View Full Version : Basic Word Count Questions & Answers

03-31-2008, 05:05 AM
I know questions such as "How long is too long?" and "How short is too short?" are always coming up in lots of sub-forums here at AW. Just today I was thinking about word count again because I saw an excellent post on the subject:

Agent Colleen Lindsay posts here about the upper and lower limits for various genres and when and why exceptions are sometimes made, while the comments address some misconceptions about what word count actually is and why books in bookstores often seem longer (http://theswivet.blogspot.com/2008/03/on-word-counts-and-novel-length.html).

As thorough as that post is, it still doesn't answer my one lingering question: what are the usual upper and lower limits for nonfiction?

03-31-2008, 05:18 AM
Thank you for posting this, Jamie! Now was the perfect time for me to read this.

04-10-2008, 06:35 AM
I'm collecting questions for a panel with NF book editors. I'll ask about word count. Thanks for the idea.

04-11-2008, 02:16 AM
It really depends on the type of nonfiction you're writing. If it's light nonfiction (self-help, memoir, sports, business, religion, etc.) you should shoot for somewhere around 60-75K words. Best advice is to take a look at other current books that are in the category you're writing in and try to figure out what the average seems to be (figuring on around 250-300 words per book page).

04-11-2008, 02:25 AM
Alll books should be 75,000 or less. Who has time anymore to read the encyclopedia?

04-15-2008, 05:57 PM
Alll books should be 75,000 or less. Who has time anymore to read the encyclopedia?

I think in the case of books (especially reference books) that need to cover a subject comprehensively, the subject matter should dictate the length. That is, some subjects may take more than 75,000 words. But I'm biased, I write reference books. :)

04-16-2008, 08:34 PM
And remember: when you're writing non-fiction, count those endnotes in your initial wordcount! My contract specified that final MS was the be between 150,000 and 180,000 words, including endnotes. However, the final version of the book clocks in at about 158,000 -- about 450 pages, total.