How Many Words to Make a Book?

The other day I wrote a post about perhaps not finishing a book I’d started. Multiple people told me about what they do when they don’t finish reading books they start.

One person said if she makes it to page 200 and still doesn’t like it, then she won’t force herself to continue. Which is fine, no one says you have to finish every book you start. But she proceeded to say that her reasoning behind writing a review for the book she didn’t finish and also including it in her list of read titles is because 200 pages equals 50k words, what she called the “rule of thumb for the length of a novel”.

UH NO.

Before the advent of NaNoWriMo no one would actually believe 50k words is the magic number in which your words and chapters become a novel. And just because people say it doesn’t make it so.

There’s a site I once discovered (I can’t remember it now) that would tell you the word counts of books. I played around with it for a bit and found just about every title I entered was well over 100k words. What if your favorite authors actually believed this. “Oh, I hit 50k words. ALL DONE!” It’s laughable that people believe this nonsense.

I just read an article on Writer’s Digest about word counts and the author of the article identified a good word count range for lower Middle Grade as 20k-55k words, but said anything written for a 12-year-old or older should be higher. Every other genre should have significantly higher word counts, in his opinion. Some well over 100k words.

Do you think 50k words is the “rule of thumb for the length of a novel”? I definitely do not. And have never heard an author or publishing professional identify it as such. But what do I know, right?

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Does Size REALLY Matter?

Hehe. Bet that title got your attention. But no, I’m not talking about sex. And I’m definitely not talking about male anatomy. I’ll leave that to the writers of erotica.

Anyway, I’m talking about books you filthy-minded people. We all have our own ways of deciding what to read next. I know I do. I have my TBR piggy that I’ve never once used. Which means that I usually just take a look at the last five books I’ve read, make sure I’m not reading the same author or series as any of those five, and pick a book. No special formula or anything.

BUT the length (size in the title of this post) does matter a little bit. The longest book I’ve ever read was 596 pages? I think. Which isn’t really too long. And I haven’t read any George R. R. Martin, even though I am somewhat interested in doing so. But his books are giant bricks, right? Eh. I just don’t feel like devoting such a long time to one book.

So yes, the length of the book matters to me. I like my books in the 300-450 page range. Not too long, not too short. What about you? Do you like your books longer? Average? Maybe a little on the short side? Ha. I really need to stop writing this now.


On this day in 2014 I published An Author’s Worst Enemy: Writer’s Block.