I once promoted a book by best-selling author (famous for The One-Minute Manager) Ken Blanchard. He told me: A book should never be too long. I write books that can be read in the course of a short plane ride.”
He said this to me more than 15 years ago, but he may have been on to something. His business parables have always been stingy on words, shorter than the books of his competitors. Sometimes, less is more.
According to Research Director Dimitrije Curic of www.wordsrated.com, who works for what it calls itself “a non-commercial organization dedicated to discovering insightful data about books, literature, and the publishing industry,” bestselling books are shrinking in size by big amounts.
“The average NYT bestseller was 52.5 pages shorter in 2021 compared to 2011,” read a wordsrated.com statement. That is a whopping difference.
Readers may not be getting shortchanged if writers and editors figure out how to say what is needed without missing information or hampering the pace and flow of the book. Publishers save bigly on printing and shipping costs and bookstores gain more shelf space to carry more titles or copies of books. Don’t worry, publishers will still charge as much or more for a book, regardless of its size.
Wordsrated.com studied all 3444 books that made the NYT best-seller list, both fiction and non-fiction, from 2011-2021. Their results show that the average bestselling book, regardless of genre, is now 386 pages — down sharply from 438 pages.
Interestingly, they also discovered that books longer than 400 pages were 29.5% less likely to become a NYT best-seller in 2021 vs. 2011. Those big books also spent 50 % less time on the best-seller list in 2021 compared to 2011.
Oddly, the size of best-sellers varies by the time of year. Books are longer in the winter; shorter in the spring. January (442 pages) and December (439 pages) feature the longest bestsellers, on average, and April (385) and May (387) feature the shortest books.
Though these results are interesting, they offer one snapshot. If we look at bestsellers on amazon or bn.com, we may see different results. Still, given that the NYT best-sellers shed over 50 pages in just a decade, accounting for a 12% cut, this may be a trend that will spread to all books and continue for years to come.
One would think with the era of digital books that the reverse trend would happen. With endless space, wouldn’t books get longer?
It turns out that the digital era has curtailed our ability to focus. We seemingly click and skim or even stop reading a thousand blogs, sites, emails, online articles, and e-books every day. With all of the free and low-priced content circulating, we seem to channel our inner ADD. Content is just seemingly not as valued as it once was, so, if something mildly fails to hold our interest, something quickly pops up as a substitute. We feel less invested in what we read.
Best-selling books are shrinking. So are readers’ attention spans. Welcome to a new era for the book world.
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Brian Feinblum, the founder of this award-winning blog, can be reached at [email protected] He is available to help authors promote their story, sell their book, and grow their brand. He has 30 years of experience in successfully helping thousands of authors in all genres.
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About Brian Feinblum
Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2022. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent. This blog, with over 4,000 posts over the past decade, was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by WinningWriters.com as a “best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and two jobs at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Susan RoAne, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America, and has spoken at ASJA, IBPA, Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. He has been featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. For more information, please consult: .