Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Word Lengths of famous books

My novel has about 84,000 words. When you're working with e-books, word count is more important than "page length," as the latter can change due to different font sizes on various e-readers. We're more used to asking about page length, though, when we talk about how long a book is with our friends.

Which left me wondering, where does my novel fall in the terms of word lengths, compared to some of the classics (and, uh, Harry Potter, which I guess we'll call a "new classic" for now)?

So I found this old Publisher Weekly post.

Ethan Frome is just over 30K words. But it's pretty short.

Lord of the Flies is about average, at around 62.5K, and Brave New World comes in at 64.5K, right at the 50% mark of the "average" book length.

According to this excellent list, my book also outweighs The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Scarlet Letter, and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

My manuscript's pretty close in length the second Harry Potter book, The Chamber of Secrets, which falls in at 85K--and which is longer than the first Harry Potter book, at around 77K.

On the other hand, I'm a long ways away from the top word count, War and Peace, which is over 587,000 words.

And even Bram Stoker's Dracula leaves me behind at 160K.

About how many words are some of your favorite classics? Do any of the word lengths surprise you?


  1. I've always understood 60k or 70k to be the lower threshold for a full length adult novel, so the overall average surprised me, but I wonder what kinds of books are included in the statistics? It would make a difference, for example, if they included children's books.

    I think there are different expectations for different genres, too. What is lengthy for one might seem lightweight for another. My current sci-fi WIP's first draft is around 75k, and it feels light. I expect to add to it to flesh out some sketchy areas of description and character development.

    1. That's been my understanding, too. I think most of the books in these lists were considered classics, so maybe that had an influence? And some were even novellas, which skewed the statistics a bit. From what I understand, 70-90K is standard for sci-fi in today's market. My manuscript's first word count, as a contemporary fantasy, was about 60K! It works much better over 80, though...