Mar 16, 2018
Tell a writer or a self-publisher that your work is, or will be, ‘about two hundred pages’ and you’ll get a polite but exasperated response.
Writers and publishers think in thousands of words, not pages. This is because pages can be the size of a large broadsheet or as small as the tiniest notebook. Margins, typefaces, white space, pages devoted to ‘front matter’, indices and appendices are all variable. And then there are pictures…
We have to think in thousands of words.
Let’s say you want a book that’s 200 pages long. It’s very like a book you already own, so take that book and use it as your model. It has no illustrations, which makes life simpler. It has no index or appendix or preface (it’s probably fiction). Here’s what to do.
Pick a typical page. Choose a block of text and count the number of words in the first four lines. Divide by four. The result is the average number of words in each line. Let’s say it’s twelve. Count the number of lines on your typical page. We’ll say it’s thirty. 12 x 30 = 360.
So you may average 360 words to a page.
Now count the number of pages. Don’t bother with the ‘front matter’ – the pages containing the title and so on. Start at Chapter One; let’s say that’s on page 9. The book ends at page 190. OK, so that’s 181 pages of type, not all complete pages but – this is an estimate. Multiply the number of pages by the number of words on each page.
360 x 181 = 65,180.
Ta-rraaa! You have “about 65,000 words.”
WARNING! Every 190-page book doesn’t have 65,000 words. See the first few paragraphs of this article – you’ll find 190 tall narrow pages with illustrations and only 30,000 words, or 190 short squat pages with big print, big margins and 15,000. Always do the calculation.