How Many Words Is A Modern Children’s Book?

PICTURE BOOK WORD COUNTS

The new digital era may welcome variations in time, but for now the ‘correct’ word count is 400 and the ‘correct’ number of pages is 32.

The ‘correct’ target age-range for a picture book is under three, three to six, or six to nine.

You can tell a great story with [fewer] than 500 words—think of Where the Wild Things Are (338 words) and The Carrot Seed (101 words)—but you may have to be a genius to do so! And there’s probably a limit on the number of stories that can be told well in under 1,000 words. During this time, by the way, informational picture books have retained longer texts. Novels have gotten wordier. But in the picture book arena, the prevailing wisdom is to shackle writers and get them to be as creative as possible with very few words…

Make Way For Stories, By Anita Silvey.

I’ve just read yet another article about the new length of picture books. Some say publishers won’t even consider publishing a picture book over five hundred words anymore. Others say they should be under three hundred words. Why? Inevitably, the shorter attention spans of children are cited somewhere in the reasoning. Rubbish, I say!

We Need Longer Picture Books, Too! from Bookology

Here in Australia we pat ourselves on the back because our picture books are currently a lower average word count than American picture books. We believe this is because there is less duplication of word and text here in Australia. (If the picture says it, the words don’t need to.) There are probably other reasons why Australian picture books are a shorter word count, but that’s the reason that has been suggested to me.

What about picturebooks for older readers? Is there an ideal page count? An ideal number of words averaged on each page?

Picture book texts must be presented on no more than two A4 sheets. If a picture book is any longer than this, it is not a picture book.

Omnibus Books Australia, an imprint of Scholastic

MIDDLE GRADE

Length: Generally 30,000–50,000 words (although fantasy can run longer to allow for more complex world-building).

The Writer’s Dig

General Word Counts:

  • Lower Middle Grade: 20k – 25k
  • Middle Grade: 30k – 45k
  • Upper Middle Grade: 40k – 60k
  • Fantasy/Sci-fi: 40k – 75k

– The Writing Cafe

Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief87,223 (Rick Riordan)
Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone77,508 (J.K. Rowling)
Magyk112,921 (Angie Sage)
Hunger Games99,750 (Suzanne Collins)
A Wrinkle in Time49,965 (Madeleine LEngle)
The Graveyard Book67,380
Children of the Lamp Book 185,761
The Alchemyst85,926
The Name of this Book is Secret59,485

– Absolute Write forum

YOUNG ADULT

Generally 50,000–75,000 words (although there’s also a length allowance for fantasy).

The Writer’s Dig

All the news this morning is the sale of Garth Risk Hallberg’s debut novel, City On Fire, for close to two million dollars. Every headline makes a point of pointing out that the novel is 900 pages. What’s that about? We seem to like everything else big… houses, cars, sandwiches, but when it comes to books, we get skittish.

The Novel: Does Size Matter? from Publisher’s Weekly

THE RECENT HISTORY OF WORD COUNTS, AND THE LIKELY FUTURE

…During the last few years, publishers began to maintain that adults wanted shorter texts to read to children—because of the demands on their time and young readers’ shorter attention spans. In the 1990s, publishers believed that kids didn’t want novels longer than 200 pages—until J. K. Rowling set everyone straight. One of my mentors in publishing used to say that trends are like sunspots: they come and go with no earthly reason. But Susan Hirschman, who founded Greenwillow Books in 1974, always insisted that publishing trends operate more like pendulums. Things swing one way for a period, but then the industry becomes poised to go another.

also from Make Way For Stories, By Anita Silvey.

Header painting: Samuel Henry William Llewellyn (1858 – 1941)

FURTHER READING

The importance of chapter lengths from Reedsy Blog

Lemon girl young adult novella

READ AT MY OTHER BLOG

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