Someone asked this question online recently, and before I could answer, a dozen other respondents chimed in. Not for the best. Here's what I advised the author:
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I can't believe the large number and the wide range of poor answers your simple question generated from commentators. First, you didn't say it was a book, you said it was an eBook. Anyone who hasn't yet figured out the difference shouldn't be answering questions. He (and in the case of a most notorious misinformation provider, she) should be asking them. An eBook, as anyone with half a brain knows, can run any length you want. It can have as many chapters as you want. It can sell for any price you want, assuming you're self-publishing it. It can be published in as many different digital formats and by as many different publishing aggregators as you want. The bottom line is that, if the subject matter has value to a reader, he'll buy it.
And, just for clarity's sake, you never called it a novel. You never referred to it as fiction, and you certainly never called it a book. You didn't ask if it qualified by industry definition as an adult book, a young adult book, or a novella. You asked how many chapters are in a 20,000-word eBook.
Wow, folks, get with the program. What's so difficult here? Read, consider, evaluate, formulate, and then respond to the question. But let's do so intelligently. A few respondents got it right (Way to go, Paul. Right on, Michele!), but far too many got it wrong. And that's genuinely scary. Misinformation is far worse than no information at all. Get it?
Oh, and for those commentators who insist on informing you about how many pages an "average" chapter runs, ignore them. They're clueless. "Average" has nothing to do with what you asked, and certainly no one would know what an "average" chapter totals without doing a study of book publishing since the invention of the Gutenberg Press back in the fifteenth century. And before.
And for those who set outside limits on the number of chapters a 20,000-word work can have (i.e., "up to 10 short chapters or no chapters at all or somewhere in between those two extremes"), really? Send me your documentation, please. I missed that in J-School and would like to set the record straight. The entire publishing industry will be grateful.
Also, just to clarify, articles don't run from 2,500 to 4,000 words. Many weigh in far outside those ridiculous and capricious parameters. Neither do short stories usually run 7,500-plus words. What unbelievable chutzpah from someone who hasn't a clue!
Again, chapters can be any length, and you can have as many of them as you want. If any. Period. End of answer, end of chapter. (Forgive me, father, for I couldn't resist.)
I hope this clears the rather foul mist hanging over the valley.
And you thought COVID-19 was bad!
Smoke if you've got 'em.
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D. J. Herda is author of the new eBook series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere.