Jump to content

Disclaimer



Photo

Opinions Requested - Memoir Word Count Before Querying

Non-Fiction Traditional Publishing

  • Please log in to reply
6 replies to this topic

#1 Banning

Banning

    New Member

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 6 posts
  • Literary Status:published, unagented
  • LocationUS West Coast
  • Publishing Experience:Op-Ed in the New York Times

Posted 16 May 2019 - 10:25 AM

Greetings everyone,

After spending the last seventeen months workshopping my memoir twice, along with beginning my sixth rewrite yesterday, I have cut my memoir down from just over 180k words to 145k. I've read with some frequency that 120k words is a sort of unofficial maximum baseline for a memoir, and while I'm certain I still have some editing and reduction to accomplish, my story is incredibly unique. (I'm an former computer gaming addict turned backpacking guide and outdoor educator that was involved in the largest health insurance fraud settlement in U.S. history, and wrote an op-ed for the NYT that was published many years ago regarding my story.)

I'm quite happy with the quality of my work, and after receiving feedback from my workshops, I'm relatively confident that it might be time for me to start researching agents and sending out query letters.

With all that being said, does anyone have an opinion or any experience on whether it's more attractive to an agent to see a high word count and a willingness to work with an editor to help tailor the story in a way the agent sees fit? Or to simply keep working to reduce word count at the potential expense of the narrative and quality of the writing?

Thanks in advance to everyone for reading, and for taking any time to respond!
Banning Lyon

#2 mwsinclair

mwsinclair

    Elephant with a trunk full of novels

  • Group Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,921 posts
  • Literary Status:published, unagented, media
  • LocationUS Northeast
  • Publishing Experience:Journalist covering U.S. nonprofits, foundations, and life in general. President and Chief Elephant Officer of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, LLC. Since establishing the company in 2012, we have published more than a dozen books, including several short story anthologies and debut novels by several AQC authors including "ScubaSteve" Carman and R.S. Mellette. Midway through 2018, we've already published our first nonfiction title, "Which the Days Never Know," and are putting together an omnibus collection of the Seasons Series of anthologies, with launch expected by the Christmas season. And in 2019, there will be much more, with news to come soon!

Posted 17 May 2019 - 09:04 AM

The op-ed in the Times is nice, but a question an agent and/or publisher would ask is about your platform. That is, how much of a following do you have? Do you have a blog that is followed by thousands of readers? Do you have a solid email list you've built up? This kind of stuff.

 

A big part of the challenge of word count is page count. While ebooks can go long without any sort of issue like page count, for obvious reasons, at 145k words, you're talking about a major tome, probably in the range of 500+ pages. If you don't have a solid following/platform going in, few if any publishers are going to invest in a relative unknown whose book would cost over $20-25. Paper costs. If you're looking for hardcover, then you're looking at a $30 book.

 

The only way to bring that cost down is to have a major print run, and the only way to justify that is to have a solid following heading into publication.

 

This is where it starts to become obvious that publishing is a business, not an art. Writing is an art.

 

If it makes sense to split the memoir into two books, you have a better chance of attracting interest. If not, then you have a lot of possibly painful cutting to do.



#3 Banning

Banning

    New Member

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 6 posts
  • Literary Status:published, unagented
  • LocationUS West Coast
  • Publishing Experience:Op-Ed in the New York Times

Posted 17 May 2019 - 09:17 AM

Great info. Thank you for the response. I've started a webpage and will be blogging soon about my life and the process of writing, as I've heard that same thought from many others.

I suppose I should have clarified my question, since my book currently clocks in at just under 500 pages. Will agents view a moderately high word count as an opportunity to shape a rough diamond, so to speak? Or will it simply put them off? From what I've read, 140k is long, yes, but with the author willing to work with an editor and the agent, I'm wondering if 140k word count is actually somewhat of an advantage. I'm simply wanting to avoid wasting the opportunity to query agents if they will immediately dismiss 140k word count. I'm absolutely sure that I have effective trimming to accomplish, but I would prefer the guidance of an agent and editor in order to properly shape the story, instead of removing for its own sake. I hope that makes sense.

Thanks again!
Banning

#4 lnloft

lnloft

    LNLOFT

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 621 posts
  • Literary Status:unagented
  • LocationUS Northeast

Posted 17 May 2019 - 10:40 AM

I suppose I should have clarified my question, since my book currently clocks in at just under 500 pages. Will agents view a moderately high word count as an opportunity to shape a rough diamond, so to speak? Or will it simply put them off?

Unfortunately, it's more likely to be the latter. Remember, agents are getting tons of queries every day. And each client they take on is more work for them. So when they have a choice between your wonderful but long manuscript, that's going to require them to invest time and energy to getting it publisher ready, or the 100k manuscript from Joey Jojo Jr Shabadoo, that they just need to make a couple tweaks on, they're going to take Mr Shabadoo's, because it's less work for the same result to them. Any given aspiring author isn't special to them. It sucks for us, but that's the reality.


Please note I'm also posting on behalf of people who can't sign up, so if I provide a link in the main body of the post, make sure to reciprocate on that thread.

 

I've got 250 words I'd love your feedback on: Untitled fantasy project


#5 Banning

Banning

    New Member

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 6 posts
  • Literary Status:published, unagented
  • LocationUS West Coast
  • Publishing Experience:Op-Ed in the New York Times

Posted 17 May 2019 - 10:56 AM

Great response. Thank you. Your thoughts echo my instinct, so I'll keep trimming in the hope of getting it down to 120k.

And I'll work on my blog!

Thanks again,
Banning

#6 mwsinclair

mwsinclair

    Elephant with a trunk full of novels

  • Group Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,921 posts
  • Literary Status:published, unagented, media
  • LocationUS Northeast
  • Publishing Experience:Journalist covering U.S. nonprofits, foundations, and life in general. President and Chief Elephant Officer of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, LLC. Since establishing the company in 2012, we have published more than a dozen books, including several short story anthologies and debut novels by several AQC authors including "ScubaSteve" Carman and R.S. Mellette. Midway through 2018, we've already published our first nonfiction title, "Which the Days Never Know," and are putting together an omnibus collection of the Seasons Series of anthologies, with launch expected by the Christmas season. And in 2019, there will be much more, with news to come soon!

Posted 20 May 2019 - 12:53 PM

And best of luck!



#7 Banning

Banning

    New Member

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 6 posts
  • Literary Status:published, unagented
  • LocationUS West Coast
  • Publishing Experience:Op-Ed in the New York Times

Posted 20 May 2019 - 06:37 PM

And best of luck!

Already knocked about 5k off on this rewrite. Hoping to get it 120k before querying.

 

Thanks for the good wishes!

 

Banning







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Non-Fiction, Traditional Publishing

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users