Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Word Count

In October we posted a request for reader questions and got some great ones . . .

I wrote a dark urban fantasy novel, which was complete at about 65,000 words. It's the first in a series. I know that it's too short and that it should be at least 80,000, but it's 356 pages, and doesn't the publisher use a different word count than the one used in Microsoft Word? Or do I need to flesh it out more. I sent out 10 queries on 10/20/06 and received a request for a partial on 10/24/06 from a major agency, so I guess there are exceptions? I'm nervously awaiting the repsonses from the others. I wanted to query you guys, but was not sure you represent what I write. I think you guys are great and I love this blog!

When doing word count I would stick to the 250 words per page method. Microsoft Word can be weird since dialogue can be short and snappy and not take a lot of words, but because a three word sentence can equal an entire line in the book it can take a lot of space. That’s why publishers usually use the 250 words per page method: it’s more reliable in terms of how many pages a book would be (really their concern over words). If you use that method your book is really closer to 89,000 words and you are right on target.

As for BookEnds, we would not be the best place for an interest in dark urban fantasy unless it’s a romance first with dark urban fantasy elements. It’s a fine line, but it makes a big difference when it comes to who we would submit to. We have a number of contacts and a lot of experience in the romance world, but not the same type of expertise in fantasy.

It sounds like you are on the right path. Good luck!



Anonymous said...

Wow! This post came just at the right time since I was talking about this with my CP. I have a follow up question. What font should I use to make the word count of 250 words per page? Times New Roman or Courier?



Anonymous said...

I've found that my averages with Times New Roman is closer to 300 per page than 250, double spaced. I can't seem to really get close to the 250 average - don't know why - but you can check pages do a page in all Times New Roman and then highlight and see what your word count is and then do a page in all Courier and highlight and check your word count (my understanding is that courier is an exact spaced font - each letter is given the same amount of space whereas Times New Roman represents more of what the old typesetting fonts are (closer to a typewriter of days of yore) - just my thoughts on it and what I've been told by different folks) - hope this helps - E :)

Anonymous said...

Courier 12 point brings you the closest, I've found.

Oh boy, though...this means my 94k book is gonna be an awful lot longer when I go to query...*worries*

BookEnds, LLC said...

I wouldn't worry about the font. Do what you're comfortable with. It's all usually close enough and believe it or not, most of us aren't that picky.

Anonymous said...

For anyone interested in HOW to get 250 words per page: if you work in WORD, set your paragraph formattting to "Exactly" 25, double spaced. Use Courier New 12pt. font and one inch margins all around. You'll be surprised at how close to a 250 word count average you'll have. (You can get the same with Times New Roman, but expand the font)

Conduit said...

The BBC website has a nice little plugin thingy for MS Word that pre-formats a manuscript layout with 12pt Courier, double spaced, with 1 inch margins (as well as lots of other things like placing the author name, title, chapter heading and so on in the correct places), which should give the theoretical 250 words. It can be found at:

I've found it very useful.

The word count thing has been bothering me a little as definitive answers are hard to find, just as the best font for submissions seems to be controversial. Anyway, given this word count formula my paranormal thriller (currently undergoing rewrite #2) will work out at 99,000 words - hoorah!

Conduit said...

Blogger seems to have mangled the URL. This should get you there:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your advice. I'm the one that sent the question to you guys. Too bad you don't represent dark fantasy. There is no romance in my story. Well, a past love comes forward but I kill him off! :*)

Anyway, since I asked that question, that particular agency turned me down but a well-known published author friend of mine referred me to his agent and she asked me to add a prologue to make it longer. I told her that I wanted to add other elements to the book as well, which jacked up my Microsoft Word Count to about 81,000 words. If the publisher goes with the 250 word per page deal, then I'll have close to 110,000 words. Either way, I'm happy! If she passes as well, at least I will have my manuscript where I want it to be. I began writing it in September 2005. After revamping, polishing, editing, and beta readers, it's great. I'll keep you guys posted.

~Anon #5

Cole said...

Thanks so much for this clarification!!! I've been thinking of my paranormal ms as a 'long' 115,000 and have been attempting to find ways to cut. I was using the word count on microsoft though and my actual page count is 400 -- so your 250 per page really works wonders for me! Thanks!


Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Thanks for this post! After hearing some publishers were asking for actual word count, I wasn't sure which way to go as I finish up my mainstream novel. There is a big difference between the actual word count and the 250- words-per-page count. I am set up for the latter.