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I am writing my first memoir about my life as a christian and how affected I was by it as an empath and how I came to desire leaving it. Is there a minimum length for memoirs?

I cannot estimate at his point how long it will turn out but I have a feeling it's going to be much less than 65000 words. Is that okay?

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For an unknown author wanting to be published by a publishing house, word count is essential.

There are countless websites where agents explain where the "sweet spot" lies for a certain genre. For memoirs, as White Eagle has already stated, it lies around 65,000 words.

Does a memoir have to have 65,000 words? No, of course not.

  1. The better your book is,
  2. the more famous you are, and
  3. the more books have previously sold,

the more you can deviate from the sweet spot.

The reason for this is twofold. The first aspect is price. Thicker and heavier books are more costly to produce, transport, and store and therefore have a higher cover price. But readers are more willing to buy a book from an unknown author, if its price is at the lower end of the price spectrum. Think of a product you are unsure about. If it's cheap, you may try it, but if it's expensive, you'll rather buy something you are sure won't disappoint you.

The other aspect is reader expectation. Certain kinds of stories usually take a certain "time" or word count to narrate. A book that appears too short looks like it won't satisfy, while a book that appears too long looks like it will bore you. You can check this yourself. If you think of a certain kind of novel, you will probably not only imagine a certain kind of story, but also how slim or hefty the book will feel in your hand. You don't expect a Young Adult contemporary novel to look and feel like a fantasy epic, and if it does, most readers will hesitate because they think the book won't deliver.

So do make sure your book falls within +/- 10% of the ideal length, if you can. If you cannot, see what your beta readers have to say.

  • Thank you for the detailed answer. I am actually concerned with a minimum length because I am worried it will turn out to be much less than 65000 words. Is it okay? – Yostina Apr 10 '18 at 14:52
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F1Krazy had a great point here relating to not being restricted to word count. If you are looking for something more numeric, this article recommends 65,000 on the low side and 90,000 on the high side. However, the article does mention that some people have short memoirs. Don't let word count kill your book. It only needs to be as long as needed.

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How long should a memoir be? The same length as any other piece of prose: exactly as long as it needs to be to tell the story you want to tell. No more, no less. Don't feel like you have to omit any important details to avoid your memoir being too long, and don't feel like you have to pad it out with unnecessary information to avoid it being too short.

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Don't judge your writing by some arbitrary word count. The only issue is whether the reader insists on reading all the way to the end. Leave out the parts that people skip.

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