How Long Should My Book Be?

Have you ever asked how long should my book be? Did you know what a great question it is? GREAT question! Many debut authors dive into their manuscript with wild abandon and with little thought to structure, plot or word count.

How Long Should My Book Be Guide to Word Count

When you’re planning a book (even if you’re a pantser) it’s important to know a few things about your genre ahead of time—things like, well, what genre it is. And what the theme is. And how many words it will be. Yeah. Even word count should be pre-planned.

And I know how weird that sounds if this is the first time you’re hearing it. What!? There’s a word count for novels!? Yup. And it’s kind of one of those things you should abide by unless you’re crazy-famous and/or already a successful author (because obvs these guidelines don’t apply to you) or you don’t care about selling books. Because word count matters. And the rules change for every genre.

So, your first task is to figure out what genre your book is in. After that, check the list below to find the answer to your question how long should my book be?

General guidelines: How long should my book be?


  • Middle Grade—20,000 to 50,000 words
  • Young Adult—45,000 to 80,000 words
  • Novels—50,000 to 120,000 words
    • Paranormal Romance—85,000 to 100,000 words
    • Romance—85,000 to 100,000 words
    • Category Romance—55,000 to 75,000 words
    • Cozy Mysteries—65,000 to 90,000 words
    • Horror—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Western—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Light Paranormal Mysteries/Hobby Mysteries—75,000 to 90,000 words
    • Historical Mysteries/Noir—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Thrillers/Crime—90,000 to 100,000 words
    • Chick Lit—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Literary—65,000 to 100,000 words
    • Science Fiction—90,000 to 110,000 words
    • Romantic Science Fiction—85,000 to 100,000 words
    • Space Opera—90,000 to 120,000 words
    • Contemporary Fantasy—90,000 to 100,000 words
    • Other Fantasy—90,000 to 120,000 words


  • Devotional—30,000 to 50,000 words
  • Self-Help—40,000 to 90,000 words
  • Memoir—50,000 to 90,000 words
  • Narrative Non-Fiction—50,000 to 110,000 words
  • Biography—50,000 to 110,000 words
  • Prescriptive/How-To—50,000 to 150,000

Of course these guidelines are only just that—guidelines. And there are WAY more genres and sub-genres (e.g. new weird and slipstream…what now!?) so it’s best to do your own research. But do pay attention and at least be aware of publisher AND reader expectations. Because you still have to list your word count in your query letter or book proposal!

Sources: The Swivet, Jerry Jenkins, Books & Such Literary Management

Have you ever asked <em>how long should my book be?</em> Did you know what a great question it is? GREAT question! Many debut authors dive into their manuscript with wild abandon and with little thought to structure, plot or word count.

Other posts relating to publishing (although not answering the question how long should my book be but they’re still relevant!)

Hiring a Writer? 10 Things You Should Know

If it’s your first time hiring a writer or even if you’ve done it before but find it a bit awkward, you’ll love this post.

These 10 tips for hiring a writer were written by Cynthia White who is a freelance writer based on Vancouver Island. I love this topic because I spend time talking to writers and Cynthia had the idea to speak to people thinking about hiring a writer. Love it.

10 Things You Should Know About Hiring a Writer

I’m a freelance writer, just like my friend, Robyn. I asked her if I could write an article on hiring a writer for her blog because she blogs only about writing-related topics, and I blog about anything that strikes my fancy.

When a new client wants to hire me, there are several things that I run into repeatedly, things that the client doesn’t necessarily understand. I thought it would be useful to tell a little bit about what it means to hire a writer and give some insight into the writing process.

So, here are 10 things you should know about hiring a writer:

10 tips for hiring a writer

  1. Most writers don’t work on a per hour basis. We usually price writing work by the word or by the project. We may have an idea what our hourly rate is, but we usually don’t say

    Why do we price our work by the word? I don’t know, but that’s the standard. We never want to be told to “write faster” because we’re being paid a certain amount per hour. So, we just tell you what the job is worth to us, and whether it takes us one hour or 21 hours, that’s our problem.

