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How Many Words In A Book Do You Need By Genre

As an aspiring author, you may be tired of hearing about the publishing industry’s rules. However, word count ranges are not randomly chosen to stifle your imagination. They are guidelines for a variety of significant reasons. At some point in one’s career, every writer has struggled with the issue of word count. The word count has always been difficult to meet, whether for a specific length requirement or for writing your novel. To help you get an idea for your book’s length, here’s a guide to how many words in a book you really need.

Why word count matters

Readers have varying expectations for the length of a book, depending on the genre. Writing a book that does not fit into a specific genre decreases the likelihood of being appealing to your intended audience. If your book does not adhere to the publishing houses’ book-length guidelines, they may reject it outright. 

Established authors who have previously published a few successful novels are given more leeway with the word count. Agents will assume that the word count of their novel submission is due to the length of the story. On the other hand, first-time authors who write a longer-than-average story look less experienced. Editors and publishers assume that the manuscript is lengthy because the author is inexperienced and has not yet mastered how many words in a book they require.

Publishers do not simply make word count recommendations based on what appears to be the most logical approach. Rather than that, they base their standards on the expectations of their customers. Because publishers are only interested in publishing books that are likely to sell and generate revenue, they require submissions to fall within a word count range that their target audience prefers when purchasing books.

Ideal word count for fiction works

Authors create fiction using their imagination. There are novels, short stories, legends, myths, and fairy tales, to name a few examples of fiction. While some of the plot points, settings, and characters in fiction are based on actual events or people, writers use these elements as springboards for their stories. How many words in a book do you need for fiction? Below are some of the most common fiction genres to give you an idea.

1. Romance

a couple sitting by a tree

A romance novel is a book in which the central plot revolves around love and relationships. Other stylistic characteristics associated with this genre are typically present, though inconsistently. Romance novels are most popular among adult females because of the subject matter. While romance may be the most straightforward genre to write, it’s certainly not. The average romance reader is a discerning, intelligent, and unimpressed individual. A well-thought-out strategy is necessary for a successful romance.

How many words in a book focusing on romance do you need? Romance novels are typically between 50,000 and 90,000 words in length. Romance is a unique genre in that the plot revolves entirely around two characters’ journeys. As a result, writing a lengthy book devoted exclusively to their romance may challenge readers. A word count of 70,000-90,000 words is appropriate for a mainstream romance novel, while 50,000-90,000 words are appropriate for a sub-genre romance.

2. Historical Fiction

In the broadest sense, historical fiction is literature set in the past. In general, it employs culturally recognizable events and facts to construct a narrative rooted in historical reality but incorporates literary elements to tell a story. These works of historical fiction incorporate real-world details from a specific period into their plots, characters, and creative events. A critical aspect of historical fiction is its fidelity to a particular era’s details, traditions, and society.

Due to the increased word count required to flesh out an imagined historical world, historical fiction is frequently lengthy. If this is your first time writing historical fiction and is unfamiliar with how many words in a book you need, a word count of 100,000-120,000 is appropriate. With additional writing experience, you can reach approximately 150,000 words. 

Due to the genre’s abundance of historical events, writers are permitted an extended word count. However, authors who limit wiring their books to 100,000 words or less can increase their chances of being less informative and may appear partial.

3. Young Adult

Young adult fiction (YA) is a subgenre of fiction targeted at readers between twelve and eighteen. Although the genre is aimed at adolescents, approximately half of YA readers are adults. Its subject matter and genres define YA by the protagonist’s age and experience. 

YA includes the majority of the genres found in fiction. Themes such as friendship, first love, relationships, and self-identity are common in YA. How many words in a book do you need for the YA category? Perhaps more than any other genre, YA allows for a great deal of leeway with word counts. 

The 55,000-79,999 word count range is an excellent starting point. When it reaches the 80,000s, you may be fine, but you must have a reason for going that high. If the book is science fiction or fantasy, there is a compelling reason to write a longer YA novel that reaches the upper reaches of the scale. These categories are expected to be slightly longer due to world-building.

4. New Adult

Most contemporary new adult (NA) fiction targets teenagers and young adults in their late teens and early twenties. While readers between 18 and 25 are considered the target audience for NA books, some critics believe the market may reach 30 years old. Characters in New Adult fiction are more likely to be engaged in self-discovery and experimentation than those in Young Adult fiction. How many words in a book do you need for NA? 

If you’re writing NA fiction, a word count of 60,000-85,000 is acceptable. You can write up to 100,000 words if you are an experienced writer. A book with a word count greater than 100,000 is more likely to be consumed by a new adult or adult audience than one with a word count of fewer than 90,000 words. While exceeding 85K is still possible as a new writer, those who do so provide a convenient reason for a literary agent to reject them.

5. Mystery/Crime/Thriller

The plot of most crime novels is centered on the pursuit and eventual capture of a criminal by law enforcement, the armed forces, or a self-appointed agent of justice. While crime novels are concerned with the conflict between good and evil, mystery novels are more concerned with determining who committed a particular act. 

