Peter from Leicester is writing a children’s novel and his question is one that many of my students ask. He says: My novel is going to be written for nine-year-old boys, but I don’t know how long I should make it. Is there a set word count for different ages?
The easiest answer is that the novel should be as long as it needs to be to tell the story, but there are approximate word count guidelines which do need to be taken into account if you want an agent or publisher to consider your work. I found the guidelines below on a large publisher’s website. They are not written in stone in that they won’t apply to all publishers, but they do give an idea of how word counts and story types vary according to the age group.
A Publishing Guide to Age Groups
Ages 6-9 need short, easy-to-read chapters, with lots of dialogue and humour. General word count 3,500-8,000
Ages 9-12 are looking for novels with strong characters and fast-paced exciting plots ranging from fantasy to tales set in schools and everything in-between. Children from this age love stories in which a bully gets some well deserved retribution, or the villain is vanquished, preferably in a horrible manner. General word count 15,000-50,000
Ages 12 and older are no longer looking for kids’ books; they want themes that have more relevance to their own lives, such as bullying, divorce and friendship. This age group also enjoys fantasy, sci-fi and humour. General word count 35,000 plus
The Writer’s ABC Checklist