How Long Should Your Book Be? The Complete Guide (2023)

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The ‘how long?’ question has to be one of the most commonly asked by new authors – perhaps even experienced ones, too. It was certainly one of the first to pass my lips when I met my editor to discuss my first children’s book.

“What’s the age range?” she asked me when I broached the subject.
“I’m thinking of aiming for older children,” I told her.
“That would be ages eight to twelve, then. In that case, it should be between 30,000 and 50,000 words.”
The precision of her answer was satisfying, but it also piqued my curiosity.
“Why that particular length?”
“It’s just considered to be the ‘right’ length at the moment for that age range,” she explained. “Not too long, not too short.”

This ‘Goldilocks’ principle is good general advice to keep in mind, but there are also more specific factors to consider that will help you nail the ‘right’ length for whatever kind of book you’re writing. While you should work to your natural style, it’s advisable to be aware of and (as much as possible) write to the length that publishers and readers expect.

Type of book and target audience

Just as I did in my discussion with my editor, you can hone in on a rough idea of‘how long’ simply bycategorizing what kind of book you’re writing and its target audience. Clearly, any six-year-olds without the miraculous intellect of Roald Dahl’s Matilda aren’t going to want to read something the length of War and Peace. Similarly, most adults won’t be very interested in a 40-page picture book. And if they are, maybe they’re not challenging themselves enough.

‘How long is a book?’ is a question without answer, right? No, not really. Click To Tweet

Most of the data I’ll be using throughout this article was sourced from Writer’s Digest and the Manuscript Appraisal Agency, with any differences split to find the average.

Children’s picture book:500–600 words over 32–48 pages.

Children’s chapter book:1,000–10,000 words.

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Middle grade:20,000–50,000 words.

Young Adult (YA):40,000–70,000 words.

Flash fiction:500 words or less.

Short Story:5,000–10,000 words.

Novella:10,000–40,000 words.

Novel:Anything over 40,000 words. Anything over 110,000 words is an ‘epic’.

Adult literary and commercial fiction:80,000–100,000 words is considered to be the ‘Goldilocks’ zone, though you could get away with 70,000 words minimum and 109,000 words maximum if you’re feeling daring.

On the subject of feeling ‘daring’, a lot of conventional wisdom on book length advises against it,particularly if you’re an unknown author. “We cannot count on being the exception,” Chuck Sambuchino warns in his Writer’s Digest piece, “we must count on being the rule.” Editor Kit Carstairs elaborates that – from a commercial point of view – agents and publishers simply don’t have time to wade through every ‘this-could-be-the-next-Game-of-Thrones-esque’ tome that lands on their desk. “[Agents and publishers] need reasons to throw your manuscript in the bin and move onto the next one,” she explains, “not because they are horrible people who want to force people to ‘fail’, it comes down to time pressures really.” It’s also worth remembering that the bigger the book, the higher the production cost.

This isn’t meant to scare you away from reaching the dizzy heights of Tolkien, more to warn you of the issuesyou may encounter down the line when trying to sell your manuscript.

Genre

Again, when considering the authority of agents and publishers, Carstairs recommends that, “adhering to the expected word count demonstrates that you understand your market.” The ‘right’ answer to ‘how long should my book be?’ is dictated by the audience’s expectations. If you picked up a sci-fi or historical novel from a bookshelf, you wouldn’t be surprised if it was pretty hefty (and probably had a dragon on the cover). You might be more surprised if a YA novel required Olympian-level arm strength to lift.

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Here’s a guide to the recommended lengths for genre books.

Sci-fi/Fantasy:90,000–120,000, anything over 150,000 words might be testing for your readers. As I just touched on above, books in these genres are allowed and expected to run longer than others. This is due to the amount of world building required to introduce a reader to a fictional setting, but be careful not to let this expectation manipulate your natural style too much. Just remember: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?clocks in at just under 65,000 words. You don’t necessarily have to write an epic to write a masterpiece.

Historical:As above.

Romance:50,000–100,000 words. The wide range for this genre is because of the amount of sub-genres that it can divide into: supernatural, erotica, historical, ‘chick-lit’, etc. It’s also worth bearing in mind that longer romance novels seem to be the trend du jour, with bestsellers Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey both comfortably over 100,000 words.

