You might think the word count of your self-published book shouldn’t matter as much as the actual narrative. Since you’re self-publishing, it’s true that you have the final say about how many—or how few—words are necessary to tell your story. But if you’re hoping to sell your novel, the word count will definitely matter to your buyers. At Self-Publishing Relief, our marketing experts know books have the best odds of success when they hit the right word count for each self-published genre.
The Best Word Count For Each Self-Published Genre
Literary Fiction: Literary fiction focuses on themes and issues rather than action. These novels can be anywhere from 55K to 100K words.
Mainstream Fiction: Mainstream fiction novels, also known as “general fiction” and “commercial fiction,” sell best when they fall within a 50K to 110K word range.
Young Adult: These books encompass many subgenres and have protagonists between 12 and 18 years of age—and target readers in that age range. Depending on the specific genre and demographic, YA books can vary in length, but they should stay between 50K and 80K words.
Romance: Romance is still the best-selling self-published genre. A romance novel is generally between 80K and 100K words, but category romance novels (Harlequin, erotica) may have stricter guidelines.
Sci-fi/Fantasy: These top-selling self-published genres typically have a word count of 90K-125K words. However, authors who don’t have a large following should aim for a word count closer to 90K.
Mystery: Mystery novels often depend on fast pacing, so these books are usually on the shorter side. Make sure yours does not exceed 90K words; 70K is better, especially for cozy mysteries.
Historical: Historical novels require extensive research and offer details that must be accurate. Topics range from specific issues and events to the everyday life of a given time period. The optimum word count is 80K-200K, but unknown authors may have trouble engaging readers with a historical fiction book over 100K words.
Thriller/Horror: These books require compelling plots and characters to maintain suspense. Though the genre varies depending on how complex a book’s plot is, thriller and horror novels should generally aim for the 70K-90K mark.
Other Factors That Determine The Length Of Your Book
Font and formatting: Focus on readability when choosing the font and spacing for the print version of your book. Your pages should be clean and simple. Our self-publishing experts recommend using a legible font like Times New Roman, as well as formatting and paper color that are easy on the eyes.
Trim size: This refers to the size of your physical book, which can vary based on: whether you’ve chosen hardcover or paperback format; whether your book is tracked for mass marketing; and (of course) your novel’s word count. A higher count will make a book with a small trim size too bulky and awkward to hold; a low word count and a larger trim size will make your book seem unsubstantial and more like a pamphlet. Many publishers have trim size requirements based on word count, or you can browse best-seller lists for reference.
Here’s what DOESN’T have any bearing on your word count: the number of pages. Your novel’s word count matters more than the number of pages. You could have two 300-page books, but the font size, spacing, and trim size of each book can disguise the fact that they have two very different word counts. The word count is the most accurate way to indicate your book’s length to publishers and readers.
Whether your book is traditionally published or self-published, the right word counts for each genre are the same. However, that doesn’t mean a shorter or longer book can’t be a best-selling novel! Keep the word count in mind, but more importantly, write the very best book you can!
And when you’re ready to self-publish, we can help you navigate the entire process so that you have a book you’re proud to put your name on. Schedule a free, no-obligation (and no hard-sell!) consultation today!
Question: Which genre do you write in, and are you within the right word count range?