Q. I attended a writer’s conference where I had an opportunity to pitch an agent in hopes of getting feedback on my pitch letter, and also hopefully getting the agent interested in my novel. This agent gave me her business card and said she was interested in seeing my first three chapters – but first she wanted me to cut approximately 33,000 words off my manuscript, because it’s extremely difficult for a first time novelist to sell something over 100,000 words.
I have two questions: 1) is it true that first time novelists should try to stay in that 100,000-words-or-less guideline? 2) It’s taken me well over a year to trim those 33,000 words out (it hasn’t helped that during that time I moved to another state and began a grueling new job search, which took time away from my editing). When I finally do finish those edits, is it too late to send my first three chapters in? Should I send a pitch letter first, reminding her of our meeting and hoping against hope that she’ll remember me? Your advice is much appreciated! Keep up the great blogging!
A. Yes, it’s true that you should aim for approximately 100,000 words. I end up saying this a lot at conferences and many writers kinda shake their heads, thinking this is either untrue or unfair or both.
Second part: Send what was requested – it’s not too late. Send your query letter in, and, at the beginning, mention how she requested the work at the conference, and how it has been trimmed in length as per her request. Then include the chapters.
The more agents I talk to, the more just admit that most of what they hear at conferences blends together. So the fact that you’re sending it in pretty late is not exactly good, per se, but likely harmless. Good luck.