I am interested in writing a book on a particular class of natural products. It would discuss the products' isolation and biological functions - these are the two chapters that I can fit into the book.

So my proposed book would only have 2 chapters, which may run to about 75-100 pages each. This intuitively seems like a very low number of chapters for a book, even though that's simply the number of topics I want to cover.

Are tech books with so few chapters publishable? Is this something seen frequently?

  • Anil, I've rewritten this according to your clarifications. Hope I understood everything correctly! I'm reopening. By the way - is this a work of technical writing, or is it academic/scientific writing?
    – Standback
    Mar 7 '12 at 5:30
  • Its a scientific / academic writing. Not a tech writing. Let me try to re-edit the tag. Else you can do that
    – Anil
    Mar 7 '12 at 5:50
  • I am a technical report writer, a completely different animal from what u intend to write. as I see it,(writers correct me if I'm wrong!) be precise,"who,why,where,when and how.my thoughts are most people who read the type of format you intend to write want answers without WADING through two thousand words.get your point across to them,be it 100 pages or 500 pages good luck, Richard.
    – user3383
    Mar 8 '12 at 22:23

With the disclaimer that I'm neither a tech writer or tech editor:

Scientific and academic books are generally organized by function. Unlike a narrative book where the chapters are broken down by feel or by narrative rhythm, a scientific or academic book has a certain amount of material to cover, and it makes logical sense to divide the book according to those functional guidelines. In this case you have two functional areas: Isolation of natural products, and biological function of natural products.

However, I understand your hesitation. Having only two chapters does feel a little strange.

Will those two chapters subdivide in any way? Is there any structure within these two chapters? If so, perhaps you can divide the book into two parts instead, and subdivide the parts into chapters. Just take care not to have insanely short "chapters" or you risk making the book seem fragmented.

I'd also check MLA or APA (or whatever style guide you're using) for advice about chapterization. I know that the Chicago Manual of Style addresses these issues, perhaps these academically-oriented style manuals do as well.

  • Any tech writers/editors, please do correct this if I'm wrong! Mar 7 '12 at 6:32
  • 2
    +1 from this tech writer. 75 or 100 pages feels really long for a chapter (even if a lot of the space is taken up by screen shots or code samples, which I don't think applies in this case). Two parts, with chapters in each, feels more natural. (In fact, a book I was just working with yesterday fits that profile -- ~200 pages, two parts, 11 chapters between them.) Mar 7 '12 at 14:05
  • May I ask why this is CW? (And please do not say to make it easier editable to others.) Mar 7 '12 at 20:27
  • @JohnSmithers - I made it CW because I'm not completely certain of the answer, as I indicated. I'm confident in my editorial skills, but not for this type of book. (If there were other answers here, I wouldn't have left this answer.) This whole site is a wiki to users with enough rep, but making an answer CW is an invitation for anyone to edit it. This is a case of a user CWing their own answer, but if you think I'm sending the wrong signal here, perhaps this was incorrect of me. Let's talk in chat about this? Mar 8 '12 at 4:21
  • I'm never completely certain. That's the fun of it. Trust your gut. Let downvotes and new answers take care of it if you are wrong or not. This looks like CW shielding and the "one correct answer" does not exist anyway. You can start a chat, but it will take some time for my replies, because I'm busy this week. Mar 8 '12 at 23:16

I'd say any number of chapters more than one is "legal", but two is an awfully small number. If I was in this situation, my inclination would be to break the book into "Part 1" and "Part 2" and then divide each of these parts into multiple chapters.


I don't think there are any hard and fast rules on how many chapters a book should or shouldn't have. If you feel the book you want to write naturally and logically falls into two chapters, go with it.

However, and this seems to be a recurring theme on this particular Stack Exchange, you may want to approach this from a completely different direction. Have you thought about how your likely 'target market audience' may want to see the book structured for maximum and ease of information retrieval? Would they see a two chapter book as being a logical and natural way to read about your subject matter?

Sometimes you have to look at things from an alternative perspective in order to work out the correct route forwards.

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