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Castoff and Word count: Why should your book be this long?


The lead times and cost of publishing are rising, impacting the cost of publishing a book. This is partly due to a paper and labor shortage because of factors such as the Covid-19 pandemic and extreme weather conditions that have disrupted the supply chain. This has made it difficult to get enough paper in a timely manner while increasing the cost.

In addition to this, the industry is also facing a shortage of skilled labor, which further impacts production cycles. Publishers are increasingly realizing the importance of automation to improve efficiency, reduce the dependence on manual processes, lower the cost of production, and reduce the time to publication.

Castoff for Budgeting

One of the key aspects of budgeting the book’s cost of publishing lifecycle is castoff, where page count is estimated based on:

  • Character count
  • Trim size
  • Number of lines per page
  • Number of illustrations/figures
  • Number of tables
  • Number of boxes

An experienced editor can use these factors to optimize the book size, making it appealing to the readers while determining the right number of pages to avoid wastage. Getting a fix on the number of pages will also help the editorial process, letting editors know how much should be reduced or added to maintain the right number of pages based on need.

The pages are counted in multiples of 8. If the content spills to 2 extra pages, 6 pages will remain blank. This will require the editors to reduce the content so that the additional 2 pages are not needed. If content covers 4 to 7 pages, content may have to be added to use the blank pages effectively.

Accurate castoff reduces the back and forth that would otherwise be necessary when the need for reducing or adding content becomes evident only at the time of layout to design, causing the editors to review and maybe even return to the author at this stage for addition/reduction and approval. This can delay the production process and add hidden costs.

The Need for Process Automation

Typically, castoff is done manually. A resource is required to count the number of characters in each individual chunk/file and the number of illustrations/figures and tables that will go into the book. The text area of the book, the font and trim sizes, and the size of the tables and figures will determine the page extent.

It is quite likely that during the initial castoff, the complete manuscript is not available and therefore some extrapolation is required. Many use tools like Excel for performing these calculations. However, this is not a fool-proof system. We must acknowledge that in these times of resource crunch, editors tend to multi-task, and there’s room for errors in calculations.

Using software can enable editors to improve the accuracy of the castoff. It can provide real-time estimates of the number of book page extent for the content. The castoff is generated automatically at the time of submission, providing editors with a near-accurate estimate of the final page extent and also informing them ahead of time of the approach they need to take.

Automated castoffs can be updated in real-time, literally every time the manuscript is revised. Just imagine – castoff can be generated at will means we can get an immediate (live) understanding of the impact of the author’s changes to proofs. Page estimates are always in sync with reality. A comparison of the planned and actual manuscript enables informed decision-making to stay within the budget.

The PageMajik Approach

PageMajik is a cloud-based content management system that helps automate the editorial and production processes in publishing from the time the author uploads files to the system until the creation of final files for print. The integrated workflow includes a castoff feature that tabulates the book elements and keeps track of the impact of every change on the length of the book. This reduces the need for manual intervention every time content is added or removed and provides a real-time view of the book size, helping publishers manage their budgets better.

Some of the key features of the Castoff module in PageMajik include:

  • Granular tagging of every element including headers, notes, illustrations, poems, boxes, and extracts and allowing an exclusive, individual divisor for each element.
  • Divisors can be determined according to the trim size, and a new divisor can be defined as required.
  • The display of read-only actuals with planned value helps make informed decisions.
  • Castoff is generated from actuals and details can be added to improve planning and incorporate information about activities performed outside the PageMajik ecosystem.
  • The ecosystem allows versions to be maintained and viewed at all times.
  • The castoff information can be downloaded and shared with all stakeholders.

To know more about how PageMajik can help you automate your castoff with greater accuracy, less effort, and faster, contact us now.

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