    If you have an established long-term relationship with a writer, very often writers just work for a monthly retainer. The writer agrees to give you a certain amount of work at previously agreed-upon intervals for a fixed monthly price.

    You want to know what the going rate is for a writer? Here are two articles about that.

  2. Professional writers aren’t cheap. You can definitely find someone on Upwork or elsewhere who will write for $0.01/word. But you won’t find an experienced professional writer to work for that rate. Even $0.10/word is cheap by our standards, but sometimes we’ll do that work if it’s pleasant, and we’re able to do it fast.

    With writing, you get what you pay for. The odds are against you getting a great job done for less than $0.10/word. For less than $0.10/word, you’ll be hiring someone who either doesn’t have English as a mother tongue, or who doesn’t have a degree in English or journalism, or who doesn’t have any experience.

    We’re going to do a better job of writing your articles or your blog, than you will. You may know your company better than we do, but we know how to write effectively. If we’re writing your blog, we know how the articles should look, how many links to include, how to optimize the work for search engine optimization, and how to make the work look polished.

    One advantage for you of hiring a professional and experienced writer is that some writers have a large and established social media following. Your writer may be happy to promote his or her articles about your business through their own personal social media platforms—especially if the writer’s name is on the article.

  3. It’s OK to ask for revisions. Writers can’t read minds. We may have a good idea what you want, but we can’t give you exactly what you want without some feedback. It’s OK to ask for revisions, and we expect that. The more feedback we get, the closer we will get to giving you the ideal product, just like with machine learning.

    Of course, there’s an old saying in freelance writing that if the client isn’t happy with the third draft, then there’s either something wrong with the client or something wrong with the writer. Three drafts should be plenty. If you’re asking for six, seven, or eight drafts, then the client doesn’t know what he or she wants. I let go of clients like that. I’ve been doing this for years, and I can afford to be choosy about who I want to work with.

  4. It’s OK to ask for photos to accompany articles. Most writers will charge extra for this, especially if they are original photos that we have taken ourselves with our own cameras. It’s extra work for us, and many clients prefer to furnish the artwork themselves, but it’s OK to ask. And if we’re being paid a reasonable rate, we won’t mind looking up a few royalty-free photos for you.
  5. Press releases cost more than regular writing. Press releases are not priced on a per word basis, but as a flat rate. (And the flat rate does not include the price of distribution, which is separate.) Why? Because writing them is a special skill that some of us have spent years acquiring. Press releases have a special format, a special language, and even writing the titles and subtitles is not for amateurs.

    A press release is not the job where you should pinch pennies. Why? Because when someone skilled writes a press release, it will get more “pick-up” or traffic, which is what you want. If you hire an inexperienced writer to write a press release, there may be a delay in the release going out because the company used to distribute the press release may have to rewrite it. Not good. Experienced freelance writers not only know how to write a great press release, but we know all about the pros and cons of including images or videos, and when is the best time to get them out. Most of us also have a relationship with a company that does the distribution. Personally, I use Ereleases if it’s for a press release originating in the US.

  6. It’s a good idea to pay us promptly. I wish I had a nickel for every client that I’ve ever had who was ultra-available when he or she needed me to finish a job and ultra-unavailable when it came time to pay. Cash flow is everything, and it’s not fair to make us chase you around for payment. The time spent reminding you to pay us is time that we could be working on other projects for clients who pay promptly. If you’re a new client, don’t be surprised if we ask to be paid up front or after each little job, just to make sure that we don’t do an enormous amount of work and never get paid for it. Yes, it happens.

    I’m, in fact, running into a problem with a new client right now. The client wants a certain number of blog articles each month. But the client only wants to pay for the published articles. That means I submit X number of articles each month, but they can sit on them as long as they want, and I won’t get paid until they’re published. That’s not right, and that’s not how it works. The writer should be paid upon submission. If the client takes a month to ask for revisions, that’s fine, but the writer should be paid. Otherwise, the writer is always being paid for a subset of what they’ve written for the client. I don’t think I’ll be writing long for these folks unless they change that policy.

