The current book I'm working on has named chapters with epigraphs... is it general practice to include these in the word count of the book when talking to agents / publishers, or do you just count the main text of the novel?

I know that they won't add up to much extra words, but I thought I'd be precise :)

  • Before computers, word counts were estimated. You'd take your typed pages, count the number of letters per line, multiply by lines per page, multiply by number of pages, and divide by 6. (6 being taken as the "standard" length of an English word.) You didn't worry about blank spaces on pages or any of that. Because counting the exact number of words in a novel on typed sheets of paper would be a very long and tedious task. Today, a computer can give an exact word count in a fraction of a second. So ... I don't know whether editors today want the old-style estimate or an exact word count.
    – Jay
    Feb 1, 2016 at 21:38
  • @Jay - I'm aware that at least some publishers prefer an estimated word count. The primary use of a word count is to estimate how many pages a final book would have; this correlates more accurely to estimated word counts than to actual word counts because the latter can be thrown off by amount of white space or length of words, but the former compensates for these.
    – occipita
    Dec 17, 2020 at 1:33

2 Answers 2


I wouldn't count them, but word count is not any exact science. Publishers/agents want to know whether your book is 70.000 words vs 90.000 words; they don't care if it's 71982 instead of 72001


If it's part of the manuscript, you should include chapter titles and espcially epigraphs. It's not likely to be much, but anything that isn't front matter should be counted.

  • I know this was almost 5 years ago, but you recommend including epigraphs, and also say "anything that isn't front matter should be counted." Yet the link you provide includes epigraphs as an example of front matter?
    – Kerry
    Dec 15, 2020 at 14:36

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