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  • Writer's pictureRussell F. Hirsch

Middle Grade Fantasy Word Counts – Part 2

Last post, I dove into an investigation of Middle Grade fantasy word counts using a random selection of novels from my own shelf. The shortest novel was 50K and the longest 105K, and there were books of pretty much every length in between! However, a third of the books fell into the sweet spot of 65K-75K.

BUT it doesn’t make sense to rely only on my own bookshelf. So today, to get a broader picture, I’m investigating the word counts of Middle Grade fantasy novels from recent lists of Goodreads Choice Award Nominees.

Some rules still apply:

  1. All titles were published in the last four years. They are the 2022, 2021, 2020, and 2019 nominees. (My previous post covered books from the past ten years, but four years of nominees produced approximately the same sample size. Plus, the more recent the book, the more relevant to current market trends.)

  2. All are standalones or first books in a series (to avoid ‘series inflation’–think Order of the Phoenix.)

  3. All are fantasy or science fiction, including horror and paranormal

  4. All word counts are rounded to the nearest thousand (calculated using Accelerated Reader Bookfinder or my own method–see my previous post.)

Here there be charts!

Rainbow version!

Black and white version…

There are some titles that I wasn’t able to get word counts for, so they aren’t in the chart: RAVENFALL by Kalyn Josephson, THE PENNYMORES AND THE CURSE OF THE INVISIBLE QUILL by Eric Koester, THE GIRL IN WHITE by Lindsay Currie, WOLF FOR A SPELL by Karah Sutton, and LIZZY ALBRIGHT AND THE ATTIC WINDOW by Ricky Tims and Kat Bowser.

What it means…

  1. There is an even wider range here than in the books I sampled from my personal shelf, from 39K to 111K!

  2. Most books fall into the 70-90K range

  3. Mean = 76K (It was 75K with books from my shelf)

  4. Median = 78K (It was 73K with books from my shelf)

  5. Mode = 85K, 100K (Don’t feel like this stat is as useful…)

Based on the books I examined from my own shelf last post, I suggested a sweet spot of 65-75K. The Goodreads Choice Award Nominees skew a little higher, with a sweet spot more in the 75-85K range.

However, keep in mind there are BIG NAME authors on this list, from Rick Riordan to Chris Colfer, to Newbery winner Kelly Barnhill. When you’ve got that kind of track record, publishers are probably comfortable giving you more leeway with a longer book. (Though it’s interesting to note that the shortest novel on the list is by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein–both BIG NAMES themselves.)

I suspect debut authors would likely see their novels slide slightly toward the shorter end of the scale.

In conclusion…

Taking both sets of books I’ve studied into consideration, around 70-75K seems like a pretty solid middle grade fantasy word count. With many middle grade books having between 200-250 words per page, that produces a nicely-sized 300-350 page novel. However, it’s obvious that there is a LOT of variability.

Young fantasy readers have often enjoyed big, thick, immersive tomes. It can be a point of pride to get through a large novel. That could be changing, though. With the publishing world abuzz with talk about the need for shorter children’s books–due to screen time, pandemic-related factors, style of educational curriculum, and more–it’ll be interesting to see if middle grade fantasies shrink in the coming years or keep their current heft.

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