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How Long Should a Book Be? The Perfect Framework for Your Book

“How long should my book be?”

It's a question that nags at many aspiring authors—especially those writing nonfiction.

How long should my book be? It's a common question for aspiring authors.

As someone who has coached, consulted, and edited countless nonfiction and fiction book projects, I know how crucial it is to tackle this concern head-on. The length of your book can have a huge impact on its success, reader engagement, and overall quality.

While there are no hard and fast rules, there are some key considerations to keep in mind. Your book’s subject matter, intended audience, and goals in terms of content and message are all important factors. Understanding these elements will guide you in determining the ideal length for your book.

In this post, I'll explain a straightforward framework for deciding the length of your book, whether fiction or nonfiction. I will also discuss industry standards, the importance of pacing, and strategies for adjusting your manuscript to hit your target word count.

By the end of this guide, you’ll have a clear idea of how to tailor your book’s length to ensure it resonates with your audience and meets your objectives.

Table of Contents

Understanding Book Length

The length of your book isn't as crucial as you might think.

While most traditionally published books fall within certain word count ranges, that doesn't mean your book needs to fit neatly into those boxes. Whether you're going the traditional route or self-publishing, the quality of your content matters far more than the number of words on the page.

How long should my book be? It's a common question for aspiring authors.

Traditionally published books often adhere to specific lengths because publishers have established standards and expectations. These standards are helpful as they provide a sense of what the market expects. But don't let these guidelines box you in. Some of the most impactful books are short and sweet, delivering powerful messages in fewer pages.

Self-published books, on the other hand, offer more flexibility. They allow authors to break free from conventional word counts and focus on delivering their message as concisely or expansively as needed. In the end, what really counts is the strength and substance of your content.

The Truth About Traditional vs. Self-Publishing

A book packed with valuable insights, engaging storytelling, or transformative ideas will captivate readers regardless of its length. On the flip side, a longer book filled with fluff and filler won't hold anyone's attention.

Your goal should be to provide value, whether that takes 50 pages or 500. So, instead of obsessing over word count, focus on crafting a book that delivers on its promise and leaves a lasting impression on your readers.


Examples of Successful Books with Varied Lengths

Let's look at some examples of successful books of varying lengths to illustrate this point.

Short and Powerful Books

  1. Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson (96 pages): This short book delivers profound insights into dealing with change in both personal and professional lives. Its brevity and simplicity have made it a bestseller.

  2. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (105 pages): This concise guide to writing style has become an essential reference for writers, valued for its clear and direct advice.

  3. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (190 pages): Pressfield’s book on overcoming creative blocks is succinct and impactful, resonating with artists and professionals alike.

Who Moved My Cheese?The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield |  GoodreadsElements of Style eBook by William Strunk

Medium-Length Success Stories

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (114 pages): This classic novel is relatively short but packs a significant punch with its rich themes and unforgettable characters.

  2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (208 pages): Coelho's philosophical novel about following one's dreams has inspired millions, despite its modest length.

  3. Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki (336 pages): This personal finance book challenges conventional wisdom about money and has sold millions of copies worldwide.

The Great Gatsby by Scott FitzgeraldThe Alchemist by Paulo CoelhoRich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!

Long and Engaging Reads

  1. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (960 pages): This epic historical novel has captivated readers with its detailed storytelling and complex characters.

  2. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (896 pages): The fifth book in the Harry Potter series is the longest, yet it remains one of the most popular due to its rich plot and character development.

  3. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari (464 pages): Harari’s comprehensive exploration of human history is thorough and engaging, despite its length.

These examples show that both short and long books can be successful. The key is to ensure that every page serves a purpose and delivers value to your readers. Focus on creating a compelling narrative or delivering insightful content, and the length will naturally follow.

Gone with the Wind (novel)Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixSapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Publish a Book with the End in Mind

When writing a book, it is good practice to determine its length before you finish the manuscript.

Knowing the target length ahead of time helps you structure your content effectively and ensures that your book meets its goals and resonates with your audience. Different types of books have varying typical lengths, each serving distinct purposes and catering to different reader expectations.

turned on MacBook Pro beside white ceramic mug


Types of Books and Their Typical Lengths

Lead Magnet (5,000-10,000 words)

A lead magnet is a short book designed to generate leads for your business.

These books are quick reads that offer valuable insights without diving too deep into the subject. They usually explain the "what" and "why" but leave out the "how," enticing readers to seek more information from you.

