Monday, August 31, 2009

Word Count and Manuscript Format

New York publishers all expect a standard page format for manuscripts.  

Why is this important information for you to know before you start sending your book out?

If you start out in the "official" format, you will have a better idea of the book's word length.  

Word length in publishing is figured out by page, not by the exact number of words in your document.  

In "official" format, each page equals 250 words whether there is white space or not.  If you want your novel to be 100,000 words long, divide 100,000 by 250 to find out the number of pages needed.  If you've written 130 pages and want to know how many words you've written, mulitiple 130 by 250.

Here's how to format.

Font: Courier New in 12 point

Margins:  1 inch borders on all sides

Double spacing

25 lines per page excluding the header

Two spaces after each period

For the header, include your last name/MANUSCRIPT NAME at the left margin and the page number at the right margin. (Some publishers prefer this differently so check their guidelines before sending your manuscript.)

To indicate breaks between scenes, either double space twice, or double space, type three asterisks* * * or pound symbols # # # with spaces between them, center them, then another double space.

 If you use Word, don't type the three symbols fast because Word considers that instructions to do something weird to your formating.  

I prefer to use the three symbols because that makes it easier to tell scene breaks when the scene ends at the bottom or top of a page.

For each new chapter, drop down 4 inches, then type the chapter heading in caps-- CHAPTER TWO, center that, then double space to begin the text.

Some word processing programs make it pretty darn difficult to get the format perfect, particularly the 25 lines per page. If you have one of these programs, I use iPage which is one of them, it’s better to fiddle with the top and bottom margins and the line spacing so you have the 25 pages than to have the other format elements perfect.


Most epublishers want the literal word count, not the NY publisher formatted word count.  Sometimes, they'll tell you so on their site; sometimes, they won't.

Epublishers who don't have a print line tend not to be so hung up on word count because the word count doesn't matter as much.

Paper publishers, however, have to figure in the cost of paper as well as maintaining a certain size of book.  

These days, to cut expenses, most of the big paper publishers don't want a book over 100,000 words from an unpublished or midlist author.  


Sandra said...

Hi Marilynn,

I read a recent post at a writing site about the spacing between a period and the next word. This published author said publishers (paper, not "e") had started requesting a single space there in order to get more on the page.

I have switched over to the single space because of this. Have you run across this? Should I switch back?


Marilynn Byerly said...

Look at it this way, Sandra. If you use two spaces after each sentence, all you have to do to remove that extra space is use a universal find and replace. Or you'll run it through a text cleaner.

If you have to add a space, you'll have to do each sentence one at a time, or you'll end up with double spaces between each word.