousin Jonah who is very, very, very advanced in reading for his age. Most children don’t yet have the ability to maintain attention and comprehension for that long a time following one plot line.
Which means they might label a book like that as “boring” or “confusing”, even if it’s well written.
These are some of the unwritten rules of writing. And like many of these rules, authors can get them wrong and it does impact their ability to sell books—whether through self-publishing or getting traditionally published.
Word count might seem like a silly rule to pay attention to, but literary agents also pay attention.
Trying to sell a 200,000 word romance novel? Ha! They may not even read your sample chapters, much less request a full manuscript, because they won’t have faith in your industry knowledge.
So let’s correct that knowledge, even if you just want to self-publish.
If you want a quick answer that’s more specific to your book and audience, this tool will spit out the right word count, otherwise read below:
Word and Page Count Calculator
Choose your book type, genre, and audience for a word count and page number total.
Enter your details below to get your personalized word and page counts for your book!
Your Book Will Have
*These results are based on industry standards. The total word and page count will vary from book to book and is dependent on your writing and overall book formatting*
Average Time to Write This Book: 60 days
How many words in a novel?
The standard word count for a novel, while varying between genres, is between 65,000 and 130,000 words. In more recent years, this average is growing as readers crave longer books.
First-time writers should research their genre in this post and choose the word count that’s the industry standard. Example: 90,000 words for a romance novel.
The amount of words in your novel does matter. Depending on your genre, having too many or too little can not only hurt your book sales, but also cause fewer 5-star reviews (which also hurts your sales). I mean, imagine purchasing an epic fantasy that’s only 10,000 words… This is how many words to have in a novel for each genre.
Words per book genre:
- Memoir – 45,000 to 80,000
- Self-Help Book – 30,000 – 70,000
- Fantasy Novel – 90,000 – 200,000
- Sci-fi Novel – 80,000 – 150,000
- Romance Novel – 50,000 – 90,000
- Mystery Novel – 40,000 – 80,000
- Horror Novel – 40,000 – 80,000
- Dystopian Novel – 80,000 -120,000
- Contemporary Novel – 70,000 – 90,000
- Thriller / Suspense Novel – 70,000 – 90,000
- Young Adult Book – 60,000 – 90,000
- Middle-Grade Book – 20,000 – 55,000
How many words in a novel per age:
- 0-3 years old: up to 100 words
- 4-6 years old: 500 – 1000 words
- 7-8 years old: 1000 – 8000 words
- 9-13 years old: 9000 – 30,000 words
- 14-19 years old: 30,000 – 100,000+ words
- 20+ years old: 60,000 – 200,000+ words
As children, we can’t comprehend or retain the information given in books. More advanced readers are typically placed in the “advanced” category because of their ability to retain longer books. As you can see above, this is reflected in how many words in a novel per the reader’s age.
But of course there are exceptions, always, as is the case with my 9-year-old cousin who can easily read the Harry Potter novels and remember everything.
That’s why it’s important to understand your target audience and write for them, knowing that other ages are bound to find your book and read it as they wish.
8 Examples of Word Counts for Bestselling Books
This will help you get a feel for the word counts of famous, bestselling books. You can even take a look to see how these books coincide with the recommended word counts per genre above.
- The Shack by WM Paul Young – Thriller/Suspense – 76,000 words
- The Host by Stephanie Meyer – Science Fiction – 154,750 words
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – YA Romance – 65,752 words
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Mystery – 145,719 words
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – Dystopian – 99,750 words
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett – Historical Fiction – 158,012 words
- I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy – Memoir – 95,680 words
- A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin – Fantasy – 292,727 words
As you can see, some of the word counts vary outside the recommended guidelines, while others are firmly rooted in them. The outliers aren’t often bestellers because of their word counts being different though, so keep that in mind.
How many pages is 1000 words?
1000 words, single-spaced is about 1 page in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or equivalent software. 1000 words in a book is about 3 pages.
One thing to keep in mind with how many pages is 1000 words is that it depends on the text, its size, and the spacing you use.
For example, if you write 1000 words on a page in Google Docs, but maintain double spacing, that would be about two pages. However, if your text is smaller than 12 and you use a different spacing variation, it may only be one to one and a half pages.
Here’s how you can make 1000 words be more than two pages:
- Increase the font size by .5 or 1 point
- Increase the line spacing
- Change the size of all the punctuation to be larger
[Pssst! Want to see some of our Students’ published books? Check out the SPS Library here!]
How many words per page in a book?
