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  1. LetaDarnell
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    LetaDarnell Member

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    Query Letter Chtonic--query letter needs help

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by LetaDarnell, Oct 12, 2014.

    Dear ______________



    My graphic novel Chthonic was inspired by the famous and ward-winning anime, Fullmetal Alchemist:Brotherhood, adapted from a manga, or Japanese graphic novel. It matches many genres you seek, according to your website, including __________



    Amy has the worst power in the world. She kills.


    She loses pets, her friends, and fears for her job and freedom within a day. Desperate, she allows herself to be escorted away by the oddest military personnel she had ever seen, Led by a strange winged man named Artemis. She is brought to a man named Ellirian and expresses she doubts everything he and the others have said. They have told her about magic, other worlds, and now he says he is immortal and has lived centuries. All she wants is never to kill and innocent being again, even if it means her own life. It does.


    As Ellirian holds Amy's lifeless body, he can only think of two things. His immortality was true and it still haunts him—wars, genocide, superstition, bloody quests for power and money, and simple treachery that he never saw an end to. He also remembers Amy's last words, a plea for him to seek out hope in humanity for his own sake. Honoring her wish, he becomes a tutor to two twin girls. At first he helps them grown and think, but soon he just watches as they take charge of their own lives, learning for the first time real individuality while sharing goals. He is content. He is proud. It is all because of them—and he will never see him again. They are dead, killed by their dad, who was driving drunk.


    He can't escape the pain of remembering everyone who gave him hope that he lost, and everyone who betrayed him still lived. A hand graces his cheek and he looks up. She is Ariantanna, another immortal, a former lover, and who hurt him time and again. The two spar, equal in power, but it is all he can do to resist her. The fight is interrupted as two people use magic to try and escape a monster, a man to escape the woman, and the woman to escape a monster. Ellirian rushes the man to the hospital, and it is him and Artemis alone against the other three. After being stabbed through the gut, Ellirian watches as two mortals, face down Ariantanna. Never having witness such courage or care for a fellow stranger before from humanity, Ellirian vows never to abandon it again, if just to see it one more time



    I have submitted the ________ (required chapters or entirety) of the script.


    Thank you for your consideration and time.



    Sincerely,


    Me
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2014
  2. LetaDarnell
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    LetaDarnell Member

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    Sorry about the typo in the title of this thread.

    Here's a newer version:

    Dear ______________



    My graphic novel Chthonicis a fantasy, commercial literature story, inspired by the famous and ward-winning anime, Fullmetal Alchemist:Brotherhood, adapted from a manga, or Japanese graphic novel. It matches many genres you seek, according to your website, including __________



    Ellirian has grown weary of living amongst humans. He remains immortal while they throw their lives away to kill and exploit each other. Due to both his expertise in magic and inability to die, a young woman is sent to him, pleading for his help. Her magic is killing innocent people and she wants it gone, even if it cost her own life. Ellirian has been waiting to find someone so kind for centuries and cannot turn her away. The attempt indeed ends her life, but before she dies she asks Ellirian to give humanity one more chance.


    Ellirian attempts to fulfill his promise, but finds misery, grief, and resentment instead. Worse, Ariantanna, his ex-lover has come to gloat about it, boasting that he had wasted his life and done nothing to help those he cared for when he could have. He almost admits she speaks the truth wen he comes upon a chance to prove her wrong and flees with a dying man to the nearest hospital. He has to aid mortals in a fight against Ariantanna, someone he knows he cannot defeat. To his amazement, he sees the mortals standing up to her, knowing they are easily outmatched. He realizes he was never meant to separate himself from mortals, but to always encourage such potential in them.


    I have submitted the ________ (required chapters or entirety) of the script.


    Thank you for your consideration and time.



    Sincerely,



    Jennifer Pillow-Taylor
     
  3. Adora Belle
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    Adora Belle Member

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    I have no idea how a person goes about querying graphic novels as opposed to straight-up prose novels, so do take this with a heap of salt.

    I don't get a feel for your Main Character - Ellirian - other than that he's immortal and has some magic powers. I think you need more specifics regarding what he can do, and how much power he has over the human race. Is he a Godlikefigure? Also, is his ex-lover an immortal as well?

