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Writing and Publishing

Know Your Target Book Length Before You Start Writing

When pitching my book at a writers conference, one industry person said my length was perfect, while another wanted it 20,000 words long, and a third said it should have at least 25,000 more words. That’s a huge difference.

Finding the Ideal Book Length

There is no universal answer to the ideal book-length, but there are some generalities. To avoid wasting time and effort, we need to be close to industry expectations when we write. Here are some ways to find out how long your book should be:

  • If you have an agent or publisher, start there. What they say, goes.
  • Ask people in the book publishing industry who know.
  • Go to a library or bookstore and look at the length of books similar to yours. (A rough average is 300 words per page.)
  • Search online (like I did) and find a lot of conflicting information, but at least it’s a place to start.

The main thing is don’t waste time writing a book that is way too short or too long for anyone to ever publish it. The closer our book is to our publisher’s expectations, the easier it is to tweak to meet their requirements.

Have you ever written something that was the wrong length? How are you at editing something to hit a word count? Even if you’re good at editing to hit a target word count goal (like I am), it’s a time-consuming and frustrating endeavor.

That’s why it’s best to make a book the right length to start with.

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By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.

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