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Writing Books/word count question


Hi Liz,

I am presently writing a non-fiction book proposal.  According to the guides I have read, the length of a non-fiction book is normally 70,000-80,000 words.  Is that right?  

I have written an intro and 2 sample chapters and came up with only about 8,500 words.  I plan to have 10 chapters.  What do you advise?  Do all chapters have to be appoximately the same length? Do I need to increase each chapter to about 7,000-8,000 words?  Many of the books I see in the bookstore do not seem to be that long.

Help!  Thanks so much!!

Dear Sara:

Nonfiction can range quite a bit in word length.  The 70,000-80,000 is a good average.  But, if you've got 8,500 words in the intro and 2 chapters, I'm guessing you're at 4,000 words per chapter.  Another eight chapters will give you a grand total of 40,000 words.

I can't recommend that you just pad the chapters to make them longer.  If you can add more appropriate information that's best.  You should be looking for a list of publishers you'd like to pitch the book to.  When you check their guidelines, they'll let you know if they'll take shorter books.

Before worrying about word length, you're better off making sure that what you write is what you want to write and that you are passionate about the topic.  That's really the best route to a publishing contract.

Good luck!

Liz Aleshire

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Liz Aleshire


What is a book proposal and why do I need one? Do I need a book proposal for both nonfiction and fiction books? How do I write a book proposal? What are the required components of a book proposal? What is an overview? What is a synopsis? How do I find out what other books are available on my topic so I can make my book different? How do I pitch to an agent/publisher? What's a query letter? What's a 30-second commercial?


I am the author of four nonfiction books: Private Lives of Ministers' Wives (with Rev. Sherry Taylor,New Horizon Press, New Jersey, 1991)and currently working on a second edition; Bugs: Stingers, Suckers, Sweeties, Swingers (a FRanklin Watts Frist Book, Chicago, 1993); The Confident Collector Identification and Price Guid to Quilts (with Kathleen Barach, Avon Books, NY, 1992); and, Official Price Guide to Quilts 2nd edition(with Kathleen Barach, Random House, NY, 2003.) I've taught How to Write the Book Proposal for the past ten years at the week long International Women's Writing Guild annual summer conference, and, at the Manchester Community College Continuing Education program. I've taught in many local continuing education programs in central Connecticut. Five authors have sold books using my methods for writing the book proposal. I have spoken at the Big Apple Conference, an IWWG event held in NYC; both Connecticut chapters of the Romance Writer's of America other writing conferences

Internation Women's Writing Guild, past associate member American Society of Journalists and Authors

Books for New Horizon Press. NJ; Franklin Watts (Now Scolastic)Danbury, CT; Avon Books, NYC; and, Random House, NYC

B.A in Economics from the University of Connecticut

Past/Present clients
Carren Strock, author Married Women Who Love Women; Doris Larson, travel writer, Ohio; MaryLou Streznewsi author Gifted Grownups.

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