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  1. #1
    Rachel
    Guest

    Selling a 51,000 word novel

    I've had several requests from very reputable agents recently to read the full manucript of my novel. Today I received a rejection from one agent who said she loved the story, but that 51,000 words would only make a 75 page book, so she passed. I'd rather continue working on my next novel than go back and make the first one bigger, so my question is: do I have any chance at all of getting an agent for a 51,000 word book?

    thanks for all your opinions, I really enjoy this site!



  2. #2
    KBG
    Guest

    Re: Selling a 51,000 word novel

    Rachel,

    Like you, I am trying to work on a second novel while sending out queries about my first, shorter novel. I have also had many terrific agents request my manuscript, although it is only 54,000 words long. In my query letter, I mention the word count, so agents are aware of the length before they request it. I've received a lot of feedback with rejections, and the length has never been mentioned. For me, it hasn't been a problem.

    Best wishes.

  3. #3
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    Re: Selling a 51,000 word novel

    In only a few cases is a 75-page novella profitable for a publisher to produce as a traditional book. (The most significant case being where the author's name and reputation will guarantee high sales.) You could add a complementary novella to it (or fill it out into a longer work). Also, if you can't get it into traditonal print, e-publishers will often accept shorter work.

  4. #4
    KBG
    Guest

    Re: Selling a 51,000 word novel

    Rachel,

    It might depend somewhat on what you write. My work is literary fiction, and short literary novels are not uncommon. Agents at several top agencies, including ICM, Sterling Lord, Sanford J. Greenburger, and Joy Harris have all requested my novel, knowing it is only 54,000 words. I do have publishing credits in literary journals and commercial magazines and a state award under my belt, which I'm sure helped me to get read, but still, this is my first novel. I've had some in-depth comments from these agents, and as I wrote earlier, not one has blinked at the length. If you write historical fiction, I know, it would have to be longer. But if you're a literary fiction writer, I'd shrug off the comment, keep submitting, and try to stay focused on the next novel, which will probably be better than the first.

    Just my opinion. Hope it helps.

  5. #5
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    Re: Selling a 51,000 word novel

    KGB: Perhaps you can identify some published 51,000 to 54,000-word literary fiction novels by authors without name cachet? Again, a 75 to 100-page book produced by a traditional publisher would have to carry a proportionally high sales price. While the agents you have contacted did not balk at the 54,000-word length (as the original poster indicated they did at the 51,000-word length), you indicate that none of them have picked up the book either. Just because they didn't list length in their reasons not to accept, that doesn't mean it might not have been part of the problem, does it? And what may not be a problem for the agent could quite likely be seen as a problem for the publisher who must figure out how to sell enough units to clear a profit. Hope you both find publishers, though.

  6. #6
    KBG
    Guest

    Re: Selling a 51,000 word novel

    Gary,

    As you are one of the voices on this forum that I respect, I'm not trying to support my position over yours, just to help Rachel. The agents that read my book are in a position to know what a publisher will publish in my field, although you might be right about publishers thinking twice before publishing a short novel. And although I can't be certain what the agents were thinking other than what was expressed to me, they were courteous enough to let me know, sometimes after first requesting sample chapters and then the rest of the MS, why, in the end, they passed on the work. I think knowing that many good agents are evidently willing to take on short novels, at least in the literary arena, might be helpful to Rachel. Since she wrote that several reputable agents have recently requested her manuscript, I would encourage her to send her work ASAP rather than trying to "make it bigger," as she is considering. One of those reputable agents might just take it on. I'd hate to see her lose a good opportunity. As for short literary novels, off the top of my head, most of Kaye Gibbons's novels are quite short, even under 50,000 words (as in Oprah pick A Virtuous Woman). And while she's known now, her first novel, Ellen Foster, was very short. The Bridges of Madison County was, I think, a first novel. Also short. But as I said, all I can speak about is my own experience.

  7. #7
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    Re: Selling a 51,000 word novel

    Yep, those were a couple of short ones that got published. Never say never, so will be happy to hear that you've both placed yours.

  8. #8
    RBSA
    Guest

    Re: Selling a 51,000 word novel

    51K is quite short and will be the cause of much rejection. However, pitch it with the word count and you may get lucky. Not mentioning the word count will get you a lot of rejection for that reason, whether the agents tell you or not.

    RBSA

  9. #9
    Mary M.
    Guest

    Re: Selling a 51,000 word novel

    A side question here for those in the know: Would a small publisher be more receptive to novellas? If so, Rachel may want to approach only them.

  10. #10
    Rachel
    Guest

    Re: Selling a 51,000 word novel

    Thank you all for your feedback. My novel is indeed "literary fiction." At this point, however, I don't have any unrealistic expectations that it will find an agent. I'll query just a few more agents and see what happens, and after that I'll just make sure that the next one is long enough to interest the right agents. I might take a look at the small presses, as Mary suggests.

    Thanks again for your responses!

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