How Many Words Does It Take to Make a Book?

Bookcraft 2.0 SERIES

An Average Book . . .


As an introduction to Bookcraft 2.0, I wrote Write a Book? Assemble the One in Your Archives! In the comments, Chris showed serious interest in finding out more about it.

. . . My new venture, SuccessCREEations has been up and running for less than a month and already has 23,000+ words, all fairly focused topically. So perhaps in a few months I’ll have enough there to put something together (provided I keep the pace steady).

Of course it begs the question, how much material does it take to become publish-worthy? If you figure an average of about 250 words per page, then what about 60,000 words or so for an average book? Is that anywhere near right?

My apologies. Chris, for trying to answer a BIG question with a small answer. I should have said, “Yes, Chris. you’re more than near right . . . because you write well, you might even have two books there.”

Let me try to explain it better in this post.

How Many Words Does It Take to Make a Book?

Editors and agents often quote a word count to writers in order to establish basic parameters. “Casting off” pages also once was a common practice in which the word count was used to determine how much paper a book would require.

Now, I think, giving out a word count is a good faith benchmark. Editors and agents want to save writers and themselves unnecessary time and work. Why should everyone be investing in a manuscript that doesn’t have the critical mass it needs to make a full-size book?

Still the practice of quoting word counts bothers me, because critical mass doesn’t mean that the words in question actually say anything that a reader might be interested in. And the truth is the word count really is an average of a very wide range of possibilities..

Here are the word counts for 10 books you might know.

    1. Malcolm Gladwell’s Book, Blink is a 70,731-word message.
    2. Steve Farber’s Radical Leap tells the story in 33,825 words.
    3. Seth Godin uses 30,655 words to describe a Purple Cow.
    4. Stephen Covey needed 100,519 words to explain The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
    5. It took David Allen 76,858 words to write his way of Getting Things Done.
    6. Race Through the Forest, a fable, by Timothy Johnson needed only 18,508 words.
    7. Writing White Papers by Michael A. Stelzner required only 38,664 words to do what was necessary.
    8. Beyond Code by Rajesh Setty is about 30,000 words.
    9. Robert Scobel and Shel Israel spent 78,994 words in Naked Conversations.
    10.Queen Klutz by Marti Lawrence recount her humorous stories in 26, 485 words.

As you can see, the word counts vary wildly. But 60,000 is probably as good of a benchmark as any. My hope is you don’t hold it too tightly. . . .

I once asked, “How many words do you need to make a book?”
And a wise man told me, “As many as you need and not one more.”

Pages are a completely different matter. Paper is tangible.

We’ll get to pages as we start making Phil’s book.

–ME “Liz” Strauss

Related articles
Bookcraft 2.0: Find a Book in Your Archives the Way a Publisher Would
Bookcraft 2.0 Archive Mining: How to Get From Working Book Title to Rough Cut Content
Bookcraft 2.0 Why Read the Date Archives Not the Categories?


  1. says

    Hi Liz;

    I learned that it is the content of the words rather than the quality that make a difference. My book is by no means large in words. AND, I used a lot of pre-written articles I had created before the blog craze as foundation for the book.


  2. says

    So the bottom line is authors write books for people not machines. No formula’s here, eh? Sigh… It figures. No matter how high tech we get there are still people in the equation somewhere. 😉

  3. says

    Yeah, but Chris, you write so well, Like I said you probably have two books there. I think you can count on your intuitiion in this case. You’ve made great calls on that blog– everywhere I look.

  4. says

    Ok, so let me ask another pot-stirring question…

    How “original” does your content need to be to be “yours”?

    It is not at all that I plagiarize other people’s stuff. I understand what plagiarism is and I wouldn’t dream of stealing someone else’s work.

    But the reality is my thoughts are heavily influenced by other people’s ideas that I’ve encountered over the years. Really what I do over there is bring together ideas and concepts that other, bigger minds, have had before me and try to present them in a way that makes sense to me (and I hope, by extension, to others as well.)

    But then I wouldn’t want to pretend that the ideas I’ve put down are wholly my own. I’m just plain not that smart.

  5. says

    Your questions are great ones.
    First know this. You can’t own or steal an idea. West Side Story IS Romeo and Juliet. That’s not plagarism.

    I think you’ve defined what you do well. You read other’s work internalize it and mix it with your own thoughts. You’ve been “influenced.” It’s nice to give credit when you feel someone has heavily influenced the direction of your thoughts and it also gives credibility to what you’re saying. But if the words are your own, really your own — not paraphrased. The content is original.

