Calculating & Reporting Word Count

Submission protocol, query etiquette, and strategies that work
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alienbogey
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Calculating & Reporting Word Count

Post by alienbogey » December 2nd, 2010, 3:20 pm

In typical writerly fashion I am angsting over many facets of my soon-to-be-queried masterpiece, but the Number One Item on my Worry List is how to calculate and then report word count in my (soon to be) brilliantly crafted query letter. Factoids extracted from unimpeachable WWW sources:

• Word counts were/are traditionally estimated by a manuscript rendered in Courier or Times, 12 point, double spaced, 1" margins all around, then pages counted, 250/words to the page assumed, abacus employed, and the resulting word count number reported.

• Along came word processors which actually count each measly, average, and stupendous word. (Have fun by watching your word count change unit by unit as you compose! As you edit! As you wipe out entire chapters because they suck!)

• Word counts by the Page Count Estimation Method are still routinely used by The Powers That Be either because they're old, crusty and stuck in their ways (they wouldn't be TPTB if they weren't), or because the PCEM has value in that what ultimately matters in publication cost is page count, not word count. Younger, hipper, or more ignorant apprentices to TPTB may prefer Actual Word Count.

• Supplicants tremblingly submitting queries may report Actual Word Counts that are significantly different from Page Count Estimation Method and vice versa.

Still with me?

As you might have already guessed, none of this would be rocking my boat if I had a nice, round, middle-of-the-bell-curve 80K-100K prospective debut novel, but of course my creation's word count is bursting from the upper edge of the envelope. The statistics:

• Actual word count as reported by Pages (Apple's word processor): 169,913 (corrected typo in original post)

• Word count estimate when formatted in Courier, 12 pt, etc: 193,000

• Word count estimate when formatted in Times, 12 pt, etc: 139,000

Yes, I've checked and double checked every parameter and can't figure out why there are such big discrepancies.

Questions:

1. I'd love to report the 139,000 word count using Times, but I don't want to misrepresent the work.

2. I'd hate to report the 193,000 word count using Courier, but I don't want to misrepresent the work.

3. I suppose I can report the actual 169,913 word count, but would THAT be misrepresenting the work?

4. Finally, I could use phraseology in the query along the lines of "....a 169,913 word (by actual count) work of historical fiction...." , but that seems a trifle clumsy.


Aside: I can feel the coming of "Dude, you need to edit that word count down" comments, and in the first place yes, I know, and in the second place the first draft was 220,000, the third around 190,000, and this, the seventh, has finally broken the 170K barrier. I don't think it will ever get below 160K.
Last edited by alienbogey on December 4th, 2010, 10:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

Margo
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Re: Calculating & Reporting Word Count

Post by Margo » December 2nd, 2010, 3:27 pm

alienbogey wrote:...how to calculate and then report word count...
As you point out, there are too many ways to report it. Every agent, editor and published author I've asked or heard or read about the subject has said just use the count from MS Word - or Apple Pages in your case...whatever word processing program you use. In fact, I'm pretty sure there's a post around here somewhere with Nathan saying that.
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alienbogey
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Re: Calculating & Reporting Word Count

Post by alienbogey » December 2nd, 2010, 4:04 pm

Thanks, Margo, I'm probably over-thinking it.

(OBTW, I did search before posting, and just searched again on the topic)

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Re: Calculating & Reporting Word Count

Post by Margo » December 2nd, 2010, 5:29 pm

alienbogey wrote:(OBTW, I did search before posting, and just searched again on the topic)
Oh, I didn't think you were being lazy. Sometimes it's hard to get things to come up in a search. I'm not sure why.
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Re: Calculating & Reporting Word Count

Post by HillaryJ » December 2nd, 2010, 8:54 pm

Yep, just use the word count function on your application and go with whatever it reports.
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J. T. SHEA
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Re: Calculating & Reporting Word Count

Post by J. T. SHEA » December 2nd, 2010, 11:22 pm

Round it off, Alienbogey. 170,000 words.

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Re: Calculating & Reporting Word Count

Post by Margo » December 3rd, 2010, 10:32 am

J. T. SHEA wrote:Round it off, Alienbogey. 170,000 words.
Actually, it would be rounded to the nearest thousand: 167,000. The length is going to be enough of a problem without the extra 3000 nonexistent words in there.
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Re: Calculating & Reporting Word Count

Post by J. T. SHEA » December 4th, 2010, 2:29 am

I did round it off to the nearest thousand, Margo. 169,913 to 170,000, using the figure Alienbogey lists in Questions 3 and 4. You're using Alienbogey's earlier figure of 166,913. Presumably, one or other is a typo.

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Re: Calculating & Reporting Word Count

Post by alienbogey » December 4th, 2010, 10:22 am

The correct figure (unfortunately) is 169,913; my bad on the typo.

Thanks for the replies, folks.

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