“How long should my nonfiction book be?”
I get this question a lot from first-time nonfiction book authors.
But here’s the deal.
People buy your book hungry for a solution to their problem. They don’t care about your word count.
So, How Long Should Your Nonfiction Book Be?
Long enough to solve your ideal reader’s problem or meet his needs. No more. No less.
That’s my bottom-line answer for self-published books.
But I know that when we venture into new territory, we want to follow a proven pattern that works.
Nonfiction Book Word Count Goals
With this in mind, here are some recommended word count goals to get you started. But please know these are not hard and fast rules. The more you write, the more you’ll figure out what works best for you and your ideal reader.
The optimal length for a nonfiction book hinges on your desired results.
Word Count for Traditionally Published Books
According to Stephanie Chandler of the Nonfiction Authors Association, a traditionally published nonfiction book should be between 50,000 and 75,000 words.1 Other industry experts recommend higher word count ranges.
Word Count for Self-Published Books
If you’re planning to self-publish your book, you have much more flexibility than your traditionally published counterparts.
It’s not about book size. It’s about solving your ideal reader’s problem or meeting her needs. Period.
Simply focus on solving a vital problem, and the word count will work itself out. However, since you want some guidelines, here they go.
Let’s look at the recommended word count for three types of books you can write to grow your business, build your authority, and make an impact.
The Lead Magnet E-Book
The client magnet e-book is the type you’ll give away for free to attract, acquire, and help your ideal client.
Your potential client provides her name and email address in exchange for your free e-book. Once she’s on your e-mail list, you can guide her on the journey to success with your helpful content and offerings.
A client magnet e-book should be short enough for your ideal client to consume it quickly, get value, and purchase your next offering. Depending on how you format this e-book, it could be as short as 2,000 words.
This book is informational, creates awareness of your potential client’s root problem, and whets her appetite for your solution. It also builds your credibility and helps her get to know, like, and trust you.
Because client magnet e-books are so short, I consider them booklets rather than full-fledged books. You can give them away as a free PDF download on your website. You don’t need to meet all the guidelines for a professionally published book.
The Kickstarter Book
The kickstarter book is a paid, full-fledged book you can sell in various formats on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and other distribution channels.
The kickstarter book helps your ideal reader kickstart his journey. It provides information, helps with mindset shift, and gives him a quick win that positions you as the expert.
But the real beauty of the kickstarter book is that it delivers a major step on your client’s path to ultimate transformation through your offerings. Because you’re delivering the first and powerful win, your kickstarter book should range between 20,000 and 30,000 words. I recommend you set your word count goal at 25,000 words. And if you use one of the five easy book structures, you can blaze through this type of book in no time.
The Authority Book
The authority book cements your place as an industry expert.
The authority book needs to have some substance. I recommend you set your goal at 50,000 – 60,000 words, which is enough content to demonstrate you know your stuff. This word count also makes for a substantial book in print format. It avoids the skinny book look.
If you selected the perfect book topic for your first nonfiction book, coming up with 50,000 words shouldn’t be a problem. Quite the contrary, you’ll discover a treasure trove of ideas far beyond your first book.
Authority books are a lot easier to write than you may think, especially if you follow one of the six advanced book structures that will showcase your expertise.
Words of Caution
However, here are some words of caution.
Don’t stuff your book with fluff to meet word count goals. Help your reader solve his problem as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’s better to deliver a slender book loaded with value than a hefty one padded with filler content. Book padding creates an awful reader experience and leads to negative book reviews.
Also, don’t cram all your knowledge into one book. In our digital world, people have short attention spans, and a gargantuan book may feel overwhelming.
Depending on your genre, niche, and target audience, you’re usually better off writing several laser-focused books than an encyclopedia on your subject. Writing multiple books will allow you to delve deeper into the subject. It will also skyrocket your authority, ignite your book sales, and bring more clients through your door.
For independent book authors, it’s not about the size of your book. What matters is solving the reader’s problem or meeting her needs.
It’s about living your purpose.
SYLVIA MELENA is the Founder and CEO of Melena Consulting Group, a leadership and management consulting, training, and nonfiction book coaching company. She is also the international award-winning author of Supportive Accountability: How to Inspire People and Improve Performance and the former Vice President of the San Diego Book Awards Association. As an unknown author with zero platform, Sylvia’s first book gave her exposure in the Society of Human Resources Management HR Today, Entrepreneur, the Human Performance Association, My Quest for the Best, LEADx, Fit Small Business, and other outlets.
REFERENCE 1 Chandler, Stephanie. “How Long Should Your Nonfiction Manuscript Be?” Nonfiction Authors Association, November 15, 2017. https://nonfictionauthorsassociation.com/how-long-should-your-nonfiction-manuscript-be/(accessed: July 12, 2022).