Crime/Mystery/Thriller/Horror:70,000–90,000 words. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that suspense is key to all of these genres. Pacing is vital in creating suspense, which means it couldn’t be any more important to nail the word count.

Comic books and manga

These deserve a category all to themselves, as there are quite a few variationsto consider. Comics and manga are written as scripts, and as such, a page count rather than word count is used to define their length. Unless directed otherwise by your publisher, there’s the possibility for near-infinite flexibility here.Comic book writer Kelly Thompson helpfully provided most of the data here.

One-shot/single issue:20–22 pages foreither a standalone short story or single issue as part of a series.

Anthology/mini-series/maxi-series:A collection of single issues, either different short stories or one series. A mini-series is usually 4–6 issues and a maxi-series is usually 9–12 issues.

Ongoing:Exactly as it sounds. Most superhero sagas like Batman started long before most of us were born and will likely continue long after most of us are dead.

Trade Paperbacks (TPB):Either collects an ongoing ‘run’ of a single creative team or a completed mini-series as one volume. There’s no set length and TPBs often include additional ‘behind-the-scenes’ material and variant covers from single-issue releases. Don’t let the name fool you – they can be hardcover too.

Graphic novel:Essentially, ‘graphic novel’ is a fancier word for a longer comic book that is released as one volume rather than being segmented into issues. There’s also no set length.

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Manga:Manga stories are usually serialized as ‘chapters’ rather than issues and printed in anthology manga magazines that run 200–850 pages long. Chapters of each individual series are then collected into volumes called ‘tankobon’ – the equivalent of TPBs.

The lengths vary hugely from title to title, but chapters released weekly seem to average 16–20 pageswhile chapters released monthly average 36–50 pages. Volumes are usually 180–250 pages. Most manga stories run for as long as their ‘mangaka’ (manga author) wants them to, or as long as their readership demands. The longest runningmanga,Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Koen-mae Hashutsujo, began in 1976 and finished in September 2016 with nearly 2,000 chapters and 200 volumes under its belt. (See? I wasn’t lying about that flexibility.)

Personal style

While you should certainly keep the data I’ve provided in mind, being too prescriptive about sticking toword counts will only impede your personal writing style. Rather, use them as suggestive framework to help your editing process. If you end up way under the standard word count, you know that you either need to slow the pace a little or flesh out some underdeveloped areas. If you end up way over it, you know that you’ve probably upset the ‘filler to killer’ ratio.

Your natural pace was almost certainlyshaped by the genres you enjoy reading and writing anyway, so you’ll probably find it’s not as hard as you might think to adhere to standardized lengths.

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel

You’ve probably noticed that when it comes to the ‘right’ length for every convention, there’s a contradiction, much like the English language itself.

To illustrate this further, the editor I mentioned at the top of this article told me in the same conversation that J.K. Rowling initially sent Harry Potterto publishers as one, monstrously long epic. Brevity was clearly always the enemy of creativity for her, as even after the book was serialized, it became spine-warpingly huge from the fourth installment on. By that point, however, all assumptions about preteen attention spans had gone up in a cloud of Floo Powder.

When it comes to book length, don’t try to be the next Tolkien or Rowling. Click To Tweet

Without sounding too ‘glass-half-empty’, fate is set against you being the next J.K. Rowling. It’s far less risky – especially as a new author – to focus on being on the ‘rule’ rather than the ‘exception’ when it comes to how long you want your book to be. Find the right balance between what’s been tried and tested, your personal preferences, and your natural writing style, and you should end up with your ‘Goldilocks’ length.

How does your word count measure up to industry standards? Let me know in the comments, or for more questions that authors can’t stop asking, check out5 Things You Need To Know Before Pitching Your Book and Here Are The Reasons Publishers And Literary Agents Reject Manuscripts.

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FAQs

How long should a book response be? ›

They typically range from 500-750 words, but may be longer or shorter. A book review gives readers a sneak peek at what a book is like, whether or not the reviewer enjoyed it, and details on purchasing the book.

