Publisher Word Count for Magazine Writing

Publisher word count tool
When you write an article or manuscript for a magazine, you’ll usually be asked to hit a predetermined word count. There would seem to be nothing complicated about this. It’s the exact reason we created WordCounter. You place your writing into the text area and you instantly know the number of words you have typed. One would assume that magazine editors and other publishers wouldn’t have any issue with this number. The problem is that they likely will.

Why is an accurate word count not useful to many publishers? There is a simple reason that may not seem obvious at first, but it makes a lot of sense once it’s pointed out. Below is the reason why we decided it was important to include a publisher word count in the details section for those who will be submitting their writing for publication.

Word Length

Word Counter counts the individual words written. “He is at a big park” is six words. “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” is one word. The problem for publishers is the six words take up 19 character spaces (20 if you place a period at the end) while the single word takes up 34 character spaces. While the length of the words will even itself out to a certain degree over the length of one’s writing, each writer will still produce different length articles even when they have the same word count.

When a publisher asks for a certain number of words, they are doing so in anticipation the writing will be the length needed to fill the space allotted for the article. It’s the space the article fills which is of the utmost importance to the publisher, not the actual word count. The problem is that explaining to the writer the exact length can be complicated, so they give a word count and hope that produces writing that fills the space allotted for the article. An article with unusually long words would likely go over the anticipated length, while an article with many short words would fall short of the length needed by the publisher.

To help make things a bit more accurate, there’s actually a publisher’s specific word count. Instead of counting each individual word, publishers have agreed upon the definition that a “word” is six characters long including blank spaces. This solves the issue of words being different lengths and gives a much more accurate estimate of space an article will use as compared to simply counting individual words. Using this definition, “He is at a big park.” would be three and one-third words (including the period). On the other hand, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” would be five and one-third words.

The Word Counter Publisher Count calculates a word to be six character spaces and applies it to your writing to come up with its total. This isn’t perfect for publishers, but it’s a lot more accurate than counting individual words. If you are submitting work to a publisher, you can ask which of the two methods they would prefer when you attach a word count total to your submission.

  • This is an interesting way to look at word count I never considered before, but it makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing!

    • While it may be interesting, it really doesn’t apply today. This was more of a situation when their work computers around where you can manipulate the fonts and sizes to make it work. I would be surprised if you found any magazines which would pay you by publishers word count rather than by a standard word count.

      • I’ve been paid by using the publishers word count formula this year. I think it’s just a matter of which publisher you happen to be working with. It’s definitely not as common as using standard word count, but there are still publishers to will use it, especially if it is for a print publication.

  • Using e publisher word count will almost always give you more words than the straight word count. If the editor doesn’t care and you get paid by word for your articles, using publisher word count can increase your salary for an article by as much as 30% If you write for magazines or newspapers on a per word basis, this count is your friend.

    • i copied and pasted “The international level of the synaptic exchange between various idea that, in a post-structural sort of analysis, give way to all the meandering tropes which make up our existences through an intersectional framework all add to the propinquity of intradimensional experiences, all within a subpar trope that mellifluously delineates all our existences’ sakes.” three times and it said I was a college graduate. XD XD

    • Very interesting article and this makes so much more sense now. Although having a word count and a publisher’s word count that vary so greatly is a bit confusing as to which one I should write toward when I have a set word count to meet. Will definitely be utilizing this information in the future, but I hope it doesn’t get me in trouble.

  • Why would a publisher ever pay you for more words than you actually wrote? This doesn’t seem smart on their part.

    • The publisher cares much more about the amount of space than will be filled than the actual word count. This is why they are willing to pay more for the correct space even if there are less words. It saves the editors a lot of time and hassle.

  • Wouldn’t it make more sense to tell writers a character (+ space) limit? I’m assuming that the publisher chooses the font, so they would know exactly how many characters or spaces could fit on a line. Give or take character space usage issues (Extreme example: llllll vs mmmmmm) I think it would be easier to determine the amount of space being used.

    • This probably makes sense, but I think word count is a standard industry metric whereas character count isn’t so much. Then you get into the same problem with short sentences that maybe a paragraph in itself. You still have all that white space even with the character count. There probably isn’t a perfect solution when it comes to doing this but the publishers word count is a bit more accurate than a standard word count.

