Book Word Counts: How many words should you write?

The real answer to the headline question is: As many words as you need to communicate what you wish to communicate with your book. That’s it. But there are market realities, and although there are no universal book word count standards, there are guidelines you’ll want to keep in mind. Just like everything else in life, of course you can deviate from the norm if you want, but best be fully aware of what’s at play here.

It’s all about what the market has been trained to expect. If you’re new to the game without an established following, toeing the line is likely the most sensible approach, at least until you’ve developed enough market oomph to start fiddling around with your word counts.

There’s a lot of information out there on this topic. And they don’t all synch up. Like I said, there are no word count standards. But the good news is, their numbers are all pretty much in the same ballpark, give or take.

Here are what Authorpen has decided will be our book word count guidelines for whoever asks. And don’t miss the Great Books That Are 50,000 Words or Less section at the bottom of this webpage!

Info + Reference

Word Count Guidelines

Fiction General
  • Novel: 40,000+ (see Genres)
  • Novella: 17,500 – 40,000
  • Novelette: 7,500 – 17,500
  • Short Story: Up to 7,500
    • Flash Fiction (and subcategories): 1,000 or less
Non-Fiction
  • Standard (Business, History, etc.): 70,000 – 80,000
  • Biography: 80,000 – 200,000
  • How-To/Self-Help: 40,000 – 60,000
  • Memoir: 80,000 – 90,000

Great Books That Are 50,000 Words or Less

46,118

Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury

49,962

Fight Club

Chuck Palahniuk

43,617

The Giver

Lois Lowry

47,094

The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald

44,660

The Invisible Man

H.G. Wells

31,465

Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck

21,460

The Old Man and the Sea

Ernest Hemingway

48,523

The Outsiders

S.E. Hinton

49,459

Slaughter-house-Five

Kurt Vonnegut

46,591

Speak

Laurie Halse Anderson

LAST UPDATED: February 7, 2020