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Word and Page Count for your Novel

July 19, 2016

I found this on Quora and liked the slightly different slant he used. He made things clearer for me. ~ Connie

Foster Winans, Author, publisher, former contract advisor for writers, asked this question as the title of his article. Roughly how many pages would 50,000 words produce in a standard paperback novel format?

As a publisher who has laid out dozens of books for printing—a 50,000 word manuscript should end up somewhere between 180 and 220 pages. The typical book’s words-per-page count tends to range between 225 and 275—an average of 250.
I just laid out a 65,000-word book and it ended up, with a couple pages of photos and a few pages of appendix, at 268 pages (the pages in the main body of the text are numbered up to 237).
The count depends on how dense the content is, the font and spacing, any images or graphics that may appear in the text, if there is a lot of front- or back-matter (intros, forwards, indexes in the case of nonfiction).
A manuscript that has a lot of dialogue (or poetry or lyrics) will take more pages than one which has no dialogue and long paragraphs. Contemporary books (and poetry, of course) tend to be designed with more white space. Also, books are getting shorter and publishers will open up the text and margins a bit to add pages and give a slender book a little extra heft.
(Self-publishing authors and the services that lay out their books have a tendency to crowd the pages to reduce the cost of production. Bad idea.)
Alternatively, a very long book, like one I ghosted for Random House (The Man on Mao’s Right by Ji Chaozhu, 2008 at 125,000 words) without much dialogue, at 250 words per page would have yielded 500 pages. That’s too big for most people to imagine finishing, so a turnoff. It’s also more expensive to produce. Random House laid it out at about 325 words per page which yielded a book of about about 385 pages.
Finally, the relationship between page count and the physical weight or thickness of a book depends on the paper and can vary quite a bit. I have a 142-page book that weighs almost as much as the 385-page book mentioned above, but is about a third the thickness.
Probably way more than anyone wants to know, but maybe some of this will be helpful to a few.

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From → Writer's Craft

2 Comments
  1. Ugh, I thought I was crossing right along on my memoir at 23,000 words. I knew it wasn’t enough, but I naively thought I was halfway to 2/3rds completed. Spoke to a agent, he said shoot for 60-80k words. That’s alotta words.

    • Frustrating isn’t it? I don’t plan to ever write a memoir. I have enough trouble writing fiction! I wish the best for you.
      It might help if you talk to a friend or family member again. They might be able to give you an additional idea to use which would help to add words. Maybe something that happened in college or even when you were a youngster–something that made a huge impression on you. I had to bandage my older brother’s head when I was only 7 or 8 years old. That convinced me to become a nurse.

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