    Hope that helps

  6. says

    As always your explanation brings it down to the lower shelf to make it easier for some of us to understand.

    I guess I’ve been thinking of ideas in terms of patentable items rather than in terms of transcendental principles. Thanks for clearing that up!

  7. says

    Hi Chris,
    Sorry, if I sounded transcendental. Didn’t mean to overexplain things there . . .

    You’re free and clear with any copyright issues as far as I see. Everything sounds quite original to me.

  8. says

    I am planning on making a book out of all my blogs from age 15 to 55 when I get there :). I’m going to be a celebrity soon – because i’m going to lose 150 pounds and document the whole thing on my blog. Pictures every day. The idea is that my blog will keep me accountable to 300,000,000 people. Think it will work??

  9. says

    If absolute originality were required for any book, the shelves at Barnes & Noble would be rather empty.

    If you have something good to say, just go ahead and say (or write) it. Give credit where it is due. And that’s all you need to worry about (besides dealing with publishers, editors, and God knows whom ;).

  10. says

    Hi Scorpia!
    You’ve got a great point there. I read somewhere once that there are only 20 fiction plots altogether. I know that I’ve read the same thoughts in so many business books. Sometimes you have read the same ideas for them to sink in so, it’s not really such a bad thing . . . I suppose it’s the same in computer games too?

  11. Steve says

    Hey that’s great! I wouldn’t want to be a celebrity though. Not my cup of Joe…. :)

    I’ll take the fortune over the fame any day..

  12. says

    My mother’s high school english teacher told her that a good story needs to be like a lady’s skirt. “Long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep it interesting.”

    I’ve used that model in everything I’ve ever written, and every story I’ve ever told. It has never failed me. *smile*

  13. says

    Yeah, that is a cute description. I like it (wish I’d thought of it ;).

    Liz, plots in computer games are depressingly the same, at least so far as the role-playing ones are concerned. “Kill critters, grab goodies, frag Foozle” (“Foozle” is my generic term for whomever or whatever is behind all the trouble).

    But speaking of length, I have never managed word count. When I first started writing for CGW, and they told me the articles for my column should be about so many words, I had to ask, “how much is that in K?”. I couldn’t think in terms of word count, only file size. That’s still true today.

  14. says

    Scorpia that’s too funny! If it weren’t for the word function to count words – I would never be able to think in those terms either!!!

    BTW – Liz, I enjoy Malcolm Gladwell’s work a whole lot – but Blink probably could have been done in 1/2 the length. I found it really repetitive. So , I tend to agree with Michael (way up there at the top of the comments – with of course, your subsequent clarification)!

  15. says

    I agree with you about Blink. I had some trouble finishing it. Some of his examples went on and on. I think he’s a guy who took his word count WAY too seriously.

  16. says

    “Long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep it interesting.”

    Great description, it’s something we all deal with everyday when we write. I struggle with every post I make trying to include just the right amount of information.

  17. says

    Hi Chris,
    I’ll have to think on that. I think I agree with what Brian’s saying there, but it sure seems to have a lawyerly twist to it.

    I prefer the old standby, “I wrote you a long letter because I didn’t have time to write you a short one.”

  18. says

    Thanks for your mention of Naked Conversations. Interestingly, we had planned a much longer book. The publisher asked us to cut it down to 80,000 words, the amount they estimated that the average business person could read on a nonstop flight from New York City to Los Angeles. In retrospect, the book would have been horribly overwritten if we had droned on for another 20,000-40,000 words as Robert Scoble and I had planned.

  19. says

    Hi Shel,
    Thank you for sharing that bit of information. It helps us all get perspective. What great measure for a business book!

    I read Naked Conversations in the comfort of my own home. To me it was the right lenghth and one chapter longer would have been too long. I was approaching information saturation level. Now I’m ready for a new one though, Shel.

  20. says

    Ann, heh. I don’t use (and didn’t back then) a fancy word processor. Notepad, or sometimes Wordpad, is (are?) it. So I really do need to know how much that word count is in K 😉

  21. says

    Thank you for including me in such esteemed company!

    20 fiction plots, huh? That made me laugh…my husband and I have told our children there are only nine stories – LOL! When we “force” them to watch classic movies (which, the older they get, the more they appreciate) they’ll say, “Story number 7” (or appropriate number). It’s all in the telling.

    Thank you for a terrific post!

  22. says

    One witch starts hearing voices, races into battle against the wimpy king. An army follows the church gets mad. The matches come in handy when they burn her at the stake. They call her Joan or Arc. Plot #3.5 — She doesn’t really count, because she’s not fiction, except the voices, we don’t know about them, now do we??????

