Word Count: How Much Is Too Much?

Recently I saw a Writer’s Digest graphic describing word count for a novel. I learned that for my mystery, 80,000 to 89,999 words should be my target.

But what about children’s books? I last posted about this two years ago so I wanted to see if anything had changed.

Board Books: The only listing I found for this type of book was from 1/2 to 1 manuscript page.  That sould be 300 words or less.  Otherwise short, shorter, shortest!

Picture Books:  The length of a picture book will vary depending on the age of the reader and fiction vs nonfiction.  For a preschooler, the maximum word count is generally 500 words.  For a kindergartner or first grader, up to 800 words.  Nonfiction picture books which a generally for slightly older readers can be longer, up to 1000 words.

Easy/Beginning Readers:  The counts that I’m seeing on this are all over the place but a lot of it depends on the publisher.  What are the numbers I’m seeing?  As short as 1,500 words or up to 25 manuscript pages.  Check author’s guidelines or AR tests (which give the word count) to know for your target publisher.

Chapter Books:  40–60 manuscript pages.  These are for independent readers who aren’t ready yet for really long books.  So they are longer than early readers but shorter than middle grade novels.

Middle Grade: This is another one that can vary widely but part of it will depend on the age of the reader and type of book.  Books for the youngest readers in this group (8 to 9 years old) tend to be 15,000 to 25,000 words with 45,000 to 65,000 words for the older middle grade readers (11 to 12) and 25,000 to 45,000 words for those in the middle.  Fantasy novels may be slightly longer.

Young Adult:  For this one, the numbers that I saw listed most were 70,000 to 80,000 so about the same as for my mystery.

The great thing about writing for children and teens is that you can check AR tests for word count. That way you know where books from your target publisher fit into these ranges.


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