The 20 Average Novel Word Count Lengths - #WriteTip

April 2, 2015

A good general rule to follow for novel word count should be: 

middle grade = 30k to 69k, average word count 50k
(Examples of published books: Coraline is 30,640 and Gingerbread is 44,510 and Mockingbird is 36,466.)

young adult fiction = YA from about 50k to 85k words
(It seems that paranormal YA or YA fantasy can occasionally run as high as 90k because of the world-building needed. Of course there is always the exception on word counts in YA. Twilight  is 118,975 and New Moon is 132,758. Beautiful Creatures is 147,695 and A Great and Terrible Beauty is 95,605.)

cozy mysteries = 75k to 90k  

paranormal romance = 80k to 100k 

contemporary romance = 75k to 95k  

short story = 5 - 10k words
(The ’regular’ short story, usually found in periodicals or anthology collections. Most ’genre’ zines will feature works at this length.)

novella = 20,000 - 30,000 words
(Although most traditional publishers will balk at printing a novel this short, this is perfect for the eBook publishers. The online audience doesn’t always have the time or the patience to sit through a 100,000 word novel.) 

mysteries, thrillers and crime fiction = from 75k to 95k. (Historical mysteries and noir can be around 90k to 100k. Most other mystery/thriller/crime novels should be  around  90k to 110k.)

mainstream/commercial fiction = 85k to 100k 
(Some chick lit can be around 90k and literary fiction can run as high as 110k.) 

science fiction or fantasy =  100k 
(Most editors want these types of manuscripts at 100k, which is the ideal manuscript size for a good space opera or fantasy. For a truly spectacular epic fantasy, some editors will consider manuscripts at 120k, but rarely.)

futuristic/sf /time travel = 90k to 110k 

space opera = 75k to 120k 

epic /high/ traditional/ historical = 90k to 120k

contemporary thriller/drama = 90k to 100k 

urban fantasy = 80k to 120k 
(The Better Part Of Darkness is over 90k)

steampunk = 75k to 95k

high fantasy = 80k to 125k 

mainstream fiction = 80k to 110k

horror  = 50k to 100k

You'll find most agents and editors prefer unpublished manuscripts at 100,000. No more--no less. However, ALWAYS check an agent or publishers word count guidelines before submitting.

Other posts on Novel Word Counts:


Novel Doctor (this blog is hilariously funny and also very insightful for new writers)

Even if you've already published a few books or you're just starting out in the indie publishing world, there's always more to learn on the craft of fiction and book promotion. If you're determined to take your writing career seriously and make it to the next level, you need to make sure that your author branding and book packaging are "genre specific" to hit your target audience and build a loyal readership. 

Take Your Writing Skills to the Next Level with these Amazing Self-Editing Handbooks! 


  1. Hi Sherry! Now this is a post I wish I'd read BEFORE I wrote my debut. LOL. My first draft was 120k. I whittled it down and queried at 85k. It's being published at 92k. :)

  2. I hear ya, Samantha! My YA was at almost 100k until I cut 20k off of it. Now I'm striving for 85k once I'm done with my revisions.

    My adult was at 120k, too. :-) Now I'm trying to get it down to 90k. I have too many redundant phrases and wordy sentences that I need to weed out.

    BTW, can't wait to read your book! Would you be interested in doing an interview?

  3. Great post!! I used to really stress about that. It's good to have a guideline.

  4. Hi Sherry. I came here from the bookshelf muse, and am now your newest follower.

    Nice ta meet ya!

    Don't even get me started on word count. I hate the "rules" but I understand why they're there, especially when it comes to debut novels.

  5. Great post! Thank you for sharing this, it's very useful :)

  6. Great post, thanks! Question: my novel comes in at 101K. I wrote it as urban fantasy, but the two agents who requested the full ms. both told me they think it is YA. I'd like to send out some more queries as YA but I'm concerned about word count. I'm told the pacing is tight by my beta readers (inc. pro editors). Should I cut to get it below 100K or not worry? Thanks.

  7. I think for any debut novel it should be under 100k and I'll tell you why. Because agents and editors will assume that you haven't done much editing as in, trimming redundant words and phrases and tightening up the MS as a whole.

    The ONLY acceptable genre is fantasy or science fiction because of the world-building.

    In most Young Adult novels, the teenage (12-17) protagonist(s) should centrally experience and grow by her dramatized choices, actions, and concerns, which drive the plot forward, and is narrated with relative immediacy to the teenage perspective.

    BTW, it should seem obvious, but thought I'd mention that teen novels have teenage protagonists, which sets them apart from adult fiction. It is all about VOICE.

    If you're still not sure if your MS is YA or Adult, please read this post:

  8. Thanks Sherry!

  9. You are very welcome, my dear. :-)

  10. Even though it is the average word count amount does it necessarily have to be. I want to make a teen novel that is 30k? Or do you think more is better?

  11. Hi chibicat16!

    Your word count at 30k is fine for a short story or novella. It would be perfect for an eBook publisher.

    For traditional publishing, it would be WAY to low, IMHO. You would have to bring it up to at least 80k to be considered for print publication.

    And always check the guidelines on a publishers or agents website or blog before submitting.

    Best of luck!!

  12. What's becoming a little worrisome is the explosive LENGTHS of these book requirements. It seems like that "requirement" is growing every year, like books need to be longer & longer but I'm hearing that author's advances have plummeted. Or am I hearing incorrectly?

    Not all books need to be that length or don't you end up with a lot of filler? I have a teen romance & it certainly doesn't take up 100,000 or even 90,000 words. And frankly, I don't feel like writing something THAT long, but I do want to write books (and have written many).

    Are other authors actually Happy with the latest development? More work, less pay? Thoughts on this, anybody?

    1. You're right. I've read quite a few wonderful middle-grade and young adults at a 50k word count.


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