“Whether you decide to write fiction or non-fiction for your first book, you might be wondering how much you need to write.
How did you know how many words to write?
Wendy : I had decided that my book would be a small book – one that could be picked up and dipped into easily. Therefore I wanted to write a series of short books rather than one long book.
Linda : It depends on what I’m trying to say – sometimes less is more in a non-fiction book that is designed to give people enough information they can easily digest to make appropriate choices. Fiction is different; it depends on the audience and the subject. The average length of fiction is about 60,000 words and that’s just about how long my novel is. It wasn’t designed that way though.
Sallyann : I knew the rough length of a mainstream novel would be 80,000 words, but the story did just finish where it did, and it just happened to be close to that number. I would never pad a book out unless more explanation was needed – I do tend to write quite concisely, so I rarely have to cut a lot out.
Simon : I didn’t. I just started writing a story. I think that’s how you should begin – just give it a try. If it starts to work out, you can always cut or add words later.
This is one thing I have definitely learned from my association with other authors – not to get hooked on a pre-conceived notion. When I was writing my book I had researched average lengths of books in the field and was determined that mine would be a ‘proper’ book length. I had no trouble in making it that length as there was so much that I wanted to say, and I ended up with a book that covers all stages of the cancer journey from diagnosis onwards.
Having gone through the self-publishing route (where the costs of printing include a cost per page) this resulted in having to set the price at quite a high level. A different approach might have been to break the book down into a series of shorter books, which are relevant at different times and in different situations, allowing for a lower cover price. This might also have made the marketing more targeted.
There are also other considerations that affect the price (and length) of a book. How much content is needed to deliver the information you are offering? How much is the average cost of a book in the genre in which you are writing? The market is unlikely to stand a much higher than average price unless your book delivers something that is in very high demand. This may then in turn affect how much content you can include or the level of royalties you may have to accept.
ePublishing particularly lends itself to production of shorter ‘bite-size’ books or booklets – for instance there is now a strong market for individual short stories on Amazon Kindle where previously the only market would have been through magazines.
Just because books are ‘usually’ a certain length does not mean yours has to be – the difference may even make it stand out from the crowd. And certainly for non-fiction books some of the most successful are the shorter books, where you can get the information you need quickly and easily and it is faster to look up the pieces you need again.”