    Sorry, I just don't really have a good sense of your world as it's been presented here. Too many questions that are less about curiosity being piqued,than finding that the descriptions so far are a bit too vague for me. Also, this seems to have a summary of the entire story from start to finish. In regular queries, all that's usually needed is the hook, but again, for graphic novels, the conventions might be different. Hope this helps...

    Good luck!
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that you're too deep in this story, and that you're assuming that the reader of this letter is intimately familiar with your world and with the works that inspire you. I believe that a query letter needs to stand alone.

    > My graphic novel Chthonicis a fantasy, commercial literature

    Is "commercial literature" a standard term? It puzzles me.

    > story,
    > inspired by the famous and ward-winning anime, Fullmetal
    > Alchemist:Brotherhood, adapted from a manga, or Japanese graphic
    > novel.

    This seems like a problem--being "inspired by" or "adapted from" something still under copyright would, I'd think, raise fears of copyright suits. This suggests that you may be violating not one, but two, sets of copyrights. Even if you're not, trying to sell your own work by pointing to someone else's work seems problematic.

    > Ellirian has grown weary of living amongst humans. He remains immortal

    This seems to start too soon. What/who is Ellirian? Why should we care about him? Are we supposed to know that he's immortal?

    > Due
    > to both his expertise in magic and inability to die,

    This feels like a sort of catalogue of attributes. We already know he can't die; you said "immortal" a moment ago. And there's an odd, dry formality about "due to."

    > a young woman is
    > sent to him,

    Sent by who? "is sent" suggests to me that the real party is someone else, whoever sent her. If you just mean that someone told her about him and she's seeking help for herself, I'd lose the passive voice.

    > pleading for his help. Her magic is killing innocent
    > people and she wants it gone, even if it cost her own life.

    "wants it gone" is very informal. "even if it cost" is a grammatical error.

    > Ellirian
    > has been waiting to find someone so kind

    How is she kind? And "been waiting" suggests that he's still interested in humanity and eagerly watching them.

    > for centuries and cannot turn
    > her away. The attempt indeed ends her life, but before she dies she
    > asks Ellirian to give humanity one more chance.

    We didn't know that he wasn't giving it a chance, just that he was tired of living with humans. And why should humanity care of Ellirian gives it a chance?

    > Ellirian attempts to fulfill his promise, but finds misery, grief, and
    > resentment instead.

    How? It sounds like this is a big part of the novel, but there's nothing about it.

    > Worse, Ariantanna, his ex-lover has come to gloat
    > about it, boasting that he had wasted his life and done nothing to
    > help those he cared for when he could have.

    This suggests that Ariantanna's primary importance is found in the fact that she heckles him.

    Also, the heckling addresses a life that we know nothing about. Is this novel a sequel to other novels that you've written?

    > He almost admits she
    > speaks the truth wen he comes upon a chance to prove her wrong and
    > flees with a dying man to the nearest hospital.

    Again, his argument with Ariantanna seems to be treated as the most important thing.

    > He has to aid mortals
    > in a fight against Ariantanna, someone he knows he cannot defeat.

    Now we find out that she's more than a heckler, but it still feels as if it's of secondary importance.

    > To
    > his amazement, he sees the mortals standing up to her, knowing they
    > are easily outmatched. He realizes he was never meant to separate
    > himself from mortals, but to always encourage such potential in them.

    Again, I don't know the significance of Ellirian caring or not-caring about humanity.
     
  5. LetaDarnell
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    LetaDarnell Member

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    No, I understand. It's hard to give a short version of both the story and the world in the same message. I've had to go back and forth on it several times and agents have told me not to focus on the world at all.

    Do you feel more of the world would be best for this synopsis?

    Yes. Agentquery defines commercial fiction as a genre.

    I've never herd of those two phrases being synonymous before, but pointing out the same audience and target was recommended.

    Well, there's two definitions of immortal, thanks to Tolkien; 'Can't die' and 'lives until thoroughly killed'.

    I also thought agent queries were supposed to be as formal as possible.

    I don't follow.

    His attitude would clearly show he stopped giving them a chance. Feeling like all humans murder and exploit isn't giving them a chance.

