Self-publishing Advice Guest Post: Ask the Book Doctor

Q: I’ve noticed that printed paperback mysteries range from 250 to 325 pages. Using double spacing, what should my manuscript page count be, then? I’m trying to determine how much background information I need to include without it looking like padding. Any ideas?

A: Rather than thinking in terms of page count, think in terms of word count. Most publishers prefer first novels to run between 50,000 and 100,000 words. In most word processing programs, you can go to Tools to get the word count of your file.

No matter what, avoid padding at all costs. If you have only 40,000 words, but they are tight and great and nothing more could enhance the story, stop writing! If, however, you have an idea for another plot-related scene or chapter that could flesh out the story, by all means add it and pump up the word count closer to 50,000 words.

Self-publishing Advice Guest Post: Ask the Book Doctor

Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at

2 thoughts on “Self-publishing Advice Guest Post: Ask the Book Doctor

  1. Are most publishers going by actual word count as mentioned above, or do they prefer traditional estimated word count. 250 wpp in Times New Roman or 200 wpp in Courier? I’ve always understood that estimated is the industry standard unless a specific publisher states otherwise.

    1. Traditional publishers will often require a specified word count in your final contract. As a self-publishing author you have the final say. Do some market research on your book to see what others are publishing at, and at what price. In the end here is a good rule: simply make every word count.

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