How Long Should My Book Be? How to Determine Novel Wordcounts

Have you ever asked how long should my book be?

How Long Should My Book Be Guide to Word Count

Did you know what a great question it is? GREAT question!

Many debut authors dive into their manuscript with wild abandon and with little thought to structure, plot or word count.

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How long should my book be?

When you’re planning a book (even if you’re a pantser) it’s important to know a few things about your genre ahead of time—things like, well, what genre it is.

And what the theme is. And how many words it will be. Yeah. Even word count should be pre-planned.

And I know how weird that sounds if this is the first time you’re hearing it.

How to write an outline worksheet

Wondering how to structure an outline? It will help you plan your book!

I’ve created a PDF worksheet walking you through the broad strokes of creating an outline. This is a free resource but it’s part of my resource library and you’ll need a password. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Once you’re in the library, navigate to the writing section and look for “How to Write an Outline for Anything Worksheet.”

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What!? There’s a word count for novels!? Yup.

And it’s kind of one of those things you should abide by unless you’re crazy-famous and/or already a successful author (because obvs these guidelines don’t apply to you) or you don’t care about selling books.

Because word count matters. And the rules change for every genre.

So, your first task is to figure out what genre your book is in. After that, check the list below to find the answer to your question how long should my book be?

General guidelines: How long should my book be?

Fiction

  • Middle Grade—20,000 to 50,000 words
  • Young Adult—45,000 to 80,000 words
  • Novels—50,000 to 120,000 words
    • Paranormal Romance—85,000 to 100,000 words
    • Romance—85,000 to 100,000 words
    • Category Romance—55,000 to 75,000 words
    • Cozy Mysteries—65,000 to 90,000 words
    • Horror—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Western—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Light Paranormal Mysteries/Hobby Mysteries—75,000 to 90,000 words
    • Historical Mysteries/Noir—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Thrillers/Crime—90,000 to 100,000 words
    • Chick Lit—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Literary—65,000 to 100,000 words
    • Science Fiction—90,000 to 110,000 words
    • Romantic Science Fiction—85,000 to 100,000 words
    • Space Opera—90,000 to 120,000 words
    • Contemporary Fantasy—90,000 to 100,000 words
    • Other Fantasy—90,000 to 120,000 words
You've decided to write a book worksheet

Do you want to write a book? Start here

I’ve created a PDF fillable worksheet walking you through four important steps to take BEFORE you start writing. This is a free resource but it’s part of my resource library and you’ll need a password. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Once you’re in the library, navigate to the writing section and look for “You’ve Decided to Write a Book Worksheet.”

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Non-Fiction

  • Devotional—30,000 to 50,000 words
  • Self-Help—40,000 to 90,000 words
  • Memoir—50,000 to 90,000 words
  • Narrative Non-Fiction—50,000 to 110,000 words
  • Biography—50,000 to 110,000 words
  • Prescriptive/How-To—50,000 to 150,000

Of course these guidelines are only just that—guidelines. And there are WAY more genres and sub-genres (e.g. new weird and slipstream…what now!?) so it’s best to do your own research.

But do pay attention and at least be aware of publisher AND reader expectations. Because you still have to list your word count in your query letter or book proposal!

Sources: The Swivet, Jerry Jenkins, Books & Such Literary Management

Create a Writing Schedule Worksheet

When you’re ready to write a book and you know the genre and how many words it will be, your next step is to create a writing schedule.

I’ve created a PDF worksheet to help you realistic schedule. This is a free resource but it’s part of my resource library and you’ll need a password. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Once you’re in the library navigate to the writing section and look for “Create a Writing Schedule Worksheet.”

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Other posts relating to publishing (although not answering the question how long should my book be but they’re still relevant!)

Have you ever asked how long should my book be? Many debut authors dive into their manuscript with little thought to structure, plot or word count.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

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Have you ever asked how long should my book be? Many debut authors dive into their manuscript with little thought to structure, plot or word count.
Have you ever asked <em>how long should my book be?</em> Did you know what a great question it is? GREAT question! Many debut authors dive into their manuscript with wild abandon and with little thought to structure, plot or word count.