How long should a guidebook be? ›

However, some of the most popular Guides are comparable to the size and length of this Guide. On average that's 6-10 sections and about 25-40 Pages using a mix of written content, images, external resources and videos or audio clips.

How long should it take to complete a book? ›

How long does it take to write a book on average? The average time to write a book for most authors is 180 days, or 6 months, more or less. Usually, it takes authors anywhere from 4-8 months to complete a book.

Is 100 pages enough for a book? ›

No. A 100-page book is too short to be considered a novel, regardless of the genre. Here's why: stories are classified according to their word counts. We'll dive deeper into that a little later, but for now, remember that if it's 100 pages long, or fewer than around 40,000 words, it's not a novel.

How long should you give a book before you stop reading it? ›

She calls it the rule of 50: If you're 50 years old or younger, give a book about 50 pages and if it doesn't hook you, give it up,” she explains. “If you're over 50, subtract your age from 100 and give a book that many pages before deciding whether or not to give it up.”

How long should it take to finish a 250 page book? ›

Answer: the average reader takes about 6.9 hours to read 250 pages.

Can I finish a 300 page book in a week? ›

Normally, I finish a 300-page book in less than a week. Noteworthy to add that I merely read non-fiction books, and as odd as it may sound, I retain more than 80% of the key materials in the long run.

How long should it take to finish a 500 page book? ›

Answer: the average reader takes about 13.9 hours to read 500 pages. You might take more or less time than 13.9 hours to read 500 pages, depending on your reading speed and the difficulty of your text. The average person's reading speed is around 300 words per minute (WPM).

How long does it take to write a 300 page book? ›

A 300 page book can take 4 – 9 months to write at an average of about 80,000 words, writing 1500 or more per week. The average fiction book that's at a higher level than middle grade will run about this length.

Is 20 pages an hour slow? ›

While a slow reader will only get through 30 pages per hour, the average person can read around 40 pages per hour. Statistics show that quick readers can even go through 50 or 60 pages in one hour.

How long should a 100 page book take? ›

Answer: the average reader takes about 2.8 hours to read 100 pages. You might take more or less time than 2.8 hours to read 100 pages, depending on your reading speed and the difficulty of your text. The average person's reading speed is around 300 words per minute (WPM).

How fast is the average reader? ›

The average person should be able to read between 200 and 300 WPM. These statistics apply to college students and fully-grown adults. Avid readers can read even faster, with an average speed of 350 words per minute.

What is a story with 100 pages called? ›

The novella typically runs about a hundred pages, though it can run a bit longer. But usually the novella is designated by word count, not page count.

How many pages is a decent sized book? ›

Non-fiction books are best between 100 to 250 pages (20,000-60,000 words). They should rarely be more than 250 or 300 pages (of course there are always exceptions depending on your target audience) Memoirs can be longer, between 240-520 pages (60,000-130,000 words)

How many pages is a decent book? ›

When wondering how many pages a book should be, it is notable that the average book length is between 200-400 pages. With this in mind, what considerations should be taken when deciding how long a book should be? Check comparable titles. Go to a bookstore and find your book's genre.

What is the 50 pages rule? ›

Nancy Pearl rule of 50

If a reader is under 50 years old, then consume 50 pages before dropping a book. If a reader is over 50 years old, take the number 100, subtract your age, and this is the number of pages to read before switching to the next book.

Is it OK to finish a book in a day? ›

It is neither good nor bad to read just one book a day. You can read as many and as little as you can understand. Some people think that reading one book a day is better than reading a few chapters from multiple books.

Should you stop reading a book if its boring? ›

Stop reading boring books. Unless you absolutely need to finish reading a book for a class, position or job, you're probably better off putting down books you don't enjoy. I've found good books are like good food, the more you enjoy it, the faster you want to ingest it.

Can I finish a 200 page book in an hour? ›

THE AVERAGE READER can read a book at 200 words per minute (WPM). That's about 4.5 hours to read a 200-page book (55,000 words). By increasing your reading speed to 600 words/ minute, you could read a 200-page book in 90 minutes.

Can you finish a 400 page book in a day? ›

Answer: the average reader takes about 11.1 hours to read 400 pages. You might take more or less time than 11.1 hours to read 400 pages, depending on your reading speed and the difficulty of your text. The average person's reading speed is around 300 words per minute (WPM).