    • The font called “Times New Roman” seems to be the generally-accepted font for published work.

  • How do you know if the publisher will accept a publisher word count over a normal word count? Do they always tell you upfront, or is this something that you have to ask?

    • You should always ask the publisher if they will accept this word count over the standard word count. There may be some that spell it out, but it’s far more common to have to ask if they will accept it for assignments.

    • I think it’s most common for publishers to ask for a standard word count. It’s easier for writers to understand without having to try and explain what a publisher’s word count is. I also think the Internet is changing things since there isn’t a limit of words and space when an article goes on the Internet (as opposed to a magazine)

    • Always ask first. Never assume you can use it or you’ll end up being disappointed. It really depends on the publisher. Some use it and others don’t. There is no rhyme or reason to it as far as I can see,

  • Since finding this tool, I’ve started writing both when I submit my freelance writing. I assume the publisher will pay me with the lower word count, but have been surprised a couple of times being paid the larger word count. That’s added about $50 to my fees I never expected to get. Since both are displayed on the tool, it’s worthwhile and it might make you a few extra bucks.

    • Oh, I like this idea! There doesn’t seem to be any risk or downside by including both of them and there’s a chance that I could end up getting more money. I assume that you do your writing based on a regular word count when you submit? I think that I’m going to start doing this as well and see what happens.

  • I’ve tried using the publisher’s word count several times and none of the online magazines I submitted would accept it. They all wanted a regular word count. How can I convince the publishers to accept the publishers were count instead of the regular word count so I can get paid more for my writing?

    • Online magazines aren’t going to care about publishers word count. They aren’t limited in space in the same way a physical magazine or newspaper is. If you’re writing to be published online there’s a lot more flexibility than if you’re writing for a regular magazine. Publishers word count will only apply to physical magazines.

  • As writers, we all want to make sure our word counts are correct. For that reason, I think this article is a great guideline to explain how to do this when writing for magazines. Most people assume magazine writing is the same as writing an article for a blog, but print and digital are different and have different needs.

  • Do magazines even exist anymore? The issue with this articles is that it’s about old media that doesn’t apply to most anymore. There aren’t any length restriction in the digital age. If you’re writing for magazines or newspapers, you’re not going to have a job for much longer. This is old school information that doesn’t apply today.

    • Wow, another smug millennial who thinks the world revolves around him. Yes, magazines still exist. No, your comment wasn’t cute or funny. Your career advice is sophomoric at best. Just because publisher word count may not apply to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to everyone.

        • Sorry, but this observation was incorrect, and has nothing to do with digital media overtaking some forms of print. Both of you speak from limited experience, unfortunately. Digital media includes mobile devices. Word counts and fitting into a screen space are incredibly important there. Most writing and publishing is utilitarian, not recreational. Think package instructions and health information. Those things have need to fit in certain spaces and have word counts limits. Technically advanced, wealthy countries are still decades away from being able to abandon all text on packaging, public signage, many types of critical instructions, and so on. We may not ever become fully digital, because server farms consume incredible amounts of electricity and water while generating immense heat. They may not be sustainable.

  • I’ve never heard of publishers word count before this, and I have been a freelance writer for five years. This must not be something that is used much these days. I think I may ask about it in the future just to see if it does exist someplace, but in my experience as a freelancer I have never run across word count counted this way.

  • I’ve never heard this and I’ve been writing on the Internet for several years. This is the first time I’ve ever heard anything like this. It doesn’t seem like it would be real to me. Why would a publisher pay more than they had to for the same writing?

    • I’ve had publishers off this to me. It’s a real thing. It’s not all publishers. It is mainly print publishers, not Internet publishers. If you write for print magazines, many publishers will offer you this option.

  • I find this method for counting words interesting, but not necessarily practical in this day and age with computers. Editors can manipulate page and fonts to get the space they need filled.

  • Wouldn’t it be easier for everyone if there was a standard way to calculate word count rather than it be different for every publication? Why do people always want to make things more difficult than they have to be?

