When I wrote hardcover textbooks on nursing malpractice, pain and suffering, medical records, and nursing home litigation, I asked my publisher this question: “What is the right length for the book?”
He said, “As long as it needs to be to cover the subject.”
My coeditors and I created large 2 volume books. They sold well to the attorney and legal nurse consulting market. But times have changed, and attention spans are shrinking.
The All-Important Word Count for the Right Length for Your LNC Book
Non-fiction books have decreased in length over the years. You can write as few as 25,000 words and call it a book. And yes, you CAN write an LNC book that will attract attorney clients.
Probably the average length of a how-to book runs up to 50,000 words. Experts’ estimates of how long individual chapters should be range from 2,500 to 5,000 words. Each chapter should be approximately the same length. Ten chapters of up to 5000 words easily make up a 50,000-word book, after accounting for the front and back matter.
If you find yourself with more material than will fit into a 50,000-word book, consider breaking the content into two books so that you can achieve the right length.
The most important element, though, is how many subjects you have. If you’re writing about medical malpractice, and you identify how many topics you want to include, make each topic a chapter.
This helps the reader not only in the first reading but in later finding topics they want to review.
Another advantage is that shorter chapters are easier to read and absorb. For the reader who picks up books before going to bed and promises himself to read one chapter, this format is very satisfying. A 2,500-word chapter (about 10 double-spaced typewritten pages) is a reasonable amount of reading. (Of course, some of us don’t stop at one chapter.)
Break Up the Text
For a book, I recommend 4-5 sentences per paragraph. Equally important is the length of these sentences. Don’t exceed 10 lines of text before starting a new paragraph.
Do you notice that when a sentence goes on and on, you lose its flow and drift away? You don’t want that to happen when someone reads your book. Generally, the average sentence is between 10 and 20 words long. Also, consider the length of the words. Ideally, read everything you write out loud. This is a good way to know if a sentence is too long.
Subheads are crucial in nonfiction. They break up the text and also help the reader identify important subtopics.
Use Numbered and Bulleted Lists
List present information in easy-to-scan formats. They are necessary if you’re giving instructions. You don’t want to write, “First, you do this, and next, you do that.” Use the simple numbered list. Bulleted lists are used more to highlight important facts in the text. They are sometimes in bold type.
Get an Idea of How Your Text Will Look in Printed Format
You may not know exactly how big your book will be yet, i.e., 6” x 9” or my preferred size of 5-1/2” x 8-1/2″ but you can set your left and right-hand margins in Word to 4-1/4” and have the approximate left and right margins for a book 6 inches wide.
Then look at it. Do you see big, dense blocks of type? Get to work. Create inviting pages with plenty of white space. Give your readers’ eyes a break, and they’ll keep reading.
Writing a book elevates your status in the LNC field. Your book shows your knowledge, and if you pick the topic well, will draw clients to you.
Whatever length you choose for your book, use the tips here to guide you. As long as you provide quality, accurate content and avoid filling it with ‘fluff’ or unnecessary information you can enjoy the title of ‘author’.
Let me guide you through the process of book writing. Check out the course I offer, “Get Your Book Finished.” See the details at this link.
Pat Iyer is president of The Pat Iyer Group, which develops resources to assist LNCs obtain more clients, make more money and achieve their business goals and dreams.
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