Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Children's Book Types and Suggested Word Counts

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

Last week I talked about chapter books, which is a specific category of children's books. Today I decided to do an overview of the different types of books that can be written for children.

Caveats to this list: These are suggested ages and word counts. There are many gray areas in publishing based on what authors write and what each publishing house accepts. Multi-published authors break these limitations all the time. But if you are a first time author looking to get traditionally published, try and stick to these ages and word counts.

Board Books
Board books aren't really a genre, they're a style of book binding. Most board books are designed by publishers, who create them using stories from popular picture books. This isn't usually a type of book that is pitched. So if you want to sell a board book to a publisher, you're going to need an amazing concept.

Ages: 0-3
Word count: 0-100
Famous examples: Pat the Bunny (Touch and Feel Book), The Cheerios board books. My kids had the three books in the picture below. There are many famous stories that also have been made into board books, but they were picture books first. For example, my children had Goodnight Moon, Goodnight Gorilla, and Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? all in board book form, but those three titles are actually picture books.



Picture Books
These books are a combination of words and pictures. You do not need to be able to draw to write a picture book. In fact, unless you are an amazing artist, publishers don't want to see your drawings at all. Publishers like to pair a news authors with established illustrators and a new illustrators with established authors. Another tip for writing picture books: avoid rhyming.

Early Picture books
Ages: 0-3
Word count: no more than 300
Famous examples: Goodnight Moon (131 words), The Very Hungry Caterpillar (221 words), If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (291 words).



Picture Books
Ages: 3-8
Word count: no more than 1000
Famous examples: Green Eggs and Ham (769 words), Where the Wild Things Are (336 words), The Giving Tree (621 words), Love You Forever (772 words).



Early Reader
These books are designed for children who are learning to read. The books have simple plots and some pictures, but the story needs to carry the book, rather than the pictures.

Ages: 5-9
Word count: 100-2500
Famous examples: the Biscuit books are an example on the shorter word count end. Biscuit Finds a Friend is one 123 words long. On the longer word count side, the Frog and Toad books are a good example. Days with Frog and Toad is 2075 words long.



Chapter Books
These books are targeted at readers in grades 2-7. They are designed to look like grown-up books, though there is usually a picture here and there. Try to include lots of dialogue and humor in these books to keep the child's interest. Word count varies widely, depending on grade and reader level.

Ages: 6-11
Word count: 3000-15,000
Famous examples: Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne (4737 words), The Hidden Stairs and the Magic Carpet (Secrets of Droon) by Tony Abbott (7439 words), The New Kid at School (Dragon Slayers’ Academy) by Kate McMullan (10,043 words).



Hi-Lo Books
Hi-Lo stands for high interest-low reading level. These are books written for struggling readers and students who have English as their second language. So they are written at a lower reading level, but have subject matter that is interesting enough for an older age. They are designed to increase a challenged reader's confidence, so they will have lower word counts. For more information, check out this Publisher's Weekly article on the topic.

Ages: varies, often between 10-13 and 14 and up
Word count: 500 - 50,000
Famous examples: (These examples might not have been written as a hi-lo books, but I found them on hi-lo reading lists.) Upper elementary ages- Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (19,784 words), Middle to high school ages- Crash by Jerry Spinelli (31,485 words).


Middle Grade
These are books written for readers from ages 8-12. These books tend to focus more on plot than characters. That's not to say that middle grade books have bland characters. They just don't tend to go as deep into the characters' points of views. These types of stories are often about the adventure and fun. Romance, drugs, graphic violence, swearing ... you usually won't find this content in a middle grade book.

Ages: 8-12
Word count: no more than 45,000 words for contemporary, mystery, or humor genres. For fantasy or science fiction, the word count can be much higher---but doesn't have to be.
Famous examples: Into the Land of the Unicorns by Bruce Coville (32,762 words), Matilda by Roald Dahl (40,009 words), The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (87,223 words).




Young Adult
These are books written for ages 12 and up. YA books tend to focus more on the characters and their problems. They tend to have deeper points of view and be more emotional.  The plot is important, but often not as important as the drama. Romance is often a big part of YA books.

Ages: 12-16 or 14 and up
Word count: no more than 70,000 words for contemporary, historical, mystery, humor, or romance genres. For fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, or dystopian the word count can be much higher---but doesn't have to be.
Famous examples: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (118,933 words), The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (65,752 words), Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (46,591 words), The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (99,750 words).


Also, if you are trying to find word counts for books, a great place is the Renaissance Learning site. Keep in mind, their genres aren't always correct for publishing industry terms. Click here to search.

What category does your book fall in?




43 comments:

  1. Aaawwww.... I found some books here that I used to read. Makes me want to not grow up so fast. :/
    Thanks for this post, Jill!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know! I got a little misty-eyed as I remembered all the times I read Goodnight Moon or Love Your Forever to my kids. *weeps* They're growing so fast!

      Delete
  2. Mine would be either Middle Grade, or young adult. Great post! Very informative!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm definitely YA. LOL. I tend to go big. I can no longer contain myself in a 200 page draft like I did when I was 11. I was trying to do a project to test out my POV and it's only suppose to be 200, but I'm already over 100 pages in and none of the action has really happened....

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is a really helpful post! Thanks so much Jill.
    ~Sarah Faulkner

    inklinedwriters.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is a really helpful post! Thanks so much Jill.
    ~Sarah Faulkner

    inklinedwriters.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you so much for this post, Mrs. Williamson! It really helped a lot. Word counts were something that I have been wondering about for a couple of years!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Mine are probably Middle Grade/YA leaning more towards YA. Thanks for the helpful post!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am writing a childrens book for ages 8-12. I was writing for Nanowrimo this month. I tend to like to write long so it was going to be 50k. But I saw you said it shouldn't be longer then 45k. Should I lower my word count and try a shorter one or just keep writing?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What genre is it, Melody? I think you're fine to just keep writing. Once you have a first draft, you can take a closer look at the story and think about the word count and whether or not something should be cut. And go to the Renaissance Learning site and search for comparable titles to see how long they are.

