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A Snarkling is running out of fingers and toes:

Should we use a computerized word count for our manuscript submissions or the 250 words per page calculation (Courier 12pt 1inch margins double spaced pages)? Thanks.

The 250 words/page estimate is a holdover from the days of typewriters. Now with the handy dandy word counter on your computer, use that. And you don't need to be so specific as to list 53,204 exactly.

Word count is a general idea. You can say 54K or around 54K and that conveys what we need to know at this stage.

This does NOT apply to children's early reader and picture books. Those requirements on word count are MUCH more strict.


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't your example of 54k words be a bit short? I've been told that 60k is about the minimum for adult fiction - with 70-80k being preferred... is this wrong?

JN said...

For goodness sakes, anonymous, the topic is not about book length, the topic is about how to calculate and state word count. 53,204 is just an example!!!!

Dave Kuzminski said...

Hmmm, let's not forget some books are novella or novelette length, so that number isn't at all unreasonable.

Tania said...

How long is the minimum for novels anyways?

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Miss Snark's advice is really good, unless the publisher guidelines are different.

I have actually submitted to a publisher that uses the 250 x (# of pages), as their word count.

harridan said...

Yeah, Bonnie.

Harlequin is one of those publishers who still uses the 250 words x pages doo da thing.

I think for HQ it actually goes:

1" Margins
Courier New 12
Set line spacing at exactly 25 lines (points) per page.
Every page, no matter if it only has one line of text on it, counts as 250 words.
House specific rules regarding how far down the page to start chapter headings.

But then again, if you have an agent starting the battle for you, I think the specific formating requirements will be ignored on first submission.

Rick said...

Does anyone know any rule of thumb for about how many printed book pages X thousand words comes out to? I know this has nothing to do with ms submission, and can vary widely depending on font and margins, but I'm curious as to how many pages my 135,000-word ms might be as a book.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Rick, I think it depends on how they setup the pages.

Sometimes, I've seen chapters start close to the top and then some start below center on a page. I've read books that I need a magnifying glass to see the little type.

Then there's books like the Left Behind series, where they really had small manuscripts, so to justify the $25 book price, the books had wide margins on all four sides and big type to take up pages.

Sonarbabe said...

It's so darn confusing trying to figure out what everyone wants. A noteable writer acquaintance of mine told me to go by 250 words x pages using Times New Roman 12 pt. That put my current ms that's out for consideation at 98,000 though the actual word count is 117,000+. Oy vey. Pass the gin.

Bernita said...

Another "authority" said that one should use the characters + spaces count in Word and divide by six.
It seems logical that agents would want a reasonably approximate figure but seldom an absolute one, as they might expect to suggest a few revisions which would alter the count in any event.

Stephen said...

Does anyone know any rule of thumb for about how many printed book pages X thousand words comes out to?

Plucking some books at random from my shelf: Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, published in the US by Tor, has 610 pages and according to Amazon it contains 191,000 words (3.2 pages per thousand words). Patrick Suskind's Perfume, published in the UK by Hamish Hamilton, has 186 pages and Amazon says it has 82,000 words (2.3 pages per thousand words). Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop, the Random House Modern Classic edition from the US, has 345 pages for 68,000 words (5 pages per thousand words).

So it is pretty variable, but 3 pages per thousand is probably a reasonable wet finger estimate unless you are writing something huge, or at the other extreme, poetry.

Harry Connolly said...

Sonar, Times New Roman doesn't give you 250 words a page. It's a proportional font.

Courier 12 (or Courier New 12 or Dark Courier 12) have ten characters per line inch. With one-inch margins all around, that gives you about 6.5 inches of text, or 65 characters a line.

An average "word" in typesetting novels, is 6.5 characters (which includes punctuation and spaces). That means each line takes up space for 10 words. At 25 lines a page, that comes to 250 words a page.

It's explained much better and more succinctly here.

The important thing is not the actual number of words, which the word count function of your word processor can do a reasonable job on. It's the amount of space on the page that your manuscript will take up.