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As an aspiring author, one of the most common questions you may have is about the ideal word count for your book. Finding the right word count is crucial, as it can greatly impact the reader’s experience and the overall success of your work. In this article, we will explore the recommended word counts for different types of books and discuss how, as a self-published author, you have more flexibility in this regard.

Understanding Book Lengths

Before we delve into the ideal word counts, let’s first understand the various book lengths and their corresponding genres:

1. Picture Books

Picture books are typically intended for young children and rely heavily on illustrations to tell the story. These books are usually short and concise, with a word count ranging from 500 to 1,000 words. Remember, the illustrations play a significant role in capturing the reader’s attention and conveying the narrative.

2. Chapter Books

Chapter books are aimed at early readers, usually between the ages of 6 and 9. These books have shorter chapters and a word count of around 5,000 to 15,000 words. The focus here is on engaging storytelling and building the reader’s confidence in reading longer texts.

3. Middle-Grade Novels

As the name suggests, middle-grade novels are written for readers between the ages of 9 and 12. These books typically have a word count ranging from 20,000 to 50,000 words. Middle-grade novels allow for more complex plots and character development while maintaining a reasonable length for younger readers.

4. Novels

Novels are the most common form of book and encompass a wide range of genres and target audiences. For adult fiction, the word count can vary between 70,000 and 100,000 words. However, it’s important to note that different genres may have different expectations. For example, literary fiction tends to have a higher word count, while thrillers or romance novels may be slightly shorter.

5. Novellas

Novellas are shorter than novels but longer than short stories. They usually have a word count between 20,000 and 50,000 words. Novellas allow authors to explore a single idea or theme in depth while maintaining a concise and focused narrative.

Flexibility as a Self-Published Author

As a self-published author, you have the freedom to deviate from these recommended word counts. Unlike books published by big five publishers, your work does not need to adhere to strict guidelines for shelf placement or mass production. This flexibility allows you to prioritize the story you want to tell and the pacing that suits your writing style.

While it’s important to consider readers’ expectations within your chosen genre, self-publishing allows you to experiment and find your own unique voice. Remember, quality should always take precedence over word count. If your story requires more or fewer words to be effectively told, trust your instincts as the author.


Understanding the ideal word count for different types of books is a valuable tool for authors. It helps you create a cohesive and engaging reading experience for your target audience. However, as a self-publisher, you have the freedom to deviate from these guidelines and prioritize your creative vision.

Ultimately, the ideal word count should serve as a general guide, not a rigid rule. Focus on crafting a compelling narrative, developing well-rounded characters, and providing an immersive experience for your readers. With self-publishing, you have the opportunity to shape your book according to your artistic vision and connect with readers on a deeper level.

So, embrace your creative freedom and let your story unfold naturally, regardless of word count!