Lead magnets are perfect for capturing attention and driving potential clients to your services or products.

Client Primer (10,000-30,000 words)

A client primer goes a step further than a lead magnet.

These books are more substantial and aim to prepare readers to become your clients. They provide not only the "what" and "why" but also touch on the "how." Client primers build credibility by offering more value, helping readers understand the benefits of working with you.

This type of book is ideal for professionals looking to establish a deeper connection with their audience.

Leadership/Philosophy Book (30,000-60,000+ words)

Leadership and philosophy books are comprehensive works that establish the author’s authority in a particular field.

These books delve deeply into topics, offering extensive knowledge and insights. They aim to educate readers thoroughly while providing a pleasant and engaging reading experience.

Authors like John C. Maxwell have used such books to build a reputation and influence in their respective domains.

Novella (10,000-40,000 words)

A novella is a shorter form of fiction and focuses on a single, cohesive narrative.

Novellas are ideal for telling a concise story that requires less complexity than a full-length novel. This format allows for rich storytelling without the need for extensive subplots or background details.

Novellas are perfect for authors who want to experiment with fiction or tell a story that doesn't require a longer format.

Novel (50,000-100,000 words)

Novels are the standard length for most fiction genres, offering a complete and immersive reading experience. This length allows for detailed character development, intricate plots, and subplots. Novels can vary significantly in length depending on the genre, with romance and mystery novels often being on the shorter end, while science fiction and fantasy can extend toward the higher end.

Epic/Series (100,000+ words)

Epics and series are extensive narratives typically seen in genres like fantasy and science fiction.

These books create expansive worlds and complex storylines that span multiple volumes. The longer format allows authors to develop detailed plots, multiple character arcs, and rich settings.

Authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin have successfully captivated readers with their epic tales, demonstrating the power of a well-crafted series.

a stack of books

By understanding the typical lengths and purposes of different types of books, you can better plan your manuscript and ensure that your content aligns with your goals. Whether you're writing a quick lead magnet to generate business leads or an epic fantasy series, having a clear target length in mind will help you create a compelling and structured book. 

How Long Your Book Should Really Be

What truly matters is the quality of your content, not the sheer number of words.

To determine the appropriate length for your book, start by deciding what type of book you’re writing. This decision will help guide your length expectations and ensure your content aligns with your goals and audience.

clear hour glass beside pink flowers

Deciding the Type of Book to Write

Understanding the type of book you want to write is crucial for setting your length expectations.

Are you aiming to write a brief lead magnet, a comprehensive client primer, or an in-depth leadership book? Perhaps you’re crafting a novella, a standard novel, or an epic series.

Each type of book has typical length ranges, and knowing where your book fits can help you plan your content accordingly. This clarity ensures that your book fulfills its purpose, whether it's to inform, engage, or entertain your readers.

The Role of Pacing in Ensuring Reader Engagement

Pacing is a critical element in maintaining reader engagement.

It’s about how your story or content flows, how fast or slow events unfold, and how smoothly sentences and paragraphs transition. Good pacing keeps readers hooked, moving them through your book without feeling rushed or bored.

A well-paced book balances action with reflection, providing enough variation to keep readers interested.

In fiction, this means alternating between intense scenes and slower, character-driven moments. In nonfiction, it involves mixing factual information with anecdotes, case studies, or practical exercises. By paying attention to pacing, you can ensure that your readers stay engaged from start to finish.

The Importance of Chapter and Paragraph Length

While readers might not consciously count the words in your book, they are very much aware of how it feels to read it. Long, unbroken chapters and paragraphs can be daunting and may cause readers to lose interest. Conversely, too many short chapters or paragraphs can make the book feel choppy and disjointed.

Finding the right balance is key.

In nonfiction, this might mean breaking down complex ideas into digestible sections, using subheadings to guide the reader. In fiction, varying paragraph lengths and chapter structures can help control the narrative’s rhythm, making it more engaging. Shorter chapters can create a sense of urgency, while longer ones can provide space for deeper exploration.

Ultimately, the goal is to maintain a natural flow that keeps your readers immersed in your book. By focusing on content quality, appropriate pacing, and a balanced structure, you can create a book that captivates your audience, regardless of its length.


Specific Considerations for Nonfiction

When writing a nonfiction book, it's essential to consider several factors that will guide your decisions about length and content.

