Oh Susanna – What About Word Count?

Well, we made it.

Out to Ohio by way of Pennsylvania and West Virginia (thanks for that Jo-Jilly) and back again (the right way thank you very much because sometimes I just have to pull rank!)

In Ohio we saw a building shaped like a giant picnic basket – I kid you not!  I was driving, and hence unable to engage in photography, but luckily my copilot happened to be awake just then and had his iPhone and the picture came out.  Which is amazing because we were traveling at approximately 65 mph (which was the speed limit and when I say approximately I mean we were barely over it so don’t raise those eyebrows at me :))  He took the photo out Princess Blue Kitty’s window.  Check it out!

It is not everyday you see a building shaped like a giant basket!

So now, see?  I have added to your trivia fund.  Next time you need an icebreaker or a scintillating topic of conversation, you can say, “Did you know that there’s a building shaped like a giant picnic basket in Newark, Ohio?”and thoroughly dazzle and amaze your companion.

We also saw this statue (which I LOVE) in front of the library in Granville – a boy, a girl, and a little dog…

Isn’t it just the perfect statue for outside a library?

Also I can highly recommend Audible’s recording of all of James Herriot’s books up through The Lord God Made Them All which is what we are up to after all these drives (yes, we have driven through the unabridged All Creatures Great And Small, All Things Bright And Beautiful, and All Things Wise And Wonderful… as well as The DaVinci Code and about half of Divergent which we had to leave unfinished because the narrator was deemed whiny by my son, who also felt there was too much romance involved… luckily I had already read it :))

Also, in case you were wondering (and I know you were :)), Snickers is still hands down the best candy bar ever.

So now that we’ve got that settled, let’s move on to Oh Susanna, which it feels like we haven’t done in an age!

Today’s excellent question comes to us from the lovely Cathy, and she says:

I have an Oh Susanna! question – is there a ’rounding’ rule when adding your word count to a query?  As in, my manuscript is 509 words.  Or perhaps 497 words.  Do I say OH SUSANNA’S STORY is a 500 word fairy tale for readers ages 3-6?  Or should I use the exact number of words per my Microsoft Word for Windows count?  Just wondered if there is an word count convention that I should know.  

My personal feeling on the matter is that Microsoft Word makes it very easy to establish your word count, and it doesn’t take much room at the top of our manuscript to pop it in there, so why not?  I always include it.  But I don’t think it matters too much if you round slightly… you’re just not likely to get away with passing off your 1506 word manuscript as “about 500 words” 🙂

But I figured an authority on the matter wouldn’t hurt, so I asked editor Erin Molta, our friend from Would You Read It 🙂  She said:

Word counts are not that necessary for picture books UNLESS there is a certain restriction. Word counts are needed for easy readers because each level determines how many words. Though it doesn’t hurt to mention word counts in the query letter—only because some editors may be looking for something short and sweet to read right then . . . It doesn’t matter—unless there are guidelines—if the word count is exact or not. Though since WORD does give it to you fairly easily, it’s not hard to do so.

So there you have it.  What does everyone else do?  Do you include your word count or not?  Do you give the exact count, or round?  Has anyone had a different experience with word counts than Erin or I? Have you ever seen a building shaped like a giant basket?  Or anything else interesting?  Please share! 🙂

Have a wonderful day and beginning of your week, everyone! 🙂

44 thoughts on “Oh Susanna – What About Word Count?

  1. Tina Cho says:

    Susanna, that building is the Longaberger Basket Building! I own one of their small baskets which you used to only buy at parties (like tupperware parties) They were specially made. I even have the book about the Longabergers' founder and how he got started. When I taught in VA, the staff there was really into Longaberger. So there you have it! How cool you drove past the bldg. And I like your word count answer from you and Erin. Happy driving!

  2. Angela Brown says:

    A building shaped like a basket. It is not a good idea to say one has seen it all because a picture like that will prove you wrong lol!!

    Because I write YA, word count is the typical part of the query. Most agents accept rounding up to the nearest hundredth, like 51,078 as 52,000 but it's always good to review submission guidelines as I've seen some of them specify if they want rounded up or the exact word count.

  3. Andrea Mack says:

    Tina, thanks for the info on the building. It is so interesting! Susanna, I'm glad to know about the word count information for picture books. When you think about it, the length is kind of obvious from the number of pages, e.g. 2 vs 6, or something like that.

  4. Theresa Milstein says:

    A picnic basket building? Wow. Word count is always so debated in kid lit. Here's the library where I lived until my son turned 3. I love this bear on books statue. https://www.google.com/search?q=east+northport+library&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS504US505&aq=f&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=JLpiUbbxLrDi4APPjYCgCA&biw=1123&bih=617&sei=L7piUbmbBa-p4AOU7IDABQ#um=1&hl=en&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS504US505&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=east+northport+library+bear&oq=east+northport+library+bear&gs_l=img.3…8640.10891.0.11090.…0.0…1c.1.8.img.-mGLbklDfa4&bav=on.2,or.r_cp.r_qf.&bvm=bv.44770516,d.dmg&fp=6950bf52b1200bca&biw=1123&bih=617&imgrc=9ZAXOxelMWbFaM%3A%3BQQ36skwoYaiXPM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.nenpl.org%252Fimages%252Fcomunityservices%252Flibrarybear.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.nenpl.org%252Fservices%252Fcommunityservices%252Flibrarybear.php%3B600%3B402

  5. Wendy Greenley says:

    I'm so proud of all the hard word it takes to get a pb ms down to where it needs to be–I always include the word count!

