Posted by Kristen Hamilton on November 8, 2018 at 11:00 AM
I frequently work with first-time authors, most of whom choose to self-publish their book on Amazon Kindle. Still, a good chunk of my clients opt for traditional publishing—which means they’ll first send out query letters to agents, and once they find an agent who will represent their manuscript, that agent will then pitch their manuscript to traditional publishing houses.
However, since the book publishing industry is so saturated, authors with larger manuscripts (think 100,000 words or more) might find it a bit harder to break into the traditional publishing industry.
Why? Submitting a manuscript of 100k+ words isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the tricky part here is the assumption that new authors don’t know how to self-edit. The fear among agents and publishers is that a new author’s work will be excessively long, and therefore the pacing will be slow—in other words, the book will not be exciting enough.
Actually, this is a valid fear because many first-time authors think they don’t need an editor.
That said, there are specific word counts that are acceptable to different genres. For fantasy, for example, it’s acceptable to have a manuscript in the 120,000-word range. This is good for books that have diverse, complex worlds including various plot concepts including magic and mystical creatures. For fiction, on the other hand, a more acceptable word count is about 80,000 words.
How to Boost Your Chances at Agent Representation
In the face of this news, what’s a new author with a big manuscript to do?
Above all, it’s important to make sure you are concise in telling the story. Don’t go off on a tangent, because that is what agents will see and will make them choose not to represent you.
Here’s a trick of the trade: In your query letter, specify that the book has been edited before (and, yes, you need to be truthful—that means actually get your book edited!). This indicates to the agent that the book is a more serious query, as authors who are more serious about their writing careers (and those who are more successful) are the ones who will be willing to pay money to have their work edited.
You may be a new author with a big manuscript—and the odds for breaking into the traditional publishing industry may be against you—but with a little help, you can have just as great odds of success as the next author.
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Book editor Kristen Hamilton is the owner and sole employee of
Kristen Corrects, Inc., where she provides manuscript editing
services for traditionally and self-publishing authors. Several
authors whose books she has edited have won awards and have
topped Amazon's best sellers lists.
Reading is Kristen's passion, so when the workday is over, she
can usually be found curled up with a good book alongside her
four cats. She loves watching cat videos and scary movies,
eating pizza, teaching herself French, and traveling, and she is
likely planning her next vacation. She lives outside of Boise, ID.