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Old 10th Aug 2012, 20:56   #1
JunkMonkey
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Default Modest Proposal / Stupid Question

I've just had a stupidly good idea. I think.

If I buy a DVD of a film somewhere on the back it will list the film's running time. CDs more often than not have the running times of the individual tracks if not the whole album listed. Why don't books have a word count? With variations in print size, paper thickness, and line spacing it is near impossible to tell whether the great big thick doorstop of a book is 80 thousand words long, or 100, or 120.

Page number is no real indication of the length. A book with a hundred short chapters is going to take up more pages than a book with the same number of words in one huge chunk.

Books should have a word count printed on the back.

Who do I have to sleep with to make this happen?
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Old 10th Aug 2012, 23:26   #2
bill
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Default Re: Modest Proposal / Stupid Question

Not me, so you can get that thought out of your head right now.
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Old 12th Aug 2012, 22:12   #3
Polly Parrot
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Default Re: Modest Proposal / Stupid Question

The number of pages doesn't give you an indication of the length of the book at all?
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Old 13th Aug 2012, 1:06   #4
JunkMonkey
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Default Re: Modest Proposal / Stupid Question

I guess it would tell you that George Elliot's Middlemarch is longer than the average Ed McBain 87th Precinct novel but like this book I read in March:
Quote:
Melome (1983) by E C Tubb. The 28th of the Dumarest books and almost exactly the same as all the others but I admired the skill with which Tubb professionally managed to finish off most of the chapters on the recto page. As his publishers like to start chapters on the recto page that meant a blank verso page between the end of one chapter and the start of the next. Thus, in the 160 page novel (with 12 chapters) Tubb managed to 'write' 9 or so blank pages.
It's not a very accurate guide.

Increase the type size a bit, widen the margins a fraction, space the lines a bit further apart, start the text lower down the page at the start of each chapter and you could add pages and pages to a book without adding a word to the text.
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Old 13th Aug 2012, 16:54   #5
Noumenon
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Default Re: Modest Proposal / Stupid Question

Matthew "Seven Bloody Wonders" Reilly is guilty of that creative formatting lark. More white paper than a Yoko Ono exhibition going on there.

I wrote a comment before but my internet went down and I lost all the paragraphs. I was going to say that I keep hearing word count advice given to new writers which means, if they follow it, your average first novel aims for a upper limit of 100,000 words, 120,000 at the absolute most, if the writer wants agents and publishers to look at it more than once. Established writers probably don't feel the same pressure to conform though, since their publisher would be happy for them to knock out anything long or short if there is a definite audience waiting for it.

It may be that ePublishing has scuppered that limiting thing now. I was recently pointed in the direction of one agent's web site, which said they would accept already epub'd texts if submitted for representation to the "real" industry*, but I wonder how many of the multitude publishing themselves directly are going through a stringent editing process before turning to Amazon and the like. I have a friend whose first novel is to come out this year as print-on-demand-and-ebook (through an actual ePublisher, which did provide editing support to some degree), and the last I heard it runs over 200,000 words so that obviously didn't phase them.

Anyway, I think my gut response to your original point was that I would have no problem with -
£8.99 (rrp)
85,000 words

- appearing the back of a novel. You can tell the page count just by flicking to the back anyway, and who doesn't want to make sure the hero wins before handing over the price of a meal?

* They probably didn't say "real" industry actually.
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Old 13th Aug 2012, 16:55   #6
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Default Re: Modest Proposal / Stupid Question

On a side note, JM, I get a better feel for how long your signature is if I don't count the words.
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