Monday, November 05, 2007

Any Pro Writers Out There Wanna Work For No Money?

Well, it looks like I have finally found a newish but legit literary agency willing to represent one of my novels.

Unfortunately, I am not particularly good with the business aspect of writing fiction. Anyone out there willing to answer a few puzzled questions via email? For example, it would have been good if I had known previously that, while the official definition of a novel is 40,000+ words, in reality most publishers won't look at anything under about 80,000. (My most pressing need at the moment is to find an extra 15,000 words that will go seamlessly into the current manuscript).

Volunteers may get a character named after them that doesn't die hideously.


Sean Cummings said...

I am a writer too and there's a ton of good information online about agencies and agents. This is by far the best site:

As far as a novel being more than 40,000 words, that's debatable. Serialized fiction is often released in much smaller forms and a great many pulp romance novels barely reach 40,000 words. What is the agency you are represented by?

bigcitylib said...



They're called Phenomenon Books.

As for the word length, the 40,000 is a good rule of thumb but not set in stone. In my own case, two agents from seperate companies mentioned length as an impediment. Below 80,000 and many publishing houses won't bite.

Reality Bites said...

Quick tips:

Using the search and replace function, change all occurrences of "really" to "really, really" and all of "very" to "very, very."

I've never met a "barely" that couldn't use a "just," or a meal that couldn't be described in detail. Example: in the "Clan of the Cave Bear Books" Ayla never, ever simply roasts a ptarmigan. She always makes it the way the (long-dead) Creb used to like it - stuffed with its own eggs, wrapped in leaves and cooked until it was so tender the meat fell off the bone. And she cooks it at least 300 times in each book in the series. Not once in any of the books does any meat adhere to the bone after cooking, nor is the reader ever left in doubt about its bone-falling factor.

Those books have sold millions of copies and only contain a half-dozen words, used tens of thousands of times.

900ft Jesus said...

BCL, you probably already know about the Writer’s Handbook (and Canadian Writer's Handbook) published annually. If not, they list agents and publishers according to genre and each listing gives some info on what writers/agents want, including word # and length, usually. It’s a fast way of narrowing down info to do more in-depth research on the Net by going to individual publishing/agent sites. Also gives a good overview of the industry - trends, changes, etc.

I have never heard of that word length criteria you wrote about, but maybe it depends on the type of fiction. Most editors expect to cut out a significant percentage of the manuscripts because people tend to over-write in mainstream fiction. Literary agents/publishers demand a more finished, streamlined product and cutting out sections of literary fiction is problematic since it could mess with metaphors, underlying points, etc.

So if your agent handles mainstream, maybe it’s because she/he expects to have to cut some (not because of your writing, but due to past experience with writers) and still have a long enough novel to publish. Some writers clean their own work up really well before sending it in, leaving little to edit, but from what I’ve read, that’s not typical in mainstream. Good luck with your novel! Even getting an agent to take one on is very encouraging.

(I hate that Cavebear crap)

bigcitylib said...

900 ft,

If they successfully sell it, it will probably appear as "horror" or "urban fantasy" or something along those lines (its a ghost story). In these genres, apparently they don't like things under a particular length. I think its actually got more to do with physical production of the book--anything too long or too short means more design work--than the need to cut, but I'm not 100% sure.

900ft Jesus said...

interesting, thanks for the info. I'm sure you're right.

I wanted to ask what your book was about, but some people are funny about letting it out. Thanks for that. I love ghost stories.