How many writers actually finish a book? ›

In the United States alone, over 200 million people dream of writing a book. Yet, the number of writers who go on to actually finish their manuscript is estimated to be just 3%. Of those, only 20% will go on to become published.

How many books does the average person read? ›

A few more interesting kernels from the data: Women read an average of 15.7 books in 2021, while men read only 9.5. And the number of books consumed dropped by age, with adults aged 18-34 reading 13 books for the year, compared to 12.5 books for those between 35-54, and 12 books for those older than 55.

How many pages can a person read in a day? ›

Most people can finish reading 20 pages within 30 minutes. And if you do it first thing in the morning, then the urgencies of the day don't get in the way. Finally, 20 pages seems small but adds up fast. It's a great average speed.

How many words is a Stephen King novel? ›

They'll cite authors like Stephen King, who has released many novels that clock in at over 150,000 words, with others much higher.

Can you finish a 1000 page book in a day? ›

Answer: the average reader takes about 1.2 days to read 1000 pages. You might take more or less time than 1.2 days to read 1000 pages, depending on your reading speed and the difficulty of your text. The average person's reading speed is around 300 words per minute (WPM).

Can I finish a 200 page book in a day? ›

If you're a quick reader you should be able to read 200 pages in 4 hours. For average readers, it's still possible but it will likely take between 4 to 6 hours instead. I read quickly so reading 200 pages in 4 hours isn't too difficult for me. I could do it in around 3 to 4 hours in one sitting if I wanted.

Can you finish a 300 page book in 2 hours? ›

If you're a fast reader, you may read at closer to 400 words per minute. This means reading 300 pages will take you around 6.3 hours.

Do authors make a lot of money? ›

How much can authors expect to earn from their books? A first-time author with a traditional publishing deal might expect an advance of $1,000-$10,000 and 5-18% royalties once they “earn out” their advance. Self-published authors do not receive advances, but their royalties can reach up to 70% for ebook editions.

How hard is it to get a book published? ›

When seeking a publisher, you are facing an uphill battle. Thousands of hopefuls send their novels to publishers per week, and the majority get rejected. Most publishers don't allow unsolicited manuscripts, so it doesn't matter how good or talented you are. These publishers won't even see your work.

How much money does an author make per book? ›

Publishers typically pay a $5,000 to $10,000 advance to good first-time authors. This means they would need to sell around 1,000 copies of a book that costs $20 per copy to break even after printing and distribution costs. Following that, the author will receive royalties, typically about 10%.

Who is the fastest reader? ›

Howard Stephen Berg is recognized as the world's fastest reader thanks to the cutting edge accelerated learning techniques he developed that turn information overload into information assets.

What is considered fast reading? ›

This article will answer these questions. Let's get started with some quick facts about reading speed. The average reading speed for an adult is 250 wpm. The normal reading speed when reading fast is 300 – 400 wpm.

How many pages is too late? ›

Product information
Publisher‎CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 19, 2016)
Language‎English
Paperback393 pages
ISBN-10‎1540324168
ISBN-13‎978-1540324160
6 more rows

Can you write a book in a week? ›

It is entirely possible to write a book in one week. I know, because I've done it. But the bottom line is, you can't achieve such a feat around normal life. You have to schedule a complete week off from work, family, social commitments, the gym – basically, you need to escape your life for 7 full days.

Is a 300 page book a lot? ›

300 pages is a lot, and sometimes, even if you're interested in the book, you can start to slow down after a while. My suggestion would be to read 50–150 pages of one book and then read 50–150 pages of another book in one day, and then the day after do it all over again.

How long should a first novel be? ›

If you're writing your first novel, the general rule of thumb for novel writing is a word count in the 80,000 to 100,000 range. While anything over 40,000 words can fall into the novel category, 50,000 is considered the minimum novel length. Anything over 110,000 words is considered too long for a fiction novel.

Why am I slow at reading? ›

You could have lost focus, or you were not interested in what you were reading. It might be complicated material with numerous uncommon words. However, too frequent regression is a cause of slow reading, according to a study.

