How long should an interactive adventure book be?

Ask most fans how many sections a gamebook should have, and the go-to answer will be 400. Fighting Fantasy set that as the standard, and it’s sort of stuck. But it’s by no means universal; Choose Your Own Adventure books are typically much shorter than that, and there are several examples of gamebooks that are much longer.

Of course, there’s no right answer when it comes to story length. When browsing for a new book I’m often enticed by a high word count, particularly in a sci-fi or fantasy genre as they need deeper world-building, but the story about the man getting hurt when walking into an iron bar would lose its impact were it any longer.

The Altimer is 300 sections long, perhaps perceived to be a little short for a full-on adventure, although I’d argue that:

  • I sometimes find 400-section adventures to drag on to fill out the space, and as an author I’d rather leave the reader wanting more than cause them to stop reading halfway through
  • there’s storytelling in there that’s a step above the stereotypical “you’re in a dungeon, do you turn left or right” choices, meaning the overall length is probably similar
  • there are plenty of chances for the story to continue, enabling an overall story that will have significantly more than the standard 400

On that final point (and to entirely undo my argument), the sequel is set to be a satisfying 400 sections in any case.