Ultimately, you can expect there to be roughly 300 words per page in a book you write as a whole. Because dialogue requires paragraph breaks, there will be fewer words than if you have a few pages of full paragraphs instead of dialogue.
On average, there are about 300 words per page in a book. This number can vary depending on if you’re writing dialogue or how short each paragraph is.
How many words is a 300 page book?
A 300-page book will have about 90,000 words. However, the word count per page can widely change, depending on the format, amount of dialogue, and even font size. You’ll find a range between 80,000 and 100,000 words in a book that’s 300 pages.
How to Find How Many Words are in Your Novel So Far
Knowing where to look to locate your word count will help you determine how long your book is actually going to be once it’s finished and you publish it (which you’ll learn to do in the next step).
Finding your book’s word count depends on which writing software you’re using to write it.
Here’s how to find your book’s word count for a number of writing software:
- Microsoft Word: The word count for your book in Microsoft Word will be located in the bottom left corner next to the page number.
- Google Docs: To find the word count in Google Docs using a Mac, you can hit Command > Shift > C (Control > Shift > C on Windows) and a box will pop up. You can also go to Tools > Word Count
- Scrivener: If you’re using this writing tool, just go to Scrivener > Preferences > Editing and then select live counts to show the word count box and character on the bottom bar.
- Pages: To view word count in Pages on a Mac, go to the toolbar and click View > Show Word Count.
- Open Office: If you’re using Open Office, the word count is visible in the bottom left corner.
Book Length Calculator
The best way to find out how many pages will be in your book is to use this calculation method:
Take your current word count and divide it by 300. This will give you the approximate number of pages that will be in your book.
Keep in mind that this is not a perfect way to calculate the number of pages your book will be. However, this rough estimation can help you understand the approximate length of your book.
1. How many words in a memoir?
Word count for memoirs: 45,000 – 80,000
On average, when writing a memoir you should not exceed 90,000 words and that is a stretch when it comes to memoir word count.
We recommend memoirs be between 45,000 to 80,000 words in order to maintain intrigue and reduce intimidation. This means your memoir will average between 150 and 265 pages.
When readers see that a memoir exceeds 300 pages, it sets up a red flag in their mind. Even if they’re interested in the memoir, a very lengthy memoir is often indicative of something reminiscent of an autobiography (which is basically a timeline of life events) versus a personal life telling with a theme or message.
Exceptions for memoir word count:
- You’re famous or well-known. Anyone who already has an audience can get away with a longer memoir simply because people have already shown interest in your life. They’re more likely to want more rather than less.
- Your memoir contains multiple lessons or messages. If your memoir is in several parts or you have a few messages to get across, you can write a longer memoir. Keep in mind, however, that it may be more beneficial to write two memoirs instead of one massive one.
- It’s your first draft word count only. It’s okay if your first draft is over 90,000 words. Oftentimes, professional editing will cut down the unnecessary information so your memoir is the appropriate word count.
2. How many words in a self-help book?
Word count for self-help books: 30,000 – 70,000 words
Any self-help book or motivational nonfiction book should be between 30,000 and 70,000 words.
This means your book will be between 100 and 230 pages in total.
Those looking for help through a book in this genre don’t want a massive novel to go through just to read what they need. For that reason, if you have a motivational or self-help book idea, keeping it at a lower word count will actually help you more.
For example, our own Student Success Strategist, Lisa Zelenak, wrote this book called Find Your Thing. It’s a self-help book detailing how to escape monotony in your early 20s and do work that actually matters.
Find Your Thing is about 30,000 words and, with formatting, 178 pages long.
The reason this book does well is because it is not a super lengthly novel. With a self-help book, your audience wants to learn something and they want to learn it sooner rather than later.
3. How many words in a fantasy novel?
Word count for fantasy novels: 50,000 – 150,000 words
The average fantasy novel should have between 50,000 and 150,000 words. However, the true word count depends on the category in which you’re writing.
If you’re writing a young adult fantasy novel, you should keep your word count below 90,000 words or 300 book pages.
This is due to the audience you’re reaching preferring that length.
If you’re writing an adult fantasy novel or an epic fantasy novel (like Game of Thrones), your word count can skew higher at 90,000 – 200,000 words.
Not all fantasy novels are epic fantasy novels. Epic fantasy is a sub-genre beneath fantasy and encompasses very long, journey-specific plots. Authors who write in this style are George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, and the late J.R.R. Tolkien.
4. How many words in a science fiction book?
Word count for science fiction novels: 50,000 – 150,000 words
Science fiction books typically have between 50,000 and 150,000 words, like fantasy novels. This puts them at between 170 – 500 pages.
