illustration of coverful books on table with striped green and white wallpaper behind, a candle, and plant; word counts for each genre

If you’re a writer, you know that word counts can be important. They determine whether your book fits into a specific genre, or whether it’s too long or too short for a particular reading audience. In this post, we’ll explore the importance of word counts by genre and give you some tips for editing your novel to the right length.

4 Reasons Word Counts Matter

Here are a few reasons why word counts are important:

  1. Genre expectations: There are different word count expectations for each genre. For example, a romance novel is typically shorter than a fantasy book.
  2. Reader expectations: Readers have certain expectations when it comes to book length. If they’re looking for a quick beach read, they probably aren’t going to reach for a 1,000-page novel.
  3. Publishing constraints: Publishers have printing constraints when it comes to book length. They might not want to take on the expense of publishing a book that’s too long or see the investment perks of a book that’s too short.
  4. Marketing considerations: Marketing a book is easier when it fits into a certain genre and word count. Length and genre help with targeting the right audience and positioning the book in the market.

Word Counts for Popular Book Genres

Here are some general guidelines for word count by genre:

Children’s Books

  • Picture Books: up to 500 words
  • Early Readers: 1,000­­–­2,500 words
  • Chapter Books: 4,000–10,000 words

Middle Grade Chapter Books

  • 20,000–50,000 words

Young Adult YA) Books

  • 55,000–80,000 words

New Adult (18–29 age range)

  • 60,000–100,000 words


  • 60,000–90,000 words

Literary Fiction

  • 50,000–100,000 words

Contemporary Fiction

  • 70,000–100,000 words


  • 50,000–90,000

Historical Fiction

  • 75,000–100,000 words

­Science Fiction

  • 80,000–120,000 words


  • 80,000–150,000 words

Suspense or Thriller

  • 70,000–90,000 words

Mystery or Crime

  • 60,000–80,000 words

Tips for Editing Your Novel to the Right Word Count

If you’re still struggling to hit the right word count, here are some specific strategies:

  • Cut unnecessary scenes or subplots. If a scene doesn’t move the plot forward or develop a character, you may not need it in the long run.
  • Simplify your language. Use simple, direct language to share your ideas.
  • Avoid repetition. Sharing the same information in different ways in several places in your book can make it longer than it needs to be.
  • Cut dialogue. Dialogue can be a great way to develop characters and move the plot forward, but if you have too much dialogue that doesn’t advance your plot you could trim it out.
  • Cut adverbs and adjectives. These modifiers are often overused and make your writing unnecessarily long.
  • Cut prepositional phrases. Prepositional phrases, when used right, can be a great way to add detail to your writing, but if you use too many you may consider cutting them down.
  • Cut unnecessary words. Go through your manuscript and look for words that don’t add meaning or value to the sentence. Delete these to help reduce your word count.