Aligning your book length with audience expectations, deciding the length based on the book’s purpose and desired transformation, and crafting a book that balances depth with reader engagement are all critical to creating a successful nonfiction work.

woman sitting on floor and leaning on couch using laptop

Aligning Book Length with Audience Expectations

Understanding your audience’s expectations is crucial in determining the appropriate length for your nonfiction book. Readers of nonfiction often seek actionable insights, clear takeaways, and practical advice. Business professionals might prefer concise guides they can quickly apply to their work, while readers of historical nonfiction might appreciate more in-depth explorations.

Consider who your target readers are and what they are looking for in a book. If your audience expects a quick read with direct applications, a shorter, focused book might be best. Conversely, if they anticipate a comprehensive exploration of a topic, you may need to write a more extended, detailed book to meet their expectations.

Aligning your book’s length with what your readers are looking for will help you meet their needs and keep them engaged.

Deciding Length Based on Book Purpose and Desired Transformation

The purpose of your book and the transformation you aim to achieve for your readers are pivotal in determining its length.

If your goal is to establish authority in your field, a comprehensive, well-researched book might be necessary. This type of book would likely be longer, providing in-depth analysis, case studies, and detailed explanations to showcase your expertise.

On the other hand, if you aim to provide a quick, motivational read, brevity could be your best asset. A shorter book focused on inspiring action or shifting perspectives can be highly effective if it delivers its message clearly and powerfully.

pile of assorted-title books

Reflect on the transformation you want to inspire in your readers—whether it’s a change in mindset, acquiring new skills, or gaining deeper understanding—and let that guide your book’s length.

Crafting a Book that Balances Depth with Reader Engagement

Balancing depth with reader engagement is key to maintaining your readers' interest throughout the book. While depth involves providing thorough, well-rounded content that covers your topic comprehensively, it’s crucial to present this information in an engaging and accessible manner.

To achieve this balance, use a mix of storytelling, practical examples, and actionable advice. Break down complex ideas into digestible sections and use subheadings to guide readers through your content. Incorporate personal anecdotes or case studies to illustrate points and keep the narrative engaging.

Additionally, consider the structure of your chapters and paragraphs. Long, dense paragraphs can be overwhelming, so vary your sentence and paragraph lengths to create a more readable flow. Use bullet points or numbered lists to highlight key points and make important information stand out.

Considerations of Nonfiction

By focusing on these elements, you can craft a nonfiction book that provides valuable insights and keeps your readers engaged from start to finish. Ensuring your book is both informative and enjoyable to read will enhance its impact and help you achieve your goals as an author.


Specific Considerations for Fiction

Writing fiction involves unique challenges and considerations, particularly when it comes to determining the length of your book.

To create a compelling narrative that resonates with readers, it's important to understand genre-specific length expectations, the significance of world-building, character development, and plot complexity, and how to maintain reader interest through effective pacing and narrative structure.

Genre-Specific Length Expectations and Standards

Each fiction genre comes with its own set of length expectations and standards. Knowing these can help you set appropriate goals for your manuscript. For example:

  • Romance novels typically range from 50,000 to 90,000 words. Shorter romance novels might focus more intensely on the primary relationship, while longer ones may include subplots and more extensive character development.

  • Mystery and thriller novels often fall between 70,000 and 90,000 words. These books need enough length to develop intricate plots, build suspense, and deliver satisfying resolutions.

  • Science fiction and fantasy novels generally span from 90,000 to 120,000 words, with epics often exceeding 120,000 words. These genres require additional length to establish complex worlds and detailed lore.

  • Literary fiction can vary widely, but it often falls between 80,000 and 100,000 words. These books focus on deep character exploration and thematic development, allowing for a range of lengths.

a notebook with a pen on top of it

Understanding these benchmarks can help you set realistic goals and ensure your book meets the expectations of its genre.

Importance of World-Building, Character Development, and Plot Complexity

For fiction writers, world-building, character development, and plot complexity are essential elements that contribute to the richness and depth of the story.


Whether your story is set in a fantastical universe, a historical period, or the modern world, effective world-building is crucial.

This involves creating a believable and immersive setting that supports the narrative. In genres like fantasy and science fiction, extensive world-building is expected, while contemporary fiction might focus more on detailed, realistic settings.

Character Development

Strong, well-developed characters drive the narrative and engage readers.

Spend time fleshing out your characters' backgrounds, motivations, and arcs. Readers should see growth and change in your characters over the course of the story, which adds to the overall impact and memorability of your book.

