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fancie
03-30-2009, 01:12 AM
I have been going by Word's word count when I judged the length of my book. But I came across this on an agent's website yesterday and wanted your input.


Now, how do you arrive at those word counts? Your computer lies—you cannot trust its word counting ability. It can’t even read. So, here is the quick and dirty method agents and publishers use.
Assuming your manuscript is in proper format and typed

Single side of the page
1 inch margins, top, bottom and sides
Double spaced
12 pt New Times Roman typeface
Indent paragraphs 5 spaces, (No extra lines between paragraphs)THEN your typed page will contain 250 words. If you have a manuscript 300 pages long, then the word count will be 75,000.

So put it in proper format, count the number of pages and multiply by 250 to get the number of words.


Okay. So I indented, removed the space between paragraphs and made sure my margins were set at 1 inch all around. That gave me 289 pages. My computer says my count is 81,097 words. Correct me if my math is off, but according to the method above I have 72,250. That seems like quite a difference. I randomly picks a few pages and counted (yes...with my own little brain) the words. One had 318 words on it, another had 287 and the other 326. Maybe they don't count the smaller words like I, a, to, an?

Scribhneoir
03-30-2009, 01:30 AM
Here's an explanation of the two methods from CathyC's excellent FAQ on manuscript formatting (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=26126):

Word Count -

Word Processor method
Definition: Most word processors have the ability to tell the author how many words have been written. In WordPerfect, you can find this by selecting File > Properties > Information. In Word, it can be found in File > Properties > Statistics.
Use in industry: The word processor word count is slowly becoming the norm in the publishing industry. However, because the word processor counts every single word, from "a" to "publishing" as one word, it’s difficult for a publisher to use it to determine page count after printing. For this, a publisher often relies on the 250/page method below. Many agencies/publishers still request that an author provide the word count using the other method.

250 words per page/"White Space" method
Definition: In the origins of publishing, before computers, authors typed their manuscripts on typewriters. There were only two methods available to determine how many words were in a manuscript. Either a person at the publisher would have to manually count every single word on every page, or they would "estimate" the count using the "white space" method. "White space" is that part of a book page with no text – usually appearing at the end of a short line of dialogue, or the end of the last sentence of a paragraph. Since the number of dialogue lines depended greatly on the type of book, publishers discovered that if an author used a fixed font, such as Courier, and typed exactly 25 lines of text on a page, the AVERAGE number of words would be 250 per page. By requiring authors to submit the books in this manner, they would know that a 400 page manuscript would be very close to 100,000 words.
Use in industry: There are still a few select publishers that request that manuscripts be formatted for 250 words per page. However, many still use this method of counting because it is a very accurate method to determine how many PRINTED pages will be in the book. It’s a good idea for beginning authors to know the size of their manuscript by both methods until the whole industry changes to the word processor method of word count.

Matera the Mad
03-30-2009, 01:32 AM
Don't believe everything you find on the Interwho. The count only comes out "right" with Courier New. Times New Roman is a condensed, variable space font -- skinny letters and fat letters take up different amounts of space. Courier is monospaced -- meaning the same amount of space is given to every letter and punctuation mark no matter what. The total word count is the same no matter what font you use. Spacing and font change the page count in a Word document.

fancie
03-30-2009, 01:53 AM
Thanks for the info guys. I ran across similar formats but was never told that my computer "lied". lol So, I had to check and see.

Okay, so I changed my font to Courier New. Now I have 385 pages. That leaves me with 96,250 words, but is still quite off from Word's count.

FennelGiraffe
03-30-2009, 02:31 AM
Okay, so I changed my font to Courier New. Now I have 385 pages. That leaves me with 96,250 words, which falls closer to what Scribehneoir's post said, but is still quite off from Word's count.

MS Word (or other WP) counts actual words. Various WPs differ slightly in how they handle a few special cases, but the overall difference is too small to matter.

The Courier 250 words/page method counts nominal words, which is more about the amount of space needed than an actual word count. (It's also a holdover from the days of typewritten manuscripts, when it was the best estimate available.)

The two methods of counting are always going to differ. The more short lines you have (from dialog and other paragraph breaks) and the more short pages you have (from chapter breaks), the greater the difference will be.

maestrowork
03-30-2009, 04:58 AM
The 250-word-page method is just a rough estimate -- for the seasoned editor to know the approximate word count by a quick glance. It's never meant to be an accurate science. The way a page is formatted that way (with a non-proportional font like Courier), we know how many letters can fit on each line, and there are 25 lines per page.

The number of words are generally calculated by using the character count: total#/(6+1). The problem is, a page is usually not filled from margin to margin with characters. There are a lot of white spaces. If your ms. is dialogue-heavy, you will notice even more white spaces than actual words.

Like Fennel said, Word counts the actual words (actually, it counts characters and then use a formula to calculate the approx. word count). Even Word is not accurate, but it's more accurate than the 250-word-page method.

