How Many Pages Should my First Book Be?

Find out the industry-standard lengths of various genres, and how long your book should be.

by Adam G. Fleming

You’re asking a great question and I wish I could give you an easy answer. 

Oh, wait, I can. Your book shouldn’t be a single page longer than it needs to be, nor shorter.

Now, if that seems flippant, the principle is: don’t add fluff just to get it to a certain length. Also, don’t leave important things out just because you’re afraid it will be too long. Have you ever watched a really bad movie with continuity errors? They probably worked without a script, cut away all sorts of scenes that might have given it the continuity it needed, but ended up with something so disjointed that even though it came in at 135 minutes, you wasted every single one of those minutes watching it!

The best way to figure out if your book has excess fluff or not enough content is to work with beta readers and a professional editor. For your first book, especially, there are no shortcuts to knowing whether or not it’s too long, or too short. You need an experienced second opinion. If they tell you to cut, I know, I know, it’s going to make you cry. Hours of your time, tumbling to the floor, and you sitting there watching your locks fall in terror like a two-year-old getting his first haircut. Trust me, it’s for your own good. I’ve seen first-time authors whose work was too short by 20,000 words and it’s much less disturbing than someone whose first book is 50,000 words too long. 

Even after having an editor work it over, it’s still your first book. You’ll get better by your fifth book, or seventh, or tenth. But you do have to eventually say to yourself, “It’s the best I can do for now,” and get it out there. That said, let’s get into the nitty gritty. 

Think word count, not page count

First, understand that experienced authors and publishers speak in terms of word count, not page count. If you want to sound like a pro, you’d change the question that is the title of this blog article to this:

“How many words should my first book be?” 

Think about it: your page count will vary based on font, font size (11 or 12 point), and page size (5” x 7” or 6” x 9”). To give you a basic guideline, my first novel, “White Buffalo Gold,” in the genre of trade fiction or literary fiction, is printed in 6” x 9” format, is 305 pages long, and has about 92,000 words—or about 300 words per page. If I had changed the font size by one point, the page count would also change drastically. 

It all depends on the genre 

What’s a good length for my first fiction book?

Second, the genre you are writing in makes a huge difference. Memoirs, fiction, nonfiction, business books, children’s books, devotionals, study guides, they’re all different. Your first book in a fantasy or sci-fi series might be only 60,000 words; if you have 180,000 words already, consider breaking it into three books and turning it into a series. On the other hand, a sci-fi project with heavy world building may require 110,000 words to turn out a solid story arc. In my “Satchel Pong Chronicles,” a steampunk fantasy series, the books get progressively longer from book 1 to book 5. You can invite your readers on a journey, and as they prove to themselves that they enjoy the series, you can make increasing demands for their attention span. 

When it comes to literary work (general trade fiction) you may want your story in a tight zone between 80,000 and 95,000 words. If you’re writing Young Adult fiction, you probably want to range between 55,000 and 65,000 words. 

If you are self- or hybrid-publishing, then you really can choose for yourself whether you want to make it a bit shorter or longer than the traditionally accepted lengths for genres, but if you want to have an agent look at it, you probably need to get very clear about what your genre is and what the acceptable querying length is within that genre. 

What’s a good length for my first business book or other nonfiction? 

We’re seeing book lengths running shorter and shorter, and we’ve helped publish books as short as 7,000 words. The trend for business books is under 50,000 words. Think about this: if you can share one to three good ideas in 10,000 words, you may be adding fluff by the time you get to 30,000. 

What’s a good length for a poetry chapbook?

I’d think you’d want to include 30 to 35 poems. The book won’t be really thick, but poetry books aren’t. Consider that you’d want them to be 30 of your best, which means you have written 100 to 200 poems, and you’re choosing the finest 15 percent. 

Rule of thumb:

Think about what you’d want to buy. If you find that your first book is a little shorter than others in its genre, that’s okay; be sure to price accordingly, and lower the amount by a dollar or two per copy. If it’s longer, it might need to be priced a little higher, and that could mean the difference between someone buying your book or saving two bucks to buy something else. Are readers cost-conscious? Yes, plenty of them are. With that being said, you may want to consider erring on the short side for your first book, in comparison to your chosen genre. Get some readers, first, then invite them out for a longer ride in your second book. 

Adam G. Fleming, PCC, is an ICF certified coach and trainer. He has trained people in coaching skills around the world and has also led other seminars as speaker and facilitator. Using both traditional and DIY methods, Adam has published 13 books in a variety of genres, and serves as the CEO and lead ghostwriter for Victory Vision Publishing, Inc. He lives in Goshen, Indiana, with his wife Megan and their four children. Contact:

Interested in getting to the next step? Click here for a free discovery meeting with Adam.

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