Ratio of "manuscript" pages to "book" pages?

Subject: Ratio of "manuscript" pages to "book" pages?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2005 09:39:07 -0500

Jay Honig wondered: <<I am in negotiation with a client for an industrial training manual... When payrate was verbally discussed, they said "$xx per page" but when the written contract appeared, it said "Publisher agrees to pay Writer $xx per finished page, two finished manuscript pages usually being said to constitute one finished book page.">>

There's nothing wrong with the basic notion, but words per page must always be spelled out. Clearly, the number of words per page will differ between a telephone directory and a large-print book for the visually impaired, so without the actual number being specified, there's no way to know what the client expects.

<<I replied that I thought the terms were unclear (I've replaced the pay digits with xx) and would I be paid $xx per manuscript page or book page. They are saying per book page. Is this a common industry term or practice?>>

It is, but the page length (number of words) is always specified. I've commonly seen ca. 250 words used per manuscript page, but the actual number (and the conversion into book pages) varies greatly and it would be unwise to accept such a vague commitment. If they're not trying to be deceptive, they should have no objection to defining word counts in the contract.

If they refuse, take appropriate measures to protect yourself: For example, state in a handwritten addition to the contract, signed and dated, that in the absence of any further specification, you are assuming the rate of 250 (or whatever) words per page. They then have two choices: they can either re-issue the contract with the correct number typed directly into the contract, or they can sign the amended contract and add their signature and the date beside your addition to indicate that they have accepted it.

Don't do the work without some assurance of just how much work you're doing per page unless you really need the work and are prepared to be surprised.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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