Writing nonfiction: the “length” secret
Here’s a simple answer.
Look at it this way. Before ebooks, to get a nonfiction book published, you needed to convince a publishing house to publish it. So, the length was pretty much determined by the publisher. If your book was too long, it cost too much; the publisher couldn’t recoup his investment. If it was too short, it was a booklet, rather than a book.
Those constraints have gone. Ebook retailers like Amazon don’t care how long or short your ebook is. As a rule of thumb, I like the ebooks which I write for myself or ghostwrite to be over 5,000 words. That said, I’ve recently completed a series for a client, and each of the ebooks was around 4,000 words. Each one covered the topic, and that’s the essence of publishing nonfiction today: when you’ve delivered on your promise, your work is done.
“What’s your point?”
When I’m coaching my students, students run into real problems when they don’t have a point to make. Whatever your topic, you need one problem, and one solution.
For example, let’s say you’re writing an ebook on home schooling. That’s a huge topic. You could write any number of ebooks. So, choose a single challenge that home schooling parents face, and solve it in your ebook. I can’t give you an example for this topic; my experience in it is precisely zero.
This brings me to another point: the ebooks you can write easily. When you’re writing Kindle ebooks for yourself, that is, when you’re indie publishing, you can choose whatever topic you like. You can research, and write. However, when it comes to ebooks you’re writing for others, make sure it’s a topic you know something about. Otherwise, the research takes forever, and your hourly rate for your writing (if you charge by the project, as you should), drops way down.
So, before you do anything else, once you’ve chosen your topic, ask yourself: “what’s my point?” and WRITE IT DOWN, in a sentence. If you don’t — trust me on this — you’ll forget.
Most of the challenges that writers face when they write nonfiction is that they never thought about the point they were trying to make. Their ebook wanders all over the landscape. They go off at tangents, and then they say: “I can’t finish my book!” They haven’t decided on point they want to make, so they have no finish line.
This kind of problem is easy enough to fix. I usually discover that the writer’s got two or three ebooks buried in what he’s writing. So, decide on the point you want to make, ideally before you start writing. Once you’ve made your point, your ebook, no matter how long or short it is, is done.
If Your Ebook’s Short, Make This a Sales Point
A couple of students worried because they got one-star reviews: the one-star buyers complained that their ebooks were too short.
Here’s the solution: make the brevity a benefit. “Everything you need to know to fix ______ (the problem) in eight pages!”
I’ve heard of just one case where Amazon said something about the shortness of the ebook. From memory, it was around 2,000 words. However, if you can cover what you’ve got to say in 1500 words, publish your ebook.
To repeat: one problem, and one soltion, and you’re done.
“But I Want to Write 100 Pages….”
When I talk about length, there’s always a student who wants to write a longer ebook. That’s fine. It’s your ebook. If you want to cover a topic in 100 or even 200 pages, go for it. However, consider this. Might your readers be more happy if you covered the topic in a series of ebooks? You’d make more money too, if you wrote a series, and then sold the series as a bundle, in addition to selling individual ebooks.
When you’re writing nonfiction — and writing fiction too — the length of an ebook is a non-issue, as long as you satisfy your buyers. Happy writing. 🙂
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