One of the most frequent questions people making books ask is “How many pages should my book be?” The answer is, it depends on what kind of book you are making. You see, different books require different strategies when it comes to page count, word count, and other considerations that can affect those numbers such as paper type and materials in general. Let’s visit a range of books and see if we can’t come to a few conclusions.
Word Count for Novels
Let’s start with you writers out there. Instead of talking about page count, we can filter this through the concept of word count. There are exceptions to every rule, but a few common genres fall under the same guidelines for a book’s word count.
As a general rule, book genres like fiction, nonfiction, romance, mystery, suspense, horror, and even the thriller category, will fall into the 80,000 to 90,000 word count range. Is there wiggle room? Sure! However, keep in mind that wiggle room on the short end, i.e. in the 70,000 to 80,000 words range, might be viewed as being too short. Although it could also mean you did a solid editing job and the book is finely tuned for delivery. The same rules apply to the long end. If your book comes in with a higher than normal word count, something in the range of 90,000 to 100,000 words, it could be viewed as either too long and poorly edited. Or it could mean that your one book might actually be better as two books. (Who doesn’t love a series?)
But what about books with 110,000 or 120,000 words or more? In some cases, this means the book is simply too long and could actually cost too much to produce, although certain genres are given leeway in this regard. Science fiction books for example, as well as fantasy books and epics can easily reach the upper limits of suggested word counts. And with the rise in word count comes the parallel rise in page count.
In theory, the best thing to do is to concentrate on however many words or pages your book needs. That’s it. However, erring too far on the low end or the high end is going to reduce the chances of your book being considered. So the trick is to keep your book’s word count in mind without completely allowing it to impact or alter your narrative or story.
Page Count for Illustrated Books
Now let’s talk about the photographers, designers, illustrators, and artists out there—those who are interested in creating an illustrated book. Illustrated books, in many ways, are entirely different from “written” books, although many of them also contain written sections. Some of these passages are brief and come in the form of an essay, forward, preface, or dedication, while others have full body passages used in combination with the illustrations, oftentimes broken into chapters.
Historically, illustrated books have been much more expensive to produce, so things like page count become critical in keeping a book under budget. So how long should your illustrated book be? The best answer is a reflection of that for written books which is “just long enough to tell your story.” Editing your illustrated book is a critical part of the process. Editing ensures that you are only showing the most essential illustrations—those required to guide the reader through the narrative adventure you want them to take.
The length or page count of your illustrated book also depends on a variety of other factors including the physical form of the book itself. Material choices are critical as many illustrated books are viewed as art objects as much as books. Choices like cover type, paper type, the number of books you are printing, and customizations all combine to form an equation of book success or failure.
For example, you might desire a hardcover book, but you only have forty pages of illustrations. If you create this book it might feel like too much cover and not enough book. Opting for a softcover instead might not only allow for balance in how the book looks and feels, but also help you stay under budget. Another way to balance out the parts is to choose a suitable paper type. High-end, archival, fine-art papers tend to be thicker than standard papers, so even with a lower page count, you might actually get a thicker book that balances well with your subsequent material choices, while keeping your project under budget.
There are a few more things that need to be said. First, self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to do everything by yourself. If you are uncertain about something get a second opinion. And if you aren’t skilled in a particular area like editing or design then think about hiring someone who does possess those skills.
Finally, enjoy the process. Writing, photographing, or creating books can be a complex process. But putting a book out into the world can be a life-changing experience. Books have been tied to human DNA since the invention of the printing press, and this reality shows no signs of slowing down. Happy bookmakers tend to be productive bookmakers, so don’t forget to have fun, it just might be the most important part.
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