  7. Need another freelancer? Ask us. Most of us have a well-established network of freelancers. We know other writers, editors, design people, and software people. If you need to hire someone else, ask us.
  8. We’re going to charge more for ghostwriting. Writers like to have their names on things. This gives the writer credibility, and if there’s a blurb about the writer and a link, this can help drive traffic to the writer’s website. If we’re writing for a client, and we’re not going to get to put our name on anything, for example on your business blog, then we’ll charge you more because we lose those added benefits.
  9. If you need something fast, be prepared to pay extra. Most freelance writers have several clients and schedule of work to be done. Sometimes a schedule may be in place for several weeks or months in advance. So, we can do your work, but we can’t necessarily do it tonight. If you need it instantly, be prepared to pay extra to move to the front of the line.
  10. We have other skills. Ask us. Often clients who hire writers don’t realize that many of us can do more than one type of job. The person who writes for your blog may also be an expert on social media. Your blog writer might also be an expert editor who could proofread your website or edit the text of other freelance writers. Some writers are happy to do ebooks, press releases, or copywriting (like sales copy). Some writers do some design work like for business cards or logos. Some writers have extensive business and marketing experience. So, if you have a writer that you like, and you have other jobs that need doing, ask your writer first.

The idea for this article came to me recently because I started with a new client who seemed very reluctant to ask for revisions. The client was afraid I’d be insulted because he wanted a few more statistics in his blog articles. I wasn’t insulted. I told him, “writers expect to be asked for revisions. It’s OK.”

I hope this is helpful for someone hiring a writer for the first time.

If it's your first time hiring a writer or even if you've done it before but find it a bit awkward, you'll love this post.

Other posts semi-related to hiring a writer

How to Write a Non-Fiction Book Proposal

In the non-fiction world, book publishing starts with writing an amazing query letter. And after that? Send in your book? Nope. If you get past the query-letter round in non-fiction publishing you then move on to book proposal. There are many ways to put together a proposal but here is what I’ve learned about how to write a non-fiction book proposal in the past few months of, well, learning how to write a non-fiction book proposal.

How to write a non-fiction book proposal

In 2017 I had a goal of pitching a book to an agent at a writer’s conference. Yes, OK I also wanted to acquire an agent but I knew it was a long shot. In my reading about the industry I knew the path to publishing was a windy road and there was so much I still had to learn. But I did want to practice pitching (which is something I recommend doing often!) and I did want to get started. Doing it in person added that much more intensity. And live feedback. Yikes.

I knew enough to book appointments with agents who represented non-fiction and I practiced my pitch a few times over so I could deliver it without reading. My query letter was prepped and printed and I had supplementary ideas and media kits printed off in the event I should need it. However, I was not prepared for one agent asking me for my book proposal while I was pitching. It threw me off a bit, since in the conference instructions it said to limit my documents to a query letter. Whoops. A second agent asked me to send my book proposal “in a few months.” In the moment I thought…a few months? I’ll have it ready next week!

Months Later

Uh…writing a book proposal takes longer than I thought. And even though it’s not the entire book it’s still a big project.

Here’s what I’ve learned in these months since the conference: a book proposal sells your idea to agents and publishers. And the most important thing is to avoid outlining what your book is about but instead highlight why you’re writing it, who you’re serving and how your book will benefit your readers.

Oh, OK. So a non-fiction book proposal is like writing a business marketing plan. I can do that

In my research I’ve discovered there are many different ways of putting together a non-fiction book proposal. While it’s important to craft your proposal to the specs the agent or publisher asks for, there are also common elements you can prepare ahead of time and reshape into each proposal you send out.

Common elements in a non-fiction book proposal


Your overview describes your idea and what you’re trying to accomplish. You want this to be succinct yet descriptive—in the marketing world it’s your elevator pitch; in the business world it’s your executive summary. Depending on the agent or publisher, this should be between 500 words and five pages. Yes. That is quite a range. Pay attention to instructions.

