Ask an Agent! Part 3: Do I have to find an illustrator to collaborate with me first? & how many words are ideal for a first-time author to get published?
Robin Mizell of Robin Mizell Ltd, answers member’s questions on the query process and agent representation.
5. I have a great idea for a children’s book (who doesn’t?). I’ve written a draft of the text, but the pictures need to do much of the talking. How do I pitch it? Do I have to find an illustrator to collaborate with me first?
You’re right. It seems as though people are more likely to envision themselves writing children’s books than books for adults. Why do you think that is?
I don’t represent children’s picture books, because I don’t know enough about the market for them. You should rely on children’s book agents for advice about children’s books. Jennifer Laughran, who blogs at Jennifer Represents…, is one of the best in the business. Earlier this year, she answered your second question in a Q&A with David Henry Sterry on the Huffington Post.
6. I’ve been working on writing a romance novel to be published and my question is how many words are ideal for a first-time author to get published? Is there a min/max that agents look for? Require?
Romance and erotica with word counts of less than 40,000, priced accordingly, are being sold by ebook-only and ebook-first publishers. Independent publishers were first to try this strategy, and now some of the big publishing conglomerates have begun to experiment. Word counts will become more variable as ebook sales increase, but it will take book buyers and most trade book publishers some time to adjust their expectations. For the moment, it’s not a bad idea to stay with what’s been successful for the past couple of years, especially if you’re hoping that your novel will appear in print and ebook formats.
Publishers of category romance usually have strict guidelines in place for word counts, settings, characters, the depiction of sexuality, and other aspects of these familiar series. You might be able to find the precise specifications on their websites.
Devoted readers of romance subgenres, such as Regency romance novels, are discerning consumers. If you intend to cater to readers, then take a look at the page counts of the current bestsellers in your subgenre to find out where to aim. The typical word counts of romance subgenres differ a bit.
I can’t say I’d be delighted to see a 70,000-word novel manuscript, because I would expect the word count to decrease after editing. I’m happy to see a manuscript between 80,000 and 110,000 words in length. I worry about what subgenre it falls in and roughly how many pages it should consist of after I figure out if it’s any good.
You asked if I could specify the word count for a first-time romance author’s manuscript. In theory, your first publication could be a 90,000-word hardcover romance novel. But it’s typical to acquire skill by having shorter works published in reputable online publications and literary magazines, in anthologies, or as ebooks. Maybe you’ve already had some stories published. If so, then mention them in your query letter, because impressive publication credits indicate to me just how serious you are about building a career as a creative writer. Without the experience of getting short pieces of fiction published, you’ll find it difficult to envision the competition. It’s better to know what you’re up against.
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