How Long “Should” Your Book Be?

Who says a book has to be 80,000 words and 300 pages?

I wonder if that’s what puts amazing people off writing one: the idea of slogging out tens of thousands of words, over thousands of hours, all those nasty little voices in your head telling you can’t do it (they’re wrong btw).

And why does it have to be that number of words anyway?

Partly, I think, because publishing has its conventions: romance averages 75—120,000 words; fantasy and sci-fi up to 180,000 words; literary novels average 120,000 words… and nonfiction, which is where I live, ranges from 70,000—100,000 words.

But why?

When Audible approached me to write my audiobook, they specified a minimum of 50,000 words, which made me nervous. What if I didn’t need that many words to say what I wanted to say? I was worried there’d be fluff (there wasn’t, in the end, but I still worried).

Because we’ve all read books like that, haven’t we? Books that could have been half the length and even better.

I read one of them a few years ago: Profit First by Mike Michalowicz.

No shade to MM at all — the book was heavy on numbers and accounts and spreadsheets and that is not at all my jam…

BUT. I read the introduction and the first three chapters and they changed my life.

For real.

I put a few things into place in my business and my banking, and everything changed for the better.

I never read past chapter 3; I didn’t need to.

MM could create a little book just out of that one idea.

Which is one of the aspects of indie-publishing that gets me so excited!

Little Books with a Big Bang

We have the freedom to create MicroBooks — a book containing a single, clear, beautiful idea for the right reader to inhale deeply — no extra fluff, no side-quests, no tangents, no auxiliary information to muddy the message we want to share.

Think about the books you’ve read that have made an impact on you. Some are long, I’m sure… but I bet some are short, too.

Like Politics and the English Language by George Orwell. And Anything You Want by Derek Sivers. And The Go Giver by Bob Burg. How about Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon? The Prince by Machiavelli? The Dip and We Are All Weird by Seth Godin?

Tiny little books with a big bang.

If you’ve wanted to write a book for a long time, but you haven’t done it yet, could you start with a teeny book?

What idea can you talk about, with passion, for 15 minutes?

Boom: there’s your MicroBook.

And it will be a “proper” book, too. Don’t let those naysayers in your head (or outside it) let you believe differently.

The Magic of MicroBooks

There’s a lot to be said for “pamphlets” — the Victorians loved them. Before the internet, pamphlets were the Twitter threads of their time: a way to get across important or interesting information fast.

But these pamphlets weren’t any less a book because of their size.

You could create a MicroBook that fits in your pocket, for your reader to carry around with them and make notes in wherever they go.

For someone who wants a quick boost and no nonsense on a short train journey.

And who knows what your first MicroBook could become? A series? The first chapter of a bigger book, next year? A keynote speech? A Ted Talk?

Let’s rethink the idea of what a book “should” be, and start writing the books we want to write.

Starting with a new cohort every couple of months, on a mini-adventure: MicroBook Magic!

If you’d like to surf a writing a high, New Achievement Unlocked, with a brand new MicroBook to your name, as a published author, drop me an email and I’ll send you all the details.

You. Me. Four weeks to your Magnificent MicroBook.

Let’s go.

Now enrolling for MicroBook Magic. Stuff NaNoWriMo — come and write a nonfiction MicroBook with me, and actually FINISH and PUBLISH it before the year’s out. 

Notes in the Margin

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About the Author Vicky Fraser