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Word & Page Counts

Last Updated: August 5, 2008


We don't expect our writers to be familiar with the demands and peculiarities of our pagination and layout processes, but we do require all outlines to include word/page counts and we definitely expect manuscripts to come in on length. Trial and error have given us an excellent idea of how many words constitute a page or a book, and we ask our authors to keep these figures in mind.


Page Formats & Word Counts

We use one standard page format for the bulk of our books: two-column/box format. We also use a variety of formats for tables of contents and indices, title pages, and back covers, etc., but these things are rarely the responsibility of the author, so we will not present guidelines for them here.

Two-column/box format consists of two equal-sized columns on one page, all set in the same type. Boxed text may interrupt one or both columns, and is self-contained; most boxes should be 400 words or shorter, and no box should ever exceed 750 words. (Your project might be an exception; check with your editor.) A-HEADs and B-HEADs (see our Outline Guide) break across both columns. A standard page in two-column format contains 850-900 words. GURPS Martial Arts and GURPS Thaumatology (both for GURPS Fourth Edition) are examples of the two-column/box format. (The GURPS Basic Set, Fourth Edition and GURPS Fantasy use a deprecated three-column/box format. The GURPS Third Edition books use an even older format that we no longer employ at all.)

The Introduction should never be more than 800 words (not counting the "About the Author" box), unless the Introduction is so long that it requires two pages. In that case, the maximum word count to shoot for is 1,600 words . . . and there should be a good reason the Introduction is that long! Similarly, books that consist solely of short chapters – such as Creatures of the Night books – should shoot for word counts that are multiples of 800-850, to ensure each chapter or section gets its own comfortable spread. (For that matter, any chapters with fewer than 2,400 words – three pages – should try to hit a similar multiple.)

Example of two-column format.

Taking into account the art, title page, table of contents and index, and a normal mix of standard text and boxes, the typical 16-page GURPS e23 PDF book will contain around 13,500 words; the typical 32-page PDF book will contain about 27,000 words, and the typical 64-page PDF book will contain about 54,000 words. Although we have greater flexibility with PDFs to generate odd-sized books, we don't like deviating outside the given parameters too much. If your book will require a word count that will greatly differ from given standards, check with your editor to ensure it will be okay; he may want you to trim the book down or add more details to hit a word count that's easier for production to handle.

We do occasionally publish odd-sized books (such as the Hellboy Sourcebook and Roleplaying Game); if you are working on one of these, specific word counts will be provided for you.

Steve Jackson Games
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