But I heard the convention for word count is something like, 12-point font, new courier, double space, page count*250
And that algorithm adds 20,000 words to my already "too long" story.
Is that method truly industry standard? And, if so, what do you do about it?
I'd like to add: and why does that method of estimated words per page given font and type size even matter anymore now that computers have a word count feature built in that actually... you know... counts the words?
You'll probably get a more thorough answer. But, as I understand it, the calculated version gives the editor a better idea of how many pages a finished book will have and therefore printing costs, etc.
Not all agents want the calculated word count. My last rejection was from one who wanted the one from the word processor and said so in her submission guidelines.
Not unlike the submissions guidelines insisting on you (the writer) mailing in a manuscript printed on 20lb paper, only make sure you include your email address so they don't have to waste any paper when rejecting your story.
Why can't the word count be something simple like: "Just enough to get from the start of my story to the end?"
2) If you format properly, you should come out to an average of 10 words per line, 25 lines. This includes the spaces NOT taken up per line (although, to print the story, those "blank" words are also printed).
3) For the most part, using the industry standard shows your level of professionalism. Some publishers and agents accept the "wordcount" numbers. However, if they pay by the word (moslty in the case of short stories, novellettes and novellas) you are the one getting shorted for payment if you accept the wordcount approximation.
In conlusion, Zero, you're probably fine without the "white space" estimate if you want to go by MSWord wordcount.
[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited January 14, 2010).]
Why the word count at all? Seriously, even if a publisher likes a story and pursues it there will be changes in the word count through numerous edits and rewrites. Won't there? I don't see the word count important to the publisher until the story goes to print. It must be the rare author indeed whose work goes unchanged from submission to publication.
Who makes up "rules" such as "its too long for a first time novelist" anyway?
Will the slush reader not go past the heading and read any of the story if the word count he sees exceeds what he thinks is appropriate for an unknown author? If one leaves the word count out is that an automatic rejection? Will the rejected writer ever know?
Sometimes, I just don't think the industry has caught up with or wants to take advantage of technology. Electronic queries and submissions should be the norm today, not the rare exception. Courier New, 12pt, double spaced shouldn't be clung to either. No one pounds out typewritten pages anymore and no editor today runs through a manuscript inserting handwritten corrections and adjustments in red either. Do they? In fact, from what I've gathered, editors now e-mail writers with corrections once they've taken on the story. Even go so far as to then ask the writer for an MSWord .doc or .rtf file of the entire book so that they can work off that.
I know that I go back to Tolkien a lot when I post, but bear with me during this argument, please. Though, many today mistakenly refer to Tolkien's work as a trilogy, it was in fact six separate books, written over many years, in the vicinity of 1,000,000 words, and was submitted to Allan&Unwin all at once. Only then did the publisher decide to break it down into more marketable parts. My point, the word count didn't account for much then so why has that changed? Yes, I know that Tolkien was under contract since publishing "The Hobbit," but still.
Anything else...well, if someone wants to discuss the amount of words in my story while waving a check, I'll listen.
I just don't think the industry has caught up with or wants to take advantage of technology.
This is so, so true. While publishing is slowly working its way into more modern technology, it is not going to change its methods in any major ways unless there are noticeable benefits over costs. There's also a learning curve involved in publishing that is probably greater than what is necessary for writing, and that will slow things down as well.
As time passes, things will improve, but probably never as fast as we would like them to.
Publishers take a longer view than writers. Have to. Buying new gizmos every time some new gadget or application comes out to make life easier is costly. Computers anymore are not as obsolete on the day of purchase as they were not long ago. Cell phones are now obsolete before they make it onto the showroom floor. Once burned, twice shy. Deliberation on and justification of and settling on new technology acquisitions is a time and resource consuming process.
Electronic submission processes are only recently becoming a going concern. It would seem on the surface that submitting an attached document via e-mail is a no-brainer. Is is but for the malefactors generating malware: viruses, trojan horses, and spyware. More reason for caution. Many digests that accept electronic submissions require the content to be inline in the message. Messages with attachments are automatically deleted. In spite of security software, publishers still have reservations about accepting attachment e-mails. Once burned, twice shy.
In the past several years, Web submission applications have come into their own. There's a few that are seamless for submitters and recipients, but there's a learning curve and a cost curve involved. Not to mention overcoming resistance to screen reading or costs associated with printout. And that old wariness to things new that seem like the next best invention since sliced bread, that tomorrow is so old hat that buyer remorse burns the backside fosters a wait and see attitude. Once burned, twice shy. Might as well let the competition try it out first and closely watch them soar or fail.
More often, early adapters wind up ahead in the short run, but sometimes their impulsive need to get ahead leads to chaos and remorse because the next generation solves the bugs, has features that the original generation should have had, is more cross platform and application compatible, has less exclusively proprietary limitations, inordinately lower price, more user friendly. etc. Once burned, twice shy.
It's a large machine. Retooling in one discrete area has a ripple effect on the whole machine. An object at rest tends to stay at rest, barring sufficient motivation to set it in motion. Gaining momentum means ramping up to a whole approach and that takes time and planning and resources and patience. Meanwhile, technology marches on. Gadgets and gizmos that come out during the planning stage coomplicate and delay the process. The wisdom of wait and see is rewarded, but further delays the process.
I wonder how long it took to perfect humanity's mastery of fire, if it is or ever was. Who anymore can start a fire by rubbing two sticks together? Not very many.
[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited January 15, 2010).]
Maybe the e-readers will be what finally bring publishers into the modern age. The easier it is for someone to acquire something the more likely they are to acquire it. Download said book instantly or get dressed, drive to bookstore, fumble through shelf after shelf, find out said book isn't in stock, toss empty coffee cup into trash (some just leave them on shelves if they're ticked off enough), then go home.
I also think that this will be good for aspiring writers. With publishing costs reduced to "e-print" publishers may begin to risk accepting more mundane works, and not just the occasional jewel of an unknown or the regurgitation from an established author that passes through their in-box. Heck, they can finally turn those in-boxes into litter boxes.
The more a publisher has out there the more they bring in, I think, even if it only has a few buyers. I mean, Wal-Mart is number one in their business because someone will always buy something from them somewhere. Something to think about.
[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited January 16, 2010).]
If YA novel, I shoot for 40,000-70,000.
Just how long is The Lord of the Rings? That caught my eye today, and I went a-Googling to see if anybody had a precise count. Two had it at "over 300,000 words" and a page on Amazon put it at "470,000 words."
That same page ("Read the Ten Longest Novels Ever") put War and Peace at 560,000 words, Atlas Shrugged at 645,000 words, Mission Earth (of all things) at 1.3 million words, and In Search of Lost Time (probably better known to English readers as Remembrance of Things Past) at 3 million. The Lord of the Rings was mentioned, but didn't make the Top Ten.
According to Asimov's memoirs, Asimov's memoirs came in at 640,000 words, which was why they were published in two volumes. He compared them to The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, in one volume at 640,000 words---but his publisher wasn't willing to indulge him that far. Would've been a handy volume, though...