Monday, January 18, 2010

Random Questions

Sometimes Random Questions are my favorite posts. Quick and easy. Here’s another batch of questions that I think are important for readers to see, but not long enough to warrant a full blog post.

I have written a novel, but feel the best comparisons are narrative nonfiction. Is using narrative nonfiction to compare with a novel acceptable in a pitch, or is this a bad idea?

I think it’s fine. Comparing your book to another often means that you feel the same audience might be interested in your book.

I am working on a nonfiction humor book and when I looked around the web a few years ago I noticed everyone wanted a book proposal. Now that I renewed my interest in my book idea I noticed most agents are asking for queries. I thought queries were for fiction and proposals for nonfiction. Is it standard that agents are only accepting queries for nonfiction? Should I write a proposal and have it ready in case I get a response on my query?

Sadly there are no easy outs in publishing, for fiction or nonfiction. Queries are standard for any submission you want to make to an agent. It’s a way for us to evaluate if the book is even right for us before you send material. Should you have the proposal done? Yes, before you even think of the query. If you get a request, the proposal should be ready to send that night.

If your book is a memoir (creative nonfiction or narrative nonfiction), written in the style of a novel, do you submit a fiction proposal or a nonfiction proposal package?

Is it just me or does it feel like I answer this question monthly. Just an fyi, the answer is on the FAQ of our web site. But to answer again, narrative nonfiction, creative nonfiction, memoir, whatever it is you want to call the book should be submitted as if it were a fiction proposal.

I am completely baffled on the correct system to employ to estimate word count on a completed manuscript.

I think this question is probably one of the most frequently asked questions I receive. Let’s do it this way. Just follow your word processing program’s word count. If you think that makes the count too high or too low, then count roughly 250 words per page. Honestly, when we get the manuscript we can tell whether it’s too long or too short just from holding the pages. Word count isn’t an exact science, especially since it’s about how the words translate to the published book. It’s rough. Just do what you’re comfortable with; as long as you're reasonably within a range, you should be fine.

Would there be any benefit to starting a blog and posting short stories on a regular basis to try and generate a "reader base,” or am I better served to spend that time working on another book and querying agents?

I’m not convinced that blogs are necessarily the best way to build a writing career. I know they are suggested and I do think that getting out and participating in a blog, on occasion, once you’re published, can help with publicity. That being said, I think it’s rare that the unpublished author gets picked up for a book deal because of a blog. If you really want to write short stories and publish them on a blog, go ahead. Otherwise, work to get your shorts published in literary magazines and spend your time on your next book. If a novel is what you want to write then you should be writing novels.

I have a quick question after reading your post on word count. I am not sure my manuscript is long enough. Several people at Absolute Write told me 56K is fine for my YA urban fantasy. I thought I should ask an agent whose advice I can count on. Do you think that is too short?

I think that you’re a little short, probably not dangerously short though. The problem is that you’re writing YA Urban Fantasy, which tends to be a tad longer. If it’s easy for you to bring it up closer to 70k words, I would try to do that. If it’s a stretch then you should be okay submitting as is.



Sean Patrick Reardon said...

As always excellent info, especially regarding nonfiction

Johnnie Alexander Donley said...

Thanks for the answer about the blog. I talked to a friend about this last night -- that I want to spend my time working on my novel, not on blogging. But the pressure to blog seems so intense. A weight has been lifted. The novel gets most of my writing time from here on out.

Ann Elle Altman said...

These are really interesting questions. I think it interesting about word count too.


B. Light said...

Thanks for the great information. Your posts are always so educational.

carolynyalin said...

Thanks for the information. I found some answers to questions I had!

Mira said...

I know you get these questions all the time, Jessica, but alot of it was new information for me. Thanks! :) said...

Several people at Absolute Write told me 56K is fine for my YA urban fantasy. I thought I should ask an agent whose advice I can count on. Do you think that is too short?
YA Urban Fantasy... tends to be a tad longer. If it’s easy for you to bring it up closer to 70k words, I would do that.

Wow, great topic here. How do you lengthen a manuscript?

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