In the traditional publishing world, 20,000 words isn’t considered a book-length story. Even if you are self-publishing, you may want to follow the tried-and-true guidelines for storytelling.
The traditional rule of thumb still pretty much applies to the length of an adult trade novel: between 80,000–120,000 words, or 320–480 pages. A typical page holds 250 words per page in 12 point Times New Roman, double spaced with one-inch margins.
Some novels can be shorter at 50,000 words or 200 pages. Anything over 480 pages may flag the work as needing to be edited; below 50,000 words can indicate the story has been rushed or not adequately fleshed out. A short book is called a novella. Historically, these standard lengths are based on the space required to develop an adequate story arc, reader expectations and—especially in the old days—upon the publisher’s printing and budgetary constraints. Digital publishing has made this third issue a little less important. Still, there is a per page cost of developing a digital book.
In the self-publishing world, you may not be as concerned over budget (though sometimes Amazon Kindle charges extra in certain markets based on the file size of the book). Audiences are conditioned to expect stories within the traditional range. So, book length may make a difference in whether a story is perceived to be well-developed or poorly put together.
Rules are made to be broken, however. If you are a new writer, it helps your publishing chances to stick to tried and true guidelines.
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