Writers - What is the expected page size and margins for Hardback or Paperback Novels?

I often hear novelists say they write so many pages a day. The great mystery writer Robert B. Parker wrote exactly five pages a day. Every day except Sunday.

But, exactly what is considered a page? :confused: By default, Word uses 1.25 inch side margins and 1 inch top/bottom margins. That’s a heck of a lot more than what fits on a paperback page.

Most paperbacks I’ve read are typically around 200 pages. More than that can scare off lazy readers (Tom Clancy are you listening? :D). Too few and readers feel cheated. It seems important to know how long a novel is as you write and edit it.

Is there a standard page setup that professional authors use? Is it based on a hardback or Paperback?

Exactly how should a manuscript be formatted before submitting for publication? Are there published guidelines?


You confuse me. Authors have nothing to do with formatting anything but the manuscript; paperback, hardcover, Kindle, PDF – none of that is in their hands, it’s handled by publishers. Robert Parker wrote 5 manuscript pages a day – that’s 8.5" x 11" typing bond, with margins of at least 1" (some publishers demand 1.25" and it’s entirely up to them), double-spaced, in either 12-point Courier or 12-point Times New Roman – the publisher might care, or might not. This format will yield 250 words per page (on average, which means “do not try to account for half-pages and such, because ‘count the pages and multiply by 250’ already takes that into account.” Oh, and single-sided; if you make an editor work harder than he has to, your manuscript is headed for the recycling bin even faster than usual.

If you actually write a novel, submit it in the format required by the publisher. If you Google “novel submission guidelines,” you will find several authors saying what I’ve just said, more or less.

PS: much of this info is available by following links on the page you linked to…

Authors generally use words per day more often that pages, since publisher traditionally measure manuscripts by word count. It’s easy to calculate – figure the number of characters per average line, divide by six,* then multiply by the number of lines.**

The word count function in Word shortchanges writers by about 20%, BTW.

Here’s all the information you need for formatting a manuscript: http://www.sfwa.org/category/manuscript-formatting/

*Publishers consider a word six characters as a way of figuring out how to format the book.

**Or calculate the number of lines per page first.

It’s funny how strongly I relate fiction to the paperback form. I’ve easily read five thousand or more paperbacks in the past 40 years. I had always assumed the pros wrote in that layout.

I’ve written several short stories for classes. It always seemed a little weird reading a story in manuscript form. It seems more like a college paper or business letter. There’s a certain rhythm to reading a paperback that I don’t get in a manuscript. I guess practice will rectify that. :wink: The next writing class I take will be an intro to writing a novel.

Thanks for the replies.

Yep. I’m fairly certain the quote means that the author wrote 1250 words (250x5) a day. I’d like to find a program that would show me what my manuscript would look like as a paperback book page, but I know that my 77,000 words will be a bit over 300 pages and the 50,000 start on the sequel is 200 pages despite the fact that the page counts on MS Word don’t reflect that at all given it’s currently single spaced.

First, there is no such thing as a typical “book.” Books can be any length at all. Period.

For marketing reasons and the expectations of the audience, certain specific genres or sub-genres may have expected ranges of word counts. Epic fantasy tends to run very long, often 200,000 words. Romance novels tend to run short, around 80,000 words. Bestsellers are almost always long, because people feel they are getting a better deal with a heftier book.

Word counts and page lengths are almost wholly separate concepts. Hardbacks (and trade paperbacks, which are normally printed off the same base as a hardback) tend to use larger typefaces and more leading (the space between lines). Paperbacks can get away with smaller fonts and less leading because they aren’t as wide, giving the eye less time to get lost moving across the line. Paperbacks are extremely manipulable. You can find anywhere from 350 to 500 words on a normal paperback page, depending on the publisher’s intent. There are outliers in both directions, of course, but these are rare because they are literally harder to read.

Note that even this is far more than appears on any standard manuscript page. But that’s because manuscripts have little or nothing to do with the final copy.

When writers talk about writing a certain number of pages a day, they mean it uniformly and without exception to my knowledge as a way of internal pressure to put words on paper. The number of words is meaningless. They’ve just found that the mental discipline of forcing themselves to write, to write everyday, and to not wait for creativity to strike is their best way of coping with the difficulties of writing in the first place. Frederik Pohl used to write four pages a day. Other writers have said that they write one page a day. The important part of that clause is “a day,” not the number.

So, no doubt, would the publishers – then they wouldn’t have to pay people like me to set it.

I dare say it’s only a matter of time. :frowning:

It should not be very hard.

Measure a paperback page. Define a custom paper size in Word to be that large.

Measure the margins. Set the margins to that in Word.

Set line spacing to single with no extra space at the or beginning of a paragraph.

Use a serif font like Times or Garamond not Arial.

Measure the font size and set – or change the font size experimentally until you get the number of lines on your page to match your sample.

That’s pretty close to what a page will look like. Of course it will look closer to real when printed rather than on screen, and for more realism use slightly yellowed paper.

Does Lytex have a setting for various paperbooks, like a 6x9 book?