Why Lexiles matter to independent writers and publishers

TL,DR: An explanation of Lexile Measures and how to receive an official Lexile measure for your books to help get them into school libraries.

In the ghastly domain of the real world, I work at a public school. I’m also a huge fan of independent presses and the work they do outside the lines of traditional publishing. Enough so that I believe whole-heartedly that one of the paths to instilling a love of literature in the youth, especially those that are bored to tears with what they are force-fed in their classes, is by providing them access to books by indie presses. That means getting copies of those books into school libraries.

The problem is that more and more school libraries require a registered Lexile score for every book they have available and many owners of small presses that I talk to do not know what this is or how to get it set up. In fact, I’ve had this conversation with enough writers and publishers that I decided to put this together to (hopefully) make it easier on everyone involved.

What the heck is a Lexile measure?

Essentially, it is a metric of how complicated a text is. The specifics of the formula are proprietary and owned by Metametrics, but basically seem to boil down to a combination of average sentence length (in words) and average word length (in syllables).

Why do schools care about Lexiles?

Lexiles are a handy tool in assessing the reading level of a student and can be tied to reading progress in accordance to the Common Core standards. It also allows for somewhat easier pairing of students with level-appropriate texts. Granted, this does not take into account how complicated the ideas within a given text are, only how complicated the words and their arrangement are (The Hunger Games actually has a higher Lexile measure than Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle). It does, however, provide a measurable tool to show progress in student reading ability. Given that teacher pay is increasingly tied to measurable growth, I’m sure you can see why so many schools buy into it.

What this means for your book?

Pure and simple, being able to provide a Lexile score gives a school library an extra reason to carry your book. Heck, it allows teachers the option of assigning your book for in class reading because they can then include it on the data they are likely required to provide to their bosses.

How do I get a Lexile measure?

This is where that whole “proprietary formula” thing becomes a bit of a pain in the ass. The only option I am aware of is to go through Metametrics. The details can be found at Lexile Framework sitehttps://www.lexile.com/about-lexile/publishers/. The good news is that most electronic texts only cost $30 and this is a one-time cost. The bad news is that you can’t comparison shop or estimate it on your own.

I will admit to a bit of bias when I try to push publishers and authors to get this done, but it is purely because I want to be able to give the kids I work with access to some of the best damn writing out there and this is another way for me to do that. Also, I think it would be cool as hell if we started showing how much genre fiction actually matches up to official literary works.


Nota bene: I don’t work for Metametrics and don’t profit by supporting their company. In all honesty, I think it sucks that this is not a publicly available tool and that the richness available in literature is reduced to an oversimplified number. All the same, I have to accept the world I live in and the expectations of my profession and use them to affect some form of actual learning in the students.