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Old 03-17-2006, 12:24 PM   #1
terrie
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Default Calculating cast off...

I've been discussing book publishing with someone who is a freelance copy editor/proofreader...

Given that many (all???) books are initially submitted as wp docs and most wp software will do word counts, is there software that will do the castoff calculation or is it done manually based on experience?

Thanks...

Terrie

Last edited by annc; 03-17-2006 at 02:57 PM. Reason: Fixed typo in title
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Old 03-17-2006, 01:31 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by terrie
Given that many (all???) books are initially submitted as wp docs and most wp software will do word counts, is there software that will do the castoff calculation or is it done manually based on experience?
In the old days we had to calculate cast-off, even after word processors began to include word counts because they included “invisibles” and/or other formatting characters that were sufficient to throw off the count. (I tried and tried to figure out what percentage of the total these were for MS Word, but could never get it right.)

Of course, in cast-off days the manuscript was always typed up with the same number of lines per page and using Courier or other mono-width font. You use a typical page, draw a vertical line near the right edge, count characters up to that line in one full line, then note plus/minus variations going down the page. Then you can multiply that by the number of pages per chapter, and get a figure for each chapter. Have to confess that I used to enjoy the process (weird, huh?). Once people started typing in Times Roman, single-spaced, it became much more difficult.

Since page layout came on the scene, though, it is much easier (and in the end more accurate) to dump the file, make breaks for chapter and other interruptions, and see what happens. You would need to have made typeface and type size decisions, margins, etc., before doing this. It often turns out that the text will not fit the budget when first laid out this way, but then you can interactively decide how to handle it (or tell the client there is no readable way to fit 22 lbs of stuff in a 18-lb package).

This is my experience, anyway. I have produced a lot of books as designer, but have not worked as a serious book production person (like others here) for outside publishers. They may have different procedures.

   
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Old 03-17-2006, 01:45 PM   #3
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Thanks...that's very interesting as I'd not realized/thought about the hidden chars in the wp doc...


>>Since page layout came on the scene, though, it is much easier (and in the end more accurate) to dump the file, make breaks for chapter and other interruptions, and see what happens. You would need to have made typeface and type size decisions, margins, etc., before doing this.

Do you think most publishers have a standard typeface that they use for this process? I would think so--at least for the initial layout...

The person I was talking to said that whomever does the typesetting prints off the work and sends it to the publisher but my guess is that it would be sent as a pdf since there's no reflow, fonts are set and you can set the page size in the layout program. It seems to me it's much more efficient and practical to email the pdf and then have the publisher print it off to be distributed to the copy editor--assuming of course that it's not done in-house...

Terrie
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Old 03-17-2006, 05:44 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terrie
Do you think most publishers have a standard typeface that they use for this process? I would think so--at least for the initial layout...
I really doubt it, unless they just consider Times Roman. But fonts vary so much that you really need to use one whose CPP (characters per pica) can be calculated, or you will be way off. (Maybe these days they have tables that reference Times; I dunno.)

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Originally Posted by terrie
The person I was talking to said that whomever does the typesetting prints off the work and sends it to the publisher but my guess is that it would be sent as a pdf since there's no reflow …
That works, but usually we were in such a hurry that I sent PDF proofs (which they would print out) because the clients were not only on Windows but had only the fonts they got with their OS and software. Then I had them mark them up and return them to me by mail (or if desperate, by fax).

   
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Old 03-18-2006, 01:19 PM   #5
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kt: That works, but usually we were in such a hurry that I sent PDF proofs (which they would print out) because the clients were not only on Windows but had only the fonts they got with their OS and software.
Makes sense...

>>Then I had them mark them up and return them to me by mail (or if desperate, by fax).

Right...

Thanks...

Terrie
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Old 03-17-2006, 04:20 PM   #6
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Kathleen -
Am I right in remembering that the average word including a space was 6 ens - and then we looked up ( I cant remeber what it was called) but it gave you the average width characters in the particular typeface and you could work how many pages the book would make.
I never got close :-) hahahaha
Peter
I remember in the 60's going to a print Estimating course in Oxford - run by an old boy from OUP who went ape when someone said the job was in two sorts - SORTS he said its two KInds - a sort is a piece of type
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Old 03-17-2006, 05:41 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by PeterArnel
Am I right in remembering that the average word including a space was 6 ens …
Well, sort of but not quite. A word is 5 characters plus one space (6 characters, in other words). When you get a letter-plus-space count, you divide by 6 to get the word count. That is also what MS Word and other apps do (or ought to).

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… then we looked up ( I cant remember what it was called) but it gave you the average width characters in the particular typeface and you could work how many pages the book would make.
That would be the CPP (Characters Per Pica) for a given font and size (and, in the old days, proprietary typesetting system, as they varied by the number of units). Once you knew you were using, say, MonoPhoto Bembo 11 point, you could find a factor, and use it to calculate the space required for X number of words.

But the tricky part was always the breaks, for paragraphs, chapters, illustrations, etc. That could really confuse the issue.

   
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Old 03-18-2006, 08:46 AM   #8
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KT:

That is also what MS Word and other apps do (or ought to)

Word (and other WP programs) will give you the character count these days, as well as the character count less the number of spaces, but there are special word or character counting programs too.

I think a character count will give a slightly better estimate of the 'length' of a text, but there are so many imponderables (as you say) that any estimate before actually doing the detailed layout is bound to be inaccurate.

   
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Old 03-18-2006, 01:23 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Michael Rowley
I think a character count will give a slightly better estimate of the 'length' of a text, but there are so many imponderables (as you say) that any estimate before actually doing the detailed layout is bound to be inaccurate.
Well, perhaps it is bound to be, but for years before the computer took over production it was how books were cast off and produced.

Once the page/signature count was established, the only remaining choice was to cut out or reduce illustrations, change chapter starts, or cut text.

So the editors at publishers got pretty good at casting off accurately.

   
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Old 03-19-2006, 01:57 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ktinkel
for years before the computer took over production it was how books were cast off and produced.
And newspapers. I remember we used to try to keep most of the office typewriters set to the same line width, with not a lot of success. But the good copyeditors were usually within a cm or two even with very long articles.

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