How Long Should My Business Book Be?

 

One of the things I love about Twitter is how often I get asked questions by people who are beavering away on their business book. It’s brilliant when I can help them, even if it’s only in 140 characters.

Something I get asked a lot is, ‘how long should my book be?’ At first I was surprised this was so much on authors’ minds, but I shouldn’t have been. We all need to have a sense of the size of the finished project when we start something, don’t we?

Now I’m no expert when it comes to novels, poems or short stories: business is my game. But I can give you a steer when it comes to the length of business books.

The easy (and most correct) answer is, of course, that your book should be as long as it needs to be. There’s no point padding out what could be a concise and punchy guide just for the sake of making it more wordy. Equally, if you’ve got a huge amount to pack in, then your book could expand to fit.

The beauty of business book writing – especially since the growth of e-readers and self-publishing – is that it’s a relatively new field. The rules are continually evolving, so there’s no need for you to feel constrained by some unwritten law that says your book needs to be of a certain length. If there’s a business book you admire, why not count the pages, tot up the words on an average page, and see how long it is in total? That will give you a good guide if you want to emulate it.

Having said all that, there are a number of conventions regarding word count. It’s wise to be aware of these, as your book’s length will be one of the many things potential readers will take into account when they decide whether or not to buy. Of course, when books are bought online or downloaded onto Kindle this is less of an issue, but in some ways that makes it even more important to be aware of your readers’ expectations so they’re not taken by surprise when they actually start to read your book.

So what are these conventions?

The standard business book length

This is around 50-60,000 words – although there are some who would say it should be more (and a few that it should be less).

There is a trend, however, for business books to be shorter. Time-pressed business owners would often rather choose a book they can read on a long flight, than spend hours reading in their own time. This means a 30-40,000 word business book is becoming more acceptable.

Books written for Kindle

If you’re not planning on printing your book, but only making it available for e-readers, then your book can be shorter still. On a device, books are a bit easier to read when they’re less lengthy as you can’t ‘see’ the whole book in the same way you do when you’re reading a printed book.

If this is your plan, then it needs to be part of your wider strategy for your book. You’ll want to be thinking about who your book is for and how it’s going to be bought and read, as well as the business results you want to get from it.

My own e-book, The Business Book Outline Builder, is a great example of this kind of book.

Free books

Some e-books are published and ‘sold’ for free on Amazon, in order to encourage readers to visit the author’s website. Once they’ve done this, they’ll be encouraged to sign up to the author’s email database and/or buy one of their full priced books (or online services). This can be a great marketing strategy.

These books are usually around 7-10,000 words. They’re not intended to be competing at the same level as full length books, and they usually focus on one relatively narrow topic. You can see that one of these books would have a very different aim, and be written in a different way, than a ‘normal’ business book.

The size of the topic

This has a big impact on the length of your book. If you want to write about a relatively narrow topic, such as social media advertising for example, your book can be relatively short. It may be an e-book only (not printed) and designed as a reference tool for busy business people.

An example of a book which started small and went way bigger, is Write. Publish. Repeat.: The No-Luck Guide to Self-Publishing Success. The authors originally planned it to be 50,000 words, then went to 60,000 and eventually ended up at 80,000 words. This is long for a ‘how to’ business book, but in this particular case the length was justified – the authors covered their topic from every possible angle. Many topics wouldn’t warrant this kind of detail (or you may feel the scope should be narrower for your specific readership), and that’s fine.

Much of what you put in, you’ll take out

While you’re writing your book it can be easy to get fixated by how many words you’re bashing out, and that’s great if it motivates you to keep going. But it’s also worth bearing in mind that – sad to say – a good editing process will take out many of the words you worked so hard to put in. Most of us write down our thoughts in a fairly roundabout way in our first drafts, and even repeat ourselves without realising it. Our words are always clearer and more persuasive for being pruned in the final edit.

So whatever length you start with, be prepared for your book to be shorter by the end. It’ll be much the better for it.

Finally, I’ve talked in word counts here rather than pages, as the number of pages is influenced by diagrams, layout, font size and so on. And obviously for an e-reader it doesn’t make much sense to talk about page numbers in any case. But if it helps, you can assume that a printed book has around 250-300 words on a page.

I hope you’re feeling clearer on your book length now. There are no iron-clad rules, just some simple guidelines, of which you can make what you will. The most important thing is to write about the right topic, to the right audience, in the right amount of detail for them to take the action you want.

If the thought of writing 50,000 words (or indeed any words) sends you into a spin, take a look at my business book ghostwriting and business book coaching services.

 

9 replies
  1. Kenelm Tonkin
    Kenelm Tonkin says:

    Ginny,

    I saw this article about business book word count and then I read your short bio.

    I’m coming to the end of a 15,000 word book.

    How much do you charge to ghost write?

    Kenelm Tonkin

    Reply
  2. Janice Day
    Janice Day says:

    Dear Ginny,

    Many thanks for your wise words and free guide. A friend of mine would like me to ghost-write a business book for her. I wonder if you would be very kind and tell me how much I should charge? I promise that if it doesn’t work out I’ll put her on to you!

    Reply
    • Ginny
      Ginny says:

      Hi Janice, this is such a difficult question to answer. It depends on how long the book is, what research (if any) you’ll need to do, and what experience you have. Also, if you see it as an investment in building a portfolio or not. If you do, then you might be willing to ghostwrite it for less than if you see it as a one-off job.

      Reply
  3. brandi rider
    brandi rider says:

    Your site came up when I asked google how long my business book should be. It sounded like a good idea to write a book! I have good information locked away in my head – and I have hit a wall getting it out. A publisher in NY is waiting for my finished proposal and all I have done is prove I have a lack of time management. Which is not entirely true – I have been called into a live case and have been working 10 hour days for the last 6 months.
    how do you work through the block? Does it work better to work from an outline? I have to estimate how many pages I will write for each chapter – it’s a guess right now. I can talk your ear off for 1/2 an hour but I may only be able to write 5 pages of cohesive information.
    is it really OK to get all business casual when writing a book about business accounting? I am trying to share my personal experience in a manner I hope is teaching without losing the reader to complete boredom. I am not your typical buttoned up CPA type accountant. I am a forensic accountant with tattoos and I like to ride on my husband’s Harley. I want that to come through! I think it will be more interesting to the reader.

    Reply
    • Ginny
      Ginny says:

      Hi there, it seems like you have a lot of questions and uncertainties about your book! There’s too much to answer here, but I do offer a free, half hour strategy session if you’re serious about wanting help. Here’s the link if you’re interested: https://marketingtwentyone.co.uk/strategy-session/

      And yes, working from an outline is a big help because you know what you need to write before you put fingers to keyboard.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.