How long is a children’s book?
Figuring out how long your kids’ book should be is easy: you start typing at the beginning, and stop when it’s long enough. Or do you?
In the first post in this series, Basics, Part 1: What is a children’s book? we looked at the most simple definition of a children’s book:
- Pages between covers
- Aimed at young readers
- Usually illustrated
- All about story
I’ve talked a lot over the last little while about points 2-4, but not so much about #1, namely – how many pages should be between your covers?
I’ll tell you in a second. In fact, I’ll go one better and give you a handy chart.
But first – I want you to remember that word lengths and all this technical stuff has NOTHING whatsoever to do with #4, “all about story.” Your children’s book is primarily about story, and when you’re writing your first draft, just write. Don’t even think about word length.
But after you’ve let it steep for a while (the most important part of the writing process), come back to it and see what you’ve got on your hands. Who’s it for? And is it the right length?
On the chart you’ll see in a second, you can look things over and over to try to figure out where your book fits in.
Why is that important?
A lot of newbie writers simply write their story until it’s done, then send it off to an editor. Trouble is that editors – and readers – have come to expect certain standard lengths when they get a book from a writer (or pick up a book in a bookstore, or flip through it on Amazon.com).
If your book doesn’t “feel” right – in terms of length – then it doesn’t matter what else is great about it… it won’t go far.
Your book’s length and other specifications will be determined largely by the audience – ie the children who are reading it, or who are being read to.
The handy chart
This handy table lays out what word lengths, page counts, etc. Page counts shown are for the final book – when we’re talking about your manuscript, page counts will vary because you’ll be using double-spaced, Arial/Times New Roman, 12 point. No fancy fonts just yet – especially if you’re submitting to a mainstream publishing company.
Who are you writing for…?
|Babies||Ages 0-2||Board or cloth books||Under 15 pages||Under 100 words|
|Toddlers||Ages 1-3||Board, lift-the-flap, other novelty books||Under 15 pages||Under 300 words|
|Children||Ages 4-8||Picture books (paper pages or board)||32 pages||Max 1500 words; under 1000 is better|
|Little readers||Ages 6-8||Smaller size than picture books||Under 64 pages||Under 2000 words; under 1500 is better.|
|Beginning chapters||Ages 6-9||Smaller size than picture books||Under 64 pages||Up to 3500 words in short chapters (depends on age).|
|Chapters||Ages 7-10||Closer to adult-sized books, fewer illustrations (perhaps 1-2 per chapter)||Varies||Up to 10,000 words, in medium to complex chapters.|
|Middle grade||Ages 8-12||Adult sized books, 0-1 illustrations per chapter.||Varies||Up to 40,000 words, in chapters only slightly less complex than adult books|
|Young adult||Ages 12-up||Adult-sized books, few or no illustrations||Varies||Up to 70,000 words; can vary with genre.|
Despite how important all this information is, probably the worst thing you can do while you’re writing is to have a copy of this table in front of you or even to think about how long your book is “supposed” to be. Just write.
But even though you’re not thinking about these numbers, page counts or word counts (manuscript or otherwise), make sure you’re visualizing your reader as you write.
Think about who you’re writing for: who’s going to love your story?
If you’re not writing to your reader… you’re sunk. No amount of correct word length can fix a broken story. But if you picture your reader as you write, and tell him or her your story as it unfolds, you can always stretch or shrink your story a bit later on to fit the mold.
Word lengths, page counts, and all that stuff may determine what your book looks like when it hits your readers hands… but the story you weave determines what it looks like inside their hearts.
I’d love to hear more about your process. How important is word length to you as you write your story / stories…?
More helpful information about how long your book should be:
- Manuscript Length from Kidlit.com
- Understanding Genres from right-writing.com
- Counting Chickens from HopeVestergaard.com
- Picture Book Standards from DarcyPattison.com
More in this series: