Some of the most common questions about writing a book revolve around the numbers that the industry accepts as ‘standard’. This article will attempt to demystify these numbers, thereby establishing a plan of action that can be used by first-time authors who wish to hire a ghostwriter or a proofreader.
Use Word Count, Not Page Count
Professionals in the industry do not use page counts regularly, or if they do, they are ballpark averages.
The reason becomes more apparent when looking at a paperback book next to a hardcover. They have different page sizes, different fonts, a different scale on any illustrations, and different gutter sizes for the text.
So an author writing in Arial 14 point font will have a different page count from an author using an 11 point Times New Roman font, even when the two have written the same number of characters.
Word count is a more realistic, adaptable measure of a book’s length. It better reflects the effort taken to write and edit each draft. For a rough conversion applied to an average book, the industry standard is 250 words per page.
Calculating Draft Times
When writing a book, the steps aren’t always as straightforward and scientific as an actual mathematical formula. However, the draft time is all about hourly writing averages. So calculating draft times for a book comes down to this:
(Weekly Writing Hours) * (Average Words Written Per Hour) = Draft Words Per Week
For example, if a writer’s average output per hour is 250 words, and they dedicate 20 hours a week to writing, they will contribute 5,000 words to their draft every week. If they’re targeting an 85,000-word count, that means 17 weeks of writing will get them to the end of their first draft.
How polished that draft might depend on the experience of the writer, how much self-editing they do in a given draft, and their post-draft editing or beta reading process.
Calculating Draft Costs: Writing and Editing
Whether trying to calculate how much a ghostwriter would charge for the first draft of a book or putting an author’s time into terms that make financial sense, estimating draft costs can be important to planning out a book’s creation process.
There are two different ways an author can calculate their draft costs. The first is by setting a price per word:
(Cost Per Word) * (Target Word Count) = Total Draft Price
For example, a ghostwriter who charges 10 cents a word would end up charging $8,500 for a first draft of the typical 85,000-word book. This version of the calculation is relatively simple.
The second draft cost calculation method is the cost per hour. An author can estimate this by going back to their draft time calculation figures and crunching some numbers:
(Project Budget) / [(Target Word Count) / (Average Words Written Per Hour)] = Draft Price Per Hour
Going back to the previous example, if the target budget is $8,500, and that is divided by the calculation of how many hours the project will take (the portion of the formula inside the brackets), the result should be the hourly rate. So for 85,000 words at 425 words an hour on average, it would take 200 hours of creative writing and self-editing to come up with a draft-worthy copy of the text. Plugging the results into the formula yields a $42.50 hourly rate.
Writing a Book – The Steps Not Taken
Some of these estimates might seem time-consuming, and some of these costs might be more than the average reader would estimate. But cutting corners and skipping steps almost always costs more time and more money in the end, as mistakes are discovered and need to be rectified. Use these numbers as a baseline and do the appropriate research for the genre in question.
If you are an aspiring author, check out our latest book How to write your first nonfiction book.