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Do Word Counts Count? 2014 update

Last year, I compiled a post called Do Word Counts Count? which continues to be the single most viewed post on my blog. It’s not a shock that authors are perplexed when it comes to the subject of word counts. There seems to be no single resource. No hard and fast rules.

So in lieu of rules, I offer you examples. Here’s a look at word counts for some of the most popular YA books on the market.

Barnes & Noble Bestselling Teen Fiction 9/10/2014
Novel Page Count Word Count*
If I Stay by Gayle Foreman 320 80,000
Where She Went by Gale Foreman 304 76,000
The Maze Runner by James Dashner 400 100,000
Four by Veronica Roth 304 76,000
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 384 96,000
The Revenge of Seven by Pittacus Lore 371 92,750
The Giver by Lois Lowry 240 60,000   LOWEST
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green 336 84,000
Gone by Michael Grant 576 144,000  HIGHEST
The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey 320 80,000
*Word counts are estimated based on the standard of 250 words per page

B & N Bestsellers Average Word Count: 88,875

To get an idea of word count average for indie authors, below are the current bestselling books from Smashwords, a leading distributor of indie novels. As you will see, these are significantly lower word counts than their B&N counterparts.

Smashwords Young Adult/Teen Bestsellers 9/10/13
Novel Words
Lending Light by Rose Christo 94,250
Courting Magic by Stephanie Burgis 34,590  LOWEST
Haunted by Sherry H. Dec 57,920
Rooming with Ash by Zee King 48,150
The Dogs of Balboa by Rose Christo 81,420
The Posterchildren: Origins by Kitty Burroughs 133,870  HIGHEST
B Chord by Mike Robertson 84,440
Notice Me by Lili Lam 92,360
Storm Shells by GJ Walker-Smith 126,680
Ashley Fulton & the Secret of Europe by Ross Rossin 85,610

Smashwords Bestsellers Average Word Count: 83, 829

I found it interesting that a novella made it into the Smashwords bestsellers. If you read my article of last year, you’ll see one novella in that list too. Also, our highest word count, The Posterchildren: Origins, appeared on last year’s list; however, the author must have uploaded a lengthier, revised version as last year’s word count was only 127,604 (compared to stated 133,870 words this year).

And speaking of last year, I thought it would be fun to compare these numbers to the article I wrote last year to see if I could spot any trends. And I did. Average words counts for 2014 are noticeably lower than those of last year. The Smashwords (indie and small press) novels dipped slightly in word counts; while the traditionally published bestsellers from B&N greatly decreased in word count, nearly meeting the typically lower counts of the indies.

wordcountchart

 

Did indies get it right? Are traditionally published authors now scrambling to produce shorter works? Is less more in the fiction novel industry? I’ll let you be the judge.