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

The question of “how long should my book be?” is one many aspiring authors struggle with. There are no hard and fast rules, but there are some considerations to take into account. It’s no secret that the length of your book will depend on the subject matter, your intended audience, and what you want to achieve in terms of content and message. But there is a simple framework to determine how long your book should be.

To begin with, a book’s length does not matter as much as we typically imagine. True, most professionally published books have around the same length. But that’s because traditional publishing has a certain standard for how much substance should go into a book. That said, not all traditionally published books are good books, let alone life-changing. Some of the world’s best books are very short and self-published.

What matters, then, when it comes to how long a book should be? Strength and substance.

Publish a Book With the End in Mind: How to Know How Long Your Book Should Be

Although you don’t need to respect any predetermined length, it’s good practice to decide how long your book is ahead of finishing it. It’s good practice because different lengths mean different types of books. You can break the rules if you so desire, but it’s always best to break the rules deliberately. Breaking the rules unknowingly often results in rookie mistakes that were easily avoidable.

In today’s business book publishing landscape, there are three main types of books:

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Lead Magnet: A lead magnet is a book between 5,000 and 10,000 words. It serves authors who run a business or practice and want to generate leads with the book. A lead magnet typically gives away the “what” and the “why” without divulging the “how.”

What’s great about lead magnets is that they are quick and easy to write, and they are very digestible for the readers. They tend to help shift readers’ beliefs. The downside of a lead magnet, though, is that it doesn’t give a lot of value. This means it doesn’t build credibility very much.

Client Primer: A client primer is a book between 10,000 and 30,000 words. More substantial than the lead magnet, it is geared toward preparing readers to become your clients. In addition to providing the “what” and the “why,” client primers also offer parts of the “how.” 

Client primers follow the philosophy that if you’re not worried about how much value you’re giving, you’re doing something wrong. The more you give, the more prone people are to doing business with you.

Leadership/Philosophy Book: Leadership and philosophy are books between 30,000 and 60,000 words (they often are as long as 80,000 words). They widely differ from lead magnets and client primers because they use an indirect approach to building authority and credibility. Instead of aiming at teasing readers or letting them have a taste, leadership and philosophy books aim to distill the author’s knowledge into its fundamental parts.

Leadership and philosophy books have no purpose other than educating readers while also providing them with a pleasant reading experience. For example, John C. Maxwell has published several books that have gone on to be best-sellers and served as the foundation for an incredible business. With his leadership and philosophy books, John C. Maxwell is providing value to the marketplace. As a result, he is a trusted authority in the field of leadership.

What Truly Matters When It Comes to How Long Your Book Should Be

To know how long your book should be, you first need to decide what type of book it is. With this kind of clarity, you’ll have an approximation of your book’s length. That being said, the total length of your book doesn’t actually matter. Word counts are simply ways to measure how much substance is poured into a book. Although readers can tell when a book is shallow and empty, they do not pull out their calculators to count the words.

While readers won’t complain about the total length of a book, they may complain about the length of chapters and paragraphs. Although readers may not be consciously aware of it, the pace is a critical aspect of a book. The pace is essentially the rhythm of your text. How slow is it? How fast is it? Do sentences flow well with one another?

The only reason why a short book may be a bad book is because of poor pacing. There are many short books that do an excellent job at pacing. Some topics simply don’t require as many details and descriptions. However, some others do, and they require slower pacing. As you write, pay attention to your pacing and make sure to have other people review your writing with feedback.

How to Fix Your Book Length Before Publishing

If you finish writing a book and the length seems off, no worries. You can always fix your book’s length by looking at and adjusting the pace. First, take a big-picture view of your book. Break your book down into its chapters and its chapters’ contents. Then ask yourself whether anything is missing or irrelevant. Make sure your book contains only what your audience needs to feel the transformation from your book.

The second step is to take a smaller picture view of your book. Look at each chapter separately and read its contents to see how it flows. As a reader, you have a natural sense of whether paragraphs flow smoothly or not. You’ll be able to tell whether sentences and paragraphs feel rushed or whether they spend enough time exploring each topic. Your job, then, is to add or remove anything that makes the text feel off.

A Word of Warning About How Long a Book Should Be

As I've discussed in an episode of The Word Leader Podcast, size doesn't really matter. What matters is value. In this blog post, I've provided you a framework and benchmarks, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter as much as how much value you provide to your readers. Your book can be 50 pages or it could be 500 pages, but that does not determine the value of the book. That does not determine if it's going to be a bestseller or not.

The reality is that the more pages you have, the more information you have. But information isn't what we're looking for. We're looking for transformation, and if you can convey the transformation in 20 pages, then that's great, your book should be 20 pages. If you need 450-500 pages to convey that transformation, then your book should be 450 or 500 pages. There is nothing wrong with either of these lengths.

Writing a book is a complex task, and the length is an important aspect. With clarity as to what type of book you’re writing and an understanding of pacing, you’ll be able to write a compelling book that will help you grow as an individual and as a business. However, if you’re feeling doubtful about your writing abilities and would like hands-on help, we’d be happy to help you. At Trivium Writing, we’ve developed a new way for deep thinkers to become published authors without the hassle.

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