how long should a book beI’ve recently had two first time authors ask me how long a book should be.  I’m a great believer in when you are asked the same question twice to then write a blog post to answer the question for other people. Whilst I can’t comment on a novel or children’s book, this blog post will answer the question for business book authors, ‘how long should a book be?’ Or, what is the required word count needed for my business book?

How long should a book be – my own experience

I’ve now written four books, which have both been self published and published. Each one of these books have been different lengths – 56k, 80k and 60k if you are interested. I’ve also never set out to write a book which has a certain amount of words in. I’ve always just let the words flow.

Are publishers bothered about your book length?

When I wrote the proposal for my publishers I ‘guessed’ at the page length and word count of my business book. A publisher will need this word count ‘guess’ as it could impact their cost estimates for producing the book. In fact, there was a large concern that ‘How to make partner and still have a life’ was 50% longer than originally planned. In the end, the production team didn’t seem to have a problem with the extra 25k words…

No publisher has yet commented to me on whether my word count is going to be too light. In many ways it is often easier to add in more words – an extra case study here or there can quickly pad out a slim volume.

It is often easier to add in more words

Remember it’s your book

Remember that people have different motivations for publishing their book. It can be tempting to benchmark what you are writing based on other books. Don’t be tempted to do this. After all, it’s your book and only your book. You need to do what is right in your book to achieve your objectives for publishing the book.

business book word countWhat is the right length of a book?

There is no right or wrong length of a book. At the end of the day, the right length is the length, which allows you to succinctly fulfil the promise that you set out to your reader, at the start of the book. In other words, if you can fulfill that promised in 20k words, why write 50k words? That promise you set out may be different for different audiences. I.e one particular audience may only want to read short, sharp books, so when you fulfil the promise of the title you need to make sure you can say what you need to say succinctly and briefly.

There is no right or wrong length of a book.

A friend of mine has an interesting hobby of reading, in her words’ ‘smut’ books. Each to their own! However, she gets really frustrated with books which finish on a cliff-hanger and force you to buy the next book in the series in order to find out what has happened. If you are planning to write a business book, leaving a cliffhanger at the end will prompt many irate reviews on amazon for your book…

Unlike other book genre’s, there isn’t a defined standard for a business book’s word count.

Does the word count affect the price I can charge for my book?

The word count of your book may have an effect on the perceived value of your book. Of course, the bigger or thicker the book, the likelihood is that your reader will perceive that there is more value contained within the book. However, your publisher will set the price of your book. If you are self-publishing you can basically choose what you will sell your book for – and its word count is pretty immaterial.

In summary:

How long should a book be? Or what is the ideal word count for a business book? To summarise the answer to this question, long enough to fulfil the promise you set out in the title of your book, and short enough to achieve your own objectives for the book.