Word counts for proposal submissions

A reader writes to ask:

I am submitting a short story collection, but the publisher requests just the first 50 pages.

How do I handle this in terms of what I would write for word count? Do I include the number of words in first 50 pages? The entire manuscript?

You mentioned including a list of where stories had been published. What should this list look like? A simple 1, 2, 3? Should I title the page?

In your cover letter—and this goes for novels as well as collections—you should mention the word count for the full manuscript. That's the information your editor needs in order to understand the size of the book you're proposing. There is no need to give a word count for the 50-page excerpt.

I'm not aware of a hard-and-fast rule for how to list the publication history for your stories, so use your best judgment. I would simply include a page headed "Publication History" at the end of the sample pages. (You can indicate in your cover letter that such a list will follow the excerpt.) It would be fine to single-space within entries on this page, and numbering them is not required. To get even fancier, you could use hanging indents for each item in the list.

For instance, I did it like this for my chapbook, An Alternate History of the 21st Century:

Publication History

"From Our Point of View We Had Moved to the Left" originally appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, February 1993.

"Kevin-17" originally appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, February 1995.

"Observations from the City of Angels" originally appeared online at Salon.com, 16 July 2003, under the title "Love in the Age of Spyware."

"Strong Medicine" originally appeared online at Salon.com, 10 November 2003.

"Objective Impermeability in a Closed System" and "Not of This Fold" appear here for the first time.  

That's not to say this is the only way to do it, but I'm sure it would be an acceptable method.

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