But the 250-word-page method is a really good "at a glance" guidepost for editors. And they're really more interested in the page count than the actual word count. Word's word count doesn't really tell them much, but 500 pages of formatted ms. would give the editor very good idea of how long to book is.

Julie Worth
03-30-2009, 05:07 AM
This agent isn't the best informed. He’s wrong about the TNR. And he should also tell you to make sure that you have 25 lines/page (reduce your double spacing to 1.9 lines, if necessary), and to turn off widow/orphan and keep with next. Even doing all that, you should still expect this word count to be higher than the computer count. Almost everyone goes by computer count these days, so it's a silly exercise.

BTW, you should also round off your word count to the nearest thousand.

benbradley
03-30-2009, 05:17 AM
...
BTW, you should also round off your word count to the nearest thousand.
Even my 501-word flash fiction stories? ;)

Julie Worth
03-30-2009, 05:30 AM
Even my 501-word flash fiction stories? ;)

Haha. The real problem are those 499 word stories!

(But no, rounding off is only for novels.)

rugcat
03-30-2009, 05:39 AM
Just for fun, here's another fact.

I write using WordPerfect. If I click on file>properties>information, it gives me a word count. If i click on Tools >Grammatik>Analysis>Word Count, i get a count that is about 2% more for any document -- about 2000 words in a 100 K file.

If i convert to Word, and hit Tool>Word Count I get a different count from either, closer to the first, but not identical.

As far as printing up ms pages and estimating, most publishers are going to an all electronic format, both for editing and for providing a file to production so they can estimate book pages. Eventually, hard copy will be a thing of the past, I believe.

Leaf
03-30-2009, 06:47 AM
Eventually, hard copy will be a thing of the past, I believe.

They said the same thing about cinema when the TV was invented.

I usually just trust OpenOffice. If its off by a few words then its off by a few words. My pet peeve is definite word restrictions. Can't we just give a round about estimate of where to end?

maestrowork
03-30-2009, 06:51 AM
People still prefer to read on paper, especially the full mss. I have yet to know someone who prefers to read the whole thing on the computer screen.

So, yeah, either they'd print it out or require a hard copy, paper is here to stay, and you should try to format your ms. as clean as possible for reading on paper...

Phoebe H
03-30-2009, 07:05 AM
People still prefer to read on paper, especially the full mss. I have yet to know someone who prefers to read the whole thing on the computer screen.

I was told yesterday that editors were reading a lot of their manuscripts on Kindles these days, mostly to save themselves from having to haul around so much paper. Not that paper isn't better, but that the Kindle screens were getting to be good enough that the portability more than made up for the quality difference.

rugcat
03-30-2009, 07:18 AM
People still prefer to read on paper, especially the full mss. I have yet to know someone who prefers to read the whole thing on the computer screen.

So, yeah, either they'd print it out or require a hard copy, paper is here to stay, and you should try to format your ms. as clean as possible for reading on paper...Ace is going to all electronic editing. I'll being doing copyedits on the computer for the upcoming book. I never submitted a paper copy of the ms.

I hate it -- I'd much rather have a paper copy to work on, but efiles are cheaper and that really is becoming the standard.

fancie
03-30-2009, 09:44 AM
The number of words are generally calculated by using the character count: total#/(6+1). The problem is, a page is usually not filled from margin to margin with characters. There are a lot of white spaces. If your ms. is dialogue-heavy, you will notice even more white spaces than actual words.

Like Fennel said, Word counts the actual words (actually, it counts characters and then use a formula to calculate the approx. word count). Even Word is not accurate, but it's more accurate than the 250-word-page method.

But the 250-word-page method is a really good "at a glance" guidepost for editors. And they're really more interested in the page count than the actual word count. Word's word count doesn't really tell them much, but 500 pages of formatted ms. would give the editor very good idea of how long to book is.


So I should keep to my Courier font then...

This is great! Thanks for all the input! :)

C.M.C.
03-30-2009, 07:55 PM
Ace is going to all electronic editing. I'll being doing copyedits on the computer for the upcoming book. I never submitted a paper copy of the ms.

The first time my book was actually put on paper was when it showed up at my doorstep. I think doing everything electronically is far easier, so I like the way things seem to be trending.

Julie Worth
03-30-2009, 08:05 PM
I was told yesterday that editors were reading a lot of their manuscripts on Kindles these days, mostly to save themselves from having to haul around so much paper. Not that paper isn't better, but that the Kindle screens were getting to be good enough that the portability more than made up for the quality difference.

That makes sense. You can carry every book you've ever read on one of those. But using it, how does an editor edit?

maestrowork
03-31-2009, 01:41 AM
Some editors I know do work on electronic files... but only a few pages at a time. They don't like to do the whole thing on the computer, and they also prefer to print it out on paper and make them with pencils (then later put the edits back into the file).