Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Word Count

Is meaningless.

Word count was initially created as a standard to make it easier to assess the printing cost for a manuscript. Divisible by four, printers print four pages at once. 64K was the standard word count for any manuscript in any genre, and for many, it's still the standard. Agents or publishers could see the word count, already know the printing cost then quickly move on to answering the question of, is this manuscript worth the printing cost?

When submitting to an agent, traditional publisher, or independent press, it's all about business. That's their job. Your work as an author is to write a manuscript that's worth the printing cost, not just word count, but also a marketable story. However, it's impossible to be objective when you are the one that created this baby. Let the business people do their job, and just be an author. In fact, there's no need to worry about any technical details such as word count. Always go by what the agent/publisher ask for. If it's not clear, then be responsible for your writing and ask a lot of questions. Establish working relationships.

Of course, online publishing has clouded the issue of word count. In many ways, online publishing is a risky business that hasn't been established yet. Time is the biggest factor. Is this manuscript worth the amount of time it would take to edit and create an ebook? When time is the biggest consideration and printing costs isn't, the rules change. But either way, a huge word count will never increase your chance of publication and more often than not, decrease your chance of acceptance.

A happy balance, with either printed books or ebooks is 64k – 70k words. If you have that much, you have a healthy start.

However, the most dependent factor of all is the story itself. Some stories need a high word count, some don't. When going by word count only, the chance of cheating the story is pretty high. Believe in the story above all else. If the word count ends up being 150k, and that means working a bit harder at getting one Yes from an agent or publisher, than that's the way it is.

If you believe in your story 100%, you will do the work that's needed, regardless of word count.


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