PDA

View Full Version : Leaving out word count in query?



Sharon Mock
04-13-2006, 12:04 AM
I've seen it suggested (supposedly by some agents and editors) that if your manuscript's word count is too high or low, you shouldn't mention it in the query at all. This strikes me as deceitful, and I'm not comfortable with it.

What would you do?

My-Immortal
04-13-2006, 12:08 AM
I've seen it suggested (supposedly by some agents and editors) that if your manuscript's word count is too high or low, you shouldn't mention it in the query at all. This strikes me as deceitful, and I'm not comfortable with it.

What would you do?

If a given manuscript is too long or too short, why would you waste your time (and theirs) by even submitting it to them in the first place?

Just a thought...

jchines
04-13-2006, 12:16 AM
Is the assumption that the agent or editor won't notice the (fairly glaring) omission in the cover letter, or that once they get the manuscript, they simply won't realize it's exceptionally short/long?

Either way, I suspect the agent or editor is more likely to be annoyed by this trick than they are to say, "Oh, you fooled me. Guess I'll go ahead and buy this, even though it doesn't meet our guidelines."

CaoPaux
04-13-2006, 12:20 AM
Word count is expected in a query letter. If it ain't there, it's a red flag to the agent that you're either trying to dodge their guidelines or haven't researched proper submission technique. Neither is good.

Daughter of Faulkner
04-13-2006, 03:30 AM
And never been asked either.
Not ever. If they like or love your story it will not matter.
However, a NYT book reviewer asked me years ago and told me that he thought a first novel should be no more than 80,000 and not to go over 100,000 words UNLESS I had a very good reason.

Keep writing!

:e2BIC:

Jamesaritchie
04-13-2006, 07:19 AM
Is the assumption that the agent or editor won't notice the (fairly glaring) omission in the cover letter, or that once they get the manuscript, they simply won't realize it's exceptionally short/long?

Either way, I suspect the agent or editor is more likely to be annoyed by this trick than they are to say, "Oh, you fooled me. Guess I'll go ahead and buy this, even though it doesn't meet our guidelines."



No, but they might say, "I'll go ahead and buy this because I think it will earn me ten million dollars."

Simply put, sometimes agents and editors do buy things they normally wouldn't look at because of length. It happens with some regularity.

It's really a "don't ask, don't tell" situation. If they do not specifically ask, it is not deceitful not to tell.

Jamesaritchie
04-13-2006, 07:21 AM
And never been asked either.
Not ever. If they like or love your story it will not matter.
However, a NYT book reviewer asked me years ago and told me that he thought a first novel should be no more than 80,000 and not to go over 100,000 words UNLESS I had a very good reason.

Keep writing!

:e2BIC:



It's a good thing that NYT reviewer isn't in publishing. Following that rule, many fo teh best first novels out there never would have been written.

The corrrect rule on length is "Never violate a specific publisher's guidelines without good reason."

No more than 80,000 would barely meet the minimum length at many publishers, even for first novels.

Daughter of Faulkner
04-13-2006, 02:51 PM
Greetings James,
He was actually the head of Times Books in NY for many years. Now he is an agent. He had me cut and cut extra words but I never cut out what meant something--thank God. I still have his e-mail. I remember my dear husband asking me, "Does he know what he is talking about? I don't want you to cut anything that's good..."
He was strict on what he believed about word count, strict.
Take care.

jchines
04-13-2006, 03:47 PM
No, but they might say, "I'll go ahead and buy this because I think it will earn me ten million dollars."

Personally, I'd be mistrustful of any agent or editor who thought a first-time novel was going to earn ten million dollars. Sure, it's possible. It's also possible a winning lotto ticket will blow through the window. For every J. K. Rowling, there are hundreds or thousands of first-time novelists who don't earn out their $5000 advance ... so much so that editors generally don't expect a first novel to earn out.

Julie Worth
04-13-2006, 03:59 PM
However, a NYT book reviewer asked me years ago and told me that he thought a first novel should be no more than 80,000 and not to go over 100,000 words UNLESS I had a very good reason.


Iíve had an editor tell me that the more it exceeded 75k, the poorer the chances for a first timer. On the other hand, Iíve had a major publisher say they wanted to see chapters of my (science fiction) novel, but only if it was 100k or above. Thus the terrible truth is revealed: thereís no acceptable length for a first time novelist.

huliab
04-13-2006, 04:24 PM
I am new to the site and trying to find my way around. I need good information on whether to go to a agent to try to get my manuscript published or to a publisher. Then the big question..Does anyone know of those accepting how-to, self help, memoir type manuscripts??
If I am in the wrong spot plz help me get to where I need to be.
The agent and publisher I have heard from are not good ones according to this site. Tks

Sharon Mock
04-17-2006, 07:15 AM
If a given manuscript is too long or too short, why would you waste your time (and theirs) by even submitting it to them in the first place?
That's a good point, and if the manuscript were of an unpublishable length, I wouldn't bother. But there's a non-zero chance that it's good enough to justify its extra ~10,000 words. I've worked too long on this project to end it with betting against myself.

Julie Worth
04-17-2006, 03:26 PM
That's a good point, and if the manuscript were of an unpublishable length, I wouldn't bother. But there's a non-zero chance that it's good enough to justify its extra ~10,000 words. I've worked too long on this project to end it with betting against myself.

10k doesn't seem much of a problem for a novel. That's probably going to come out in editing anyway. If it's too short it may be unsalvageable (but not completely--as N. Sparks proved). The word count is one of those basic facts you just can't leave out. If it seems long, count the words both ways--computer count and 250 words/page, then take the smaller one.

In any case, my impression is that the fantasy/SF genres are expected to run at least 100k.

priceless1
04-18-2006, 01:50 AM
I'm not an agent, but publishers have the same criteria re submissions. If a query letter doesn't have a word count, I'll either kick it out or, if the synopsis interests me, I'll request the information.

I think the most important thing is presenting an informative and professional query, and word count is akin to putting on your seatbelt before driving - it's expected.

Katiba
04-19-2006, 08:33 PM
I got an agent for my contemporary YA when the word count was almost 90,000 words - about 30,000 words longer than the 40-60,000 words usually recommended for the genre. In the first round of submissions, editors said it was too long, and I had to cut it by 20,000 words. After we sold the book, my new editor said it was still too long, and I had to cut it by another 10,000 words. Now it's just over 60,000 words, just about the average length for the genre.

What to take out of this? I'm not sure. On the one hand, I feel like you're probably going to have to do the work of making it the right length anyway, so why not do it now? On the other hand, I really believed my book was as short as I could make it, and it's only when I had what I felt were strong outside incentives that I found it in myself to cut it.

That said, I told myself each time, I'm going to cut the word count, but if I don't like the results, I'm going to stick with the original - but in both cases, I found myself liking the shorter version *much* better.

One thing I would say, although I did reduce word count partially by getting rid of unnecessary words and phrases, I also found I had to be willing to think about the plot and reconsider every scene - did this further the story? Did it convey absolutely necessary information? In many cases, I identified the important parts of individual scenes, took out the scene entirely and incorporated the relevant info elsewhere in the book.

It was a lot of work, but definitely worth it.

Julie Worth
04-19-2006, 09:38 PM
What to take out of this? I'm not sure. On the one hand, I feel like you're probably going to have to do the work of making it the right length anyway, so why not do it now? On the other hand, I really believed my book was as short as I could make it, and it's only when I had what I felt were strong outside incentives that I found it in myself to cut it.


When it comes to cutting this much, the author may not be the best person to make the decision what goes. So it might be better to submit something too long, saying you're willing to prune it.