When I finished my first middle-grade novel, Last In A Long Line of Rebels, it sat on my desk at 68,000 words. I remember being at a conference and hearing an editor say that a middle-grade book at 60,000 + words would never sell. I’m happy to report that he was WAY wrong. Not about mine, of course, but there have been others, like Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage (62,000) and Wonder, by R.J. Palacio (72,000). My novel didn’t sell until I revised and brought it closer to 50,000. So while there are exceptions to the rules, I wasn’t it.
What are the rules for word count?
Let’s start with Middle Grade since that’s what I write. Middle Grade word count is typically 20,000 to 55,000. Chapter books would be on the lower end, while upper middle grade would be fine in the upper range. Whether your book is considered chapter book or upper middle grade will depend on the age of your characters, and the subject matter. In most cases, your protagonist should be 12 or younger, and the themes shouldn’t include anything too racy.
Picture Books is a broad category. There are early picture books for infants and toddlers that could have as few as 200 words. For kids 2 – 5, you will often see writers aim for the 300-500 range such as Maple and Willow Together, by Lori Nichols. Finally, for older children, you can go as long as 1000 words. Industry standard for picture books is 32 pages, so no matter how long your book is, it shouldn’t go beyond the 32 page mark.
Young Adult authors get a lot more words to play with in their novels. These books tend to be between 60,000 and 100,000+! An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir, checks in at 124,000 and it hasn’t hurt her sales at all. (Maybe because it’s an AWESOME read.) Sarah Dessen’s book, Keeping the Moon, was only 56,000 while Saint Anything was 104,000. Obviously there are flexible words counts for YA, but the sweet spot seems to be in the 60,000 to 90,000 range.
The above ranges are reflective of the average lengths. In the end, the book needs to be the length it needs to be to tell YOUR story. It’s good to have a goal in mind, but the important thing is always going to be about telling a really good story. Now go write!
Today I’m hosting a Blog Party. Check out the great writers/blogs for more tips on writing!