Plot Complexity

A compelling plot is essential for keeping readers hooked. This includes not only the main storyline but also subplots that add depth and intrigue. Ensure your plot has clear, well-defined conflicts and resolutions. Twists and turns should be well-placed to maintain suspense and interest.

sticky notes on corkboard

Balancing these elements effectively will contribute to a more engaging and well-rounded story.

Maintaining Reader Interest Through Pacing and Narrative Structure

Maintaining reader interest is a primary goal for any fiction writer. Pacing and narrative structure play key roles in achieving this.


Effective pacing ensures that the story flows smoothly and keeps readers engaged.

This involves varying the speed of the narrative to build tension, provide relief, and maintain interest. Action scenes may be fast-paced, while moments of reflection or character development can slow down to allow readers to absorb the details.

Balancing these elements keeps the reader turning pages.

Narrative Structure

A well-structured narrative guides readers through the story in a coherent and compelling way.

This includes a clear beginning, middle, and end, with each part serving its purpose. The beginning should hook readers and introduce key elements, the middle should develop the plot and characters, and the end should provide a satisfying resolution.

Using techniques like foreshadowing, flashbacks, and cliffhangers can add depth and complexity to your narrative.

Specific Considerations for Fiction

By understanding genre-specific expectations, focusing on world-building, character development, and plot complexity, and mastering pacing and narrative structure, you can craft a fiction book that captivates readers and stands out in its genre.


Adjusting Book Length

Once you’ve completed your manuscript, you might find that the length isn't quite what you expected.

Whether your book is too short or too long, there are strategies you can employ to adjust its length and improve its overall quality. Here’s how to approach it:

Young man freelancer work with laptop while sitting on floor with his cat at home.

Strategies for Adjusting Book Length Post-Writing

Big-Picture View: Assessing Chapters and Overall Structure

Start by taking a step back and looking at the overall structure of your book. Break down your manuscript into chapters and evaluate each one’s contribution to the story or subject matter. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does each chapter serve a clear purpose?

  • Are there any chapters that feel redundant or off-topic?

  • Is the progression of chapters logical and smooth?

By identifying chapters that need trimming or expanding, you can make broad adjustments that significantly impact your book’s length and cohesiveness.

Detailed View: Analyzing Flow Within Individual Chapters

Next, zoom in on the details within each chapter. Analyze the flow of content to ensure it’s engaging and coherent. Consider the following:

  • Do the paragraphs transition smoothly from one idea to the next?

  • Are there sections that drag or feel rushed?

  • Is there enough detail to support the main points without overwhelming the reader?

Fine-tuning the flow within chapters helps you add necessary details or cut unnecessary ones, enhancing readability and pacing.

Tips for Adding or Removing Content to Improve Pacing and Relevance

If your book is too short, consider these strategies to add meaningful content:

  • Expand on Key Points: Dive deeper into your main arguments or narrative elements. Provide more examples, anecdotes, or case studies that enrich your content.

  • Include Additional Research: Integrate more data, expert opinions, or historical context to strengthen your book’s foundation.

  • Add Subplots or Side Stories: In fiction, introducing new subplots or character backstories can add depth and length. In nonfiction, consider adding supplementary chapters that address related topics.

  • Incorporate Reader Questions: Address common questions or feedback from your target audience. This can provide clarity and additional value.

a woman sitting at a desk in front of a laptop computer

If your book is too long, try these techniques to streamline your content:

  • Eliminate Redundancies: Identify and remove repetitive information or sections that don’t add new value.

  • Combine Chapters: Merge chapters that cover similar topics to create a more concise narrative or argument.

  • Trim Excessive Detail: Focus on the most relevant details and cut out overly detailed descriptions or tangents that don’t serve the main purpose.

  • Tighten Language: Edit your prose to be more concise. Remove filler words and phrases that don’t contribute to the overall message.

By using these strategies, you can effectively adjust your book’s length to meet your goals and ensure that it remains engaging and relevant to your readers. Whether you need to add depth or streamline your content, focusing on the big picture and fine details will help you create a well-balanced and compelling book.

Enhancing Your Book

Enhancing your book involves adding depth and value to ensure it resonates with readers. Whether you're writing nonfiction or fiction, there are several strategies you can use to enrich your content and engage your audience.

For Nonfiction

  • Deepen Research: To bolster your nonfiction book, incorporate case studies, expert opinions, and additional research. This not only strengthens your arguments but also provides credibility and a richer context for your readers. Detailed case studies can offer real-world applications of your ideas, while expert opinions lend authority to your narrative.

