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Word Count of books?

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Hi, everyone. I wrote a short story - about 800 words. I submitted to my crit group, and they could see great possibilities for a much longer story. So with their help, I have added a lot to it, and now have just under 3000 words. It divides nicely into five chapters with about 400-600 words each. There are good stopping points leading into each chapter. Does this sound about right for an early chapter book? The story is very straightforward - no flashbacks or complicated plot. I've never really attempted to write a book. So far, I've limited myself to poetry, but I have gotten a bit excited as I've worked on this. I love delving into new projects.

Am I on track?

Thanks! - Donna J.
#1 - November 10, 2003, 07:04 PM
« Last Edit: November 12, 2003, 06:35 AM by Donna J. »


I don't know, because I don't write that kind of books. But one rule of thumb, if you like the way it is going, then go with it.  Logically, it sounds about right.  I'd read some of those type of books and see how your text fits with what is already published.
#2 - November 10, 2003, 08:45 PM

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This is a toughie!   :banghead:

Some EZ readers are around 2000 words long for the older ages, but they have VERY strict guidelines as to number of words in sentences/lines and sometimes vocabulary, etc.  Each house has it's own set of "rules."  I haven't a clue what the houses want for Early Chapter Books.

You have written what I call "an albatross."  I wrote one of those, too.  A 4000 word biography.  Too long for a picture book, too short for a "real" book. But that was as long as the story was. Any shorter and it would have had vital parts missing, and there just wasn't any more information available to make it longer.  It was marketed for two or three years before it found a home.  Millbrook bought it and decided to make it a 48 page picture book.  (Then after waiting five years... they just cancelled it because of their change of focus in their line.)

So I'd say this,  "If you believe in your story, if it's the best it can possibly be, if it's compelling and catches an editor so firmly that she/he absolutely HAS to publish your story, it will sell -- no matter how long or short it is."  If they don't have a line it will fit into, they might even decide to make a new one just for your book.  Stranger things have happened!

Who wants to become just one of the pack, anyhow? :balloongroup:  Much better to be out in front, leading the pack with your innovative style and voice. :yup
#3 - November 13, 2003, 08:53 PM
« Last Edit: November 13, 2003, 08:54 PM by Verla Kay »
Verla Kay

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Verla, I've decided to do just that. Write the best story I can and then get it 'out there.' I've never taken a chance like that before, but hey - life's short, and I ain't getting any younger!  ;D

Donna J.
#4 - November 15, 2003, 08:22 AM



I have asked the same question.  I have a series of adventure/humor books I've written.  Most of them came out to be in the 3000 wd. range.  What I found was they really didn't fit any current 'book line', too long for level4 readers and too short for mg chapter books.  

The vocab. level they're written at is about 3rd grade.  The last in the series I wrote came out closer to 6000 wds.  When I researched various kids series books, they ran closer to 5000-6000wds at the shortest, like Magic Treehouse, 3rd Grade Detectives, etc.  So I am sort of in limbo on length too.

In some ways, I like the length, because they're a great transition for kids that can move beyond readers, but are intimidated by chapter books.  But it does make it tricky when finding markets.  I may add some more to the plots, and see if I can get them all closer to 6000.  Then sub whichever I think is the absolute strongest.  I won't tote it as a series or anything, just see if I get any interest first.  

Don't know that I helped you Donna, just know that I'm in a similar predicament.
#5 - November 16, 2003, 07:59 PM


I agree with Verla.  Just write it from the heart.  Get the story on paper, however long or short.  Then try a rewrite / ask for crits in three ways:

1- edit your current version for submission. (just punctuation etc)

2 - cut it as much as possible with an eye to tightening the text (you'd be amazed how much can be cut without hurting the story.. in fact sometimes it makes it read much better.)

3 - highlight areas that could be fleshed out to lengthen the piece, establish the setting, build the character.. maybe even suggest another scene.

I did this with a few pieces (both on my own and with my crit group). If you keep the "original" safe and sound it gives you the freedom to play around more with the other drafts.  I cut a pb down to a one page rebus. Another time I fleshed out a pb into a chapter book.  The versions were different, but the heart of the story was still there.  

Good luck!
#6 - November 17, 2003, 04:54 AM

Barbara Eveleth

If I may, I would like to pose a question of my own regarding word count.  I am writing a PB which is a humourous biography and is now at about 1000 words.  It is geared to all ages.  I usually write between 6 and 7 hundred words.  Some publishers prefer 1000-2000 words for such a book and others less.  I certainly could add more.  My question is: do I write it to my own standards or to the editors?  Any advice would be helpful as this is my first biography.  Thanks alot. BAE
#7 - November 17, 2003, 05:51 AM

I thought this might be of help to some of you--I recently read that Chronicle Books is looking for all genres of early chapter books with a word count of 6000-7000 words, for ages 6 to 10.  Maybe this will give you something to shoot for.  Good luck!
#8 - November 17, 2003, 07:16 AM
LOUD LULA, Two Lions 2015


I also recently read on the Usborne site, that among other things, they're looking for "Junior Fiction"

Age group: 6-8
Extent: 64-80 pages (generously illustrated in B&W)
Text length 3,500-5,000 words approx.

So that's good, huh?  But of course these books are of a very particular kind (they're not just general fiction--ususally Usborne books fall into one of their series) so be sure to check out the website and catalog before mailing.

AE, I would write it the length YOU want, and then see which publishers seem like likely targets with that length.  Only after I exhausted those, or got some editorial requests to do so, would I make it longer.  But that's just my opinion.
#9 - November 17, 2003, 08:21 AM


Thanks Jaina for the tips on Usborne.  I checked out their website.  And Thanks KatyD about Chronicle.  My interest has peaked now in some potential markets.  You've inspired me to pull out those old ms's again.
#10 - November 17, 2003, 09:35 PM

Well, a little update - the story is now 3300 words long, so maybe I am on track with the 6-9 year old market. I've been getting wonderful feedback.

Thanks for posting the possible markets, too!

Donna J.
#11 - November 21, 2003, 12:05 PM


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