Is Your Book Too Long?

34. Is Your Book Too Long?

So many new authors struggle to come up with enough content for their books.

But then there are the authors who have more than enough to say. Their content is all good, but they write way too much for one book.

In this episode, I share the minimum and maximum length for the major book genres.

Find out if your book is long enough–or if you might need to do some cutting.

Mentioned in This Episode

The Prayer Playbook, by Jazlyn Denise

My video celebrating the release of Jazlyn’s book

Short Books: Big ResultsThe online program that walks you, step by step, through the process to write and publish a phenomenal book to get the results you desire.

Episode Transcript

Hey there, and welcome to Nothing but the Words. I’m your author coach, Candice L Davis.

So much change is happening in my world right now.

My younger daughter has been living at home for five months because of the pandemic. Now she’s in the middle of planning a move to live and study abroad.

My husband has some big projects in the works that he’s really excited about—as much he gets excited because he’s not really the hooping and hollering type. That’s more me.

One of my author coaching clients just landed a powerhouse literary agent who I’m positive will help her land a fantastic book deal.

Another client sent me an insanely thoughtful gift.

Jazlyn Denise created a workbook called The Prayer Playbook, but she didn’t just send me a copy of the book, which would have been incredibly thoughtful in and of itself.

Jazlyn actually send me a customized Prayer Box with my name on it. Inside were an autographed copy of the book, her signature candle, and a gratitude jar.

The package actually arrived when I was feeling frustrated and exhausted, and as soon as I opened it, I was reminded of the kindness and brilliance in the world.

If you follow me on Instagram @candiceldavis you’ll see a video I created to show everyone how great that gift was.

And I recently signed up for a course that I’m really excited about. If you’re listening to this podcast, you probably love learning, and so do I.

I took one course earlier this year and thought I was done investing in big courses, but then I found this one. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I say all that to say that while some incredibly sad things have happened this year, even in my own family, some wonderful things are also going down.

When it comes down to it, I’ll look back and count 2020 as a win. And I hope you will too.

So let’s dive in to this week’s topic. Is your book too long? Or how long is too long for your book?

Typically, I coach authors who either haven’t started or have barely started writing their books yet, or they’re getting near the end and they’re in a panic because they realize they don’t have enough content.

If you’ve never written a book before, it’s easy to end up in that position. And it’s my job as an author coach to help you identify where you can go deeper, what you can expand, and what you can add to make your book more valuable to the reader.

You want to add more words, but adding isn’t the answer.

Coming up with enough content can be a struggle, but that’s a topic for another episode.

Today, I want to tell you about a couple of authors I consulted with recently.

Both had written memoirs, and both wanted to figure out the next step to sharpen and polish their book and get it ready to publish.

Both authors also knew they had some cutting to do.

The first author told me his manuscript is about 120,000 words. That would be well over 400 pages. I was really shocked. He doesn’t write full-time. He has a day job and a family.

But this story was important enough to him that he committed to telling it fully, which is fantastic.

While my head was still reeling from that number, I spoke with another author. She has a really important and moving story to share, and I believe it’s going to resonate with a lot of people and help a lot of people when it’s published.

We talked about next steps for her, and then she told me her manuscript is 230,000 words. She’s looking at more than 900 pages in book form.

I had to sit down.

My first thought was that she’s going to be so overwhelmed trying to cut this book down. I was worried that she’d get stuck when she realized just how much she has to cut. And honestly, she’s probably going to need to cut about 2/3 of the book.

I know how hard that can be. Right now, I’m working with a client to cut her book back from 105,000 words to about 85,000.

It’s a lot of work, but I’d always prefer to have too much content than too little. I like having choices.

But the 2 authors I spoke with will have a lot more than 20,000 words to cut.

You may have noticed over the last couple of decades that book lengths have gotten shorter across genres, even in traditional publishing.

In my group coaching program, Short Books: Big Results, I coach my clients to shoot for at least 30,000 words. But to really let the content of the book decide how long it needs to be.

A how-to book might only need 23,000 words to teach what needs to be taught.

But let’s look at the stats from traditional publishing.

We used word count because page count can be manipulated with font size, margins, and white space.  To get an idea of how many book pages we’re talking about, just divide these numbers by 250.

According to one study of traditionally published books:

Novels average 80,000 to 110,000 words.

How-to and self-help books run 40,000 to 50,000 words.

And memoirs come in around 80,000 words.

The thing is, I’ve talked to many many authors who have told me their readers have thanked them for writing a shorter book, something they could read on a flight or over a long weekend and get the lessons from and start applying them.

A book needs to be as long as it needs to be to get the job done, but I’ve got to tell you, most memoirs don’t need to be more than 65,000 words, or 260 pages.

Most how-to books don’t need to be more than 50,000 words or 200 pages.

Too many books are packed with fluff and it’s a big reason why so many people don’t finish reading the books they start.

You can tell from the length of my podcast episodes that I like to get to the point. People are busy. Attention spans are short.

Don’t make your book long just for the sake of saying you wrote a big book. Nobody wants to read that.

If you publish traditionally, your publisher will have their own standards for how long your book should be.

Right now, the sweet spot I see for self-published books is 23,000 to 50,000 words for how-to, including personal or professional development

If you’re writing your manuscript, and you’re watching the word count grow and grow, and you know it’s going to be too long, don’t stress.

It’s not a big deal.

This is not the time to make cuts. Keep writing to the end. And then you can go back and make cuts.

In the next episode, I’ll tell you how.

If you’ve enjoyed this episode, I’d really appreciate a fantastic review from you. Don’t think it won’t make a difference. It really will. Reviews make the show more visible so new listeners can find it, and I appreciate every single one.

Thanks for listening to Nothing but the Words. I’m your author coach Candice L Davis, and I’ll see you next time.

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