Let me first say, there is no right or wrong in writing a novel these days. There are exceptions to every rule in the writing world. With that said, let me just say that these are guidelines and not absolute. I compiled these from a number of different sources and honestly, most of the answers differ. It really is all about what the individual publisher is looking for. It would be helpful to pay careful attention to specific guidelines given by any publisher that interests you as a potential place you will submit your manuscript. Most of the time, these guidelines are on their website and it is as simple as just looking for the information.
Let me also say, I hear the question “How many pages should a chapter be?” I have never found a definitive answer to that. I’ve read hundreds of thousands of books in my lifetime and there is no set number of pages that any chapter in any book that I’ve read is. In fact, every chapter seems to be different than the one before or after it. That isn’t a question that can be answered. The best advice I can give regarding chapter length, is simply the chapter should reflect the scene you are in, and when its time to move on, you’ll know it.
Since more often than not, its about word count, here is an average book or novel word count and how it is broken down.
- A Novel is always over 40,000 words, typically between 50,000 and 110,000
- A Novella typically falls between 17,500 to 40,000 words, but I have seen mention of up to 50,000
- A Novelette falls between 7,500 to 17,500 words, but I have seen reference to 20,000
- A Short Story is most typically over 1,000 but under 7,500 words. It sometimes can be up to 10,000
- An Epic or Sequel is most often over 110,000 words
- Micro-Fiction is most commonly up to 100 words
- Flash Fiction begins about 100 words to 1000 words.
Moving beyond that…
- An average Novel length is about 70,000-130,000 words.
- A typical Young Adult Novel is 60,000 words and up. Some publishers will look at 45,000. Most publishers would prefer you stay under 80,000 words.
- Most Middle Grade Fiction is about 25,000 words to 40,000 words, which typically averages at 35,000
- Most Children’s Books are no longer than 1,000 words or an average of 32 pages.
- Cozy Mysteries are typically about 60,000-70,000 words.
- Mainstream Mysteries and Crime Fiction are an average of 90,000 to 100,000 words
- Science Fiction and Fantasy is on average 100,000 words but some publishers will consider much more, if it fits in the story
- A Memoir should average about 70,000 – 79,000 words
If you are breaking it down by Page Counts
Industry standard prefers 250 words per page. This means that a 400 page novel, will be about 100,000 words. To get an idea of page count for books you are reading in your genre, take the page count and multiply it by 250. This gives you a rough estimate of word count.
Update with some new info:
I came across this list, and I can’t remember where from. I cut and pasted it into a writing file and just discovered it after I had already published this post. Adding it now, because I feel like it covers a lot of areas.
Short-short story 500-2500
Short story 2500-5000
Novel–hard cover 25,000-150,000
Humor feature 300-800
Book review 400-1000
Newspaper feature 800-3000
Magazine article 2000-5000
Nonfiction book 20,000-200,000
Juvenile picture book 500-1500 (varies)
Juvenile book–mid 3000-25,000
Middle grade 10,000 words-50,000 words
Young adult book 15,000-80,000
Poem 2-100 lines (4-16 lines preferred)
Speech 250 words = 2 minutes
12-15 pages = 1/2 hour
Book Proposal outline/summary; (varies) sample chapter(s)
Query Letter 200-500 1-2 full pages; single-spaced