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30 November 2007 @ 10:11 am
The doorbell rang at 8:15 this morning.

Ted and I both thought, "Fzkng kids," and didn't move.

A few seconds later a heavy knock came, at which point I realized it wasn't fzking kids, it was my QUEEN'S BASTARD page proofs arriving, so I got up and couldn't find my pants. Ted, who didn't know the proofs were arriving, also got up, swearing, found his pants, and stomped downstairs. A broad Irish accent said, "Morphy?", indicating I was right, and Ted signed for the proofs and I have opened them and they are Zoh. My. God. Gorgeous. This is going to be *such* a pretty book!

The proofs aren't due back until 19 December. I am, in what I consider a fit of genius, calling in other people to read them while I finish HANDS OF FLAME. (No, sorry, this is not an invitation for people to volunteer unless they happen to live in Cork and can read a...*pauses* *goes to check* ...430, at the end of the day, page manuscript in about 3 days.)

Oh, that reminds me: somebody asked in comments (sorry, can't remember who and am too lazy to go look!) whether there's any manuscript-page-to-printed-page correlation. Short answer: no. There's no specific word per page for printed novels. TQB was a 596 page manuscript and will, it seems, be a 430 page book. All of the Walker Papers are around 450 manuscript pages, but URBAN SHAMAN as-printed is 344 while the others are around 410, because of different font choices and typesetter leading. HEART OF STONE was over 500 pages (509, I think) and the printed book is 438; I expect the second two books in that series will be about the same. The Dermody manuscripts were all 355-360 pages and the printed books are 296-298 pages.

So I'm seeing reasonable consistency per series, but at the same time, go pick up, say, a recent printing of one of the earlier JA Jance "JP Beaumont" books. Those are probably (maybe) 80,000 word books (360 manuscript pages, like the Dermody novels) but because people like bigger books, they've been reprinted with quite enormous type and significant leading, so they end up as 400+ page printed books.

Similarly, with the Bombshell line (and in fact for all the Harlequin series romances), for example, they eventually began asking people to rely on actual wordcount rather than 250wpp*# of pages because if I turn in...well, let me go run an example real quick.

Ok, take FIREBIRD DECEPTION. The Bombshells were supposed to be between 80 and 90K. I write in 12pt Courier New with 1" margins all around, my linespace set to Exactly 25pt, and with my tabs set to .3. FIREBIRD is a 355 page novel, which, at 250wpp * #oP, comes out to 88,750 words. Exact wordcount (according to Word) is 78,493 words.

I have just switched the manuscript to 12pt Times New Roman and left everything else the same. The manuscript is now 260 pages long. If I change it to 14pt TNR (which I have this vague idea, perhaps made entirely up, is the font size you're supposed to submit TNR in), it turns out to be 291 pages long. So either way, to make a blanket assumption that 1 page = 250 words and then to multiply that out, well, 90,000 words means I need an additional 70-100 pages in TNR.

*idly cuts & pastes 70 pages onto the end of FD* Ok, in TNR 14pt, that gives me an actual wordcount of 97,786 words. Adding 100 pages in TNR 12pt gives me 109,347 words--31,000 words more than the book I turned in, which was at the top end of how long the line was supposed to be.

So now you're the publisher and you have series romance and they have to be around 300 pages so you can fit 5 of them in each supermarket paperback rack, and you have stories ranging from, say, 65,000 *actual* words up to 110,000 actual words. The only way you can make them consistently 300 pages is by beefing up the font and leading on the shorter end, and crushing it down on the larger end. Production ended up getting a lot of complaints because the leading and fonts and margins were so tight that it made the books difficult to read, and so in the end they began requesting actual wordcounts for the series romance line manuscripts. I think all the lines now are between 60 and 80K in actual words (varying depending on the line).

I tend to aim for actual wordcount numbers, myself. The Walker Papers, for example, are contracted at 110K, which is about 440 manuscript pages in the format I write in. COYOTE DREAMS was 111,793 actual words, for a manuscript count of 115,750, which is pretty close. TQB (oh hm this version of TQB, which I thought was Entirely Correct, is 588 pages, not 596. Well, close enough either way.) is 141,098 actual words, with a manuscript count of 146K. I thought it'd come in around 150K, so I was pretty close there. The Negotiator books are contracted at 125K, and HOUSE OF CARDS is...118,223/127,250. So generally, yeah, I aim for the actual wordcount number and come up pretty close to just right for the ms count.