No Book Idea? Here are Simple Practical Suggestions for What to Write Instead

Do you have a book idea? If you’re like most people, you do. I don’t know what it is, but so many of us want to write a book one day.

What if your book idea isn't a book? Alternatives

What if my book idea isn’t a book?

There are a few reasons your idea may not be a good fit for a book. For starters, books (in general) should be evergreen.

“Evergreen” is a jargon term meaning “always relevant.” I guess “timeless” is another fitting definition. The point is, your topic needs to have some shelf life if it’s going to be a book.

Another point of measurement is you’re not qualified to write the book you have the idea for. Is it a specialized non-fiction topic you’re not trained in? It’s probably not a good fit for you.

And sometimes the idea we have isn’t big enough for a book. Like, you literally don’t have enough words to fill a book on this subject. It’s best to understand this before diving in and saving yourself some blood, sweat and tears.

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Wondering if your idea is big enough for a book? Check out this post on average book lengths organized into genres.

By the way, I have created some planning worksheets to help you vet your book idea available in my resource library.

This is a free download but you’ll need a password to access it. Just pop your email address into the form below and I’ll send it to you!

Once you’re there, navigate to the writing section and look for “You’ve Decided to Write a Book Worksheet.”

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So what do you do if you discover your book idea isn’t a book?

Rather than letting the idea go full stop, here are a few suggestions for repurposing the idea so it still gets out there into the world.

Alternatives for your big ideas

While on the surface it may seem devastating that your idea isn’t a book I say don’t lose heart. There may still be a place for it. Consider these outlets.

  • Blog post
  • Article
  • Teaching series
  • Webinar/podcast episode/video
  • Booklet/novella
  • Screenplay

If you have your own website, then writing and publishing blog posts is an easy way to share your ideas and foster conversation.

Alternatively, you can take a freelancer approach and pitch articles to magazines, websites and other outlets.

A teaching series could involve a series of articles or blog posts and could address a different topic or takeaway in each piece.

book idea alternatives

Producing your idea as an audio or video piece could allow you to explore new areas of your business and reach a different audience.

And even if your idea isn’t a book-length one, it could still be a short booklet, novella. And who’s to say it can’t be developed into a screenplay?

See what I mean? Just because your idea doesn’t turn out to be a book it doesn’t mean you should give up on it. Just apply a little creativity.

After all this, there’s one question you may still be wondering.

Is my book original? How can I know my book idea is unique?

We all know on some level that there aren’t any new ideas out there, so how on earth can we think of an original book idea with all the books out there?

Rather than fixating on originality, find a book idea that represents who you are. Make sure it’s something you’re interested in and passionate about, and something you know a lot about (and can’t write an entire book about!). Make it unmistakably YOU and it will be an original.

Other articles about publishing

Do you have a book idea? If you're like most people, you do. I don't know what it is, but so many of us want to write a book one day.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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Do you have a book idea? If you're like most people, you do. I don't know what it is, but so many of us want to write a book one day.

What’s an ISBN? Do I Need One?

What’s an ISBN? This is a great question! It’s an industry acronym, short for International Standard Book Number.

ISBN Explained

I know, jargon.

You’re not supposed to use industry jargon. But we’ll let this one pass—just know that ISBN is a number your book gets when you publish it.

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Oh wait, so all books get them?

It depends. If you’re publishing your book and selling it on your own, then you don’t have to get one.

However, if you want things like distribution and placement in bookstores, then you do need to have one.

Don’t worry if you already published your book without getting an ISBN—you can still get one post-publishing. It’s fine.

As long as you have the number you can add it as a sticker to your book or give the number to the distributor. Really, it’s fine.

Free downloadable tip sheet You've Decided to Write a Book...Now What?

By the way, if you’re writing a book I’ve created some planning worksheets to help you vet your idea available in my resource library.

This is a free download but you’ll need a password to access it. Just pop your email address into the form below and I’ll send it to you!

Once you’re there, navigate to the writing section and look for “You’ve Decided to Write a Book Worksheet.”

