If you’ve ever thought about publishing a book, then you’ve likely considered choosing the less costly and more quickly published eBook format. Unlike traditional publishing, eBooks are easy to produce and there are plenty of platforms to choose from for self-publishing.
Since you’re here trying to determine how many words an eBook should be, I’m going to guess you’ve already made the decision to write an eBook. Now you’re looking for the answer to a question that, in all honesty, doesn’t really have a definitive answer.
You’ve probably heard before that “no good book is ever too long, and no bad book is ever too short” – but what does that mean when it comes to your target word count?
Is there such a thing as the perfect word count?
While there may be no definitive right or wrong answer to this question, there are certainly a lot of things you can consider when deciding how long your eBook should be. From the genre, to your audience, to your subject matter – all of this and more will impact ideal length.
Traditional publishing is a little more straightforward. Standard word counts for print books generally follow these guidelines:
- Micro-Fiction: around 100 words
- Flash Fiction: 100 – 1,000 words
- Short Story: 1,000 – 7,500 words
- Novelette: 7,500 – 20,000 words
- Novella: 20,000 – 50,000 words
- Novel: 50,00 – 110,000 words
- Epic Novel: 110,000+ words
While this guide can help you determine your target word count, that should never be your focus. Take your time to carefully plot out your story or outline your non-fiction book – make sure that you focus on providing the best view of your subject or plot as possible.
Once you see how long your outline is, you can have a better idea of where your eBook might fall on the list above. Just remember, readers have expectations too! If you plan to market your book as a novel, then prepare to reach a higher word count than if you marketed your book as a short story or novelette.
How does genre affect the length of an eBook?
There is more that goes into determining the perfect length for your book than just a solid outline and a goal. Again, readers have expectations – and their expectations of a How-To-Guide are different than they are of the mystery that has their mind in another world.
In general, commercial fiction – which includes women’s fiction, crime fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, etc. (think James Patterson’s Alex Cross and Women’s Murder Club series) are generally going to be 90,000 to 120,000 words.
Similarly, anything considered literary fiction – written more for style and less for profit compared with commercial fiction – is often 70,000 words or more. Non-fiction books tend to follow that same word count expectation – at least in print and traditional publishing formats.
It’s even more complex when you consider the age of your audience. After all, children’s books have an entirely different set of expectations.
In general, books for children follow these word count guidelines:
- Board Book: 100 words maximum
- Early Picture Book: 500 words
- Picture Book: 750 – 1,000 words
- Non-fiction Picture Book: 2,000 words maximum
- Early Reader: Depends on age level, but 3,500 words maximum
- Chapter Book: 10,000 words average
- Middle Grade: 35,000 words average for contemporary, mystery, humor; 45,000 words average for fantasy, sci-fi, adventure, historical
- Young Adult (YA) Novel: 70,000 words average for contemporary, humor, mystery, historical, romance; 90,000 words average for fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal
These guidelines are relatively standard for traditional publishing methods – but you want to meet your readers’ expectations. You might think that people expect an eBook to be shorter, but most readers are looking for a similar experience and are disappointed when a book ends too soon.
By outlining your book ahead of time and looking at books yours will compete against, you can easily come up with a target word count for your eBook.
How does your word count coordinate with the price of your book?
It shouldn’t be a surprise that a longer eBook is likely to cost more. After all, it took longer to write and edit – so it should cost more, right? However, this isn’t always true. You should also note that most eBooks – since there is so much less to production and distribution – are a lot less expensive than their print counterparts.
Just like a paperback is going to save you money compared to a hard cover copy, the eBook version is going to be even less expensive. On average, eBooks sell for $0.99 up to $20 – but most go in the $5 to $10 range.
So how does word count translate into price? After all, your long-term goal is probably to make money from your eBook. Whether you are using the Amazon Kindle platform, another self-publishing platform, or selling the book directly from your own website, you want to be able to estimate its revenue.
While word count will certainly play a factor in value, it also won’t be a make-or-break factor when pricing your eBook. Especially if your book is non-fiction and educates the reader – such a book would be of higher value already, based on the return the reader would get from having read your book in the first place.
If your book is short but provides a lot of practical information, be upfront about the length:
- “A quick read that will provide you with all the right action steps to start your online business in 30 days”
- “Learn how to get your online shop up and running in as little 2 days with our step-by-step guide”
If you phrase it right, the fact that your eBook is short has just turned into a good thing for your reader – and even gives your book more value to them, too.
When it comes to fiction eBooks, readers will have some sort of expectation for length compared with price and traditional publishing counterparts – though this varies again by genre.
According to MyBookCave.com, Romance is the lowest-priced genre – averaging 300 to 350 pages and selling for $4.50 to $5.50. The lowest price for this genre is $0.99 and the highest is $12.99. The top-selling fiction genre is mystery, thriller and suspense – which averages 300 to 400 pages and sells for $5 to $10. And the most profitable books on the Amazon Kindle platform are self-help books, with an average of 200 to 300 pages at $9 to $12. (See how marketing and practical information can create more value for less content?)
Why you shouldn’t spend your time worrying about word count
The truth is, you shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about the perfect word count. In the end, outline your books, plot out your story arcs, determine how to best present the information you’re trying to share – and then get writing. The longer you spend stressing yourself out over your target word count, the less time you’re spending working on your eBook.
It doesn’t matter if your book is 3,000 words or 300,000 words – if it provides readers with value, then they will spend the time and money to validate that.
Don’t stress the word count – your book will come together, and you will know when you’ve hit your final stopping point. Writing is by no means an exact science – in fact, storytelling is an art form – and you shouldn’t let boxes like word counts stifle your creativity.
If you focus on providing the best value and the best story, your readers will be happy no matter how long (or short) your eBook is.