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
  • 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


Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury


Fight Club

Chuck Palahniuk


The Giver

Lois Lowry


The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald


The Invisible Man

H.G. Wells


Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck


The Old Man and the Sea

Ernest Hemingway


The Outsiders

S.E. Hinton



Kurt Vonnegut



Laurie Halse Anderson

LAST UPDATED: February 7, 2020