    Also, why should it matter that humanity cares? Amy made him promise to try again. Humanity didn't.

    Again, I don't follow.

    Uh, I don't think that word is right. Statler and Waldorf are hecklers. The joker or Green Goblin boast about when Robin or Gwen Stacy die because Batman or Spider-Man couldn't save them.



    Again, his argument with Ariantanna seems to be treated as the most important thing.

    That's the conflict in the story.

    I'm sorry, I'm not getting your logic on a lot of this critique. I'm not understanding what to change or adjust to the nature or wording of the questions.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'll try another way:

    What are the stakes here? Why do we care if your immortal cares about humanity? Is your immortal a really great baker, and humanity will no longer benefit from his cupcakes? Will he stop publishing his haikus? Will he quit his job on the school board? Who is he, what is he, and why does he matter to humanity? I assume that he's some sort of powerful evil-fighting machine, not a cupcake baker, but there's no explanation at all. Now, if there were an explanation of his powerful evil-fighting self, I would probably be suggesting that you tone down the description of power and make him more accessible and human, but right now there's no explanation to even start with.

    Next, who is he and why does he matter to the reader? How do we identify with him? How do we feel what he's feeling?

    The first line of your crossed-out version--"Amy has the worst power in the world. She kills."--gave us much more insight into a character that we could care about. There's nothing in the current version that makes us care about Ellirian.
     
  7. LetaDarnell
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    LetaDarnell Member

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    Humanity is not a character in the story. He doesn't matter to humanity the same almost no one has mattered to the entirety of humanity.

    Many people have had ideas about the entire human race. Fire Lord Ozai, Ebenezer Scrooge, Willy Wonka's dad, The Red Skull, Aresia from the Justice League Cartoon, Batman, Ra's Al-Ghul, Agent Smith, The Watcher, The Phoenix, Captain Planet.

    What does humanity get without them? It doesn't; they're part of a bigger whole, whether they're a leader, an annoyance, or unknown.

    Some of the worst ones are human. Why is being human what defines them and not how they see humanity?

    He's the main character. He interacts with all the other characters in some way. He is the focal point.

    The reader connects with him as we have all seen the despair in the human race before. Turn on the news and we all go 'Everyone sucks and no one listens'. We feel what he's feeling as we connect with with characters he does. He sees a lot of people die pointlessly after growing attached to them. He's seen them grow, he's seen them change, he's seen that maybe there was hope in them, and then they're gone, along with that hope.

    That seems like a weird logic. I think the problem is more of a wording issue than a character one. The insight into Amy is that she hates that she kills. But It's explained that Ellirian changes his mind about a million people because he found a single person who admits that fear, which is something that has become alien to him.
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, of course it is. But words are all you have in the query. The words need to communicate the character in a way that makes the person reading the query letter care about that character.

    Edited to add:

    This isn't explained in the query. You explained it pretty well right here; I'd move those words into the query.
     
  9. A_Jones
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    A_Jones Member

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    Couldnt get past the first line. Now I know every agent wants something else in a query letter but most for sure want a catching first line. Also, you ALWAYS want to pitch your work as original so you should (in my opinion) absolutely never suggest your work was inspired by another work.
     
  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you need to simplify and clarify. I'd suggest leaving the 'read-alike' part until the very end, and I'd leave out the 'inspired by' part - makes it sound like fanfiction.

    I'm also not clear - is your book a graphic novel or a novel? Is it fantasy? If so, leave off the 'commercial fiction' part - that's kind of an umbrella term, one you'd use for a book that doesn't fit into any other category. If your book is fantasy, leave it at that.

    Most agents want to see a word count, as well.

    Based on the summary you've written, I'm not sure if you're giving us the full story, or just the set-up? Is this all that happens in your book, or is there a larger quest or something that the character goes on?
     
  11. LetaDarnell
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    LetaDarnell Member

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    This is my point. I need to make sure we're on the same page in regards to the explanation before I start changing the query letter. I didn't mean to make you feel attacked, I felt we wee on two totally different wavelengths.

    I'm thinking of going back to describing the story in three parts, as that's how it's written. Agentquery posts really didn't like that, though, as they felt the summary should focus entirely on one character, not mention other as important to him other than lovers or friends.

