No one said getting a book published was going to be easy. Some of you have asked me to talk about this trip and I’m happy to. It’s hugely exciting, and I have learned a lot about an industry in which I knew nothing.

No matter if you are self-publishing or your book is being published, you want to consider the numbers of words it will contain. The number of pages is meaningless because books are cut in different sizes.

So let’s start with word count in the book contract. In the contract will be the approximate number of words that the manuscript will have when you deliver it to the publisher. Do not stray far from this number. Certainly don’t come in under the number of words promised, but don’t (as I did) go too far over! In my wisdom I decided more is better and oh, by the way, didn’t the contract say APPROXIMATE word count??!

I wanted to have a cushion, and some of it just too darn good for them not to see, so I proudly presented my manuscript to the publisher, Running Press, about 20,000 words over. It may not sound like a lot – but it is. I had to cut out an entire chapter immediately. I could live with that. I knew that would probably have to happen.

But then yesterday…I got the call. The manuscript has been typeset (more on that later), and it was emailed to me. It was looking very pretty but still a problem – too long! You see the publisher, upon “buying” the rights to your book, has already decided how long, how it will be set up, how big it will be, etc. It is bought and budgeted that way. Fine. They certainly know their market and tons more about this business than me. I know when to defer. But now comes the hard part: this weekend I must cut…cut!! It breaks the heart, but it must be done.

So which finger shall I amputate? Which words, loving put down, must now be taken up? The pain! So, bottom line, learn from my mistake. Word count is important. It determines not just the size (in terms of length depending on the physical size of the book), but also the price of the book.

To the publisher’s credit, we did chat about making the book longer and increasing the price so we would not have to make any cuts, but truth be told the price point is great (it will retail for $15 which I personally like) and the length is manageable (remember this is a non-fiction, how-to etiquette book and no one wants to read a Mitchner-sized epic on that subject…not even me.)

So the bottom line is to remember to respect the fine print and understand how word count affects your work.

Cheers, and happy writing.