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How Long Should a Book Be?

Oct 28, 2020


Rather than interviewing a guest or breaking down an expert author's way of launching a book, this week I'm answering the question: How long should a book be? The short answer is: it depends. The longer answer is that books are getting shorter. Confused yet? Listen to the episode and you won't be.

And if you want me to answer your writing question on this show, DM on Instagram at @annabdavid.


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Hi there. You're listening to Launch Pad, a podcast hosted by me, Anna David. While normally I talk to the world's most successful authors and entrepreneurs about how they launch a book and what a book can do for their business. I am now going to start answering questions, and that is because I receive so many questions over social media, over email, over good old fashioned conversation. And I figured the easiest way to do it would be to answer the most common questions that I receive. If you'd like me to answer your question on this podcast, please, I would love to direct message me. This is the best way to do it. Direct message me on Instagram. I'm @annabdavid. I will not only answer your question on this podcast, but I will give you a shout out. In fact, tell me what you're writing and I'll give that a shout out.

So today I'm going to answer the question. How long should a book be? So I could start by answering this in a totally annoying way and say, as long as it needs to be, and actually that annoying part is partially true, but I would tell you something that is very interesting. Books are getting shorter. You may know this. When was the last time you read a book that was over, say 250 pages. There's a book I really want to read. It's called The Body Keeps the Score, been wanting to read it for probably 10 years. And yet I look at it and it's so long and I don't do it. Now. Then, in 2011, the average length of a bestselling nonfiction book was 467 pages. Then it just kept dropping and dropping and dropping. And now the average nonfiction bestselling book is about 250 pages.

That's like fallen 50% practically who knew we were going to be doing math. Now the thing is there are always going to be long books. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace is over a thousand pages and, and novels. This really doesn't apply for fiction. Novels are still often 300 to 400 pages, but this comes up with clients at Launch Pad all the time. They, they think they want longer books because they believe that longer books show higher quality. And if that is true, you have to ask yourself, do I want people to read my book or do I want people to be impressed by my book? One of the, one of the things that did change, obviously our attention spans are shorter all the time. We have the attention span of a gnat. We're constantly distracted by bright, shiny objects. You know, endless news cycles, social media, all of these things, but when Amazon launched their Kindle singles, which was about 10 years ago, what they started doing is, is assigning authors, short, short books.

When I say short, I mean the length of an article, I was super lucky and managed to get in and be one of their authors. It wasn't many people, you know, really prestigious people. Stephen King did it. And I did two Kindle singles. One was called Animal Attraction and the other's called They Like Me They Really Like Me. Each was about 40 pages. And what Amazon did is because they controlled everything. They were able to put that those books, there weren't many Kindle singles and they were able to feature all of them prominently. And so I made more from those two tiny books that took me a week each to write than I have from books that I've spent years on. It's just sort of sad. But in addition to Kindle SIngles, there are just, you know, Brene Brown wrote a book called Gifts of Imperfection.

It's 158 pages. Austin Kleon wrote this book that people love and quote all the time called Steal Like an Artist, it's 160 pages. And what's interesting is that over 64%, yes, this is more math over 64% of the number one bestsellers since 2000 have fallen into the 200 to 400-page range. And there was a number one New York Times bestselling book called On Bullshit that’s 80 pages. So there you have it. And, and, and by the way, when you're writing it's best to think in word count instead of pages, because different people are doing single space, double space, space, and a half, whatever it is. So most of our books that we publish at Launch Pad are between 35,000 and 50,000 words. And I will tell you also, I knew nothing. When I sold my first book Party Girl, I had heard books should be around 300 pages.

So I made it around 300 pages and I didn't know that they meant space and a half. So it was 300 single-spaced pages. So it was twice as long as it needed to be. So, but, but this should come as a great relief for people who think, Oh my God, I've got to write some, you know, 300-page or 600-page opus. You do not. Books have gotten shorter and are going to continue to get shorter. That being said, if you're writing a full-length nonfiction book, don't make it under a hundred pages, maybe minimum, 150, but you know what? This is writing. You get to make the rules. Okay. I hope that helps.