    The 'simplify and clarify' thing is what got me to this mess. I'm wondering how to say I am aiming for the same audience without the 'inspired by'.

    It's a fantasy graphic novel. According to the site to query agents, commercial fiction is also a genre this falls into and isn't just an umbrella term. This bothered me as well, but it's their rules.

    Most agents want to see a word count, as well.

    It's the full story with the summary leaving out most other characters or diminishing their role due to advice I got on the aqentquery site (I'm starting to think posters don't know what they're talking about). It's three vignettes that tell a larger story about Ellirian finding hope and power and meaning within that and about other characters as individual stories. They are all written as one arc/story.
     
  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    If Ellirian finding hope and power and meaning is the main plot of your story, I'd focus on that.

    And I totally disagree with whoever's telling you to include "commercial fiction" if you've already identified the book as a fantasy graphic novel. It's just extra words, and you already have a lot of extras.

    There may be special rules for querying graphic novels - have you found anywhere that's specifically focused on that category?
     
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  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm going to scribble up an example, because, well, I am. It's distinctly purple, but maybe it gives you some idea of the kind of emotion that I feel is missing:

    Ellirian, an ancient and powerful immortal, gave up on humanity centuries ago. Oh, he still lives among them, still witnesses their little lives, their cruelties, their fleeting passions and wars. But he has no more feeling for them than for the ants under his feet. He can no longer bring himself to care.

    Amy, a child growing into womanhood, can't bring herself to stop caring. She has a power beyond her control, one that kills , and she will do anything to stop it. In her desperate searchings, she hears the name of one who might help her: Ellirian.

    When the two meet... (blah de blah de blah)
     
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  14. LetaDarnell
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    LetaDarnell Member

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    I like this a lot and it's more my style of summarizing. But is it too informal?

    I'm also wondering if I should have the summary broken up into three parts as the story is (it's a whole story, just with a definite three-act structure)
     
  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    In terms of the style - the general rule is to have the tone of the book match the tone of the query.

    In terms of the three parts - it's important that your summary match your story, but the MAIN purpose of the query is to get the agent/editor to READ your story. I've never heard of an agent being intrigued by a query, going on to read a great story that she thinks she could find a home for, and then rejecting the story b/c the query didn't cover all the points of the plot.

    Write a query that gives enough of an idea of your story for the agent to know whether it's something she could represent. Don't worry about hitting every single detail or accurately representing the precise structure of the book.
     
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  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's "award-winning", not "ward-winning" lol

    I'm not sure it matters that Fullmetal Alchemist the anime was adapted from the manga of the same name. Why does it matter? Name the anime or the manga, whichever's more relevant for you, but it's pointless to name both.

    Can it be assumed that the agent would know what Fullmetal Alchemist is, by the way? I'm just thinking, someone familiar with anime/manga would probably know - in which case there's no need for you to add, "or a Japanese graphic novel". And someone unfamiliar with anime/manga wouldn't have a clue what Fullmetal Alchemist is and would probably not have read/seen it, in which case I'm not sure what good it is to name it.
     
  17. LetaDarnell
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    Some animes aren't based off of mangas (many are), and many vary wildly from their comics. Full metal Alchemist has two animes, one that varies wildly fromt he manga and one very close to it--the first has a reputation of making little sense and the other is extremely popular and highly discussed in it's themes of war, genocide, sacrifice, and religious aspects.

    It would vary wildly from agent to agent. Some would just know the term manga and not know much beyond Marvel or Sailor Moon, some would know a lot about mangas and manhwas, some might not know there were two Fullmetal Alchemist animes.
     
  18. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I'm aware that not all anime is based off of manga - I guess my question was simply if knowing what the anime is based off of is even important. Is it? Because if it's not, then I'd just mention one medium and not both - it saves words. You want to be as brief as possible.

    Yeah I hear Brotherhood's supposed to be excellent. A friend of mine's still trying to make me watch it haha but right now I'm watching Code Geass :D

    What's manhwas? lol
     
  19. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd assume that if an agent doesn't know Fullmetal Alchemist, you probably don't want him or her representing your graphic novel. I mean, I know NOTHING about the area, and I know Fullmetal Alchemist.
     