  23. Alex says

    Wow.. With the way “Liz” writes replies we may be looking at a half-million word count.

    If you feel that your book should end, end it. Even if it is 300 words long. If you’re trying to stretch out your work to the target goal, the part being stretched is going to suck. Common sense no?

  24. BuddingWriter says

    Boy.. I think I may have to compress my book by a lot… I feel like I am close to halfway through the story and my count is now at 96,691.
    No it is not a fantasy, no it does not stretch across decades… It is a women’s fiction, I guess you could call it romantic suspense, there are two main plot lines, boy meets girl; and a crime plot.

    What is the point where you no longer are publishable because the story is too long?

  25. says

    Hi Budding Writer,
    If you read a lot books that are similar to the one you want to write or are writing, you’ll find that there’s a pattern to them. The plot only gets to a certain level of complex. Study the books for their structure. Map their stories as you them for structure and action. Count the characters in them.

    Notice the page count, look on Amazon for the word count. You’ll find the answer to your question. You’ll also have information you need to “sell” your proposal when the book is done — because you’ll see how your book fits within the market.

  26. maddie says

    i’m writing a book and i’m like omg what if my book’s only 40 pages long but i read 130,000 words is 500 pages in a book. i have 12,400 words already tyed up so far i have lot’s more to type up and i have to finish hand writing it first.

  27. says

    thanks for the info here. I’m trying to figure out how long a book about blogging should be. I want to write something about how to start a blog and all the things that come with it, ie. choosing a domain and how to find a focus, and going into how to make money with one.

  28. Shaun Fitzgerald says

    Hi,let me first say I am very confused and lost. I am a young writer and have just finished what I hope to be the begining of my first series of books. However I went over my first (hopeful) ‘book’ which I wrote in microsoft word. It’s 43 pages, 26,322 words (not fully finished yet) but I do not think this is enough to be published. I have started the second book already and I can tell that it will triple in size compared to the first book. What should I do? I have no real help from anyone I know as they themselves are as lost and I on the subject.

    • says

      Hi Shaun,
      Read books that are like the book you are writing. Look at the length of the chapters and the length of the book. Mimic what you see. Those are templates that work and that sell.

  29. Shaun Fitzgerald says

    Thanks Liz, I tried, I have a slightly better idea now. I was wondering, does the fact that of my sequal being significantly longer seem too odd?

  30. Wraith says

    just wrote a book with 26,314 words. It is short, but hearing about Queen Klutz makes me feel better about the number of words and chapters in my story, not that I couldn’t expand it. It is 15 chapters to though, fairly short.

  31. Jamie's Author says

    I just started writing a book (my first book) and have no idea where it fits in the market. I think it will be fiction because its a story but I meant it to be kind of half and half. A story of someone’s life, a negative life, and how religion, science, and phschology would compare notes to the account of this girl’s “obstacles”. I have never read books like this, I’ve read mystery and fantasy books and BLINK.

    Am I writing a failed plot? Or is there a space in the market for this book I am just not aware of? There is a beginning story (history of the main character) the middle (events, the whole point of the book you could say) and the ending/last piece would be the discection of the three points of view on the events that have occurred from beginning to end.
    So it would be left kind of open-ended at closing.

    Is this non-sense? For some reason as I’m going along I’m starting to think of this book as the one your english teacher forces you to read and you don’t understand the importance (like I felt about The Old Man and The Sea haha). I guess what I mean is I’m starting to doubt someone will find it interesting. At least not until the last half..

    Sorry, main question: where do you think this book fits in the market or is it most likely garbage unless I can come up with a more conventional story? Would it be more wise to push it all the way into fiction and hope people ponder the possiblilties? I seem to be stuck on pointing out the relationships between what we see and how all 3 sources could all “diagnose” the problem “accurately” according to their beliefs.
    Ag! sorry I’m so long winded. Thankyou for any response!
    Would you say I’m

  32. Jamie's Author says

    PS – If I told it like a whole story would it be fiction if I’m writing about someone’s life in story form but not advertising it that way for privacy? *sigh* My main main problem without all the wind is what I started out with. Where in the world does it go on a shelf?? (suddenly I wish I could sit down with my senior english teacher, but I’m in another state now and don’t know which teachers give a crap and who’s there for the check, you know?)
    Once again thanks for putting up with my long comments.

