Short is Not a Virtue

As a ghostwriter and book coach, I have found that there is a recurring theme among businessfolk when it comes to writing books. “I want it to be short,” I hear over and over again. “Short and sweet. People are pressed for time. They don’t have time to read anything long and involved.”

Now, if you’re talking about direct mail, short and sweet is essential. If you are blogging, you don’t want to ramble on ad infinitum. And website content? Scannability is the name of the game.

But books? When people pick up a book, they want information. They want to learn something they didn’t know, discover an approach they can use, gain insight they can leverage. And that, my friends, may take some time.

If you try to be short for the sake of being short, you may run into the following pitfalls:

  • Skipping. You assume a knowledge base your readers don’t have, so you skip important topics entirely. The result? Reader confusion.
  • Rushing. You touch on all pertinent topics, but each one only gets a cursory treatment. The result? Reader frustration.
  • Skimming. You don’t have enough space or time to ever get deep into your topic, so you just skim along the surface. The result? Reader boredom.

The purpose of writing a book is to deliver value. That’s your primary goal, and one that should dictate everything else about the book, including tone, style, structure … and length.

Does that mean that books should never be short? Of course not! Short can work magnificently well – in the right place. Just remember: short is not a virtue. Short only works if it delivers true value.


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