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What if I wrote a book but someone else is publishing it?

Whoever publishes the book obtains the ISBN. Think of it this way. Whoever is taking the financial risk on the book is the person, business, or organization who applies for the ISBN.

Does one ISBN cover an ebook, a paperback and an audio book of the same book?

No. You will need three separate ISBNs. Also, if you publish an updated edition you’ll also need a new ISBN for that. Oh, and also a hardcover and in 17 different languages? Yes, all different ISBNs.

Where do I get one?

Every country has its own way of doing it. In Canada, you apply for an ISBN through the Library and Archives Canada at no cost. In other countries there may be a fee or service charge.

Is an ISBN the same as a bar code?

No. A bar code is a graphic with vertical lines that gets scanned at a retail outlet. The ISBN is a 13-digit number. That said, you can have your ISBN translated into a bar code.

Still more questions? No problem, just let me know. But I hope this has at least unravelled part of the mystery to the question what’s an ISBN. Crazy-boring, hey?

Other resources

What's an ISBN? It's an industry acronym, short for International Standard Book Number. Just know that ISBN is a number your book gets when you publish it.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required
What's an ISBN? It's an industry acronym, short for International Standard Book Number. Just know that ISBN is a number your book gets when you publish it.
Do I need an ISBN? Do I want an ISBN? Do I have to have an ISBN? What's an ISBN? Does someone else take care of the ISBN? What's my responsibility anyway?

8 of the Best Inspirational Literary Podcasts for Book Lovers

Book lovers everywhere, rejoice! There are so many wonderful, literary, bookish podcasts to binge, consume and otherwise indulge that it could become overwhelming.

Podcasts for Book Lovers

Here are eight of the best book podcasts to try, everything from author interviews and conversations to book recommendations, reviews and more. Perfect for book lovers!

9 steps to planning a podcast worksheet

If you dream of launching a podcast but you don’t know what to do next, you’re in the right place. This workbook will guide you through the nine steps you need to take to plan your podcast BEFORE you start recording.

A one-page sample of the workbook is free with membership to my resource library. This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by signing up here (or by popping your email address into the form below).

You can also purchase the in-depth ebook.

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8 literary podcasts for book lovers

The Literary Salon

Damian Barr’s Literary Salon tempts the world’s best writers to read exclusively from their latest greatest works and share their own personal stories. Star guests have included Bret Easton Ellis, Jojo Moyes, John Waters, Helen Fielding, Diana Athill and Louis de Bernières—all in front of a live audience at leading glamourous locations. Suave salonnière Damian Barr is your host. Don’t worry it’s not a book club—there’s no homework. Salon Selective!

I’m a Writer But

We’re writers, but…I’m a Writer But is a podcast from Lindsay Hunter and Alex Higley. We talk to writers with jobs/kids about how they make it work, or not.

Would you like free writing tips? Sign up for my weekly tips & tricks, from one writer to another at robynroste.com/writing-tips.
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Between the Covers

Author interviews with today’s best writers—established & up-and-coming—in fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Hosted by David Naimon, Tin House & KBOO 90.7 FM, Portland, Oregon.—The Guardian’s 10 Best Book Podcasts—Book Riot’s 15 Outstanding Podcasts for Book Lovers—the most intense and awesome podcast I’ve ever been a part of—Gary Shteyngart.

Nerdette

Nerdette is a safe space for nerding out about all the things you’re watching, reading, and encountering IRL. Interviews with your favorite (or soon-to-be favorite) authors, artists, astronauts, and more.

What Should I Read Next?

What Should I Read Next? is the show for every reader who has ever finished a book and faced the problem of not knowing what to read next. Each week, Anne Bogel, of the blog Modern Mrs Darcy, interviews a reader about the books they love, the books they hate, and the books they’re reading now. Then, she makes recommendations about what to read next. The real purpose of the show is to help YOU find your next read.

