Sunday, February 9, 2014

What Determines The Length Of Your Book?

How long should a book be?

There are many ways to answer that:
1.      As long as it needs to be.
2.      As long as the market expects it to be.
3.      Long enough to be complete, and short enough to be easy to read.
4.      As long as the competition’s books.
5.      Long enough to be perceived as being valuable, but short enough to read amidst a busy lifestyle.

It certainly depends on a number of factors. Book length is influenced by:

·         Genre: Novels can be 500-700 pages long, but business books might be a third of that length.
·         Price: Charge more for bigger?
·         Format: Print vs. Digital.
·         The subject matter: A book about the history of the military is likely to be longer than a humor book, or a book about how to be organized
·         Author brand: Some authors are voluminous and that’s their style, others are short and pithy.

Quite often, books seem to fall into a range. Isn’t it strange that so many books seem to fall in the 192-page to 256-page-range – for non-fiction, non-memoir? Why is that? How is it that every topic and story seemingly can get told in that page-range? Is it a coincidence? Is it good editing that allows for big books to become small enough to fit in this 192-256 range, or is it that many books are only 96-112 pages, but good editing and design allows for them to be stretched to fit the consumer-accepted length of 192-256?

We’d be better off with greater size flexibility with books. We could use more books that are shorter and straight to the point. We should pay extra for such books – time is money!

Movies seem to fit the 1-hour 40-minute to 2-hour mark. Some could be longer, for sure, and a handful are shorter, especially children’s movies.

TV shows, with or without commercials, take up 30 or 60 minutes. You rarely see a show run under another time length. Occasionally, as a gimmick, a double-episode will run as one, for two hours, or an episode will run 45 minutes.

Songs are typically three and a half minutes.

Concerts, with built-in intermissions and an opening act that probably started late, tend to average three hours.

It seems every form of entertainment has its perceived length requirements, and though book length varies far more than the length of other forms of creative arts, books still tend to stick to a somewhat standard length.

As digital grows in book publishing and the cost of paper is less a factor in determining book length, will we see an explosion of longer books? On the other hand, as our lives get exponentially busier in a constant environment of stimulation and ADD, will we demand shorter books?

A book should be the length required to properly convey its key message points – no more, no less. There are 650-word page-turners and there are 96-page snooze fests out there. For books, it’s always about quality over quantity, words and ideas over filler and fluff, and perceived value over actual value.

I guess the length of a book is determined by the compromise an author makes with his or her consumer. How long should your book be?


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014.

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