Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Age Categories and Word Count Guidelines for Fiction

Whether you're working on your first novel or have written many, you probably have some idea of the age group you're targeting: adults, babies, or any age in between. But writers are often confused about where precisely their work falls in these categories. They also wonder what length is appropriate for that age range.

Here's a handy cheat sheet of common fiction categories (word count information comes mostly from this helpful Literary Rambles blog post):

Note: In the publishing world, length is determined by word count rather than pages, since the page count will change depending on how your manuscript is formatted.

  • Board Books: Books with thick cardboard pages, intended for babies and young toddlers. Generally under 100 words.
  • Picture Books: Books written for children from ages 3-8. Illustrations are very important to the story (and are often on every page). Generally 400-900 words in length.
    Where the Wild Things Are cover

  • Early Readers: Books designed for children who are beginning to read on their own, or from about ages 6-8. There are only a few sentences on each page, and they usually feature color illustrations. Generally 200 to 3,500 words in length.
    Early readers
  • Chapter Books: Books for independent readers who are a little older, about 7-10. Sentences are a little more complex in these books, and they may have no illustrations at all. Generally 4,000-10,000 words in length.
    Chapter Book

  • Middle Grade: Books for readers from ages 8-12. The word count starts to vary a little more widely here. Generally 25,000-45,000 words in length, but sci-fi or fantasy books that might require more world building might go up to 70,000 words or even higher.
    Middle Grade

  • Young Adult: Books written to appeal to readers over age 12. (Notice there's no upper age given for YA--that's because this genre appeals to a lot of adults, too!) The word count for YA books is generally in the 45,000-70,000 word range, but speculative fiction books may go as high as 100,000 words.
    Young Adult

  • Adult: Books written for the adult market can be all over the map. This Writer's Digest blog post suggests that 80,000-90,000 words is a safe range, but also mentions that books as low as 70,000 or as high as 110,000 will probably be all right. As with Middle Grade and Young Adult books, sci-fi and fantasy novels tend to run a little longer, so acceptable word count for these genres is probably more in the 90,000-125,000 range.
    Adult Books
There are a few categories I didn't touch on above (for example, Hi-Lo books, which are designed to be high interest books for older readers with a lower reading level), but this list covers the age categories you'll probably hear most often.

Check out the linked blog posts above for more information!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks. I always like seeing the latest in word counts.