Thomas Hauck
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Book Formats and Word Counts – An Overview

Before you look for a ghostwriter, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the basic nuts and bolts of books and how they’re put together. The more you know about the product you’re going to be making, the more effective your selection of your ghostwriter and your collaboration with them will be.

First, let’s talk about how the length of a book is measured.

I cannot tell you how often I see ghostwriting job requests that say, “I need a 200-page book about how to lose weight. Please give me a price.” Or, “My book is 150 pages and I need it to be edited. How much will it cost?”

When you’re writing a book, the page count, especially on a Word document, is completely meaningless. All that matters is the word count.

Why?

Because the page count can be easily manipulated up or down. Let’s say you have a section of text that’s 500 words. Here are two options for formatting that text on the page of a book:

1. A big font with lots of space between the lines and in the margins. This might give you 20 lines of text per page with an average of 10 words per line. This means that you’ll get 200 words per page. Therefore 500 words will fit on 2.5 pages.

2. A tiny font with narrow margins and narrow spaces between the lines. This might yield 35 lines per page and 15 words per line. You’ll get 525 words per page. With this format, your 500 words of text will fit on just one page with room to spare.

The lesson for the client is to never use page count as a delivery guide. Always use the word count. If you say, “Write me a 200-page book,” you have no way to measure how much has been written and delivered to you. But if you set a target of 30,000 words or 60,000 words for your book, you’ll know for sure if your ghostwriter is delivering.

Typically, you need 30,000 words to create a paperback book that feels substantial in your hand. For a 5” x 8” paperback, this would give you a spine width of roughly 3/8”. To boost the page count and make a thicker book, you can:

1. Increase the size of the font. The big bestseller Who Moved My Cheese? is a very short book – maybe 20,000 words – and the font size is 14 point Times New Roman. Plus, the designer left plenty of empty space on the pages, and by doing so managed to pump up the page count to ninety-six.

2. Increase the size of the margins on the pages. The more white space around the text, the more pages you’ll have, and a fatter book.

3. Make the size of the book smaller (i.e., 7” x 4” rather than 9” x 6”). Smaller pages = more pages.

4. Use cream paper, not white. It looks much better and it’s slightly thicker.

Of course, in an ebook many of these considerations are moot because the reader never sees the entire book at once, only a single electronic “page” at a time.

If you’re shopping for a book editor, you may encounter editors who quote their rates on a per-page basis. Their website might say, “Line editing – $5 per page.” For the reasons outlined above, this is completely ridiculous. The only way to give an accurate quote is by the word count. If you encounter an editor or proofreader who quotes a rate per page, keep looking.

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