Do table of contents, appendices, and chapter titles count toward the total word count for a book?

For example, if a book is 50,000 words, what is not included in the count? This is for a nonfiction book.

  • Especially interesting in case of appendices which in case of nonfiction often comprise 70% of the book content...
    – SF.
    Commented Jan 16, 2013 at 8:50
  • "Being I'm paid by the word, isn't it generous of me to use such long ones?" -- Arthur C Clarke
    – Jay
    Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 16:17

2 Answers 2


After about fifteen minutes research, I couldn't find an authoritative answer for this. I suspect there's a good reason for this, however: At counts in the tens of thousands, the answer doesn't make much difference.

For example, you have a 50,000 word book (by raw body text count). Let's say the work has 100 headings, averaging 6 words each. Even duplicating these in the table of contents, this would only increase the word count by 1,200. That's just 2.4%, a fairly negligible difference. Any publisher or reviewer who is that worried about word count will probably spell all this stuff out for you.

However, my simple gut answer would be: Include everything but the table of contents. Chapter headings, appendices, and even citations all represent "writing effort" by the author. If you're paid by the word, then you should be paid for this effort. Similarly, all these add to the length of the book for layout/formatting purposes. Again, including them seems like the most accurate approach.

  • 1
    This is a good point. If I were giving the writer a quote for editing, I'd include the word count of the appendices in my estimate. Commented Jan 16, 2013 at 14:27
  • I'd certainly include appendices in any word count. As AncientToaster says, TOC should be pretty trivial. In most books it's what, maybe 20 chapters, 5-word title each, 100 words or so? I'm sure that's less than the difference between actual word count and "standard" word count (i.e. count letters and spaces and divide by 6). An index would be questionable: that could be a lot of words. I'd think you wouldn't count it, but I don't know.
    – Jay
    Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 16:16

I just looked through my non-fiction book contract from an academic publisher, and it says "approximately 70,000 words in length" and then says in parentheses that this would make for a 280 page book. The only other relevant detail was that the publisher would handle the index (they did the table of contents as well), which means that AncientToaster's answer was pretty much on the mark for my experience. There would have been penalties if the book had ended up being much longer or shorter, I think, but this wasn't mentioned. (It ended up being just 250 pages long, when published.)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.