61,000 Words?

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hazelnut_

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I decided to make an attempt at writing a confessional memoir piece concerning my encounters within a 3-month period. Given the time frame of the events described, and that I felt anything more than 60,000 words would be an addition for the sake of padding, I left the manuscript as is. After editing the piece, I've given it to several beta readers, who gave me helpful feedback.

However, no one can really provide input on length. Much of what I find online concerning how many words your memoir should be seems a little arbitrary. I initially aimed for 80,000 words, but again, I feel I would be adding fluff. After my last review, I sent ten queries. But I'm wondering if my length is unsatisfactory. Some of the titles I saw under the agencies I queried have been in the 50,000-word range, though these weren't first-time authors.

Thoughts and input would be very much appreciated. Thank you!
 

nadja1972

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Hi hazelnut, I think 60,000 words is a little on the short side for a first-time author, but that might not be the reason agents aren't requesting your manuscript. There may be an issue with your query, sample pages or lack of platform/publishing credits. If you work up to 50 posts here at AW, you can put up your query and/or chapters in the Share Your Work forums for feedback.

I would think if the story and writing are strong enough, an agent might be willing to take you on at 60,000 words and then work with you to bulk it up if necessary before going on submission. Just make sure the story and writing are totally stellar. Good luck!
 

hazelnut_

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Thank you, nadja. I was told about these forums being a good resource, so I will be hanging around for a while.

I sent the letters very recently, so probably within the next four to six weeks, I'll be working on supplementary material, just in case. I've outlined several chapters that could add more to the story, so maybe putting those together would help.
 

hazelnut_

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So, update:

I've gotten 5 responses back from 12 agents in a 2-week period. All complimenting the query and the project, though telling me that "this isn't right for my list." The most feedback I got was a detailed email from someone who told me that my work would be better suited for an indie publisher rather than one of the big ones that she usually tries to get her clients published through. Any thoughts?
 

EMaree

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Those sound like fairly generic form rejections, not much to glean from those. As a general rule of thumb, you don't want to jump on any rejection feedback unless a) you get similar feedback from multiple agents or b) that particular piece of feedback resonates with you. Lots of agents have differing opinions, and if you take every piece of rejection feedback to heart you'll end up spinning in the wrong direction.

Keep querying.

You've only been querying for 2 weeks, which isn't much time to glean anything from. Plenty of agents take months to reply. Try looking again at the six month mark, of three months if you're in a real hurry.

(And always, always be working on the next book to keep your mind off all those queries floating around.)

Regarding the original wordcount question: I wouldn't say there's anything wrong with 61k for autobio, especially when you already seem to have a concise, clear style. Wouldn't fret about it unless you receive multiple pieces of feedback specifically about the length.
 
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