Generally speaking, traditional publishers expect completed nonfiction book manuscripts to be between 50,000 to 70,000 words. Most traditional publishers will place restrictions on an author and require that the manuscript not exceed a specified word count, unless special concessions are made.
If your manuscript is on the short side, make this clear when pitching to a publisher and give solid reasons why the book is under 50,000 words. There has been a trend in recent years for shorter books, though not all publishers have caught on. Be aware that the publisher might reject your proposal or tell you to call them back when you have a more substantial manuscript. Hooey!
The good news is that self-published authors have a lot more flexibility because you don’t have to worry about hitting quotas for word count. I advise authors to ignore word counts when writing. Just write a really great manuscript! If it ends up being too long, you can scale it back or offer readers bonus downloadable chapters. If it’s short, you can choose to publish it anyway or find ways to beef it up by adding case studies, photos, or interviews.
Remember, some readers actually prefer a shorter book. It’s less intimidating than a book that rivals an encyclopedia. If you pick up a title that is 400 pages or more, you might think twice before reading it.
Bottom line: There is no hard and fast rule for how long your manuscript should be when you self-publish. If you’re concerned about the final page count for your book, you should know that the average 6×9 trade paperback has between 250 to 275 words per page. So, if you write a 35,000-word manuscript, your formatted book will likely be around 140 pages.
Did you know we’ve hosted an annual Nonfiction Writers Conference since 2010? We deliver the traditional writers’ conference experience entirely online so participants from around the globe can attend. Join us for our next event!