  33. Graham says

    Hi, can you tell me or do you know where I can find the word count to other books like Tipping Point, Blue Ocean Strategy, Freakonomics, Outliers etc?
    thanks! Graham

  34. Erika says

    I found this information VERY usefull!! I’m on my first book and was nervous on how many pages I should fit this thing into cause I have a feeling it can’t fit into one. And I wasn’t sure how many pages or words I want. This is the most I’ve written and I hated writing essays in highschool and I’m thrilled the whole freshman writing for college is over and done with. I do have a question though. Where can you start with trying to find an agent? I keep reading about this Writer’s Market thing but (sorry if the quesions sounds stupid) where do you really start? What is it exactly?

  35. Erika says

    Oh and another question. (Sorry for another one!) I’ve written about 23,000 words already and it wasn’t until 5,000 words ago I’ve been using all this time building up to a somewhat eventful moment. Is that too long? I’ve been flushing out my first few chapters to better understand the world I’m trying to create and I’m just afraid if it’s too much at the moment. I don’t go back to do it on purpose but it comes out as I write. I don’t want to lose my readers so early.

  36. Hydroguy says

    Thanks for the dialogue it was nice to read all the comments. I searched Google for ‘words in book’ because I have written an article for a zine and extended myself to 4760 words after revisions, cutting down, etc. Was wondering what it took to branch it into a book, and I think I have an idea now.

    It is a non-fiction research paper, not everyone’s thing, but the topic is popular enough to be potentially marketable.

    I hope to find this site on my next Google search – keep up the good work everyone.

  37. Xenia says

    Hello. :)
    I’m 14 years old and I’m from germany. I’m writing a book. In the moment it has 95.000 words and it will also take a little bit time until I can finish it. My english is qiet bad but I think I am good with words in german. Is it possible to sell a book from a girl in my age?
    Thank you.

  38. Writer123 says

    This was a wonderful and very helpful article/post! Thank you!

    Quick question: Where in the Amazon entry for a given book do you find its word count? I’m not seeing it – I see number of pages and dimensions in Product Info section but no word count…

  39. says

    I do not believe your answer is very helpful, because you don’t include too many major criteria and don’t allow for wildly-different answers by well-known authors.

    Criteria include: non-fiction vs. fiction, 1st novel vs. 2nd+ novel, genre (e.g., science fiction vs. mystery vs. thriller), and best-selling vs. unknown author. Finally, does one count the entire number of words including the title page, preface, dedication, copyright, table of contents, and cast of characters, or just the actual novel text?

    1st-time novel status is vital because the primary asset of a bookstore is the number of inches wide X all shelves. A bookseller may know that a 3″ novel from Tom Clancy is acceptable because they will probably sell out, whereas a 3″ novel from first-timer could instead be filled with 3 1″ novels from other first-timers. Finally, you have to determine whether a computer did the word count (and what rules it followed) rather than a manual count of a sample that is then extended.

    I thought I was long with my first SF novel hovering around 83,000 computer-calculated words, only to find out that I really had only 45,000 words, short by a lot. Luckily I’ve got more I wanted to add to his penultimate draft, so I can get in the range around 80k “real” words.

  40. says

    If you absolutely must have a figure, use the widely-quoted ones from the World Science Fiction Society plus the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America both use in handing out their awards:
    Short Story: < 7,500
    Novelette: 7,500 – 17,500
    Novella: 17,500 – 40,000
    Novel: 40,000 +
    (typically averaging 80,000
    “real” i.e.; not computer-
    counted” words.)

  41. Jen says

    Im currently in the process of writing my first book and I really didn’t know how long it should be. What i ended up doing was taking books about the size i wasnt mine to be and counting how many words were on page, then figuring out how many words I needed for it to be about 300 pages. But heres what works best I think. Have somebody else read your book. If its weel written and isnt full of plotholes, it doesnt matter how many pages or words it is. Also, a longer book is no good if half of it is fluff added in to make your required length. Worry about the quality of your writing, and the amount will fall in as needed.

  42. King says

    I am writing a book on stratagem for effective leadership. But the challenge here is that I am from Africa but I currently reside in Malaysia, how to I make my book sell in the United States.

  43. says

    I have started writing a memoir about my life during World war 11. I know its been done a zillion times, but this is my story, and I have written it that way, plus other parts of my life until I emigrated to USA in 1963. Would you think I stand any chance with this book in todays market? I’m also writing it for my children as we have a very small family – and they will have no other reference of their past. Brit63

    • says

      Hi Doreen,
      To sell a memoir or any book today, a first-time author really has to prove to the publisher that the audience for the book already exists in the thousands. Part of the book proposal has to include a marketing plan that explains how the author will support, promote and sell the book through appearances, blogging, and tweeting etc. Writing the book is only about 30% of the work. Marketing the book after is really when the work starts. It’s a lot like when a rock band cuts and album … then has to go on tour to “sell” it.