I have now spent *way* longer on this entry than I should have, and must feed and shower and work. :)

Also, I got to see the most current version of the TQB cover a couple days ago. It's goooorgeous and I can't wait to be able to actually show it off. *beams*
Current Mood: pleasedpleased
irishkate: writingirishkate on November 30th, 2007 10:18 am (UTC)

Kari Sperringla_marquise_de_ on November 30th, 2007 11:23 am (UTC)
An odd question, but regarding word count, how do you persuade the editor of an appropriate length? I recently sold a novel to Daw. At that point, it ran around 114000 words. They've asked for it to be expanded to 140000. This is doable, certainly (and I'm rewriting it at present to spec), but I have some reservations about why. Some of this is down to them wanting more background in a few places, which is fair enough, but some of it seemed to be simply a desire for longer. Is this just marketing (big books are more popular)? I tend to be slightly suspicious of longer books and I try to be concise, so this is rather an odd situation for me.
kitmizkit on November 30th, 2007 11:42 am (UTC)
You don't. :)

Luna asked for the Negotiator trilogy to be longer books than the Walker Papers, 125K vs 110, and there's a fair bit of difference in the emotional depth of the books because of that, I think. OTOH, when I proposed THE QUEEN'S BASTARD, I said it'd be 175K and my editor said, "Agh! How about 125," to which I said, "Shall we split the difference at 150?" She said she'd put it in the contract at 125 to keep me honest, and I was kind of like, "Well, whatever, because it'll be as long as it needs to be anyway." (As it was, we cut the last third and it's becoming the first part of the second book, so probably if it had been left to its own devices it would've been 200K+.) It came in at 146 and she didn't cut it for length.

So basically, I think writing it as long as it needs to be is the right way to go, and if they ask for more (or less), deal with it as it comes up. They'll stipulate lengths, but it's one of those areas where everybody's reasonably certain that a contracted-for length, like an on-spec synopsis, is not necessarily going to reflect the final product with hundred percent accuracy.

As for Daw in specific: they sells big books.

I mean, really, go look at Daw books on the shelves. They're all huge. Daw is like the Master House of Big Fat Fantasy. I suspect there is genuinely an on-the-shelf visual thing going on there. It's branding. It may be branding that developed because coincidentally they kept buying writers who wrote BFF and in time that became one of the ways Their Books Looked, but it's branding.

What I would probably do in your position is revise to add background, character depth, whatever seemed appropriate, and turn the book in whether it hit 140K or not. If they asked for more, a reasonable, "I've developed the story to a greater depth in all the places that seemed appropriate to me, but maybe I'm not seeing something you are; can you give me more suggestions on where you might like to see further development?" might help.

And congratulations on the sale! I've always wanted to write for Daw. :)
Kari Sperringla_marquise_de_ on November 30th, 2007 11:50 am (UTC)
Thank you: that's incredibly helpful. I'm a little thrown by the 'big fat fantasy' thing as I'm not really that sort of writer, but... It's still my book and my editor (who is lovely) hasn't asked for any plot adjustments beyond tiny tweaks.
I'm Kari, btw: hello.
kitmizkit on November 30th, 2007 01:56 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! It's nice to meet you (I always love it when people start commenting), and good luck with the revisions. :)
Childlightchildlight on November 30th, 2007 02:02 pm (UTC)
Posts and comments like this one are so fasinating. It really gives me a new respect for writers knowing more about the kind work that goes into a book.

And although I can read 400+ pages in 3 days or less I am on the wrong side of the planet *sigh* I am going to start reading Heart of Stone today. :-)
ruford42 on November 30th, 2007 02:26 pm (UTC)
Wrong side of the pond to ask as well, but I find page count tends to go at different speeds for different authors or writing style -- where as yours sadly seem to be devoured all too quickly, often in 10 hours or less.

Though reading about the proofs, I'm left wondering why aren't they passed in a digital form. With proofs I imagine it has something to do with how it looks on the page, but I was under the impression that most printers worked off postscript or PDF at this point -- where the whole idea is that they show up the same on a computer screen as on the actual page -- so why are proofs still done in paper form?
kitmizkit on November 30th, 2007 02:36 pm (UTC)
I'll be interested to hear how fast TQB goes when you read it--it's a *totally* different style of writing. :)

As for why: it is easier to both read and write on paper. I mean, I suppose there could be other reasons, but for me, even if they sent them to me electronically I'd still have to print them out, because I can't do this kind of line by line reading on screen. I'm a speed-reader by nature and it gets worse when I'm reading text on screen. I utterly fail to *see* entire chunks, and if you compound that with "I have read this text a bare minimum of ten times, and far more likely I have read it twenty or thirty or fifty times," then it's increasingly hard to see what you're looking at even under the best circumstances. Editing page proofs is pretty much never the best circumstances. :)

(Except I still *really* like this book!)
hegemony hedgehogagrimony on November 30th, 2007 05:20 pm (UTC)
This is because Kit understands about pacing. Pacing can make or break a book.

