How Long Should A Book Be? Importance Of Book Word Count

How Long Does a Book Need to Be, and Do Length and Word Count Matter?

How Long Should a Book Be Importance of Book Word Count

Are you an aspiring author wondering if the length and word count of your book really matter? The answer is yes. This crucial element can make or break your chances of getting published and captivating your readers. But don’t worry; we’ve got you covered.

In this post, we will look at why book word count is important, how to determine the best length for your book, and what to do if your manuscript is too long or too short. Whether you’re writing fiction, non-fiction, or a memoir, understanding the significance of word count can be the key to your success. Amazon Publisher Services often emphasizes the importance of these factors, as they can impact both the discoverability and sales of your book.

Imagine your book not just meeting but exceeding industry standards, standing out in a crowded market, and resonating deeply with your readers. Knowing the right word count helps you craft a compelling story that keeps your audience engaged from start to finish. This guide will provide you with actionable insights and practical tips to ensure your manuscript hits the sweet spot in terms of length and substance.

Ready to transform your manuscript into a well-structured and engaging book? Dive into this post to discover why word count matters, how to adjust your manuscript’s length effectively, and ensure your book’s success. Read the full novel and start your journey toward becoming a published author with confidence and clarity.

Your book’s word count is a crucial aspect of its overall success. While it may seem arbitrary, the reasoning behind the importance of word count is sound. In this chapter, we’ll explore why word count matters and how it affects your book’s chances of getting published.

With traditional publishing, word count is a significant factor in determining whether your book will be considered for publication. Agents and editors receive thousands of manuscripts, and they need to quickly identify which ones are worth their time. Word count is a red flag that can indicate whether a writer has fully developed their story, knows how to focus and edit, and has mastered pacing. If your word count is unusually low or high, it may suggest that you haven’t learned how to flesh out a fully developed, satisfying story.

For example, if you submit a 12,000-word “book,” an agent or editor may assume it’s a short story rather than a full-length novel. On the other hand, a 400,000-word manuscript may be seen as too long and difficult to bind, edit, and market. Even if your word count is within the acceptable range for your genre, but still on the shorter or longer side, it may raise concerns about the book’s development and focus.

  • Books that are too short may leave readers feeling unsatisfied due to lack of depth, while overly long books risk losing readers’ attention and interest.
  • Balancing Pacing and Flow: Appropriate word count ensures smooth pacing and flow, preventing rushed plot points or meandering narratives that can disengage readers.
  • Creating a Resonating Story: Word count should support a well-crafted story that meets readers’ expectations and provides a fulfilling reading experience.
  • Genre-Specific Word Counts: Traditional publishers follow genre-specific word count standards to meet reader expectations and enhance engagement.
  • Maintaining Reader Engagement: A balanced word count is crucial for keeping readers invested and engaged throughout the story.
  • Satisfying Reading Experience: Ensuring your book’s word count aligns with reader expectations contributes to a satisfying and enjoyable reading experience.
  • Crafting a Well-Balanced Story: Focus on creating a story with a well-balanced word count to maintain reader interest and deliver a compelling narrative.

While writing, don’t worry about word count at all. Just write. Most first drafts will be too long or short (not to mention too boring, confusing, or predictable, with plot holes, caricatures, and flat dialogue to boot). They’re drafts, for goodness’ sake! We fix them up on revision.

Many self-publishing authors wonder if word count really matters when traditional publishing guidelines do not bind them. While it’s true that you have more flexibility as a self-publisher, word count still plays a crucial role in creating a satisfying reading experience for your audience.

Considerations about word count may seem less pressing when you’re self-publishing, but it’s necessary to remember that readers still have expectations about the length and depth of your book. If your book is too short, readers may feel like they didn’t get their money’s worth. On the other hand, if your book is too long, readers may struggle to stay engaged.

As a self-publisher, you have the freedom to experiment with word count, but it’s crucial to ensure that your book is still well-structured and engaging. You want to create a reading experience that feels complete and satisfying, not rushed or dragged out.

There’s a common misconception that self-publishing means you can ignore traditional word count guidelines. While it’s true that you have more flexibility, it’s necessary to remember that readers still have expectations about the length and depth of your book.

Expectations around word count vary depending on genre, but generally, readers expect a certain level of depth and complexity in a book. If your book is significantly shorter or longer than expected, readers may feel like they’re not getting what they paid for.

For example, if you’re writing a romance novel, readers may expect a book between 70,000-90,000 words. If your book is significantly shorter, readers may feel like the story is rushed or underdeveloped. On the other hand, if your book is significantly longer, readers may struggle to stay engaged. Average words per page typically range between 250-300 words, so understanding this can help you gauge the length of your manuscript and ensure it meets reader expectations.