  6. pennyklostermann says:

    Just when I thought I had seen everything you post this amazing photo! I love the basket and I love that Tina Cho gave us the fun facts about the basket!

    In computer lab I used to have my 5th graders do a power point-each student giving facts about an assigned state. We used roadsideamerica dot com. They had the world's largest ball of twine, smallest church, giant armadillo, and so many other really fun items. They need to add the Longaberger Basket Building!

    Oh yeah! We were talking about word count. I always get specific. In fact, one time I worried that I didn't change it at the top after revising! Isn't that silly??? Like an editor or agent would say, “Nope! File 13! She's 16 words off on her word count! I will not take manuscripts from someone who either can't count or is prone to lies!”

    Sounds like you had a great trip despite Jo-Jilly! I'm glad you took charge!

  7. Rosi says:

    I always include the word count, but round it to the nearest ten. Someone along the way told me to do it that way, so that's what I do.

  8. Joanna Marple says:

    I am so glad you made it safely home in time for us to hang together on a windy bridge yesterday. I LOVE audio books and plan to listen to Herriot next, on your recommendation.

    Gosh, I was surprised at Erin's response. I do always add the specific count!

  9. Kerry Aradhya says:

    Cool basket building! Glad you were able to go on your trip 🙂 I thought this was a really good question about word count. I usually write the exact word count at the top of the manuscript. But sometimes if I'm writing a cover letter or other paragraph to summarize the manuscript, I will round…

  10. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    POSTED FOR CATHY at http://bildebok.wordpress.com

    The basket building is beautiful. I would have been too tempted to drive past it without stopping. Can Jo-Jilly make a return trip? 🙂 I have a photo from Maine where I posed as a small child in front of a cheese shop shaped like a cheese wheel. I believe the entrance was in the spot where the 'wedge' was cut.

    Love the statue as well. Very little information online about its sculptor, Diane Powell. Would love to see more of her work!

  11. pennyklostermann says:

    I found it. I was spelling it wrong when I searched…longaBURGER…I wanted a burger in my longaberger!!!

  12. Patricia Tilton says:

    I have never seen that picnic building. Newark and Granville are about 2 hrs from where I live. Used to spend a lot of time in Granville and at Kenyon College.

    I sometimes round out my number if it is 602, I'll use 600. Sometime not. Glad you're back.

  13. Beth Stilborn says:

    That giant pic-a-nic basket is amazing — I wouldn't want to run into the size of Yogi Bear it would take to steal it, though. There's a giant Pysanka Easter Egg in Vegreville, Alberta that would likely fit nicely into that basket. http://www.roadsideattractions.ca/egg.htm

    As for word count, I generally quote the exact count, although sometimes it looks weird to do so. 561? 672?

  14. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    I probably couldn't find it again if you paid me – we seem to take a different route every time we come and go from Ohio (thanks again, Jo-Jilly!) – but it was right there by the side of the road, large as life! Thanks for sharing your word count process, Pat, and I'm glad I'm back too… at least for a few days… until the next trip 🙂

  15. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    Yes, my mom grew up in Newark, NJ, and I've been to Newark, DE a couple times in my misspent youth 🙂 As for the basket building, you're clearly asking the wrong person for details since I'd never heard about it before but it seems everyone else has! Thanks for sharing your word count habit – I do the same thing 🙂

  16. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    I totally love that easter egg, and now I'm thinking I feel some time-wasting coming on looking at roadside attractions 🙂 I'm an exact word-counter too – seeing as how MS Word makes it so easy 🙂 Thanks for sharing! .

  17. Vivian Kirkfield says:

    Love the photo, Susanna…the old Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt used to feature restaurants around the country that had huge advertising statues…maybe you and your son can send that photo in someplace.
    The word-count question is a good one…I hate having to put it in the query letter itself..it always looks out of place. I do, however, always put it in the header on each ms page (unless there is specific instructions to put it elsewhere)…and I do put the exact number. Thanks for getting the answer 'straight from the horse's mouth', Susanna! It is kind of Erin to help us out. 🙂

  18. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    I just think it's so cool that you can be driving along minding your own business and see such a thing by the side of the road! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your word count policy, and glad you found Erin's comments helpful. She is wonderful and very generous to us!

  19. Catherine Johnson says:

    I love All Creatures Great and Small and that basket is awesome. Can I use it for metaphor Monday? 🙂
    Good ? on word count since a lot say under 500. I used to round it to the nearest five places but i've started giving exact number.
    Glad your trip went okay!

  20. Kirsten Larson says:

    Welcome home, Susanna! I do include word count (an exact one). And I found out recently when pitching an agent that they ask for your word count right off the bat!

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