Question: What are some important things to consider before I start writing my book?



Congratulations on having an idea for a book and preparing yourself to write an amazing manuscript! We know it can be tempting to dive right into your outline or even the narrative itself, but we encourage you to take a step back to do some research first. The book market is a competitive place where books can fall flat if they don’t meet reader and industry expectations.

If you want to write a great book that will stand out and sell, it’s important to understand whom you are writing for, how your book will be categorized, and if your book’s length and content will meet industry standards. The more you know about your target reader and reading level, genre and subgenres, and overall word count, the less time and money you’ll spend on editing and revisions. And, when you arm yourself with this knowledge upfront, you’ll also greatly increase your chances of producing a marketable book that readers will be eager to buy.

Know the reading level of your target reader

It's important for writers to understand age group classifications for books and the content expectations for those age groups, especially when writing for children or teens. A children's picture book, for example, is vastly different from a middle-grade chapter book. Each category of children's books has recommended page counts, word counts, language usage, subject matter, and more. The complexity of the material, how the book pairs up with what is studied in schools, the vocabulary, and the sentence structure all play a role in determining the reading level.

Here are the primary age group classifications for children’s books:

Picture Books – Ages 2 to 8. Illustrations are used to tell the story and these books often share life lessons related to emotional intelligence or concepts like counting.

Early Reader / Beginning Reader – Ages 5 to 9. These books are for children who are just learning to read by themselves and include short, uncomplicated story lines that are told with words and illustrations.

Chapter Books – Ages 7 to 9. These books have more content and more complex language than the children may have seen before. The stories are broken into short chapters to help the readers better comprehend the material.

Middle-Grade – Ages 8 to 12. The age of the main character falls into this group. The content and language continue to increase in complexity, and plot lines include sibling rivalry, fitting in with friends, and self-discovery.

Young Adult / Teen Books – Lower YA ages 12-18 and Upper YA ages 16-25. These are closer to a full-length book and contain emotionally and intellectually engaging content that is very relevant to these age groups. The content may be more graphic, especially with Upper YA, and can focus on topics like challenges with school or friends, relationships, deciding on a career or college plans, and exploring sexuality.

Writers must understand the age group classifications for children's books.

In addition to children’s age classifications, it's equally important for writers to understand what type of content will resonate with their target readers AND target buyers. Your target readers are those individuals that will most enjoy or appreciate your book. For children’s books, it’s important to consider the target buyers, which are the parents, family members, and teachers of the children.

Know your genre, subgenres, and reader expectations

At its most basic level, a genre is a way to group things with similar elements. In the book world, genres are divided even further into what’s called “subgenres”. Genre and subgenre categories play a very important role in a book’s discoverability when published. The genre and subgenres you or your publisher assign to your book will determine where it is placed in physical bookstores, online retailer catalogs, and in libraries. These categories are also how readers search for books on websites such as Amazon.

The more specific you can be with where your book fits in, the better chance you’ll have of reaching the right readers for your book. This can increase the amount of positive reviews for your book and ultimately, your chances of reaching bestseller status in one or more of the categories assigned to your book.

At the top level, books are categorized as either Fiction or Nonfiction. Fiction books are written from the writer’s imagination, but can also be inspired by true experiences. Nonfiction books are based on facts and real events only. Here are some examples of popular genres and subgenres of each:

Romance – Paranormal, Historical, Erotica
Mystery/Thriller – Psychological, Police Procedural, Legal, Cozy Mystery
Fantasy – Urban, Dark, Low or High
Science Fiction - Space Opera, Steampunk, Dystopian

The fiction category of books has many genres including romance, mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and more.

Creative Nonfiction – Memoir, Poetry, Biography             
Self-help - Health / Wellness, Career, Relationships
How-to – Home & Garden, Business, Travel                

The nonfiction book category includes genres like memoir, poetry, biography, self-help, and more.

Your book’s genre and subgenres also inform industry and reader content expectations. For example, if you’re writing a science fiction or fantasy book, are your story structure and world building up to par with books that are popular in these genres? Or, if you’re writing a nonfiction how-to, is it clear what problem is being addressed and solved in your book? All book genres contain certain elements they are known for and are the reason readers gravitate toward specific types of books. Don’t disappoint your readers by missing essential elements or components they are expecting when purchasing your book.

Understand industry word count recommendations for your reading level and genre

Industry word count ranges are not arbitrary numbers established to trample your creativity. They are guidelines that exist for very important reasons:

Agent and publisher expectations: Agents are less likely to take a risk on a first time author whose book is too long or too short. If you want to find an agent and publisher, stick to the word count standards.

Publishing costs: Long books cost more to produce—and more for the customer to purchase. Whether you are publishing traditionally or independently, you may price yourself out of the market with a lengthy tome.

Bookshelf appeal: Books that are too long or too short can look out of place on a bookstore shelf. Readers may overlook a book with a skinny spine, and may shy away from one that is extremely thick, especially if they're not familiar with the author.

Reader expectations: Readers invest their time and money in books, and they have expectations when they crack open a cover. They expect books to be a certain length, depending on the genre. If a book goes far beyond the standard word count, there had better be a good reason for those extra words. Likewise, if a story is short, it should have the same weight as a full-length novel.

Here is a sample list of word count recommendations by classification or genre:

Authors should look at books in their genre to see size, cover colors, length, and more.Children’s
Picture Books – 50 - 1,000 words
Early Reader / Beginning Reader – 200 - 1500 words
Chapter Books – 4,000 - 15,000 words
Middle-Grade – 20,000 - 40,000 words
Young Adult / Teen Books – 40,000 - 70,000 words

Romance – 80,000 - 100,000 words
Mystery/Thriller – 70,000 - 110,000 words
Historical – 80,000 - 120,000 words
Science Fiction & Fantasy – 90,000 - 125,000 words

Memoir – 80,000 - 100,000 words
Self-help & How-to – 40,000 - 50,000 words
Business / Professional – 50,000 - 80,000 words

Once you understand these important aspects of your book idea, you can begin defining the essential details of your story line including characters, plot, and theme, or your table of contents if writing standard nonfiction. We encourage you to check out the valuable resources in the “Writing” section of the Author Learning Center to ensure your book has all of the necessary elements to make it a great read, no matter the genre.

Photo credit: AerialPerspective Works via Getty Images


  • I am very happy that I was able to find it.

  • addition to the answer above.

    Writing a book can be a daunting task, but with proper planning and consideration, you can set yourself up for success. Here are some important things to consider before you start writing your book:

    1. Define your purpose: What is the purpose of your book? Are you writing to entertain, educate, inspire, or inform your readers? Knowing your purpose will help you stay focused and on track throughout the writing process.

    2. Identify your target audience: Who are you writing for? Understanding your target audience will help you tailor your writing style, tone, and content to their needs and interests.

    3. Develop your plot or outline: What is the main storyline or message of your book? Creating a plot or outline will help you organize your thoughts and ideas and ensure that your book has a clear structure and flow.

    4. Research your topic: If you're writing a non-fiction book, it's important to do thorough research to ensure that your information is accurate and up-to-date.

    5. Set realistic goals: Writing a book is a big undertaking, so it's important to set realistic goals for yourself. Determine how much time you can realistically devote to writing each day or week, and set a deadline for when you want to finish your book.

    By considering these factors before you start writing, you'll be better prepared to tackle the writing process and create a book that resonates with your readers.