When you query a publisher, it's customary to include your novel's estimated word count. Assuming you use the standard conventions for manuscript format (1" margins, 25 double-spaced lines per page, and a 12 point non-proportional font like Courier), then a good rule of thumb is one page equals 250 words.
For the math-impaired, that means you multiply the number of manuscript pages times 250 to get your word count. To make it even easier, here's a chart:
200 pages = 50,000 words 360 pages = 90,000
240 pages = 60,000 400 pages = 100,000
280 pages = 70,000 440 pages = 110,000
320 pages = 80,000 480 pages = 120,00
Now, I know your word processor will give you the exact word count, but that's not what the publisher is looking for. According to my computer, my second book has 62,389 words. But if I calculate it using the formula, 272 manuscript pages times 250 words/page equals 68,000 words. That's a big difference.
Why the difference? Because short sentences/dialogue, chapter breaks, and scene breaks take up more space on the page, but use fewer words. For example, the sentence "Rick laughed." is only two words, but it occupies an entire line of text.
From the publisher's standpoint, it's more important to know how much space will be used in the printed book than to know the exact word count. S o by using this method of estimating word count, you can give the publisher what they really want.
(Copyright Ó 1996 by Pam McCutcheon)
Return to Writing Tips