  44. Shawn says

    I’ve started writing I guess what you would call a journal or diary type book. It’s pretty much been a recount of my life since returning home from basic training/AIT, as its been a difficult time and I’ve been pretty secluded and have kept to myself for the past 16 months, but wouldn’t mind letting people know whats been going on with me as well in my head, primarily family. Its still a work in progress, as I am hoping its second half will be a recount of my time deployed, which let me tell you trying to deploy in the National Guard without your unit is a very difficult and political situation. Anyway I guess what I want to know is if there are any specific properties these types of books have, and I would also enjoy any opinions if anyone wants to read what I have so far, I have been putting it on a blog at googles, titled ‘Escaping Wisconsin’. I’m currently at 20,768 computer-counted words.

  45. says

    I do believe I am about to participate in my first Blog- have I dated myself? According to “Bean” my word processing program, I have already written 58,000 words and I am only one third of the way through. I am researching off site storage options but have no idea how many gigahoozies I need available for storage to be safe. I tried a rewritable DVD+RW after much research but after the first save I can’t get it to save it – I get a message “save file to another volume.” Since I am obviously rather wordy – and have so much time into this, I don’t want to loose it. There is lots of info about how many words an average – on the average – has but nothing about GB’s ? – needed.

  46. says

    First time here, first time writer.

    My question is; how important are photo’s considered in the submission of personal based story manuscripts. Should the photo’s I intend to include in the book also be presented with the manuscript?

    I have always enjoyed seeing photos of the people and places I am reading about but was wondering how the publishing business views this practice and perhaps some of the do’s and don’ts.

    • says

      I’m really not qualified to give you an answer about your submission. I’m really not certain about memoirs. Regarding other books it would be the wrong choice to include your photos.

    • says

      I’m really not qualified to give you an answer about your submission. I’m really not certain about memoirs. Regarding other books it would be the wrong choice to include your photos unless your are also a professional photographer..

  47. Kaylan S. says

    Hello! I just finished my first book! It has roughly 52,000+ words. Of course, the word count is based off of Microsoft Office Word, so I am not exactly sure how many words, or pages, it would be once published into regular-book form. I am not even sure if it is that good. Does anyone know any credible publishing companies? Any that won’t rip me off? Thanks for the help!

  48. says

    Great stuff Liz. I have 8 books on the market, and only one of them is more than 40k words. I write non-fiction. I firmly believe that the future of digital books in my genre is books that are 15-30k words. You know, a book you can read on a plane ride.

    Who wants to read War & Peace on a Kindle/iPad? Nobody. People want good quality, helpful information condensed into something they can consume quickly.

    Now, fiction… that’s another story.

  49. says

    There have been some very successful short books. Especially business books…

    “Illusions” springs to mind.

    Liz makes a great point about the importance of marketing & how the writer can help sell the book.

    The competition for attention is so fierce – perhaps too many writers fail to appreciate how valuable it is if they share responsibility for attracting an audience for their book.

    If you can write, writing is easy. But even if you can sell, it’s tough to build demand for a book.

    The long term trend must be towards shorter books – some people are happy reading summaries of books…

  50. David Chorney says

    What a WONDERFUL thread here. I’m SUPPOSED to be getting ready for work, sat down at my computer to look up some word count information, connected with this thread, and suddenly found myself reading about 6 or 7 years worth of comments! :)

    I would like your thoughts on my situation…

    I am writing a non-fiction book. It’s basically a self help book that could have a huge potential audience.

    When I started writing it, one of my goals was to cut out all the fluff so that everything was pertinent and important to the message.

    My problem though, is I am basically finished with my advice, and I’ve pretty much covered the subject in 15,700 words (Microsoft Word). There is no forward or table of contents, so those aren’t included.

    So I guess my question is… If everything in the book/novella is important, and yet it’s only 15,700 words, is this a viable book a publisher might be interested in if there is an audience for it?

  51. Just me says

    hi …Im writing my daughters story . my daughter died of cancer and i want to tell her story as it has government depts and hospitals. involved.. it also has dv and drugs involved so far i have a 25488 words and growing…i want to be a book where people can learn and understand… I have a publisher who is interested. but how can you know if the publisher has a good reputation and is looking out for your best interests….. he wants me to pay $1600 and with that i get a hard cover … 4 soft covers… ebooked… and i get someone to help me.. Is a good thing… I have no idea…thank you

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