If you’re worried about your book’s word count, take a deep breath. It’s not the end of the world if your manuscript is too long or too short. In fact, it’s a normal part of the writing process.

All writers face the challenge of getting their book’s length just right. Whether you’re struggling with a manuscript that’s too short or too long, don’t worry – it’s a common problem that can be fixed with some careful revision.

With a too-short book, the temptation might be to pad it with extra words or descriptions. However, this is not the solution. A low word count usually indicates missing something in the story or character development. Instead, look closer at your manuscript and ask yourself some tough questions.

For fiction or memoir, consider the following:

Does the main character have a strong character arc?
Do you really let the reader get to know the other characters, major and minor?
Is your plot too simple and/or do the characters get out of scrapes too easily?
Is your pacing so fast that the reader never has a chance to slow down and enjoy character or setting?
Are your scenes grounded in time and place or could they be happening anywhere at any time?
Are your transitions clear and smooth, or is the reader being whipped around so they don’t know what’s going on?

If you’re writing non-fiction, ask yourself:

Have you been specific and thorough enough, or are you only covering general things your readers could find in blog posts?
Have you shared concrete opportunities for follow-through, or are you sticking to ideas or arguments without offering practical solutions?

Fixing a book that’s too long requires a different approach. You need to cut out the unnecessary words, scenes, and characters that are dragging down your manuscript.

When editing a too-long book, remember that less is often more. Look for sections that can be condensed or eliminated altogether. Ask yourself:

Is this scene or chapter really necessary to the plot?
Can I convey the same information in fewer words?
Are there any characters or subplots that can be cut without affecting the overall story?

Book length is not just about the number of words; it’s about the quality of those words. By cutting out the fluff and focusing on the necessary elements of your story, you can create a tighter, more engaging manuscript that will resonate with readers.

The word count for children’s books and romance novels is unequal, and expectations vary greatly depending on the genre. Understanding these guidelines can help you tailor your manuscript to meet the needs of your target audience and increase your chances of getting published.

The answer to the simple question of how many words in a book for popular genres:

GenreTypical book Word Count Range
Fantasy90,000 – 120,000 words
Science Fiction90,000 – 120,000 words
Romance70,000 – 90,000 words
Mystery/Thriller70,000 – 90,000 words
Horror70,000 – 90,000 words
Literary Fiction80,000 – 100,000 words
Mainstream Fiction80,000 – 100,000 words
Non-Fiction50,000 – 80,000 words

Once again, let’s take a closer look at the word count of popular books in different categories to understand what works and what doesn’t.

To understand the average word count for a novel, a writer should first understand some genres, like fantasy and science fiction, that can have more extended book  word counts due to the complexity of world-building and plot development. 

Here are some examples of popular novels and their word counts:

Book TitleAuthorWord Count
The NightingaleKristin Hannah167,000
The Hunger GamesSuzanne Collins99,000
The Girl with the Dragon TattooStieg Larsson135,000
Gone GirlGillian Flynn105,000

While there are exceptions, the average number of words in a book falls within the 80,000-120,000-word range. This is because agents and editors tend to look for manuscripts that are well-developed yet concise and engaging.

Analysis of non-fiction books reveals that word count can vary greatly depending on the book’s topic, style, and purpose. Here are some examples of popular non-fiction books and their word counts: 

Book TitleAuthorWord Count
Sapiens: A Brief History of HumankindYuval Noah Harari416,000
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleStephen Covey432,000
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and LeadBrené Brown80,000
The Power of NowEckhart Tolle128,000

Novels and non-fiction books have different word count expectations. Non-fiction books often require more words to convey complex ideas, research, and data. 

However, it’s necessary to remember that word count alone doesn’t determine a book’s success. The quality of writing, research, and ideas presented are crucial factors in a book’s overall impact.

To put it briefly, while there are exceptions to the rule, understanding the typical word count ranges for different genres and categories can help you tailor your writing to meet the expectations of agents, editors, and readers. Recall, word count is just one aspect of the writing process, and focusing on developing a strong story, characters, and ideas is crucial to creating a successful book.

Unlike what you might think, Book word count isn’t just about the number of words on a page. It’s influenced by various factors that can make or break your book’s chances of getting published or being successful.

Here are some key factors that can impact your book word count:

  • Genre: Different genres have different word count expectations. For example, fantasy and science fiction novels are longer, while romance novels are often shorter.
  • Pacing and tension: A fast-paced book with high stakes might require more words to build tension and suspense, while a slower-paced book might get away with fewer words.
  • Character development: Books with complex characters and character arcs require more words to flesh out their stories and motivations.
  • Plot complexity: Books with multiple plot threads, twists, and turns might need more words to keep the reader engaged and confused (in a good way).
  • Writing style: Authors with a more descriptive or lyrical writing style might use more words to paint a vivid picture, while those with a more concise style might get away with fewer words.