Literary podcasts for book lovers

Literary Friction

A monthly conversation about books and ideas on NTS Radio hosted by friends Carrie Plitt, a literary agent, and Octavia Bright, a writer and academic. Each show features an author interview, book recommendations, lively discussion and a little music too, all built around a related theme—anything from the novella to race to masculinity. Listen live on NTS Radio.

Fully Booked

Get the ultimate insider’s scoop on the best new books. The editors at Kirkus Reviews interview your favorite authors, tell you whether or not the books on the bestseller list are worth the read, give you behind-the-scenes insights, and introduce you to great books you may otherwise never find.

Book Club for Masochists

A Readers’ Advisory Podcast about becoming better library staff by reading books we hate! Every month we read books from a new, randomly picked genre; then on the podcast we discuss our reading choices, experiences, opinions, appeal factors, and other related topics as friends and library workers. (Warning: Language)

Other Podcast Related Posts for Writers and readers

Book lovers everywhere, rejoice! There are so many wonderful, literary, bookish podcasts to binge, consume and otherwise indulge that it could become overwhelming. Here are eight of the best book podcasts to try in 2020, everything from author interviews and conversations to book recommendations, reviews and more.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required
Book lovers everywhere, rejoice! There are so many wonderful, literary, bookish podcasts to binge, consume and otherwise indulge that it could become overwhelming. Here are eight of the best book podcasts to try in 2020, everything from author interviews and conversations to book recommendations, reviews and more.

Want to Publish? 5 Books You Should Read First

If you’re wondering what books you should read to advance your authorship dreams then you’re in the right place.

5 Books You Should Read If You Want to Publish a Book. If you're wondering what books you should read to advance your authorship dreams then you're in the right place. These are my top five book recommendations.

These are my top five pics for laser-focused, practical advice for everything from finding your story to deciding what type of publishing to pursue. So yeah, that’s why I think these are books you should read if you want to publish a book.

Would you like free writing tips? Sign up for my weekly tips & tricks, from one writer to another at robynroste.com/writing-tips.
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Books you should read if you want to publish a book

I’ve arranged my “books you should read” recommendations into a bit of a road map: figuring out what to write, outlining and drafting, deciding whether to self-publish or pursue traditional publishing, collaborating with other writers and influencers and getting book reviews. It’s the publishing journey if you will. The actual writing, that’s up to you.


The Creative Compass

The Creative Compass: Writing Your Way from Inspiration to Publication

This book could be for the writer who isn’t exactly sure HOW to write a book. Yes, it’s that practical. It could also be for the writer who has an idealistic outlook on what writing and publishing will be like.

Kind of a reality check without being a jerk about it.

When it comes to writing, we can develop our skills and boost our talent through thoughtful practice…. By continuing to write, we build stamina and patience, eventually exceeding our own standards to the extend that we can raise them.

The Creative Compass (117)

What I learned: every idea starts with passion, meets with discouragement and must be battled with persistence.

When writing the most important thing is to find a way to keep going despite the hard work, stress, lack of confidence and insecurity.

DREAM, DRAFT, DEVELOP, REFINE, SHARE

I spent a lot of time in the last third of the book. I underlined, wrote notes, even wrote “Amen!” beside especially good quotes (“If a sentence expresses an essential idea, advances plot, reveals character, or conveys relevant sensory detail that contributes to emotional effect or atmosphere then it’s probably worth keeping…. If not—snip, snip” Amen! [175]).

Fast Fiction

Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days

Even if you don’t call yourself a writer you might want to write a book. There are so many stories waiting to be told and, who knows, you might be the person to tell it.

What’s great about author Denise Jaden’s latest book Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days is she makes you feel like digging out the story deep inside you is possible.

And the 30 days thing? Bonus.

I’ve wanted to write a book for a while now, maybe forever. As a kid I drafted a 100-page Choose Your Own Adventure of twin girls who get lost in Mexico while trying to find an orphanage (scary part—I experienced this trip IRL 10 years later with a friend…) and for the last two years I have felt like it’s time to try for real.

And I have. Tried that is. But I keep getting stuck and I have never known why.

Fast Fiction tells me why: I didn’t know how to write a book. I didn’t plan it beforehand, I just sat down at the computer and expected it to come together.