This specific genre has a lot of flexibility with word and page count due to the variety of plot types and story arcs.
Here are some popular sci-fi novels and their word counts:
- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – 50,895 words
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – 100,609 words
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – 46,118 words
- I, Robot by Isaac Asimov – 69,000 words
- The Stand by Stephen King – 500,000 words
- The Martian by Andy Weir – 104,588 words
As you can see, word count for science fiction books varies widely. However, we do not suggest writing a novel of 500,000 words unless you as established as Stephen King is.
5. How many words in a romance novel?
Word count for romance novels: 50,000 – 90,000 words
Romance novels often run between 50,000 and 90,000 words on average.
Romance is a unique genre because the plot is all about two characters and their adventure with one another. For that reason, writing a long, lengthy book just about their romance can become a problem for the readers.
This is why romance books tend to be below 90,000 words.
The more you write, the more you run the risk of losing your reader’s attention and motivation to keep reading.
A popular romance novel that’s a great example of keeping your story shorter rather than longer is The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.
This book only has 52,000 words and has become one of the most recognizable romances of our time.
6. How many words in a mystery novel?
Word count for mystery novels: 40,000 – 80,000 words
Mystery novels do best if they’re written between 40,000 and 80,000 words.
Writing more than 80,000 words can become difficult, as you have to ensure your readers don’t know the answer behind the mystery.
As with anything, the more you say, the easier it is to decipher the clues underneath, which is what you don’t want when it comes to a mystery novel.
For example, Agatha Christie, one of the bestselling mystery writers of all time, writes between 40,000 and 60,000 words per book.
7. How many words in a horror novel?
Word count for horror novels: 40,000 – 80,000 words
Horror is much like mystery in the sense that you don’t want to drag these novels on too long. Therefore, we advise writers to stick between 40,000 to 80,000 words for horror novels.
As an example, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is 42,211 words long.
8. How many words in a dystopian novel?
Word count for dystopian novels: 60,000 – 120,000 words
Typical dystopian novels run between 60,000 and 120,000 words, though this genre has the flexibility to be longer.
Because dystopian is often a sub-genre, meaning it usually has a broader genre within it like fantasy or sci-fi, there’s room to expand and grow these types of novels.
Here are some popular dystopian novel word counts:
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – 90,240
- Red Rising by Pierce Brown – 124,749 words
- The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau – 59,937
As you can see, this genre’s word count bounces all over the place. Just keep your intended audience in mind (young adult, middle-grade), in order to know how many words to write.
9. How many words in a contemporary book?
Word count for contemporary novels: 60,000 – 90,000 words
In a typical contemporary book, you will have between 60,000 and 90,000 words.
One popular example of a contemporary novel is Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, which stands at 60,965 words in total.
Contemporary novels typically don’t exceed 90,000 words particularly because they’re focused on modern problems versus anything otherworldly. This means if you write too long of a book, you run the risk of losing your reader’s attention.
10. How many words in a thriller / suspense novel?
Word count for thriller / suspense novels is: 70,000 – 90,000 words
Thriller novels can vary widely, because the genre itself has many subgenres. But you can expect to read a thriller or suspense novel sitting around 90,000 words, only extending above 100,000 in certain circumstances.
If you find you want to write longer thriller novels, earn your audience first with an average length one before giving them something longer to read.
11. How many words in a young adult novel?
Word count for young adult novels: 90,000 words
Young adult books range between 60,000 and 90,000 words. Unless you’re writing a young adult epic fantasy, which can go up to 150,000 words.
Young adult is a category more than a genre, but it’s important to keep this in mind when writing a book in any genre.
Your audience matters because different age ranges prefer different lengths of books. An older audience, like new adult or adult, is far more likely to consume a book that’s over 100,000 words, whereas a younger audience like young adult only has the attention span for less than 90,000 words.
12. How many words in a middle-grade book?
Word count for middle grade novels: 40,000 words
Middle-grade books are best if kept between 20,000 and 55,000 words in order to maintain the attention of readers this age.
Anything longer can be difficult for a younger audience to consume and retain all of the information. Therefore, cap your first draft at 65,000 words with the intent to cut out what you don’t need when you ship it off to your editor.
Remember that to build credibility with your writers, staying within the word count of your genre is key. However, keep in mind that these word counts are guidelines. One thing we teach here at Self-Publishing School is that you must first know the rules before you can confidently break them.
Still not sure where to start? Check recommended word and page counts for multiple ages of varied audiences using the calculator at the top of this post. Once you have that, you can break your total words needed for your novel down into monthly, weekly, and daily writing goals.