    • I don’t think this is realistic since each magazine has a different layout. That would make standardizing almost impossible.

    • Different magazines have different word count needs. The standard is counting the exact number of words which is fine for online, but as the article says, causes issues for print magazines and newspapers. That’s why a Publisher’s word count exists.

  • Does anyone have a list of the magazines and websites that accept publisher’s word count? This would be a useful list in my opinion.

    • This would great to have, but I don’t think one exists. It would help all freelancers if one was compiled, but I think it would be hard to do.

  • i thought that this meant a way to increase the amount of words you typed, i have to do a 2000 word essay and when i saw that publisher word count was higher than word count, i flipped out. i clicked on the question mark, and i became sad again. 🙁

    • I mean Word Counter is way more effective if you’re writing a book or a novel and it’s supposed to be published to a publisher. but if you think of writing an essay or something casual with it, it’s not exactly the same.

  • I have been asked to give the word count without pronouns and conjunctions. Is that even possible?

    • you could ctrl+f all pronouns and conjunctions separately and subtract the total number of those from the true total word count

  • To the people asking why publishers don’t ask for a specific character count, it’s technical. If you’re looking for the short answer, it’s because of how fonts and typesetting works with print layout and design.

    Now for the long answer, it’s because for a character to count to be an accurate measure of how much space a piece of writing will take up, you have to use a monospaced font. Most publishers are loath to do that because monospaced fonts are not good for making paragraphs of text easily readable. Again, there are technical reasons for this, but that would make this comment about five times longer that it is.

    Publishers will pick a font a that is easy for people to read when it’s in big blocks of text, so what does that have to do with the question? Quite a bit actually. Non-monospaced fonts have specific spacings between pairs of characters and characters also take up different widths on the page. For example, consider the words ale, ill, mom, and wow. All of them are three characters, but ill and ale take up less space than mom or wow. Again, there are technical reasons for this, and it’s a topic that’s way too big for a single comment. This also isn’t even getting into the different spacings for punctuation.

    This all adds up to articles taking up differing amounts of space even if they have the same character counts. While short articles may not have much variation. Longer articles can have lots of variation especially if one has a greater occurrence of narrow characters than the other. Of course, we still haven’t gotten into page layout and typesetting which just makes things even more complicated. In the end, it really doesn’t make much of a difference and with modern software it’s not that difficult to get a word count or a character count that you can divide by 6 using the built in calculator on your computer, phone, or tablet.

    Fun fact: As you may have guessed, monospaced fonts are fonts where the spacing between characters and the widths of the characters are all the same. That’s why they are called monospaced fonts, because they only have one spacing between characters. Incidentally, this family of fonts also includes typewriter fonts.

    • If you are using this “publisher word count,” then you’re actually just using a character count that is divided by six, so you’re still actively using a system that has all of these flaws. Your reasoning makes no sense as a defence of this choice.

  • This is great.
    I used to count this way (5 letters per word) years ago.
    It was all-important in that I had to set the news articles in actual cast type into a composing stick to be put into the column inches I was given.

  • i’m soposed to write a 300 word story for my teacher and then i read this
    me:(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

  • This was helpful for my writing class where they made us make a fake news article regarding a recent global issue and I had to use this to make my printout fit on paper :3

  • I’m twelve and i writing a booktell me if its good so far

    Characters Chapters Author/helpers
    _______ ______ ___________

    .Michael 1.The Followers Angelica Braxton
    .Andrew 2.Kids To Heros Michael Williamson
    .sofia 3.Family Of Heroes Andrew Walsh

    Chapter #1 The Followers)

