How many words should my book contain?

Book writing is a big deal. It’s no simple undertaking. The first question I get asked when someone is considering using my help for their book writing project is ‘how many words should my book contain?’

My answer is always: ‘How long is a piece of string…?’

No, really…how long is it?

I know that doesn’t help you AT ALL, and sounds like the kind of smartypants answer that would have gotten me in trouble at the dinner table, but it’s true.  Your book needs to contain as many words as it takes to cover off your topic properly, without repetition and without gaping holes in the knowledge.

I get asked the ‘how many words’ question almost immediately people engage with me about writing their book.  And it’s normal to wonder. I get it.  Because a book writing project is a big thing. There are a LOT more words in a book than in anything else you’ve probably ever written (unless you were one of those crazy smart people who sat down and wrote a PhD.!) And the prospect of writing a whole heap of words can be daunting.  It’s time-consuming, you’re wondering whether you actually know ‘enough’ and you’re hoping like heck that I’m not going to charge you for editing ‘by the word count’!

It’s just as frustrating for me as it is for you that there is no perfect answer to this million dollar book writing question.

So, will you settle for some guidelines for your book writing word length?

These I CAN offer you.

To understand how many words you need to write, you need to start at the end, ie. what size book are you ultimately after.  The size of the book is referred to as the ‘trim size’.  It’s called this because that’s the actual size of the book once it has been trimmed and bound by the printer. It’s important to decide on a suitable trim size early on in the book production process as it determines such things as: the cost to print and ship, and how many pages it might have. This then helps determine the thickness of your book and the potential perceived value to the customer when pricing.

The two common trim sizes for non-fiction books are 5″ x 8″ and 6″ x 9″. These are good, reliable trim sizes that present a good reading experience for both non-fiction and novels. From these two sizes, it really comes down to personal preference as the manufacturing costs and time is virtually the same for each. The 5″ x 8″ trim size means about 250 words per page.  If you have too many more than that you’ll need a smaller font which becomes less-readable in print.  A 100-page book would be, then, about 25,000 words; a 150-page book would be roughly 37,500 words.  For the 6″ x 9″ trim size you can fit about 300 words per page.  So for a 150-page book you can target 45,000 words or 60,000 words for a 200-page book.

The most popular size today, for non-fiction, is 6”x 9”, for both paperbacks and hardcovers. The extra room allows space for more complex layout requirements such as tables, pull quotes, lists and writing

Repurpose your content

Now, before you completely freak out and decide to throw in the towel on your book writing project, just hear me out.  You’ve already done most of the work.


Yep. That’s right.

As a business owner you have already amassed a body of content that you can draw from and repurpose into your book manuscript. You really have! And I bet it’s way bigger than you think it is.

Consider the following sources, just to get your mind ticking, but there are also many more:

  • Blog posts
  • Facebook posts
  • Podcast interviews
  • Webinar content
  • Email newsletter content
  • Workshop content

As a business owner and marketer, you already have a vast library of content that you can draw from and repurpose into your book manuscript. And then guess what? Once your book is written, you can repurpose that content back into other forms of marketing – for years! How great is that!?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments about other sources you can think of for repurposing content for your book writing project!

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