I've read books that would seem to be exactly up my alley, but because the pacing was poor, or odd, or off, I've been completely incapable of reading them all the way through (or picking up the second book in the series, as I am sometimes stubborn about finishing books I start).
kitmizkit on November 30th, 2007 10:34 pm (UTC)
This is because Kit understands about pacing. Pacing can make or break a book.

I had a terrible time figuring out what this had to do with page proofs and hardcopies. *laughs* I finally figured it out, though! :)
cearabredecearabrede on November 30th, 2007 03:02 pm (UTC)
*scratches head* What do you use as "actual" words? I always hear MS Word's counter is a huge no-no, but I don't see how else you'd do it.

I believe it was Anna Genoese's who gave the formula of taking a few sparse-dialogue pages, counting the chars per line, times the number of lines, divide by 5.5 (average length of chars in a word), and times that by the number of pages to get a more accurate word count. I'd have to look it up again. Ever hear anything like that?
kitmizkit on November 30th, 2007 03:12 pm (UTC)
You use MS Word's wordcounter, or whatever wordcounter you've got on program you're using. :) I have, yes, heard that it's hideously inaccurate, but my experience suggests it's really pretty close. It does count "something--like this--as" two words instead of four, or "Well...I don't know" as three words instead of four, and will count headers and footers if you tell it to, but when you're talking about a hundred thousand word manuscript, those aren't really significant discrepancies. (Not even when you use emdashes as much as I like to!)

I have heard of that method of counting words, too. No idea if it's more or less accurate (it's probably slightly more accurate than 250wpp), but I have yet to have an editor complain about a 250wpp * #oP estimate, so I'm pretty inclined to stick with the easy route, meself. :)
Dragonsinger: Sarah write -- Merctalesdragonsinger on November 30th, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC)
So the lesson here is basically write more than is needed because you can always cut, right?
kit: negotiatormizkit on November 30th, 2007 03:19 pm (UTC)
*laugh* I find it most efficient to write the right amount in the first place...not that you could tell that from how much I've thrown out while writing the Negotiator Trilogy...o.O :)
Brian: Hermione know-it-alllogrusboy on November 30th, 2007 06:03 pm (UTC)
Write it how you think it's the best story. If they want bigger, add. Saves time which you can better spend starting the next book. :)
Dragonsingerdragonsinger on November 30th, 2007 07:32 pm (UTC)
Hmmm...I think I can do that.
out_totheblackout_totheblack on November 30th, 2007 04:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks, I posted that question.

I have a tremendous amount of new found respect for you professional writers. I'm only a dabbler. I did NaNoWriMo this year and I'm going to make my 50,000 today. I only have about 1,500 left to go which I will finish this afternoon.

On the NaNo web page, they estimated that the 50,000 words would be 175 pages, but I am only up to 97, so it made me curious.

It has been an awesome experience, but man am I tired! I have had this huge idea for a story that I could never get down because it was so big and intimidating. NaNo gave me an opportunity to just kick start it and break it down into workable chunks.

50,000 seemed like a huge amount when I started, but even to wrap up this section I am going to have to go over it. To finish it will probably be closer to your 175/150 mark, but my brain just goes, "you mean I have to write more?" LOL

Kudos to all you professional writers that stay in the trenches and give me something to look forward to.
kit: thinksmizkit on November 30th, 2007 05:05 pm (UTC)
You're writing single-spaced, aren't you. :)

Congratulations on making your 50K! That's awesome! *does a dance*!
out_totheblack: 50000 of smutout_totheblack on November 30th, 2007 05:10 pm (UTC)
Aaaaa, yeah.

With an extra space between paragraphs and lines of dialog. I like to write in block. When I go back and edit I do indentions. It sort of helps me know which sections I have finished.

LOL, okay, space and a half bumpped it up to 142
J.K.Richárdneutronjockey on November 30th, 2007 05:41 pm (UTC)
If I moved to Ireland to be your beta reader do I get Ted's home cooked yummies as well?
The Angel of Vengeanceesmerel on November 30th, 2007 05:44 pm (UTC)
I'm all 'oo, oo, I can read 430 pages in uh. a day. if I'm not interrupted', but then, I am nowhere near Cork. ;)
Chrysoulachrysoula on November 30th, 2007 05:54 pm (UTC)
Hey, off-topic, but I just went to check at the library for Heart of Stone (because I am poor), and I found 20 holds on 10 copies in our (most excellent) library system. I thought that was pretty cool and wanted to share.
kitmizkit on November 30th, 2007 10:35 pm (UTC)
Wow. O.O That's wonderful! *beams*!
ever so plucky: Zim--YAY! (Gir)aelfsciene on November 30th, 2007 09:30 pm (UTC)
Woo, proofs! I can't wait to see the cover, too!