Average Novel Word Count by Genre & Age of Readers

Word count is a critical element in the world of novel writing. It influences everything from reader engagement to publishing decisions. Whether you’re a debut author or a seasoned published writer, understanding the importance of word count can help you navigate the literary landscape more effectively. In this blog post, we will analyze the average word count by genre and age of readers, why word count matters, how to edit your novel for word count, and answer some frequently asked questions about novel word counts.

Average Word Count by Genre and Age of Readers

Main Literary Genres

Before we get more granular with genre and age, where are the general word counts of common stories (short and novel-length).

  • Flash Fiction: 500-1,000 words
  • Short Story: 1,000-7,500 words
  • Novella: 20,000-50,000 words
  • Novel: 50,000-110,000 words
  • Epic: 110,000+ words

Adult Fiction

In adult fiction, word counts can vary significantly depending on the genre:

  • Fantasy: Typically ranges from 90,000 to 120,000 words. Epic fantasies can go beyond this range.
  • Science Fiction: Usually falls between 70,000 and 100,000 words.
  • Romance: Often ranges from 70,000 to 90,000 words.
  • Thriller: Typically between 70,000 to 90,000 words, focusing on fast-paced action.

Young Adult (YA) Fiction

Young Adult novels usually have a word count that ranges from 50,000 to 80,000 words. This range allows for engaging, fast-paced stories that cater to the interests of teenage readers.

Middle Grade (MG) Fiction

Middle Grade novels typically range from 20,000 to 50,000 words. These books are designed for readers aged 8-12 and often feature simpler plots and language.

Children’s Books

  • Children’s books vary widely in word count based on their format:
  • Picture Books: Usually have between 500 and 1,000 words.
  • Early Readers: Often range from 2,000 to 5,000 words.
  • Chapter Books: Typically fall between 5,000 and 15,000 words.

Why Does Word Count Matter?

Reader Expectations

Readers have certain expectations regarding the length of a novel, which are often genre-specific. A thriller that’s too short may feel unsatisfying, while a romance that’s too long might lose its charm.


Publishers have industry standards for word counts, especially for debut authors. Staying within these ranges can increase your chances of getting published.

Pacing and Structure

Word count directly impacts the pacing and structure of your narrative. A well-paced story engages readers, while an awkwardly paced one can lead to disinterest.

Publishing Considerations

The cost of publishing a novel is influenced by its length. Longer books cost more to print and bind, affecting a publisher’s decision, especially for new authors.

Editing Your Novel for Word Count

Initial Draft Considerations

When writing your first draft, it’s helpful to keep word count in mind but not to the point of hindering your creativity. Write freely, then adjust during the editing phase.

Cutting Down

If your novel is too long, consider:

  • Removing unnecessary scenes, characters, and subplots.
  • Simplifying overly complex storylines.
  • Tightening dialogue and descriptive passages.


If your novel is too short, you can:

  • Add depth to your characters and their backstories.
  • Expand on settings and world-building.
  • Introduce subplots that enhance the main narrative.

Professional Editing

Professional editors can offer invaluable advice on managing word count. They can help trim excess content and suggest areas that need expansion to balance the story.

Novel Word Count FAQs

What is the average word count for a debut novel?

Debut novels typically range from 70,000 to 100,000 words, depending on the genre.

How much can word count vary within a genre?

Word count can vary significantly within genres. For example, while a typical thriller might be around 80,000 words, some can be as short as 70,000 or as long as 100,000.

Can a novel be too short or too long for its genre?

Yes, a novel can be too short or too long for its genre, affecting its appeal and marketability. Sticking to genre norms is generally recommended, especially for new authors.

How does word count affect self-publishing vs. traditional publishing?

Self-publishing offers more flexibility with word count while traditional publishing typically adheres to stricter guidelines. Understanding these general word count guidelines can help you make an informed decision when you choose which route to publish your novel.

What are some famous novels with unconventional word counts?

Famous examples include “The Great Gatsby” at around 50,000 words and “War and Peace” at over 560,000 words. These exceptions often prove the rule by excelling despite—or because of—their unique lengths.

How do I determine the right word count for my story?

Consider your genre, target audience, and the complexity of your story. Research industry standards and aim to stay within those ranges while ensuring your narrative is complete and engaging.


Understanding the importance of word count is crucial for any novelist. It helps meet reader expectations, enhances marketability, and ensures the story is well-paced and structured.

Whether cutting down or expanding your manuscript, always aim for a word count that best serves your story. Share your experiences and thoughts on novel word counts in the comments below!

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