    Michael you are not going to enter the old house “who said I couldn’t?”
    “ME!” Shut up Lucifer, you don’t scare me. “Why don’t I scare anyone”
    Can you at least pretend you are scared of me? No, why would I be scared of a 12-year-old knucklehead?
    I’m not a knucklehead Michael, you are.”Oh for Pete’s sake can yall stop fighting.”
    No, you’re not my mom, you don’t even know her….. Do you know my mom? Well yes, I do Michael, why do you want me to call your mom or will you stop fighting….uh answer me! Ok, Saly I’ll stop but if you call my mom you’ll regret it because my fist will be in your face.
    Did you just threaten a girl?
    Wait, him or me? No Lucifer, I’m talking to Michael now I’m calling your mom..ring-!BAM! I warned you “hello, hello, stop teasing me Saly!” it’s not Saly it’s your son, Saly is gone for good. Beep- wait do you hear that those are cop sirens? PUT YOUR HANDS UP! Wait for him or me? Both of you put your hands up, I sead!
    Sally was rushed to the hospital after Michael and Lucifer were at the police station.
    luckily Saly made it but she stayed in the hospital till she was safe to leave it.
    “Sally sweety are you okay?
    No, my head is throbbing. Can I please have tea??
    Yes sweety you can have tea. Do you want a muffin your friend bought a muffin for you.No mom he is my friend. Who? Jackson was the one to help me when I was here and he was on the bed. Oh well, tell him I said hi okay?
    No, he doesn’t like you!
    Hey, don’t cock up an attitude, young lady. If you ever back-talk me one more time I don’t care who or where you are I will backhand you!
    No, you won’t because I will scream and tell the doctors that you said I hope you die and that I will break your arm and cut your fingers off with dull scissors!
    Oh, I just got that on video see, No you did not there’s no way you co that’s impossible I have your phone.
    Who said I needed a phone? I used my Apple watch silly.
    DOCTER! Sally’s mom called the doctor into Sally’s room and her mom Mellody, filled the doctor in and showed the doctor the recording they dosed Sally’s body with sleeping pills, and then Sally woke up in a Mental ward alone but she still saw Jackson the boy spirit who is her friend and Sally started yelling and screaming “GET ME OUT OF HEAR!”
    A microphone said you Shall not come out of you are a danger to society and if even let out you will kill your ex-friends and we don’t need that.
    “I’m no danger I’m just hurt and all you want to do is lock me up in a mental ward?”
    “I don’t want to, but I will do what I have to do, young girl. Do you understand me!!”
    “No, I don’t mother!” Sally said in a deep voice almost demonic but the mom did not like that also Mellody got scared and so she got a priest to baptize sally and even the priest cant explain to melody in a calm tone that sally is possessed by a demon so he does not tell melody that Sallys possessed. Michael’s mom came and got lucifer and him the mom was fined two thousand dollars but their mom only had one thousand dollars that she had to pay rent with she was followed by a black van but then it flies in the air and crashes into the ground like a meteorite that was thousands of degrees hot the mom slammed on the brakes than looked at lucifer and he was smiling than the mom asked him what happened Michael was backing up from lucifer and then he said “those men were following us and not for a good reason” Lucifer said.
    Their mom was scared but also claimed that she was saved by her son but also stunned that she is related to a kid with telekinesis strong enough to flip a van
    Hundreds of feet in the air.
    Michael was stunned but also scared of his little brother.
    The cops were called and looked at the security footage and they saw nothing
    But the car goes up and then sends flying down at the speed of light.
    The mom rushed the boys off to their home, left Texas, and went to New Mexico the fastest as they could.
    “Mom, why are we leaving texas?” Lucifer said
    “It’s because they want you!” “Who?
    Then the mom showed the boys a picture of Rushen.
    “You don’t see him?”
    “Mom, all I see are Russian soldiers in that picture. What do you mean?”
    “Wait, was that dad before he got hit by a train in Canada?”
    “Yes. their mom started crying but she stopped and looked in the mirror in her car and saw cops following her so she told Lucifer to flip the cop car until she looked forward and BANG!
    She is asleep in her bed.
    Michael was crying on her when (Sofia Michael and lucifer’s mom)
    Sofia woke up devastated to see that lucifer was killing thousands of cops that were shooting at Sofia but lucifer caught all the bullets and replaced them right back to the cops’ heads.
    “STOP!” Sofia said to Lucifer and then she stood up and got shot but then Lucifer showed his true form and it was an angel that was healing Sofie and then Sofia passed out.

