So as many of you probably know, I’m working hard to finish up the first book of a young adult fantasy trilogy. -|
Well, the closer I get to the end the higher I soar on dreams of landing a big time agent, making a deal with randomhouse, and quitting my day job to spend the rest of my life writing books and screenplays. A girl can dream, right? Anyway, my point is that more and more of my time lately has been spent looking for agents, researching how to query, format, and otherwise perfect my manuscript, and here is a tip I found that really surprised me.
Word count is important – okay, we all know that. But did you know that publishers and editors DO NOT use the same word counting system that, say, Microsoft Word does? I sure didn’t. When I read Chuck Rothman’s article I flinched…what, am I expected to go through and count them myself!?
No, fortunately publishers aren’t quite that sadistic 🙂 But according to Mr. Rothman, there is a very different system used by people in the publishing business. Why? Well, people publishing articles, stories, or books don’t care as much about the number of words as how much space those words take up! Seems simple now that I think about it…why would a magazine publisher care how many words are in an article as long as it fits in its page-long spot, right? A story of dialogue might only be 75 words and still take up a full page. So, here’s the system:
Publishers define Six characters as word. Why did they choose six characters? No idea. Check out Chuck Rothman’s article on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s of America’s website if you want to read the full article, but here is the system that Rothman shares to quickly get the word count that actually interests your publisher or editor: (Quoted directly from the article linked above)
- Count the number of characters in an average, mid-paragraph line (BTW, this all assumes a monospaced font. If you’re using a proportional font, the number of characters can vary immensely, throwing off the numbers and word count).
- Divide by six. This is the number of words per line.
- Count the number of lines on a page. (This includes any # for blank lines.)
- Multiply #2 by #3 to get the number of words per page.
- Multiply by the number of full pages (plus any fractional pages), to get the total number of words.
- Round the number to the nearest hundred. Authors tend to round up; editors round down. This is the number you put on the front page of the manuscript.
Spaces apparently count as characters too! Look at this example Rothman shares:
"I'm pregnant," he said.
A computer would call this five words. A magazine editor would count it as 25.
Big difference! All those blank spaces after the short lines count as characters – they might as well, right? They take up the same amount of space!
So, to experiment, I just did this with my own manuscript. Now, my manuscript isn’t completely finished. It’s close…I’m expecting to add 10-15,000 more words (at least as microsoft counts them).
Still, at this very moment, microsoft word says my manuscript is 68,900 words. Kind of light for a fantasy book, but acceptable. When I went through this new word count process, I came up with 87,615 words! (Well, the first time I got 525,000, but I had forgotten to divide by six). Whoa!
And Mr. Rothman says it jumps his word count about 20% from what word says, so I guess that’s about right.
Now, remember, this is more crucial to magazine publishers than book publishers. No agent would turn you down or publisher scold you because your word count doesn’t agree with this system. But if you’re submitting to a magazine…that difference in word count could have a huge impact! Both in pay and whether your story or article will fit the word count range they are looking for!
What do you all think? Had anyone ever heard of this before? Those of you who have published with magazines before…have discrepancies in word count ever been an issue?