When you first had the idea for your book, you probably weren’t focusing on how long it would (or should) be. Often, it’s hard to tell how many pages you’ll write until you’ve finished. Even so, ensuring your novel is the right length is important—especially for first-time writers.
Writing a book that’s too short or too long could lead to bad reviews or discourage readers from buying it in the first place. Too few words could affect how much your audience trusts you; too many might hamper your future growth.
On average, novels are around 90,000 words long. One book page generally contains 250-300 words, so a 90,000-word book amounts to 320 pages. But the length of your novel depends largely on its genre.
So, what’s the correct pages count for your book? Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick, solid answer to this question. In some genres, you can get away with less, while in others, you might have to sweat and grind a little more on your manuscript to increase the word count.
This article will address beginner writers’ most frequently asked questions regarding page and word counts and help you find the answer for your specific book and genre.
Can a Novel Be 100 Pages?
No. A 100-page book is too short to be considered a novel, regardless of the genre. Here’s why: stories are classified according to their word counts. We’ll dive deeper into that a little later, but for now, remember that if it’s 100 pages long, or fewer than around 40,000 words, it’s not a novel. At this length, it’s called a novella.
What Is a Novella vs. a Novel?
A manuscript with fewer than 100 pages is considered a novella. Nothing is stopping you from publishing a 100-page novella; they can be highly successful. For example, Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome is 30,191 words, George Orwell’s Animal Farm is 29,966 words, and Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis is only 22,009 words.
If you’ve written a novella, the key is to ensure you market it as such. Readers might be disappointed if they expect to read a lengthy book but find out 100 pages later that this wasn’t the case.
So, make it clear that it’s a novella. Do this on the cover if you can, and put it on any digital book-selling platform under the category for novellas.
Is 200 Pages Too Short for a Novel?
Different types of stories are grouped based on word count. The distinctions are somewhat arbitrary and might vary depending on who you ask, but there are general guidelines you can follow.
Let’s look at these different forms of fiction grouped according to how many words they each contain:
- Flash Fiction: 300 to 1500 words
- Short Story: 1500 to 10,000 words
- Novelette: 7,500 to 20,000 words
- Novella: 30,000 to 50,000 words
- Novel: 50,000 to 110,000 words
Some argue that anything over 40,000 words can be considered a novel. The general consensus, however, is that a novel should be at least 50,000 words long, is approximately 200 pages.
This means that 200 pages is a sufficient length for a novel. But, we also have to consider the genre. A 200-page YA (young adult) novel might be long enough but would be way below the average page count for a fantasy novel, for instance.
How Many Pages Are in a Novel by Genre?
Data from Amazon’s top 100 sellers in each genre reveals the following average word counts. Based on the benchmark of 250 words per page, here are the word counts and number of pages of some of the most popular genres for our writers:
- Romance 90,000 words or 360 pages
- Mystery, Thriller, Suspense 91,000 words or 364 pages
- Action, Adventure 96,000 words or 384 pages
- Science Fiction 98,000 words or 392 pages
- Horror 102,000 words or 408 pages
- Fantasy 109,000 words or 436 pages
- Historical Fiction 102,000 words or 408 pages
- Contemporary Fiction 96,000 words or 384 pages
This table can give you an indication of what to aim for, but you don’t need to treat it as gospel regarding word or page count. The most important thing is that you focus on writing until you feel the story is complete.
Rushing a story to match a word count or stretching it to reach the minimum limit are warning signs that you may need to revise your manuscript.
The length of your novel also depends on how long you’ve been in the game and the size of your fan base. Popular authors with large followings are forgiven for writing enormous novels. You might want to reconsider your strategy if your first book is heavy enough to kill an elephant with one smack of a book.
How Many Pages in a Chapter of a Novel?
Chapter length is a tricky topic, and there’s no straightforward way to determine the ideal word count for each of your chapters. To support this statement, the shortest chapter in a published book has zero words. That’s right, Lawrence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy contains a chapter with no words. And there are plenty of examples of novels with one-word chapters.
On the other end of the spectrum, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle is known for having one of the longest chapters of any published book: over 23,000 words.
If we consider averages again, the general rule is that a chapter should contain between 2,000 and 5,000 words. As a first-time writer trying to build your reader base, it’s highly recommended that you stick to these averages, as we explain in the section below.
How Long Should My First Novel Be?
Now that you have a better indication of what’s expected in your specific genre, you should also consider your popularity and fanbase. For first-time self-publishing authors, we strongly advise that you stick closely to the average word counts from the previous section.
J. K. Rowling is the wealthiest author in the world. Before writing the world-famous Harry Potter book series, she was struggling to pay the bills, but she now has a net worth of over $1 billion.
Her first book in the Harry Potter series, The Philosopher’s Stone, has a word count of 76,944. When we refer to our table, this is actually below the average word count for both the fantasy and adventure genres.
The Philosopher’s Stone was a hit, and readers were dying for more. The sequel, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, was 85,141 words long, and the next one, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, had 107,253 words.
The final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, contained 198,277 words. So, as you can see, the word count increased more than twofold from the first to the last Harry Potter book.
The same can be said of J. R. R. Tolkien. His first book, The Hobbit, had a word count of 95,356, whereas the next one in the series, The Fellowship of the Ring, was 187,790 words.
It boils down to return on investment. As a first-time author, you need to go through the learning curve and improve your skills, and this takes time. The odds of your first book being the best of your career as an author are infinitely small.
Readers browsing for a novel are less likely to spend their hard-earned money on a mammoth book from an unknown author. For them, it’s also about ROI—regarding both time and money. It’s a gamble to invest either in a first-time writer.
Giving them a taste of what you have to offer is more attractive than forcing a funnel down their throats and suffocating them with 150,000 words of what’s possibly not the best work of your career. Once you’ve established trust and your brand is becoming attractive, then you can start thickening your novels beyond the average limit.
How Much Should I Charge for My First Novel?
There are multiple factors at play when determining the asking price of your novel: commission brackets, brand building, genre, and many more factors that are too elaborate to explain here. Word count also plays a role—for example, novellas are usually less expensive than lengthy novels.
Watch out for future articles exploring online publishing platforms and pricing strategies in-depth.
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