    Chapter #2 Kids To Heros )

    Sofia woke up in a room that was all white and then she asked “You’re an angel?” Lucifer responded with “Yes mom but why did you name me after a devel?
    Sofia said that their dad named him that because he was the king of demons.
    Michael suddenly shoots a fireball and then he says “wait am I a demon or something?” “Why don’t we become superheroes?”
    Lucifer didn’t think about that so he agreed with him.
    Sofia said no to them doing that because it would risk too much.
    Suddenly a man came flying from the sky and he looks just like Michael and lucifer’s dad (Joe)
    “DAD,” Michael says in tears but Lucifer thought Joe was evil so she stabbed him.
    The stab wound heals faster than a bullet being shot, Joe says “I am your Dad but I was hit by a train filled with titanium then Joe suddenly absorbed it and now Joe is invincible.
    Sofi ran towards joe crying and asking how he absorbed the titanium
    In a heartbeat.
    Lucifer hugs Joe and says “Welcome Home Dad.”
    But Michael was mad at Joe for naming an angel after a king of demons.
    Joe said, “What is wrong Michael?”
    Somehow Sofia knew what Michael was thinking and so she told him “Michael calm down!”
    Then suddenly Michael burst into flames and was throwing fireballs at Joe but he caught every fireball and threw them back.
    Lucifer tried to break up the fight but Joe told Lucifer to stay back and let Michael take out his anger on him so he knows that Joe was no threat.
    One year later Lucifer sees his old friend Andrew Walshwalsh but Andrew was talking about the girl he liked named Gianna, Michael was stunned that he asked her out and got rejected.
    Later at home, Lucifer asked Joe if he wanted to go to the park but right as he said the word park an astroid-like thing hit their backyard
    Sofia spits out her food when it hit the backyard.
    Lucifer gets a call from joe saying that an asteroid hit their backyard and in a blink of an eye lucifer was there ready to explore it.
    Sofia said that she should look but then joe said no then she went and looked and an explosion happened. Suddenly Sofia passed out and Joe tried to grab her but he couldn’t then he notessd why and the reason is that she had an elder garden from her past life shielding her with a healing arura then Joe called the boys and they came faster than ever to just see that their mother was extremely hurt with third degree burns so lucifer heald her and then they saw the elder guardian and it said that something was watching them and before she could say what she vanished into ashes and suddenly Sofia woke up with sweat covering her. She asked what happened and so the boys told her and she burst into tears and apologies for her mistakes and then Sofia fells tons of electricity rattling through her bones then she suddenly started vibrating as if she was being shaken rapidly.

    Chapter #3 Family Of Heroes)

    Joe runs to Sofia and then gets blasted away by an electrical blast like a supernova but he absorbed it all and then he saw Sofia she was more bright than the sun and she ran at the speed of light and she saw the future and came back in her regular self and all the boys were surprised that their mother had super speed and that she saw the future.
    They asked what she saw but she didn’t remember what she saw and then Lucifer remembers the old house where it all began so they all went to explore the old house-like mansion then they went inside and saw kids tide to chairs and walls and extremely scrawny as if they haven’t eaten for weeks.
    They went to the police station and reported the little kids that were kidnaped and the cops said that there were no missing children reports and the bays and Sofia thought that was very suspicious so they went to multiple homes that had kids and suddenly they went missing and all the parents deny that they had kids or grandkids as if they where under a spell that makes you forget things.
    They go back to the house and go to a room that was not boarded up like the others so they went in and then they saw sally looking out the window then she turned and laughed at Michael and says, That one swing popped the good and molded to a gross and bad person.
    Sofia ran at sally and sally then somehow throws Sofia across the room without touching her, then Lucifer tried to tell sally to stop or he will hurt her then sally just laughed and said try me so lucifer surprisingly yanked her hair and made her fall out the window but somehow she was floating in the air then said I am the goddess of evil.
    Then she made Lucifer evil then he turned to joe and started choking him then joe said fight it son but luckily he didn’t have to breathe to live so it did nothing to him then had to stop Lucifer so sadly joe knocked out Lucifer knowing that he had to do it in so he could stop or they left with Lucifer asleep then they went home and suddenly Lucifer was back to normal.
    Sofia said that he was under a spell-like possession so they went to a top-secret place to see what officially happened and when they found out they were stunned to see she was possessed by a demon boy.

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