How do people read 100 books a year? ›

Most people read 50 pages an hour. If you read 10 hours a week, you'll read 26,000 pages a year. Let's say the average book you read is 250 pages: In this scenario, you'll read 104 books in a year. With that pace—even if you take a two-week break—you'll read at least 100 books in a year.

How fast can a slow reader read? ›

“The corresponding rate for poor readers at this level is 50 to 70 words per minute. According to one group of scholars, this rate is “so slow as to interfere with comprehension even of easy material, and is certainly unlikely to leave much ... capacity free for developing new comprehension abilities.”

What is a 5 page book called? ›

While some writers still use the term novelette, others might prefer to simply call it a short novella or long short story.

Do novellas sell on Amazon? ›

Here are some tips to help you make the most out of your short fiction to become a successful indie author: Put your novella(s) up for sale on Amazon and other online retailers. These usually have a lower price point than novels. It's important to state clearly that the book is a novella, so readers aren't surprised.

How many pages should your first book be? ›

For a first release, 200 pages are enough. One can also look at authors like Chetan Bhagat, who continue to release books well below the 300-page mark even today. This is because readers across different cities and professional backgrounds prefer quick reads that fit into their hectic schedule.

How big should a first book be? ›

As with general fiction, for a debut it's best to err on the side of caution and stick to 100,000 words where possible. For literary fiction, it can go the other way; anything from 55,000 to 100,000 words is acceptable.

How many chapters should a small book have? ›

Most nonfiction books have between 5 and 20 chapters. Any less than 5 and your chapters may be running long or may contain too many ideas. That said, there are plenty of books with 30 or 40 chapters. And some books, usually with very short chapters, can have 50+.

How many chapters should a book have? ›

However, there is no exact minimum or standard for how many chapters a novel should have. Because chapters are just places where the author decides to break up the flow of their story, you could go a more traditional route and end up with 12-28 chapters or choose to be more experimental and have as many as 200.

How long should a response paper be? ›

A reaction paper is typically a 2-5 page document in which the writer responds to one or more texts. Reaction papers are often used as tools in a class-setting to encourage students to think critically about texts, and how those texts are in conversation with each other, or with a wider field of discourse.

How long should a writing response be? ›

Generally, if you can write a one-sentence answer to the question, you've created a topic sentence. Most critical response paragraphs are between 7 and 10 sentences in length.

How long is a writing response? ›

It should be 1–2 paragraphs, as you find applicable. You should state your final points, tell of what you have learned, how it has inspired you, and support your words with your thesis and introduction.

What should be included in a book response? ›

Writing a Response or Reaction Paper
  • Identify the author and title of the work and include in parentheses the publisher and publication date. ...
  • Write an informative summary of the material.
  • Condense the content of the work by highlighting its main points and key supporting points.

What are the six basic rules of writing practice? ›

The Six Traits of writing are Voice, Ideas, Presentation, Conventions, Organization, Word Choice, and Sentence Fluency. It creates a common vocabulary and guidelines for teachers to use with students so that they become familiar with the terms used in writing.

How long should a summary and response be? ›

“The organization of a summary response essay is typically a 4-5 paragraph essay that includes a short summary in the introduction that provides an objective overview of a text”.

What are the rules to writing response paper? ›

The structure of a response paper is standard for academic writing: there should be an introduction in which you present your source text and your response, body paragraphs in which you support and explain your response, and a conclusion that wraps up your paper and leaves your reader with something to think about.

How long should short answer responses be? ›

Short answer questions are almost harder to write than a personal essay, since you usually have a word limit. Often, this may be as short as 150 words (a paragraph). This means that your answers must be clear and concise without being so bare bones that you don't seem to have a personality.

How long is too long for a writing sample? ›

How long should a writing sample be? Samples should be concise and succinct: one to four pages are usually sufficient. In many cases, reviewers are primarily interested in how well you convey your ideas (structure and grammatical accuracy) as opposed to content.

How long should it take to write content? ›

Writing content for your blog post can take anywhere from two to five hours, depending on how much research is involved. The actual writing part might only take an hour, but the research and editing can take up to four. Some blog posts require more research than others.

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