Inspiration Friday – Middle Grades & Word Counts

A collection of interest resources for writing for the middle grades,

From the Mixed-Up Files…of Middle-Grade Authors

Their ‘goal is to bring awareness and enthusiasm and celebration to books for 8-12 year olds, creating a *home* for anyone and everyone who loves books for this Golden Age of Reading. ‘ The blog was started in 2010 by writers  of middle-grade literature with the intention of getting middle school literature out of the shadow of Young Adult and into it’s own category.  Their focus: “regularly updated book lists organized by unique categories, author interviews, market news, and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a children’s book from writing to publishing to promoting.”

How to Write a Middle Grade Novel by Jenny Bowman

  • readership : 7–13 years
  • word count : around 50,000–60,000 words (though Fantasy tends to be longer)
  • characters ages : 9–14 years

Word Counts for Children’s Books

Board Books: 0 – 100 words.

Early Picture Books: 0 – 500 words.

Picture Books: 50 – 1,000 words.  1k is pushing it.

Nonfiction Picture Books: 500 – 2,000 words.

Early Readers:  200 – 3,500 words, depending on age level.

Chapter Books: 4,000 – 10,000 words.

Hi-Lo Books: 500 – 50,000 words, varies greatly depending on age level. A large number fall between 500 – 20k words.  Some 60-90k YA books get classified as Hi-Lo, but I don’t think they were specifically written for the category.

Middle Grade: 25,000 – 45,000 words, usually around 35-40k.  Longer word counts allowed for fantasy, sci-fi, historical.  Up to 60-70k is probably safe (though there are even longer exceptions).

Young Adult: 45,000 – 70,000 words.  Longer word counts allowed for fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, historical. 80-90k is safe (there are some as high as 120k, but I recommend staying below 100k, if possible).

Nonfiction MG/YA: 5,000 – 70,000 words, varies greatly (with some exceeding 100k) depending on the type of book and age level (I recommend researching similar titles to what you’re writing/proposing to find appropriate range).  Memoirs seem to fall within the same range as novels for their age group.

The Most Explanatory Word Count

from Jennifer Laughran’s (former) Blog
PICTURE BOOK:  0-1,300 words. Sweet spot: 300-550*
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak: 336 
Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer: 348
Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor: 418
Ladybug Girl by David Soman: 721 
* Note: I really advise clients to keep their picture books under 600 words – 800 at the very top. Picture books in the 1,000+ word range are generally folktales and fairy tales… and are not exactly in fashion. Unless you are a really gifted folklorist, I would not go down this road. There are very few such authors in the country. They know who they are.

EARLY READER: 100-2,500 words. Sweet spot: (depends on level)*
Elephant and Piggie: Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems: 199
On the Go with Pirate Pete and Pirate Joe by AE Cannon: 1,180
Dodsworth in London by Tim Egan: 1,293
Little Bear by Else Minarik: 1,630
Frog and Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel: 1,727
*Note: Because these books are meant for brand-new readers, these books are often marked according to level – the higher the level, the more sophisticated/longer the text can be. Publishers may have their own specific guidelines about these leveled readers, even requiring a certain number of syllables per page for readability. 

CHAPTER BOOK: 4,000-13,000 words. Sweet spot: 6,000-10,000
Magic Tree House Lions at Lunchtime by Mary Pope Osborne: 5,313 
Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park: 6,570
My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett: 7,682
Judy Moody was in a Mood by Megan McDonald: 11,049 

REALISTIC MIDDLE GRADE: 25,000-60,000 words. Sweet spot: 30,000-45,000
Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban: 29,052
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson: 32,888
Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech: 44,907 
Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner: 48,454 

FANTASY MIDDLE GRADE: 35,000-75,000 words. Sweet spot: 45,000-65,000
Juliet Dove, Queen of Love by Bruce Coville: 43,912 
White Mountains by John Christopher: 44,763 
Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander: 46,926 
Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo: 65,006
Harry Potter & the Sorceror’s Stone by JK Rowling: 77,508 

REALISTIC YA: 40,000-90,000 words*. Sweet spot: 45,000-75,000
Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles: 40,480 
Great Call of China by Cynthea Liu: 52,532
Flash Burnout by LK Madigan: 67,186 
Looking for Alaska by John Green: 69,023 
Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly: 71,935 

FANTASY YA: 50,000 words to 150,000 words**. Sweet Spot: 65,000-85,000 words.
Magic Under Glass by Jackie Dolamore: 55,787
Tithe by Holly Black: 66,069 
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr: 73,426 
Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray: 95,605
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare: 130,949  
Eragon by Christopher Paolini: 157,000