Thursday, March 18, 2021

Book And Chapter Sizes... in words


The optimal chapter size is driven by your audience and publication platform. The size of the book is just all those chapters together. Too little words and people are going to be unhappy. Too many words and they'll get bored.

This means you either have to adjust your chapter size to the target, re-chapter before publication, or simply don't give a damn 😁

Chapter sizes

Sometimes I wonder if the readers become less literate every generation. In a few years, people can no longer read a book without a touch screen and two speakers...

Anyway. You are the writer. You decide. Maybe a different chapter size is what suits you best?

You'll find some numbers often mentioned, for example:

  • Tapas - 500 words (see note below)
  • Wattpad - 1500..3000 words (it varies a bit, depending on the date and the direction of the wind)
  • for regular publication (print) somewhere from 3000 to 5000 words
  • in many books chapters increase in size the further you go

(I must say, 500 words appear to be awfully short chapters. And after some fooling around most popular stories on tapas range from 1000 to 1500 words per chapter, though my sample size might not have been large enough.)

Are these hard numbers? Of course not! But if you want traction for online publication on any of those platforms consider your chapter size.

Again, you're the writer. You decide. Maybe a different chapter size is what suits you or your story best!

Jefferson Smith put it this way:

' Most people who talk about the rules fall into two camps: those who tell you that there are no rules, and idiots. '

Still, I think there is at least some worth in considering chapter size. It seems the average reader these days has the attention span of a cucumber... and with those words, I rest my case 😊

(I actually re-opened the case to muse over reading speed versus chapter size. More about that here.)

Tips and thoughts

First write your story, or at least a number of chapters. Don't bother with the sizes. Then, when you have written sufficient material, reconsider your chapter sizes, beginning and ends.


No matter what, a chapter should have a purpose. Something should have changed, the story needs to have progressed, whatever. Maybe the chapter is simply a silly insert to bring the reader a light note and a little humoristic respite before the protagonist goes on to save the world.

If nothing happens, then the chapter might be superfluous or considered boring by the reader.

Cliffhangers and other types of chapter endings

Not every chapter needs a (real) cliffhanger. If a chapter offers a clear conclusion to some arc then that's a nice way to wrap up the chapter. Alternatives to real cliffhangers are shocks, surprises, introductions, jokes, questions, etc.

Not every chapter needs to end on a real 'bite your nails, hang on the helicopter landing gear' ending. Too many of those and the reader will get tired as well.

This also depends on the style and genre and chapter length. Longer chapters may be more suited to wrap-ups, shorter chapters to cliffhangers.


For example: if you write a weekly episode for an ongoing story on Wattpad, you probably want to build up a buffer sufficient for four weeks. Your target size could be around 2500 words, so...

1. Write whatever chapter size you like.

2. Keep writing new chapters until you have more than 4 weeks of material in buffer, so 10k words or so. Those might be unevenly spread over your chapters.

3. See if you can move stuff from one chapter to the next or previous chapters so you post in blocks of 2k. In other words, the posting size doesn't have to be identical to the chapter size you originally wrote.


The same applies to a full-sized book (70k words or more).

1. Write whatever chapter size you like.

2. Once you've completed the book, check your chapter sizes. Do you think you already have the best chapters to tell the story? (Begin, end, events covered by that chapter.) If so, keep as is.

3. If you decide there's an optimal chapter size, then simply re-chapter the whole book. That's not as hard is it might sound.

Re-chaptering a regular book

If you decide to re-chapter, consider the following:

1. What's the optimal chapter size? There's some debate about it. I tend to believe thick epic printed fantasy can be easily 3000 words and up, but lighter 'snack sized' stuff might do better to aim for 1500..2000 words per chapter.

2. Action scenes might work better in shorter chapters. Some authors use longer chapters for slower parts, shorter chapters for action scenes.

3. Some authors use longer chapters toward the end of the book (or an arc). Again, this is a personal choice, but it does make some sense, as you don't want to 'snack size' your final reveal and epic conclusion, at least not too much.

Book sizes

As many opinions on the internet as there are readers. If you want to get published (in book form), consider your first novel to be somewhere in the 70..80k words range. If you go for an online platform, do whatever you like!

Still, there is a reason why 'printed' first-novels by new authors are in the 70..80k range. Printing a book isn't cheap. If it's too big, then it's more expensive. If it's not successful, the publisher will lose money with a large amount of unsold books taking up more space (physically) on the shelf.

Audiobooks, on the other hand, like to offer some good length, so a 100k isn't unusual. 

Wattpad currently (2023) suggests minimal 40k for a single story, and 150k or more for a serialized story.


I gathered some examples from different places.

Note that several are estimates according to the websites I found some of the information, and are based on page count etc! Harry Potter is listed on one site as 67k, on another at 77k words!

Some of these numbers are obtained via How Long to Read. I suspect it actually scrapes Amazon / GoodReads to find the page count, then multiplies it by a fixed factor. It seems to typically overestimate the wordcount by approx. 10%, so assume all numbers are off by +/- 10%.

If you have more accurate numbers please share them in the comments!

YA publications
  • Caraval - 88,345
  • The Star-Touched Queen - 81,869
  • The Hunger Games - 99,750
  • The Queen’s Rising - 108,049
  • The Cruel Prince - 107,319
  • Red Queen - 111,948
  • Truthwitch - 113,330
  • Throne of Glass - 113,655
  • A Shifting of Stars - 113,954
  • Graceling - 115,109
  • Twilight - 118,700
  • Wicked Fox - 118,975
  • Ash Princess - 119,529
  • An Ember in the Ashes - 124,337
  • Six of Crows - 135,275
  • Aurora Burning - 148,005
  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes - 157,872

Harry Potter
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone - 76,944
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - 85,141
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - 107,253
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - 190,637
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - 257,045
  • Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince - 168,923
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - 198,227

  • The Magician’s Nephew - 64,480
  • The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe - 38,421
  • Prince Caspain - 46,290
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - 53,960
  • The Silver Chair - 51,022
  • The Horse and His Boy - 48,029
  • The Last Battle - 43,333

His Dark Materials
  • The Golden Compass - 112,815
  • The Subtle Knife - 109,120
  • The Amber Spyglass - 168,640

  • Nine Princes of Amber - 99,870
  • Fellowship of the Ring - 187,790
  • Dune - 188,000


You can't properly draw any conclusions based on this information 😇 but it seems the general advice regarding novel sizes still apply:
  • First novels - 80k
  • YA / NA - 80k
  • SF / Fantasy - 100..120k
  • Writers with an established reader base and back catalog can try larger novels


I suspect How Long to Read actually scrapes Amazon / GoodReads to find the page count, then multiplies it by a fixed factor. It seems to typically overestimate the wordcount by approx. 10%.


No comments:

Post a Comment