When I’m first working with a new client, one of the questions that ALWAYS comes up is:

How long should my book be?

I get it, you want to write a book that has enough heft to it that people really think they are getting a lot of bang for their buck.

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Let me ask you a different question, though:

 

Have you ever read a book, article, or report that was clearly inflated with “filler”? This was a trick many of my peers in University writing classes would do: write their paper then go back and insert a sentence BETWEEN every sentence that was there in the rough draft. Bang! Instantly the paper doubled in length. But these new sentences were just filler sentences and didn’t add any substance or depth to the paper. (It was VERY common for research papers!)

These papers might have started out well-researched and well-thought out but they ended up to be flimsy and full of loose, extraneous writing. I understand that a college research paper HAS to be a certain number of pages but your book that showcases your expertise does not!

When you’re writing your book, you want to give the reader enough details about your subject that she will put down the book feeling that she really understands what you’re talking about, her life has changed for the better because she read your book, and she has a clear idea of what she needs to do next to continue to change her life.

(On the flip-side you don’t want to put everything you know into a book, either!)

Trust me, there’s a fine line between clearly outlining the steps to your information and giving away the farm!

As you’re writing, it’s okay to get everything out on paper. And I mean EVERYTHING! After you have a draft, you go back and take out everything that isn’t tightly related to your subject.

Here’s an example from one of my clients who coaches people to better health through eating healthy. She’s creating a cookbook filled with healthy recipes and tips on how to eat healthy. In her business, she also teaches how to shift your mindset around food to increase your health and vitality. For THIS book, all she’s focusing on is just the recipes and tips.

When people buy her cookbook looking for healthy recipes, they won’t be disappointed. And when someone buys her cookbook ONLY looking for healthy recipes, they won’t be overwhelmed with the 4,798 steps needed to have a mindset shift. (That’s tongue in cheek, there!) They WILL have information about how to contact her, however, so when they’re ready to make that mindset shift, they know who to contact.

Coming back to the original question: How long?

It’s better to have a shorter book that is tightly written around a single theme then to try to solve ALL their problems and not be able to go into enough depth about any of them.

 

I fully understand that it’s a fine line and that you may have no clue WHERE that line is. But don’t forget, that’s where I can help you!

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Kimberly Eldredge

Kimberly is an author, illustrator, and entrepreneur. She helps coaches, speakers, and authors take the content they already have and FINALLY get their book written and published.
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9 Responses to How Long Should My Book Be?

  • Very wise advice! Editing is so very important, and sadly lacking in far too many cases. Thank you for sharing!
    Laurel Regan recently posted…My Blog = My HomeMy Profile

  • I’ve seen so many self-published books with little or no editing or tightening done, I wish I could shout it from the rooftops: get help with your book! Incidentally, I am in the early stages of “maybe” writing a book. At least my agonizations (is that a word?) are helping me participate in a blog challenge this month. I learned the bad habit of inserting filler in college, and it took me years to break.
    Alana recently posted…Spring Things – Lilacs and RosesMy Profile

  • Uh-oh… don’t look now, our books all have over 600 pages. Each! LOL, and our fans STILL complain that they are over too quickly. And those were the pages left after we had hundreds and hundreds of them edited out.

    It really depends on the story, and.or the topic. I don’t there is a set amount. It’s sort of like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the trick is finding the *just right* amount of pages for each project.
    Wendi Kelly-Blue Sun Studio recently posted…The Comfort ZoneMy Profile

  • I find the same thing about speaking–better to speak less and have it be worthwhile content! Better to teach less but teach it well.

  • Hi Kim, I am writing my second book and this tip is very timely. I think editing lacks with so many publications these days. When I get to the editing phase, I’m remembering all these tips. Someone once taught me to look at each word as a nickle. You could use any money denomination with this ‘game’. He said to comb through every sentence and paragraph looking for filler words and eliminate. The more words you ‘saved’ the more ‘money’ you made. I still look at things this way; although, admittedly, not consistently:-)
    Tandy Elisala recently posted…Family Caregiver Series Wrap Up Day 30My Profile

  • Great points, Kimberly. Even when I edit my weekly video blogs I am amazed at how much ends up on the cutting room floor as I whittle my content down to only that which is ‘tightly related’ to my topic. As a talked, not a writer, it’s easy for me to take something in a few different directions that may be interesting, but not laser focused in 4 min so my audience can get confused.
    I am really focussed on ‘less is more’ now and having a shorter, more powerful message but staying on topic and getting rid of the fluff.

  • Great ideas you just shared, Kimberly.

    I’ve always thought a book should be as long as it needs to be. No longer; and no shorter. So if it needs over 600 pages, Wendi, so be it! And if it 200 or so pages gives you all the wisdom you need (e.g. The Richest Man in Babylon), so be it!

  • I had a friend like that in high school. Her motto was “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bulls**t.” She was the Queen of Filler—even though she really was quite brilliant when she needed to be.

    Filler can be hard to spot. You may be in love with a particular scene or bit of dialogue and don’t want to let it go. That’s when you have to dig deep and detach yourself from the emotion involved and ask, “Is this really helping the story?”

    Like Wendi said, we’ve chopped out hundreds of pages from our books before we hit print. The best thing to do is take a month away from your book before doing another read-through. You’ll be surprised how much you find and how much you can cut.
    Deb Dorchak recently posted…The Comfort ZoneMy Profile

  • For me, the page count doesn’t matter … I think it needs to be as long as it need to be to tell the story or communicate the message. With that said, AMEN to good editing! Too many books that I have seen lately have poor editing and it will make me close it and walk away every time.

    I love Deb and Wendi’s approach, to walk away and come back with fresh eyes!
    Jennifer Bourn recently posted…Responsive Website Design: What Is It, How Does It Work, Why Should I care?My Profile