Author Ellen Jackson

Book Genres For Children

Each age category of children's writing, from picture books to young adult, has its own requirements. Follow these guidelines to start writing your children's book.

Before you start writing your children’s story, you’ll need to decide what type of children’s book you are writing. What works for a chapter book won’t work for a young adult novel, and picture books are different from anything else. Here’s a look at the guidelines for each age category.

Picture Book

Written for ages 0-7, with further categories for the youngest children.

Meant to be read to the child.

No more than 1,000 words, with many having fewer than 500.

Centered around a child’s world, generally home and neighborhood.

Characters can be real people or animals acting like people (anthropomorphic).

Beginning Readers

Also known as Leveled Readers. Some editors include Beginning Readers in their Chapter Book descriptions.

Written for children learning to read on their own, generally ages 5-8.

Short sentences, limited vocabulary. Often 500 to 1,500 words.

Still centered around a child’s world, including school.

Chapter Books

A child’s first “real” book: the first ones children read that have chapters like big kids’ books. Some editors include Beginning Readers in this category.

Written for children who are becoming fluent readers, typically ages 7-9.

Approximately 4,000 to 12,000 words, depending on publisher. If a market listing says “under 1,000 words,” it’s probably speaking of Beginning Readers.

Main character is usually 8 or 9 years old (the upper age range of the readers).

Includes real-life and fantasy settings. Humor, mystery and adventure are popular.
Contains a plot with setbacks, and sometimes can handle a minor subplot.

Middle Grade Novels

Written for ages 8-12.

Approximately 20,000-40,000 words, depending on publisher.

Content categories similar to those of adult fiction (mystery, adventure, humor, historical, contemporary, fantasy, etc.).

Most plot lines, characters, and settings are acceptable, but are geared to 10-12 year olds. Intense subjects need to be handled skillfully, and may get bumped to an older category.

Upper Middle Grade Novels

An emerging age category, picking up more serious middle grade books that aren’t quite YA.

Written for ages 10-14.

Length can lean toward either Middle Grade or Young Adult word counts.

Young Adult Novels

Written for ages 12 and up.

Approximately 40,000 to 75,000 words, although there are exceptions on both ends.

Content categories the same as that for adults (mystery, adventure, humor, historical, contemporary, fantasy, etc.).

Any subject matter, from light romance to high fantasy.

“Edgy YA” includes often taboo subjects such as sexuality, abuse, mental illness, etc. Some publishers actively look for these, some prohibit them.

Read more details on writing Young Adult novels here.

These are general guidelines; word counts, age level definitions, and subject matter can change from one publisher to another. Check the market listings, publishers’ websites, and current books for specifics.