When it comes to book lengths and word counts, writers often spend far too much time worried about how long their books should be. When it comes to books, size sometimes matters, as the length of a book can impact its reception, marketability, and even its storytelling potential. But just how long your book should be is dependent on a lot of things, and it’s not always a one-size-fits-all approach. Let’s look at some considerations.
1. The genre
The genre you’re writing in plays a role in dictating the appropriate length of your book. While there is no set rule based on genre, readers might disagree and a lot of them expect a certain length for their favourite genres. For instance, readers of epic fantasy novels might be used to weighty themes that offer intricate world-building and character arcs, while cosy mysteries or young adult novels might be better suited to shorter paced narratives that get to the point a lot quicker. Research bestsellers in your chosen genre to get a better idea into the expected word count range.
2. The story’s complexity
The complexity of your story’s plot and themes also affects the length. If your story involves a lot of subplots, a big cast of characters, and intricate relationships, a longer word count might be necessary to do justice to your storytelling. Just the same, a straightforward plot with minimal twists and turns might be better suited for a shorter, more concise book.
3. Pacing and tension
Pacing is important. A book that drags on can lose a reader’s interest, while one that rushes through important events might feel unsatisfying. The length of your book should allow for proper pacing that builds tension, establishes emotional connections, and offers moments of reflection. Consider how the word count affects the ebb and flow of your story’s rhythm.
4. Reader engagement
Attention spans have dwindled over the years, thanks (or sometimes no thanks) to a surge in quick-form media. Shorter novels can often provide a more immediate and engaging reading experience, appealing to those seeking a quick escape. Of course, there will always be space in the reading community for lengthy novels, but make sure you find a way to keep the engagement levels up throughout.
5. Publishing and market trends
Publishing industry trends can also influence the length of your book. Agents, publishers, and readers alike may have certain expectations regarding book length based on the prevailing trends. However, it’s worth noting that trends are always evolving, and breaking away from the norm can sometimes lead to a book that ends up standing out in an often copy-paste market.
Have you ever read a book and halfway through wished they would just hurry up and get to the main point? Or finished a book and wished the author had made it longer? In the end, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how long a book should be. Each story has its own unique requirements. As an author, your primary goal should be to tell your story in a way that does justice to its complexity, characters, and themes. Whether your book ends up being a slim novella or an epic saga, the true measure of its success lies in its ability to captivate readers and transport them into your world. Don’t get too caught up in the word count. If your story feels finished, it probably is.
For the most part, I tend to write books around the 70k market. How about you?