View Full Version : omitting word count from query

04-07-2009, 09:46 PM
I saw on a website that sometimes it is wise to omit mention of word count if the book is unusually long for its genre. What if the book is on the short side, ie a 55,000 word novel, commercial fiction? Will an agent be more put off by this omission, viewing it as unprofessional or will they be more inclined to judge the book on its own merit, rather than potentially dismissing it based on length?

04-07-2009, 10:00 PM
Hmmm. I know that Nathan Bransford, in his ask the agent thread, says he doesn't pay much attention to word count. But I've heard other agents say that it's pretty rare to find a piece of work that's truly *complete* at less than 60-70K words. Maybe you can google the various agents and see if they mention their thoughts on length?

I'm shopping around an urban fantasy that's about 71K, on the shorter side. I do mention it in my query and my query has gotten a lot of favorable response. (13 total responses including 3 partials and 1 full.) Not sure about 55K, though. Do you feel that there are places you might add scenes, etc, or do you really feel that you've told all parts of the complete story?

04-07-2009, 10:07 PM
There's no such genre as "commercial fiction". It needs to be classified in its genre and then you can see if you're in serious trouble with the word count. A comedy might fly as a short, quick read, but sci-fi or fantasy wouldn't.

Remember, the only "merits" your book has are what you present in your query (and possibly writing sample). There's nothing else for them judge you on. Make every effort for that query to be airtight.

04-07-2009, 10:25 PM
I'd bump it up to 60,000 and query with that.

FWIW, I got an agent and a lot of interest with a 63,000 novel. BUT my agent is working with me to flesh it out. She was willing to put in the effort because she liked the story.

04-07-2009, 10:27 PM
Cyia, commercial fiction is by definition non-genre fiction. Not everything written can be classified in a genre. By far the largest fiction section in my local bookstore is "Fiction". Even beats out romance.

So Nehama, feel free to continue calling your novel commercial or mainstream. It's a perfectly valid designation.

04-07-2009, 10:34 PM
If in doubt, check the agency's submission policy. Many state that yes, they want the word count, so it would be wise to include it. Sub policies are not complicated beasts, and by following what the agent wants in a query, you're showing them you've done your homework.

04-08-2009, 02:18 AM
With shorter books being the trend these days, 55K isn't that short for general fiction, so you're probably okay. (Of course if you're in a genre like sci fi/fantasy or historical fiction you are too low) You could round up and say 60K if you felt nervous about it. I don't think that's too much of a fudge. Just make sure the query kicks butt :) That's what really matters.

04-08-2009, 11:16 PM
Just wanted to thank you all for your excellent ideas.
I may try bumping up the count to 60,000 for the purpose of the query letter, which I have reworked many times. And I'll doublecheck the agent websites to see if they mention word count required. I truly don't believe there is anything further which should be added to the novel itself, as I have edited and added scenes and edited again.
It was interesting what Danthia said about shorter books being the trend these days. After checking out novels in libraries and bookstores, I find that the great majority are 'medium' length, although there are the short literary or international-type or inspirational novels, as well as the major tomes. I can only imagine someone marching up to Hermann Hesse and informing him that his books were too short .......

04-09-2009, 01:21 AM
I was just quoting what I've read on agent and editor blogs. Shorter being in the 60-80K range. Less paper = cheaper, and everyone is looking for ways to cut costs right now.

I don't think you'll see a ton of shorter books on the shelves right now, but you probably will in the next year or two. Stuff out now was sold one to two years ago.

And of course, I could be totally wrong :)