Any book that aims to create memorable characters needs to devote words to their development. This includes their backstory, motivations, conflicts, and relationships.

Character development can add to the book’s word count, especially if you’re writing a character-driven novel. However, it’s necessary to remember that character development shouldn’t come at the expense of plot progression. You need to strike a balance between the two to keep your reader engaged.

development of secondary characters is also crucial. Giving them their own arcs and motivations can add depth to your story and increase your book word count. However, it’s necessary to ensure that these characters don’t overshadow the main character or distract from the main plot.

Do not forget, word count is just one aspect of writing a book successfully. Focus on crafting a compelling story with well-developed characters, and the word count will take care of itself.

To ensure your book meets the desired word count, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of what works for your genre and target audience. Here are some tips to help you meet the requirements:

  • Know your genre’s word count standards: Research the typical word count range for your genre to ensure you’re on track.
  • Write a solid first draft: Focus on getting your story down, regardless of word count, and then revise to meet the requirements.
  • Revise and edit: Cut unnecessary words, scenes, and characters to tighten up your manuscript and meet the desired word count.
  • Flesh out underdeveloped areas: Identify areas that need more development, such as character arcs, plot twists, or setting descriptions, and add content to enhance the reader’s experience.

You’ve likely heard the phrase “less is more.” As far as writing, this couldn’t be truer. Here are some strategies to help you write concisely:

You can avoid wordy descriptions by using active voice instead of passive voice. This will help you convey the same information in fewer words. Additionally, eliminate unnecessary adverbs and adjectives that don’t add significant value to your writing.

Another approach is to show, don’t tell. Rather than telling your readers what’s happening, show them through action, dialogue, and body language. This will not only reduce word count but also create a more engaging reading experience.

Keep in mind that editing is a crucial step in the writing process, and it plays a significant role in achieving an optimal book word count. Editing is not just about correcting grammar and punctuation errors, it is also about refining your ideas, clarifying your message, and ensuring that your book writing is engaging and effective.

The importance of book editing in achieving an optimal book word count cannot be overstated. During the editing process, you may need to add or remove content to ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and effective. This can significantly impact your word count, and it’s necessary to approach editing with a clear understanding of your target word count.

For example, if you’re writing a novel, you may need to add scenes, characters, or plot twists to flesh out your story and reach your target word count. On the other hand, if you’re writing a non-fiction book, you may need to remove unnecessary information or condense your ideas to make them more concise and readable.

Some editors may have specific guidelines or requirements for book word count, so it’s necessary to communicate with them clearly about your goals and expectations. Here are some tips for working with editors on word count:

  • Be open to feedback and revisions: Remember that editing is a collaborative process, and your editor may have valuable insights and suggestions for improving your writing and achieving an optimal word count.
  • Communicate your goals and expectations: Make sure your editor understands your target word count and any specific requirements or guidelines you need to follow.
  • Be flexible and adaptable: Be prepared to make changes and adjustments to your writing to achieve an optimal word count.

Word count is just one aspect of the book editing process, but it’s an important one. By working closely with your editor and being open to feedback and revisions, you can ensure that your writing is polished, effective, and engaging and that it meets your target book word count.

Even literary agents agree that word count matters. According to one agent, “If someone comes to me with a 12,000-word ‘book,’ I’d send them to someone who edits short stories. If they came to me with a 400,000-word book, we’d have a difficult conversation about the basic fact that it would be hard to bind, let alone edit and market a 1,600-page debut novel.” This highlights the importance of adhering to genre-specific word count standards.

In the agent’s experience, books that are too short usually lack a satisfying story arc, while books that are too long often drag, lack focus, or go off in unnecessary directions. Agents look for books that are close to being publishable already, as they spend years of their life on an author’s book and only get paid if the book sells well.

Hence, as you’ve seen, word count matters, but it’s not the only thing that matters. While it’s vital to understand the general guidelines for your genre of books, it’s equally important to remember that these are only guidelines. The most critical thing is to ensure your book is well-written, engaging, and provides a satisfying reading experience for your audience. If your book word count is too high or too low, don’t panic. Revision is a natural part of the writing process, and with careful editing, you can refine your manuscript to its fullest potential.

Bear in mind that agents and editors receive numerous manuscripts daily, and they’re looking for books that are close to being publishable. They want to see that you’ve taken the time to develop your story, characters, and plot. So, focus on crafting a well-written, tightly edited manuscript that meets the general guidelines for your genre. And don’t be afraid to make changes to improve your work. With dedication and perseverance, you can create a book that will resonate with readers and leave a lasting impression.