  • Expand Examples: Illustrate your points with detailed examples. These examples help clarify complex concepts and make your content more relatable. Use real-life scenarios, historical events, or hypothetical situations that your readers can easily understand and connect with.

  • Include Actionable Steps: Add guides, checklists, and exercises to make your book more practical and interactive. These actionable steps provide readers with clear takeaways and encourage them to apply what they've learned. This approach not only adds value but also increases reader engagement.

  • Personal Anecdotes: Sharing personal stories and experiences can make your nonfiction book more relatable and engaging. Anecdotes help humanize your content and create a connection with your readers. They can illustrate your points in a more memorable way and demonstrate how your insights apply in real life.

  • Reader Feedback: Incorporate questions and feedback from your audience to address common concerns and add relevance to your content. This can make your book more interactive and tailored to your readers' needs. You might gather this feedback from blog comments, social media interactions, or surveys conducted among your target audience.

a wooden table topped with notebooks and glasses


For Fiction

  • Deepen World-Building: Enhance your story by adding more descriptions and background details to your setting. This helps create an immersive world that readers can visualize and feel a part of. Whether it’s a fantastical universe or a historical period, rich world-building adds depth and authenticity to your narrative.

  • Develop Characters: Expand on your characters’ backstories and motivations to make them more complex and relatable. Readers invest in characters they understand and care about. Delve into their past experiences, personal conflicts, and aspirations to create multi-dimensional characters.

  • Enhance Plot: Introduce subplots and twists to enrich your narrative. Subplots can provide additional layers to your story, developing secondary characters and themes. Unexpected twists keep readers engaged and add excitement to your main plot. Ensure that these elements are well-integrated and contribute to the overall story arc.

  • Dialogue: Use dialogue to reveal character traits and advance the plot. Well-crafted dialogue can show relationships, conflicts, and personal growth. It can also move the story forward by revealing critical information and creating tension. Ensure that each character has a distinct voice that reflects their personality and background.

  • Reader Feedback: Incorporate suggestions from beta readers to refine your story. Beta readers can provide valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t, offering a fresh perspective. Their feedback can help you identify plot holes, character inconsistencies, and pacing issues, allowing you to make necessary adjustments before final publication.

assorted books

By utilizing these strategies, you can enhance your book, making it more engaging, informative, and enjoyable for your readers. Whether you're writing nonfiction or fiction, focusing on adding depth and value will help you create a compelling and memorable book.


In Closing: Prioritize Quality Over Quantity

Once again, the true essence of a successful book lies not in its word count but in the quality and substance of its content.

Whether you’re crafting a concise nonfiction guide or an epic fantasy novel, the focus should always be on providing value to your readers. The importance of content and pacing can't be overstated—effective pacing ensures that your readers remain engaged, while rich, meaningful content delivers the insights or experiences they seek.

person picking white and red book on bookshelf

For nonfiction authors, the goal should be to create a transformational impact. Your readers should come away from your book with new knowledge, fresh perspectives, or practical skills that they can apply in their lives. Every chapter, paragraph, and sentence should work towards this aim, ensuring that your book is a valuable resource.

For fiction writers, the objective is to create an immersive experience. Transport your readers to another world, captivate them with your characters, and enthrall them with your plot. The length of your book is secondary to the depth and engagement of your storytelling. A well-crafted narrative will keep readers hooked, regardless of whether it spans 50 pages or 500.

If you’re feeling uncertain about your writing or need more guidance, don’t hesitate to seek further assistance and resources. Writing a book is a significant undertaking, and having support can make a huge difference. Consider taking advantage of writing workshops, hiring a coach, or consulting with experienced editors to refine your manuscript.

A young happy man with Down syndrome and his tutor studying indoors at school.

For more insights and guidance on writing both fiction and nonfiction books, feel free to explore additional resources, attend our free online class, or get a copy of Write a Book That Matters. These tools are designed to help you avoid common pitfalls, develop your writing skills, and produce a book that truly resonates with your readers.

Remember, the ultimate measure of your book’s success is not its length but the impact it has on its readers. Focus on delivering a powerful, engaging, and meaningful experience, and your book will be well-received, no matter its length.Write a Book That Matters book

Leandre Larouche

Article by Leandre Larouche

Leandre Larouche is a writer, coach, and the founder of Trivium Writing.