Rather than focusing on a past crime, a thriller focuses on creating tension, suspense, and fear of what might happen next. A good thriller, crime, or mystery novel’s plot must progress to maintain the reader’s interest. Here’s how many words in a book focused on suspense should be. 

Crime fiction is typically longer than romance fiction. The word count of a novel generally is between 90,000 and 100,000 words. Regardless of length, a good crime novel will captivate and engross you from beginning to end. The length of mystery and thriller novels varies according to a subcategory, but they typically range between 70,000 and 90,000 words. There are approximately 75,000 words for cozy mysteries. On the other hand, noir and historical thrillers can exceed 90,000 words.

6. Fantasy

Fantasy fiction is a genre that contains implausible elements, such as magical powers, talking animals, etc. When a genre deviates from established rules of perception, it depicts the impossible and pushes the boundaries of what is currently considered authentic in our world. 

When planning how many words in a book you need for fantasy books, remember that this genre is all about imagination. Almost all fantasy stories contain elements of the fantastic, whether in the worldbuilding or the characters themselves. The characters may accomplish this on their own. A reasonable word count for a fantasy novel is between 50,000 and 150,000 words. However, the actual word count varies according to the category you write.

If you’re writing a young adult fantasy novel, keep your word count under 90,000 words. The audience you’re trying to reach usually prefers that length. Adult fantasy novels and epic fantasy novels can range from 90,000 to 200,000 words, so keep this in mind as you write. Remember that not all fantasy novels are epic. Epic fantasy is a fantasy subgenre centered on epic quests.

7. Science Fiction

infographic about how many works in a science fiction book

Science fiction, colloquially referred to as “sci-fi,” is a subgenre of fiction literature characterized by imaginative but scientific content. Unlike fantasy, science fiction heavily relies on data and principles from other worlds to inform its worlds, characters, plots, themes, and character motivations. Additionally, science fiction texts incorporate a human element, elucidating the impact of discoveries, events, and scientific developments on the future.

How many words in a book do you need for sci-fi works? The average length of a science fiction novel is between 90,000 and 115,000 words. Around 95,000 words are the average length of a best-selling science fiction novel. In science fiction, world-building is an art form. This genre takes longer than others to complete because it requires the creation of an entirely new environment.

Numerous publishers will accept works that fall into the higher category. While literary agents will consider submissions below 90,000 words, they will typically gravitate toward those that meet the requirements because they understand that devoted readers of this genre do not mind a lengthy read.

8. Horror

Fear is the most primitive and powerful human emotion, and fear of the unknown is the most primitive and powerful form of fear. Horror stories and their characters predate the art of storytelling itself. 

The most well-known are supernatural creatures such as ghosts, demons, vampires, and zombies, who appear to exist in a parallel universe that occasionally infiltrates our own around the Halloween holiday. At times, the thin membrane that separates the living and the dead cracks open, allowing something terrible to pass through.

How many words in a book does a horror work require? A horror novel’s ideal word count is between 80,000 and 100,000. The writer’s words must be as ruthless as the antagonist’s treatment of the characters. Because the very tension that propels this genre evaporates if the author loses the reader’s attention through excessively lengthy descriptions and digressions. If the book is not fantasy or science fiction, first-time authors should not exceed 100,000 words.

9. Novella

The term “novella” originates in the Italian word “Novella,” which is the feminine form of the masculine term “Novello,” which means “new.” A novella is a narrative work of fiction that falls between a short story and a novel in terms of length and complexity. While novellas contain fewer conflicts than novels, they are more complex than short stories. Additionally, the conflicts have more time to develop than in short stories.

How many words in a book do you need for a novella? Anything between 15,000 and 40,000 words is considered a novella. They can be more challenging to sell to publishing houses, but if your story is perfect in that form, there is no reason to add another 10,000 or 20,000 words that will only serve to weaken the story. Frequently, the price of your book is determined by the number of words contained within the story. Novellas are typically less expensive than full-length novels.

10. Picture Books

A picture book is a story written for the youngest readers that combine illustrations and text. Typically, children’s picture books are read to them, not by them. Each page of a picture book is illustrated because art aids in story comprehension and recognizing the meaning of words. Additionally, illustrations help children contextualize text by visually indicating the meaning of words on a page. Think about your audience when deciding how many words in a book you want to do.

A typical picture book for younger children contains about 500 words. Older children who can read a little but are still very much in the learning process may appreciate the addition of a few words. They should range in length from 500 to 1,000 words. The primary advantage of this genre over others is that literary agents and publishers will immediately accept the entire manuscript upon the initial query. 

Ideal word count for non-fiction works

book: non-fiction

Non-fiction is literature that has a clear purpose regardless of the subject matter. Its purpose is to disseminate knowledge. It should be based on the author’s research and expertise, not on the author’s whims. Since ancient civilizations needed to document and explain their laws, non-fiction has existed and continues to evolve today. How many words in a book do you need for non-fiction? Here are some of the most common non-fiction books to help give you an idea.