Target markets/audience

It’s tempting to think your book will appeal to everyone or to the masses in general, but in the marketing world, the more niche, the better. You want to know who you’re helping and what problems you’re solving. The more specific and detailed you can be, the better. The goal of this section is to outline who will purchase your book so don’t hold back from diving into the world of your target reader.

Promotion/marketing plan

I’ve heard other authors describe this as the most important part of your proposal. Although it would be nice to sit back and let someone else be in charge of your marketing the truth is you need to champion your book like your book deal depends on it. Cause, well, it does. This is the place where you call in every favour and think of any and every way to get publicity. Overview your marketing plan with confidence and with as many actual numbers as you can. Outline your platform, present your numbers, and list every media type you can think of and how you plan to get coverage.

Competing works

Drawing attention other books just like yours may seem counter-intuitive but competition shows there’s a market for your work. In your competitive analysis list three to 10 successful titles published within the past few years and demonstrate how your book is different from these titles, without trashing them. You want to create a case for a solid readership waiting for your work, which will complement other books already published in the genre.

About the author

You can repurpose your bio from your query letter and add a bit of flourish. Here you want to demonstrate why and how you are the right author to write your book. Highlight any relevant experience, expertise and credentials. Answer the implied question, how are you qualified to write this book? Why should you write it rather than anyone else? Where are you already active?

Table of contents and chapter outline

Although you don’t have to have your book written yet, you do need to know how the book is going to look when it’s done. This is like a map of your book and should include chapter names, section titles, subtitles and any other relevant information. Outline each chapter by writing a brief summary. The big idea here is to help the agent or publisher know what to expect from your final product.

Writing sample

In this section you want to include between one and three of your strongest chapters, which will give the agent or publisher a good sense of your writing style and the overall book structure.

In the non-fiction world, if you get past the query-letter round then move on to book proposal. There are many ways to put together a proposal but here is what I've learned about how to write a non-fiction book proposal in the past few months of, well, learning how to write a non-fiction book proposal.

Remember, your non-fiction book proposal is what your agent will use to sell your book to publishers. You’re building a case for your book to be published. You’re selling an idea, what you’ll do to promote and support it and enough of a writing sample to showcase your talent and skill.

No problem.

Other helpful posts on how to write a non-fiction book proposal

A Five-Step Plan for Breaking Free from Content Mills

If you’re new to freelance writing you may have heard other writers warn you about content mills. But do you know how to spot them in order to steer clear? And what if you took a gig and found out later it was one of those content mills? How do you break free?

A Five-Step Plan for Breaking Free from Content Mills

For many new writers, the idea of making a living writing is an elusive dream. They aren’t veterans with established credibility, they don’t have strong clippings from reputable sources, and they don’t have a network of colleagues to get advice from. They’re desperate for information but they hear conflicting advice and don’t know who to believe.

So they bid on jobs and take five dollars per article, all the while cold pitching blog after blog and freelance marketplace posting after freelance marketplace posting. Nothing is working. They feel like frauds and wonder if it isn’t better to give up altogether.

Content mills AKA writers mills AKA content farms are all slang terms freelancers give to companies or websites that pump out cheap content intended to drive page views or profits and pay their writers next-to-nothing rates. When you’re just starting out it’s easy to wind up in these content mills because they’re easy gigs to get and many new freelancers don’t know what a good rate is. They’re so flattered and excited to get a job they take it without much consideration.

But wait. Doesn’t everyone start somewhere? And what if you’re already writing for content mills don’t even know it? Or what if you’re writing for content mills and you’re ready to make the break…what’s next?

Five Tips for Breaking Free from Content Mills

  1. Get a website

    If you’re hungry for work you need a website promoting your writing. It doesn’t have to be fancy but you do need to let prospective clients know what kind of writing you do, what kind of writing you have done, and how to get in touch.

    Here are seven essential writer website elements if you’re wondering what you should put on your website.

