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I'm dealing with Springer about a monograph proposal. My draft was 80,000 words and they asked me to make it 85–100,000 words. I don't want to bother the editor with a question that is just out of curiosity. But, why do they need to expand it? What difference are 5,000 words going to make?

2 Answers 2

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This is probably an economic decision based on the balancing of input effort/cost and likely return on investment. But you should ask the editor to see whether it is a "hard" rule or not and if you ask that, then you might as well ask why. I don't know if they make exceptions.

An exception might be "above the pay grade" of an individual editor, or not.

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    A lot of the economic issues come from the cost of binding. At 85,000 words this will be about half cover, half pages, by thickness. I think Springer monographs still have printed and bound editions. Mar 12, 2023 at 0:11
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    @TerryLoring, if a volume is too thin it limits what can be put on the spine. That seems like a dumb reason but might figure in.
    – Buffy
    Mar 12, 2023 at 0:13
  • 80k words is definitely not in the "too thin" regime.
    – Allure
    Mar 12, 2023 at 14:48
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    @Allure, I don't have any examples on my shelf, but outfits like Springer may like their logo on the spine and they might like it nicely sized. This is a corporate choice. I've had issues with books of under 200 pages and don't have many constraints about what need to appear there. I like my name to appear, of course, but don't insist on the bulldog. ;-)
    – Buffy
    Mar 12, 2023 at 14:53
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    Hard to believe. My experience (as an individual purchaser of Springer-published documents) is that Springer picks a random number north of $100 and uses that. Then either subtracts $2 or adds (!!) $2 for the ebook - which is what really annoys me.
    – davidbak
    Mar 12, 2023 at 17:59
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Here's an educated guess based on my experience with other publishers. They ran an analysis to see which of their monographs are most profitable (or receive the most citations, or whatever other metric they care about). It turns out that there is a correlation between length and profit. Therefore they ask for a certain number of words.

It's almost surely not a hard requirement, they'll probably accept an 80k-word monograph if you adamantly refuse to lengthen the manuscript.

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    That would make sense. It’s said that there’s a “sweet spot” (word count) for every genre.
    – user354948
    Mar 12, 2023 at 1:36
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    Goodhart's Law comes to mind: "If a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodhart%27s_law Mar 12, 2023 at 21:07
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    Can you share more about "your experience with other publishers"? In which part of the process did you participate?
    – Taladris
    Mar 13, 2023 at 9:53
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    @Taladris I currently work in academic publishing, and I had an insider's view as to why there is a guideline for X number of words for journal articles.
    – Allure
    Mar 13, 2023 at 10:06
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    If you mean "experience working for other publishers" please say that. "experience with" is ambiguous as to the relationship that led to the experience.
    – Ben Voigt
    Mar 13, 2023 at 22:48

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