After reading Jaden’s book I finally get it. I do have a book in me I just didn’t have the tools to dig it out.

self-publishing versus traditional publishing Review Header

How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing (A Field Guide for Authors)

Although the title aptly summarizes the six chapters, I wanted to add it’s not just for those wondering which method of publishing to pursue.

This book works to change the question from “Which one should I choose?” to “How can I utilize these tools best to support my goals?”

I loved Rachelle Gardner’s straightforward approach to this complex question. She spends time analysing the pros and cons for both traditional publishing and self-publishing. As well she works to dispel common self-publishing myths and makes it crystal clear that self-publishing should not be an excuse to publish poor writing.

This short read is packed with material and is perfect for people who aren’t quite sure where to start with publishing, people who want to understand all the different publishing options, and people looking for credible resources to get started.

Did I mention chapter six is all about resources?

In my opinion, this is where the real value of this book comes in. It lists further information on self-publishing, how to get an agent, where to look for editors, reputable book cover designers and more.

Creative Collaborations

Creative Collaborations: How to Form Lasting and Lucrative Partnerships without Being Smarmy

The Internet says collaboration is the action of working with someone to produce or create something. OK, that makes sense.

And Kirsten Oliphant says it’s like roller derby. I had to think about this for a bit because I don’t know anything about roller derby but I think I get it: you stop being a lone wolf and instead become a teammate.

You work with others to achieve a common goal.

That sounds nice in theory, but isn’t setting up creative collaborations with your competitors risky?

The risks: You could get burned, you could have your work stolen, you could be let down. All of this could happen when you work with others.

However, there are also potential benefits:

  • You could grow strategic partnerships that bring you further than you could go on your own
  • Also, you could make new friends
  • Another possibility is you could join a tribe where you feel encouraged, strengthened and inspired to keep moving forward

Throughout Creative Collaborations, Oliphant overviews different types of collaborations, builds an argument for why we need creative collaborations, teaches the difference between good and bad collaborations, cautions about legal implications when collaborating, and gives tips for creating life-changing collaborations.

If you’re wondering how collaborations can change your business (and maybe your life), you will love this book.

How to Get Great Book Reviews

How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career (HowToDoItFrugally Series for Writers) (Volume 3)

Why you need reviews (I’m borrowing from the book’s argument here, but I hold it as well):

Reviews are platform builders

Regardless of negative or positive, stars or lattes, reviews give you the chance to be a better writer, learn more about your genre, and know your target reader better.

Reviews are resources for endorsements

Blurbs, praise, bullets, whatever. Need some nice quotes? You can get them with book reviews!

Reviews can be networking tools

Both getting and giving reviews gives you contacts with editors of review journals, contacts with other reviewers who are potential reviewers of your books, contacts with other authors who need quotations for their books or referrals.

Once you’re convinced you should get book reviews, then you’re ready for the rest of the book. It walks you through alllllllllllllll the things you need to think through and plan for.

It’s a lot, but they payoff is worth it. Not only that, but once you have the reviews the fun is not over! You can reap the benefits of past reviews for years to come.

If it’s time to do marketing, get this book.

These are my top five books you should read

All five of these books you should read recommendations are quick and practical with a ton of actionable advice.

The big idea is you’ll read through them and then apply what you learn. My hope is you’ll move the needle forward as a result of reading these books.

5 Books You Should Read if You Want to Publish a Book. If you're wondering what books you should read to advance your authorship dreams then you're in the right place. These are my top five pics for laser-focused, practical advice for everything from finding your story to deciding what type of publishing to pursue.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required
5 Books You Should Read if You Want to Publish a Book. If you're wondering what books you should read to advance your authorship dreams then you're in the right place. These are my top five pics for laser-focused, practical advice for everything from finding your story to deciding what type of publishing to pursue.
5 Books You Should Read if You Want to Publish a Book. If you're wondering what books you should read to advance your authorship dreams then you're in the right place. These are my top five pics for laser-focused, practical advice for everything from finding your story to deciding what type of publishing to pursue.