Do word counts count? 2018 edition

Has it been a year already? Time flies when you’re writing words. But just how many words should we be writing? Here’s my annual look at YA word counts for traditionally published and indie authors.

To get a feel for the mainstream market, I usually pull Barnes & Noble’s list of teen bestsellers, but I’d like to change it up a little and instead take a peek at the New York Times.

NY Times Young Adult Hardcover Bestsellers List July 29, 2018
(released early online)

 Title  Word Count*
 The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas  111,750
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi 134,250
Hocus Pocus and the All New Sequel by AW Jantha 132,000
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green 76,000
One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus 92,000
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds 80,000
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert 92,000
Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli 92,000
Legendary by Stephanie Garber 116,000
The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth 116,000

Average: 94,200
Median: 92,000

*Word counts estimated based on reported page count

I don’t know about you, but for me, the three bestsellers at 92,000 words really pops out. Two more are just 14,000 words more at 116,000. Two more are within just 16,000 less words at 76,000 and 80,000.

We now take a look at the Smashwords Young Adult or Teen bestsellers to get a look at the books getting notice aside of the big publishing houses. Unlike the NY Times list, this list not only includes novels, but novellas, novellettes, shorts, minis, and everything in between.

Smashwords Bestselling Young Adult or Teen – July 25, 2018
Note: Includes only English books and excludes book sets

 Title  Word Count
 Skating Through by Jennifer Cosgrove  70,430
Her Elysium by Emmy Engberts 81,440
No Sad Songs for Me by Daniel Fleischhacker 67,740
Ice Kingdom by Tiana Warner 85,790
Goldie the Special Kitten by Linda J Oliver 2,450   (selling for $7.99)
Quantum Civil War by Stephen Arseneault 90,210
The Burning Claw by Quinn Loftis 125,540
Cinderella Boy by Kristina Meister 89,180
Luna of Mine by Quinn Loftis 86,320
Love is Blind by Shayna Bueckert 74,170

Above chart includes actual reported word counts.

Average: 77,327   Average excluding 2,450 book: 85,790
Median: 83,615

Most impressive is Goldie the Special Kittenwhich hits the list at a microscopic 2,450 words but sells for $7.99 a copy! The description is riddled with grammatical and typographical errors, but the cover has a kitten in a toilet, so there’s that.

These numbers show a slight decrease from the 2016 B&N numbers, compared to the larger decrease shown in Smashwords word counts.

Bottom Line (yes, I know it’s not really at the bottom)
For 2018, YA bestsellers seem to be steadily set at 85-95,000 words, with 92,000 being a seemingly magic number.

And speaking of past years, how does 2018 measure up?

Smashwords Bestsellers Average Word Counts
2018: 85,790 (excluding Special Kitten)
2016: 99,468
2014: 83,829

B&N and NY Times Bestsellers Average Word Counts
NYT 2018: 94,200
B&N 2016: 95,225
B&N 2014: 88,875

Check out past Word Counts articles on this blog…
Do Word Counts Count 2016 edition
Do Word Counts Count 2015
Do Word Counts Count? 2014 update
Do word counts count?2013






Do Word Counts Count 2016 edition

It’s that time of year again! Time for my annual Word Counts post where we take a look at YA word counts for traditionally published and indie authors.

So let’s get right down to the nitty gritty. First, we take a look at the traditional-pubbed market. For this, I’m going to pull the bestsellers in the category of YA from Barnes and Noble.

Barnes & Noble Teen Bestsellers for the week beginning June 28, 2016

 Title  Word Count*
 Miss Peregine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs 96,250
 The Last Star by Rick Yancey 88,000
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard 104,000
The Cellar by Natasha Preston 92,000
 The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton 56,000
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak  144,000
 The Novice by Taran Matharu 96,000
The Maze Runner by James Dashner 100,000
 United as One by Pittacus Lore 120,000
 Kian and JC: Don’t Try This at Home! by Kian Lawley 56,000

*Estimated based on 250 words per page

Compared to last year’s list of B&N teen bestsellers, word counts are up 13%. I think it is important to note that some of the larger word counts in the list came from books that are the last in their series. Many readers already know to expect the last book to be a bit thicker as the author packs in everything needed to wrap up all the loose ends.

Word counts also increased among indie others when compared to previous years.

Smashwords Bestsellers Young Adult/Teen Category 7/2/16

 Title  Word Count
The Raven King by Nora Sakavic 105,410
 The Wild Beasts of Anthony Mannis by Matthew Young 78,020
In a House Made of Bones and Teeth by Alyxandra Harvey 16,170
Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani 122,640
Valley of the Shadow by Christina Ochs 176,720
The Posterchildren: Origins by Kitty Burroughs  133,870
 Masters of Time by Sarah Woodbury 83,340
Between Heaven and Earth by TJ Rudolph 73,480
 The Dark Wife by SE Diemer 62,180
The Alcantaran Key by Terry Compton 142,850

The average word count for these ten is a whopping 99,468, the highest average for Smashwords bestsellers since I started the Word Count annual posts in 2013. This number also breaks trend by surpassing the B&N bestsellers word count average. Check out the dramatic incline over 2015’s average word count of 68,315 in the comparison chart below.


Those are the stats. Looks like word counts are growing and readers are buying, but let’s not forget the increasing popularity of novellas and Kindle singles. There is one novella-sized novel in the Smashwords bestsellers (there usually is at least one). Amazon’s Kindle Single bestseller lineup is starting to tout big names such as James Patterson, Diana Gabaldon, Lee Child, and Gillian Flynn with page counts ranging from 40 to 86 pages and price points at $1.99 and $2.99 making their work more affordable for the everyday reader and more competitive against indie authors who traditional charge these prices for full novels.

So take these stats with a grain of salt because as we all know…
Length is seldom a measure of a good story.

Past Word Counts Posts
>Do Word Counts Count 2015
>Do Word Counts Count? 2014 update
>Do word counts count? 2013