  20. LetaDarnell
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    Personally, I don't think it's important, but I was told it was best to use it than nothing as I've never won awards or anything for my writing.

    A manga from Asia, but not Japan. Most are Korean, but the best one I've ever read is from Malaysia (I think).

    I've found agents who lack a lot of interest and knowledge in their fields. From Indie comic publishers who knew nothing of anything but furry webcomics and barely knew about Maus, to agents who didn't know novels are 40 thousand words or more, not 70-90 thousand words or more (one even told me there have been no famous novellas ever--either Animal Farm was never famous, or according to them it was over twice it's actual word count).

    It is INSANE how many hoops you have to go through for agents who often know so little.
     
  21. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    But why do you want that person to represent you? Like, why do you think someone who's never heard of Maus would be able to effectively get your work in front of graphic novel publishers?

    It's pretty easy to hang out a shingle and call yourself an agent. It takes a lot of knowledge and experience to be an effective one.

    As I said, I know nothing about graphic novel/manga publishing, but when I was looking for an agent for my novels it was really useful for me to think of the search in terms of trying to find a person I wanted to be partners with. I work hard on my books and don't want to trust their futures to some hack who doesn't know the field. One of an agent's biggest assets is knowing the market better than the writer does - do you think someone who's never heard of Maus knows the market at all?

    (Re. word count - the 40K word limit is probably from SFWA prize categorizations, and is generally considered VERY low. In terms of being able to sell the book, I think the 70-90K target for an adult novel is pretty close for most genres, regardless of the SFWA weirdness).

    ETA: There are some pretty good agent blogs you can follow if you're interested in that side of the industry:

    Kristin Nelson is fun - her post on short novels is at: http://pubrants.blogspot.ca/2006/05/too-short.html

    Chuck Sambuchino usually has good stuff - his post on word count is at:http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/word-count-for-novels-and-childrens-books-the-definitive-post

    And if you're focusing on queries, you've probably already found QueryShark, but in case you haven't, it's at: http://queryshark.blogspot.ca/
    And the agent behind it comments on word count on her own blog at http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.ca/2013/03/egad-report-from-query-quagmire.html

    (Sorry, got a little carried away there - I was just double-checking to make sure there hadn't been some radical change in the world of novel lengths, and figured I might as well include the links as I went)
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2014
  22. LetaDarnell
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    They write up intriguing resumes sometimes, but you don't realize how bad they actually are until you send a query to them. Then--and it shouldn't be this way--it's you who's embarrassed.

    That's not SFWA's weirdness. It's been like that for decades before Harry Potter and longer books came out. It's the definitive definition (short stories and novellas haven't changed. Flash fiction is new, but it's also held to a certain standard).

    Then again, look at famous novels. A lot are even shorter than 40k.

    Do they make you jump through weird hoops like defining strange genres, needing awards or comparisons?
     
  23. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    - So maybe you could assume basic knowledge of the genre in your query, and if they don't have that knowledge and therefore don't like your query, you've dodged a bullet!

    Okay. Stick to whatever definitions you like. I'll stick to mine (which are supported by the reputable agents I quoted in the previous post).

    I don't know who 'they' are... the agents whose blogs I recommended? If so, no. They would ask you to define the genre according to current market standards, ask you to mention any awards you've won in your bio, and might appreciate a list of comparable titles if you've got some that make sense. A reputable agent is a business person. They want to work with authors and make money, not force people to jump through hoops for their entertainment.
     
  24. LetaDarnell
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    Agents have never had the authority to define or redefine story lengths. That's be like movie agents defining and redefining movie ratings. Again, agents have said no book under 40k words was ever famous. That makes them silly.

    Queryshark
     
  25. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not necessarily about authority, but if they're good agents, it's about knowing the market. If you want to stick to the idea that a novel is 40K words or even under, okay. I disagree and don't accept your authority, but you don't accept mine either, so... we're tied. But if you want to sell a novel? You should probably listen to the reputable agents who know what the market wants.

    Also, just for clarity - can you give me a source for the agents saying no book under 40K words was ever famous?
     

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