1. Self-help

Self-help non-fiction books emphasize the importance of exerting one’s effort and resources to accomplish tasks and goals independently of others’ assistance. The books in this genre can be about self-improvement in terms of one’s economic situation, intellectual state of being, emotional state of being, or sense of self-worth. How many words in a book do you need to create self-help content?

The average word count of a self-help book is between 30,000 and 70,000 words. Some are under 30,000 words in length, while others exceed 70,000. Frequently, self-published titles are shorter in length. Those seeking assistance from a book in this genre are not interested in wading through a lengthy novel to read what they require. As a result, if you’re considering writing a self-help or motivational book, keeping the word count low will benefit you more.

2. Memoir

A memoir is a factually accurate written account of someone’s life. It’s from the French word mémoire, which means “reminiscence” or “memory.” This literary device depicts a person’s life experiences. Typically, a literary memoir focuses on a single subject or aspect of the author’s life. It is a narrative with a distinct narrative structure, focus, and subject matter that focuses on a particular event or location. How many words in a book does a memoir need? 

Memoirs are typically between 60,000 and 80,000 words in length, similar to novels. If you keep it shorter, you risk lacking the substance necessary to engage readers truly. You risk not delving deeply enough into your story or telling it adequately. Your goal is to create a memoir that is both engaging and fast-paced.

3. Narrative

The term “narrative non-fiction” refers to a style of writing that incorporates creative elements and other techniques to create a factually accurate narrative. Occasionally referred to as “literary non-fiction” or “creative non-fiction,” the goal is to convey information in a novel-like fashion. In creative non-fiction writing, you can embody both personal and public history. It is a writing style that combines memory, experience, observation, and opinion with various types of research.

How many words in a book do you need for creative non-fiction? You can serialize works of narrative non-fiction. Others are less than 1,000 words in length, while others are between 50,000 and 100,000 words in length. Traditional publishers generally anticipate finished non-fiction book manuscripts between 50,000 and 75,000 words in length. There is only one necessary condition. Each statement must be accurate in the book.

4. Biography

A biography is non-fiction, non-fiction written account of a person’s life. Biographies are written in the third person to portray a person objectively. Biographers assemble information from the subject, their acquaintances, and various other sources, including reference books, experts, records, diaries, and interviews. 

Most biographers intend to present a person’s life story and contextualize it for the reader in historical or contemporary contexts. How many words in a book do you need for biographies? Typically, biography books contain between 50,000 and 200,000 words. A biography is a book that can take on various forms, depending on the subject’s life details. Biographies of famous people can be quite lengthy. 

There is significantly more room for interpretation regarding biography word counts. Due to the breadth of the subjects covered in these books, some of which are quite detailed, you’re likely to see a greater variety of book sizes in this genre.

Frequently asked questions

  • What is the difference between autobiographies and biographies?

An autobiography is a narrative of a person’s life in writing. Because the author is also the story’s protagonist, autobiographies are in the first person’s point of view. A biography is a nonfiction work that chronicles a person’s life objectively. A biography is differentiated from an autobiography because the subject does not write it.

  • Are paranormal books different from horror books?

Horror fiction is a story written to frighten and unsettle the reader. It’s written so that it will induce fear in the reader. On the other hand, a supernatural entity or event is propelled forward by an unexplained force in paranormal fiction. 

Writers purposely write horror with an emphasis on the reader’s emotions. Horror is designed to be frightening and unsettling on purpose. This motivation gives the book its horror element, despite the absence of supernatural elements. Any paranormal details add to the story’s mystical quality. It could be a supernatural thriller, a supernatural horror story, or a supernatural romance story.

  • What are the subgenres of romance novels?

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the variety of romance novels. The following are some of the romance genre’s subgenres.

1. Contemporary romance

Contemporary romance is one of the biggest subgenres of romance, frequently occurring in the period following World War II and continuing to the present.

2. Historical romance

Novels set before 1950 are classified as historical romances. The same rules and characteristics as contemporary romances apply, except for the period shift.

3. Inspirational romance

Religious themes or spiritual beliefs play a significant role in inspirational romance stories.

4. Erotic romance

In an erotic romance, writers use sex to demonstrate the progression of a romantic relationship. It contrasts with erotica, which employs explicit sex to explore a character’s sexual journey.

5. Regency romance

These stories are set between approximately 1795 and 1837, during what is known as England’s Regency era.

6. Suspenseful romance

Romantic suspense novels combine elements of mystery and suspense with the plot’s central relationship. Two lovers must work together to solve a crime or unearth a secret, with one character playing the victim and the other the protector.

Final words

It’s natural for authors to have an emotional attachment to the work they create. After all, you’ve spent countless hours crafting your story, inhabiting your characters, and breathing life into details on the page. It’s why it’s so discouraging to be told by a publisher that your book is too long for consideration. Having an appropriate word count, on the other hand, can help your book succeed. It can boost your book’s appeal to publishers and readers alike, critical for aspiring authors looking to break into the industry. Now that you know how many words in a book you need, the next thing you’ll have to do is write a compelling story for your readers.

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