How Is Word Count Calculated? (Penny Rader)

Did I pick a fun topic or what?

While researching the market you want to write for, you’ve probably noticed that the publishers' guidelines include word count. What is word count, you ask? It's the maximum (and sometimes the minimum) number of words the publisher will accept for a specific line.

How do you know how many pages equal how many words? Easy. Each page equals 250 words. That’s 25 lines at 10 words per line (using 12 pt. Courier New). Even if you have short lines of dialogue, one page still equals 250 words. The first page of chapters that begin 1/3 to 1/2 of the way down the page? Yep. 250 words.

For example:

20 pages = 5000 words
100 pages = 25,000 words
200 pages = 50,000 words
240 pages = 60,000 words
280 pages = 70,000 words
300 pages = 75,000 words
320 pages = 80,000 words
360 pages = 90,000 words
400 pages = 100,000 words
500 pages = 125,000 words

For a chart broken down by Courier New and Times New Roman, check out this article on WARA’s website: http://www.warawriters.com/articles/manuscript_word_count.html

Wondering how you get 25 lines to a page? Check out Roxann’s article on templates: http://www.warawriters.com/template.html

Just for fun: Starla Kaye has a nifty link to Word Counter on her website, http://www.starlakayeromance.com/joomla/. It tells you the most frequently used words in a piece of writing. One of my favorite words seems to be “very.”

One thing to watch for: some of the e-publishers are using the computer word count, which in my experience, usually shows fewer words. For example, what is 100,000 words using the above method might be 79,932 words using your computer's word count. (If you’re using Word, you can find Word Count under Tools.) So, check those guidelines to see how the publisher counts the words.

What has your experience been with the Wonderful World of Word Count? Please chime in.

14 comments:

Roxann Delaney said...

Harlequin is now using computer word count too. About the same time they did this, they changed the word count for most of their lines, asking for "shorter books". For some time, authors were having problems writing shorter books. What's mind blowing is that nothing has really changed. While it appears that we're writing shorter, we aren't. Using computer word count, the books are actually the same length as they were when using the 250-words-per-page method.

But try convincing people of that. LOL It's really a mind trick.

Becky A said...

Thanks Miss Penny, this still confuses me. I have never been able to find on any of the publishers sites where they say which method they are using. So, do I assume it is your per page method or ask? Or would specifying on my query, computer or page count, be better? I'll check back in on Friday, I'm off to kiddie camp. LOL Becky

Reese Mobley said...

Word count was one of the first things I learned when I joined WARA. Wouldn't you know they're changing it all now? (grin) Thanks for an informative post and I'm going to check out the links you sent.
Thanks a bunch.

Roxann Delaney said...

For Becky when she's free of the kiddies...

I'll be blogging about where to find Publisher's Guidelines next week, but until then, I'll just say that some have them, some don't. Harlequin/Silhouette has them online, but with many of the bigger houses (Single Title, Women's Fiction, Mainstream), an agent is essential. I think most of the ebook houses have them, too.

Sometimes you just have to keep hunting. They seem to like to bury those links with the info. ::grin:: You can always call and ask, if you can't find the answer online or from a fellow author who writes for that house.

Roxann Delaney said...

Reese, I started using a tracking sheet I devised to keep track of pages and thus words per chapter...then they changed the rules. I adjusted and now track both that and computer word count on the same sheet so I can compare.

Word's tables or an Excel sheet are my saving grace. I'm too visual to survive without seeing it all laid out for me. Creating my own or revising someone else's works wonders for me.

For those who are interested, we'll focus on ORGANIZING TIPS & TRICKS in the near future. Everybody has 'em!

Penny Rader said...

Thanks, Rox. When I checked the Harlequin site I couldn't find any specifics re: how they want writers to count the words. Then again, I'm not familiar with their site. Is this something they tell the authors once they're signed, or did I miss it on the website?

Penny Rader said...

Hi Becky!

While researching this post, I checked quite a few publisher's sites, but most of them didn't give specifics on figuring the word count.

My publisher, The Wild Rose Press, has an article in their author resource area that gives some of the same info I gave, i.e., 1 page is 250 words.

Red Rose Publishing wants computer word count. (Thanks for that info, Starla!)

Unless you see a specific method in the publisher guidelines, I'd use the 1 page equals 250 words. Once you start submitting, I imagine your publisher will let you know if they want you to use a different method.

Penny Rader said...

Hi Reese! Everything changes, doesn't it. I used to have a really hard time dealing with change, but I've learned that resistance is pretty much futile. (grin) Now I try to roll with punches.

I just received a call from my sis. My dad's being taken to the hospital by ambulance, so I gotta scoot. I'll try to answer more questions later.

Roxann Delaney said...

Good question about Harlequin's guidelines, Penny. I would have sworn it was on there, but I can't find it either.

It could be that they figure most books will need editing, so changing the word count would be done at that time.

As I said, there really isn't all that much difference, it just appears that way. My take on it is that H/S was getting too many manuscripts from published authors that were going way over word count, so they decided to do it by computer word count. The stories are NO SHORTER than they ever were.

Joan Vincent said...

Penny,
Thanks for a concise, succinct blog on word count--and for the links too!

Since a full 250 words is given no matter if there are only a few lines on a page it's bound to equal out with computer word count.

Roxann Delaney said...

All that white space can make a difference, Joan, but I guess it must even out somewhere.

Penny Rader said...

Thanks for checking, Rox! I was worried that I wasn't looking in the right place.

Penny Rader said...

Thanks, Joan! I was surprised by how little I could really find about the subject. Though, I suppose I could've listed pages/words for the smaller word count stories, novellas, etc.

Penny Rader said...

Word's tables or an Excel sheet are my saving grace. I'm too visual to survive without seeing it all laid out for me. Creating my own or revising someone else's works wonders for me.

I'm looking forward to hearing more about this, Rox.