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Jill! It is a realistic fiction so any other books I have read in the genre have been shorter. I was hoping to write continuals to this one and perhaps create a series.

      Delete
    3. Then I'd keep writing and see how it turns out, all the while keeping a close eye on the word count. Once you're done you'll have a better idea of whether or not you can cut the words down some.

      Delete
    4. I don't know too much about writing, but I'd say that also depends on what kind of a writer you are. Stephanie said it somewhere that she wrote bare first drafts and then added a bunch of stuff. Some write long first drafts and then shorten them. So if you're the first, I'd say not to plan on writing 50k, because when you add more it's going to be way too long. But if you write long and then shorten you can do 50k and then edit it to less than 45. That's my opinion anyway...

      Delete
  9. This was very helpful! Thank you so much.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This was such a timely post, because the word wars really got me wondering what my word count goal should be for my WIP, which is a middle grade science fiction novel.

    Also, this is not really related to this post, but I was poring through the archives and I found a post on blogging. I have a few questions about blogging. If I were to start a blog, where could I find pictures that I could use without infringing on the copyright? Also, is using gifs that somebody else made or that are from movies a copyright infringement? Finally, is using images from moves a copyright infringement? Thank you so much!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Belle, this is a tricky thing. I think I shall blog about this on Friday for you to share what I know, as the answer is not a short one. :-)

      Delete
    2. Thank you so much! I've been wondering about this because I don't want to make a mistake and get in trouble for infringing on a copyright.

      Delete
    3. Okay, I asked James Scott Bell for help, since he used to be a lawyer, but he's at a conference right now. So I might postpone my post on this topic until I hear back from him since I'm not sure on a couple of things. So it won't be this Friday, but it will be soon.

      Delete
    4. That's fine! I'm not in a rush.

      Delete
  11. You're welcome, everyone. I'm glad this was helpful. And, remember, there are always exceptions to the rules. But this should be a good place to start.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Mine falls into Young Adult, fantasy. I think in the future I would love to write some children's books though.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Patience BledsoeApril 9, 2014 at 1:57 PM

    How very interesting, thank you! Mine is historical fiction, young adult, I believe. Is 100K too long? And what about the ages for adult books?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For adult books, check this link: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/word-count-for-novels-and-childrens-books-the-definitive-post

      Delete
    2. Patience BledsoeApril 9, 2014 at 3:23 PM

      Thank you so very much! It was very helpful! :)

      Delete
  14. This is very helpful. I can never remember how long books should be because I never read inside my age group. I was reading Nancy Drew books in 1rst and 2nd grade. By the time I was in 3rd grade, I was reading Lynn Austen and Bodie Theone adult books. Sometimes, I don't understand my child self...

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thanks! Like almost everyone else here, I've wondered about wordcounts...it's easy to see "Oh, these beginning chapter books around usually under 100 pages" but the wordcounts can still vary when compared to pages. So it was nice to have some examples here.

    On a completely non-important side note, the Magic Treehouse books are really around 5,000 words long?! That's only...like...15 pages in manuscript format! :O

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The first book is that short. Some of the later books are much longer.

      Delete
  16. Mine are mainly YA and dystopian, though, honestly, I have a couple contemporary YA novels that I'm working on. =) Thanks so much for this post, Jill, it's awesomely amazing! =)

    TW Wright
    ravensandwriting.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  17. Would 80k be too long for a YA realistic, action novel? That's my current goal and I feel like it might behard to squeeze my plot and character development into less.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 80k isn't too long for YA these days. Even though many books are shorter, just as many are longer. I think you're okay. But try not to let it go longer than 80k. Andrew Klavan's longest YA thriller, If We Survive, is 79,972 words long.

      Delete
  18. I've been writing a YA Fantasy, so I was wondering; how long is an average YA Fantasy? Is 90k too little or too much?

    ReplyDelete
  19. Great post! I like somewhere between Middle Grade and YA.
    Btw--about the 1,000 word contest, my name wasn't on the top 20, but I didn't get the feedback yet. I don't think I was over count to be disqualified, but I guess Word could have lied to me. Do you know what happened?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Email me, Jenneth, and we'll see what happened :) Stephanie(at)StephanieMorrillBooks.com

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  20. Right now, I write all YA, some 12-16 and some 14 and up, some contemporary, dystopian, fantasy... The list goes on and on. I'd love to branch out into picture books and middle grade someday, though.


    Alexa Skrywer
    alexaskrywer.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  21. Recently all I write are YA novels, ones that appeal to my own age group and my peers love the ideas I come up with and continue to beg me to finish one. The funny thing is I have finished books in the past and only now have I realized that as I've grown up my books have gone from being picture books, to early reader books and so on. Some I've finished some I haven't. I didn't think an article on appropriate word count could reveal that to me, but I stand corrected.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Great post!
    I think I stand somewhere between YA and MG. I don't write gore, I write more drama and what's going on with the characters lives and their problems. My stories usually range from 15k - 25k.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I usually write MG or YA. But, I decided that I should expand my writing, so I'm going to try to work on a chapter book. :) A very helpful post! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  24. I'm writing MG. is it ok if it's a bit longer than 45000

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry about the poor grammar.

      Delete

Home