Sunday, June 27, 2010

Revising Your Word Count

What if you rejected for no other reason than a too-low 50k word count?(though -oops-the author-doesn't know for sure it was this, God forbid an agent give feedback) would a revised 70k get the auto-dump as well?

There's a short answer to this, but I felt it deserved some discussion anyway.

At my agency, 50K will make me suspicious but I will not immediately throw it out, even though maybe I should. It depends on the genre; my boss is a little looser about word count. I know of at least two other agencies that absolutely would throw out a 50K novel, so maybe it's not a great thing to be pitching.

On the other hand, padding your novel doesn't make it good. It probably makes it bad (or worse).

There was a case a few weeks ago where someone sent in a query saying she had revised her novel to our specifications and now would we please look at it? As best as we can figure, she had originally sent a query (a partial or full we would have remembered) that one of us rejected, but written "too short" on the side or as a PS. Some agencies do this sometimes, if the writer needs a leg up, but in this case it came to bite us in the tuchus, which it usually does. She assumed this wasn't the only problem with the novel and spent a ton of time revising it, then resent the query. Rejected again - it was still a bad novel idea. I guess our (I don't know if my boss or I did it) helpfulness was misleading, making her think she had a chance if she added 20K of blather, or simply lied about the word count and hoped we really, really loved the partial.

I really hope, as a person, that she hadn't pinned her hopes on us. As I writer, I know she probably did.


Annalee said...

The "god forbid" attitude there really rankles me.

Teaching writing is a valuable skill for which people are paid. So is editing. God forbid writers figure out that they are not entitled to tradecraft they're not willing to pay for.

When I want feedback on my work, I either trade friends for it or pay a teacher to give it to me. I do not demand that random industry professionals donate their time to me as if they've some kind of responsibility to give away their breadwork for free just because I want it.

And that's aside from the whole "why we can't have nice things" argument about other writers behaving badly when they get feedback, or taking it to mean more than it does.

wordsareforwriting said...

hmm.. I thought everyone knew that 50k was too low for a book.

Don´t most writers set a word count in their planning stage?

Why develop/plan a novel in the first place if it is not going to be long enough to market?

M Clement Hall said...

Isn't 50k about right for pulp romance?

Erin Kane Spock said...

I'm in the middle of cutting my 97k historical romance (written using Avon's 90 -100k guidelines) into a 80-90k novel for Kensington/Brava.
It's a pain, but I know I have to meet their qualifications. I'd hate to never even be looked at because I failed to follow directions.
Different genre's and publishing houses have their own length guidelines. I'm surprised by how short some of them are.

Anonymous said...


Please don't cut your manuscript! I'm an editor at Brava, and we certainly accept 97,000 words. I assume you are refering to the limits of the contest (80k-90k), those were imposed to save the poor editors who have to read all the entries. Just send me an email query; no need to enter the contest if your manuscript doesn't fit (your odds of a contract are actually better the normal way...about 5 times more likely than winning the contest.)

Megan Records

Anonymous said...

I write 50,000-60,000 word romance novels that have all been on amazon, allromanceebooks, and fictionwise bestseller lists. They've all earned out and continue to make money.

I don't get this post. Ten years ago I would have, but not today.

Anonymous said...

What Annalee said. And look what happens when the agent DOES give a mere two words of feedback: The author contorts herself to make revisions and then gets rejected all over again. Huge waste of everyone's time.

This isn't Teach for America. Agents are not charities. Why don't people get this?