How many words are in a children’s book?

“How long should my children’s book be?”

We wish there was a simple, one-size-fits-all answer to this! There are no set rules for how long a children’s novel should be, and the lack of clear guidance can be frustrating. That’s why we often get asked questions like this …

  • What word count should I aim for?
  • How long is a middle-grade novel?
  • How many words in a YA book?

So, what’s the answer?

Generally, editors are a bit wary of answering questions about word counts. When cornered and asked this, our usual answer can be a bit evasive. Really, we often say, it depends on the story. And it does!

There are YA novels out there at a skinny 30,000 words, and there are middle grade tomes of 100,000 words. You only have to look at Harry Potter to see there are definitely plenty of young readers with enough appetite to devour BIG books. But, seeing as people ask this quite a lot, it can be useful to have a rule of thumb…

So, with the caveat that honestly, a story should be as long or as short as it needs to be (i.e. just get the thing written!) here are some rough guidelines:

Picture books

If you’re working on a picture book text, keep it short and sweet – stick to under 600 words if it’s the first time you’re trying a picture book. It’s also very, very helpful to have a sense of how you imagine the illustrations will work with the text.

Young readers

Young readers of 5 to 7 are usually starting out with what we sometimes call chapter books; these often feature black and white illustrations inside and will have fairly simple word choice and shorter sentences. A rough guideline to start with would be 5000-10,000 words per book.

7 to 9-year-olds

Books for 7 to 9-year-old readers would probably start at the 15,000 word mark, rarely going higher than 30,000 words.

Middle grade

Middle grade novels vary a lot, but a safe spot to aim for would be 30,000 words. There are some hugely successful middle grade novels that are, well, huge – but you could rein it in at the 60,000 word mark.

Young adult

Young adult novels are often upwards of 50,000 words, but as mentioned above, that doesn’t mean they HAVE to be … far from it!

The Lighthouse is here to help you

Whether you have a brand new idea, or have been fiddling with a text for years … we’re here to help.

About Sarah Stewart

Sarah Stewart is a Director at Lighthouse Literary. She was previously Fiction Editor at Scholastic Children's Books and a Senior Editor at Floris Books, and she writes the Elspeth Hart series, published by Stripes.