Size Matters

I was recently tagged in a Facebook post from a friend of a friend. This lady was over the moon excited that she’d finally finished writing her book, and I was tagged because she was looking for someone who had connections to editors and traditional publishers. In her post, she wrote, “I’ve finally completed my book and I don’t know what my next steps are. It is 246 pages and 168,000 words. I assume I’ll need an editor, right? Am I connected to anyone in the book industry that can help me?”

I had no option but to eloquently and diplomatically explain to this potential author, who had put in so much time and toil, that her book was not 246 pages, in fact, it was at best 560 pages, and that no traditional publisher I knew would touch a first time author with a book that big.

How Big is Your Book?

The length of your book is very important to know, especially as a first-time author. It is also very difficult for writers to have any idea of how long their book should be.  A big mistake that new writers make is to look at how many pages they typed in their Word document using Calibri size 11 font single-spaced and assume that’s how many pages will be in their book. But none of the books we read are printed in 8.5 by 11 inches.

How you calculate the number of pages you’ve written is to do the math from the word count. Depending on the amount of whitespace in your text (if you use bullet points and graphs) and the size of your book (Mass Market Novels are 4.25″ x 6.87″ and most other books are 5.5” x 8.5” or 6” x 9”) you can expect to have 250 to 300 words per printed page. An easy workaround for this as you are writing your manuscript is to use Times New Roman in size 12 font, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins all around, and indent your first line to every paragraph. This gives you approximately the same number of printed pages.

What a Publisher Wants

One more thing to consider when it comes to the size of your book, especially in traditional publishing, is the investment in ink, paper, and glue for a large book. Publishers are wary of the expense of putting out a huge book if they don’t know it’s going to sell. Look at the size difference of the first book in the Harry Potter series compared to the last few books in that series for example. Same thing with the Outlander series. Again, you need to know the market here. Your homework is to look at how long a typical book is in your genre, bonus points if it’s with a first-time author. Compare a “how to” business book vs. a memoir vs. a romance novel.

Now that you know what size book publishers will entertain for first-time authors, you can do the math on your current writing endeavor and see how much of your book you have written. You may be closer to completion than you think! For more publishing industry insights, head over to my Emerging Authors five-week e-course where I guide you through the details you need for writing success. And, be sure to sign-up for our newsletter and download your free guide to Outline your book today.