Many doubts arise while writing a book. Some of the most frequent questions are about length: How long should a book be? How many words and pages does a novel usually have? We bring you some guidelines for you to find the answer.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) says that a book is a publication that has at least 49 pages not counting the covers. Shorter publications are considered leaflets, pamphlets, booklets, or brochures; if they have only 1 to 4 pages, they are considered loose pages. The idea behind this categorization is to standardize international book statistics.
Short Novels: What Is a Novella?
A novella is a work of fiction with a length between a short story and a novel: they have between 17,000 and 40,000 words. Amongst the most read books, there are many short novels recognized worldwide for their literary quality. These are some of them:
- The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway (1952): 127 pages.
- Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare (1597): 160 pages.
- Animal Farm, by George Orwell (1945): 112 pages.
- The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943): 96 pages.
- The metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka (1915): 102 pages.
- Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886):141 pages.
- Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll (1865): 200 pages.
- Pedro Páramo, by Juan Rulfo (1955): 122 pages.
The Longest Books
On the other hand, there are many famous books that stand out for their considerable length:
- In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust (1913): 7 volumes, more than 3,000 pages and 1.2 million words.
- Marienbad My Love, by Mark Leach: he began writing it in the 80s, and finished it in 2013. It has 17 volumes, 10,710 pages, and some 17.8 million words.
- Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo (1862): 2 volumes, 1,456 pages.
- The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu (1010): 1 volume, 1,124 pages.
What Are Novels by Volume?
A novel published in volumes tends to have a story with narrative continuity that, due to its significant length, is divided into different publications. It shouldn’t be confused with sagas, trilogies, or books that have a sequel, since in those cases, each book is a novel in itself, although it belongs to a bigger group.
How Many Pages Does a Bestseller Have?
Bestsellers are considered the most read books in a given moment, taking into account the number of sales they reach. Let’s see how many pages an average bestseller book has:
The Top 5 2021 Amazon Best-Selling Novels
- It Ends with Us, by Colleen Hoover: 384 pages.
- The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig: 304 pages.
- The Four Winds, by Kristin Hannah: 464 pages.
- The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave: 320 pages.
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid: 400 pages.
Our advice is not to write thinking exclusively about selling your novel. However, having an idea of which books were bestsellers gives you the chance to look into the different types of readers you can market your book towards so that it’s successful.
How to Decide the Extension of Your Book?
So, what should you take into account when deciding how many pages your book should have? Although there are no recipes, you can consider the following:
- Writing for pleasure. If you are writing simply for pleasure, you can let yourself be carried away and write what seems necessary until you finish your work. In this case, there are no rules to follow. You can also read about the writing routines of some great writers and see if they work for you.
- Submitting to contests. However, if you are considering submitting your book to a literary competition, you must take the extension guidelines into account. If you are interested in knowing more about how to apply to a literary contest, don’t miss our article on the subject.
- Writing on request. If you have a writing assignment, it’s very likely that the length of the texts is indicated by the client. Here at Palabra, we are dedicated to writing according to the needs of each project we receive.
- Editing/printing costs. If you are thinking about self-publishing your work, you must take your budget into account. However, this is something you should also consider when publishing through a small or independent publisher. In those cases, due to a question of costs, the number of printed copies will depend on the length of the book. To know more about how to make a good editorial pitch, we invite you to read our article.
- Thinking about the target audience. Although we must remember that there’re no magic recipes when it comes to literature, we can identify certain aspects that are repeated on the shelves of bookstores and can help us plan ahead.
- Children’s books. Publications aimed at children usually have between 50 and 150 pages, depending on the age group. Books for those who are only starting to read tend to have under 30 pages. On the other hand, recommended readings for children around the age of 10 can be around 200 pages.
- Books for teenagers. Today’s teenagers have a very varied universe of readings, but works specifically for them tend to be between 400 and 500 pages.
Each book is a particular and unique universe. When you write a novel, you are creating your own fictional world. It makes sense, then, to have many doubts during the process.
That’s why, if you ask yourself how many pages a book should have, you won’t find a single correct answer. Even so, we hope that our recommendations and tips can help you decide which is the extension that best suits the world you have created.
By Brune Alzogaray, translated by Flora Bosch