  2. Write a blog

    Yes this is a lot of work but it’s also a great example of your writing style and voice. This fills in the gaps if you don’t have many good-quality clippings and demonstrates your dedication to the craft.

    On the fence about blogging? Here are four reasons why I think freelancers should have a blog.

  3. Create a marketing plan

    Keep it simple at the beginning, but have a plan. Answer these questions: what type of writing do you want to do, what is your rate, what problems can you solve for your clients, and where are your ideal clients? Then make a plan to get your ideal client’s attention.

    Here are some tips for marketing yourself as a writer without feeling sleazy or braggy.

  4. Ask for help

    This is hard. But in your circle there has got to be at least one person who is willing and able to help you by offering mentorship, advice, or introductions. But you do need to be vulnerable and reach out. If you don’t know where to start you can ask me.

    Joining a writing group is an awesome way to find people who can help you escape content mills. Here are my best tips for finding good writing groups.

  5. Practice pitching

    There’s a whole psychology to pitching and it starts with mindset. If you believe you’re a fraud or you don’t deserve more than five dollars an article then your pitching will reflect that. Practice pitching and work on your confidence. Ask other writers what pitches have worked for them and make adjustments to your approach as necessary.

    Wondering where to start with pitching? Learn how to write a query letter.

By following these five steps you will be on your way to creating a platform and landing clients. And with the support of fellow writers, you’ll pick up even more ways to reach your freelance writing goals.

Content mills aka writers mills aka content farms are all slang terms freelancers give to companies or websites that pump out cheap content intended to drive page views or profits and pay their writers next-to-nothing rates. When you're just starting out freelance writing it's easy to wind up in these content mills because they're easy gigs to get and many new freelancers don't know what a good rate is. Want to break free? Here's your five-step plan for breaking free from content mills.

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What Does a Book Publicist Do for an Author?

What does a book publicist do? In general, this is a broad name for a person who has direct and indirect influence on book sales. So it’s an interesting and important role. But just how does a book publicist affect this positive influence? And what does a book publicist do for an author? And what does it take to be a book publicist?

These are the questions

what does a book publicist do

What does a book publicist do, anyway?

Think of a publicist as both your biggest cheerleader and a teammate on your book marketing team. He or she will champion your book to the media and sing about how wonderful it is. And my, how wonderful that feels.

They have one main goal: get positive press coverage for his or her client. A book publicist gets involved in the process after your book goes to print but (in general) before it’s published.

Here are a few things a book publicist does for an author

  • Gets book reviews
  • Gets articles written about the book or author
  • Nominates book for awards
  • Gets interviews for the author
  • Sets up and promotes virtual book tours
  • Schedules book talks and tours

These are all essential ingredients in the book marketing recipe for success.

Now if only you could look at marketing as a creative outlet instead of a thorn in your side we would all be singing to the bank.

But I digress

Of course an author can do his or her own marketing and if this is something you’re considering, here are some of the required skills.

Here are a few skills a book publicist should have in order to be successful

  • Ability to work with all kinds of different clients (every author is different and requires a different approach)
  • Strong writing and oral skills
  • Strong public relations skills
  • Knowledge of the journalism industry
  • Understanding of what journalists and book bloggers are looking for
  • Outgoing personality
  • Good at networking
  • Organized

(Considering becoming a publicist? For extra credit, read So, You Want to Work in Publishing: The Role of a Publicist)

There’s no question publicity (aka marketing) helps book sales. If people hear about a book they’re more likely to purchase it rather than one they’ve never heard of.

“If you write it they will come,” isn’t really a thing.

And before you get too worked up, I understand this isn’t your favourite thing but I still think you can rock your marketing. And when you need a boost, hire a book publicist.

What does a book publicist do? It's a common question. In general, "book publicist" is a broad name for a person who has direct and indirect influence on book sales. So a book publicist is an interesting and important role. But just how does a book publicist affect this positive influence? And what does a book publicist do for a writer? And how long does it take?

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