1. Lord Baw
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    Lord Baw New Member

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    Noob has questions

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Lord Baw, Sep 23, 2013.

    I'm an unpublished amateur who enjoys writing. I've completed a 20,000 word "story" (my first stumbling block; I'm not even sure what to call it, it's not really a novel) and am trying to figure out what to do with it. It's a work of humor and the format is alternating Civil War diary pages from two different authors. Each describes the same events with a different interpretation, so the humor (such as it is) comes from the contrast between the two views.

    I give that description in order to show that the format isn't the standard chapter-chapter-chapter-end format, so describing it in a query letter will be one of my difficulties. But my larger concern is that it is too short, is it correct that most publishing houses and agents want fiction that is, a, in traditional novel form, and b, 60 or 70K words (at least)? I browsed the local Barnes and Noble humor section to try to get a feel for similar types of books and saw some that were fairly short with a larger font. But it hardly seems appropriate to put in my query letter that, hey, "this will be great, just spread it out and enlarge the font." Is this already sounding like a loser?

    I think its audience will be history/Civil War buffs and those that like off-beat peculiar humor. It would make a good gift book.
    Thanks for thoughts!
     
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  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I think the word you want is novella.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    20k is way too short for a print book, though if you go the e- route, size doesn't seem to matter...
     
  4. Lord Baw
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    Lord Baw New Member

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    Thanks! Length of work seems to fit the description of novella, but my format (alternating journal entries)? In other words in a query letter it would be accurate to say what I have is a novella (based on how I described it)?
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The alternating journal entries as a venue for telling the story is not new. I've read variations on that theme numerous times. That is less of a factor in the naming or categorizing of your work. I think novella fits, but the novella has been a fading form for the most part. I think that, as Maia mentions, the advent of e-booking and self publishing is bringing the form back because this venue sidesteps publishers who may have the mindset of, "Novella? What is this, 1960?" Many works of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, for example, were published as novels in their day. Today, those same books are often seen as novellas because everything new on the shelf weighs nine pounds. A matter of relativity. 20,000 words today may well be seen by the average reader as a long short-story.
     
  6. Lord Baw
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    Lord Baw New Member

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    I didn't mean to imply I had invented a new literary genre, I was just curious what was a reasonable thing to call it. You're right, "novella" is going to be a red flag and a turn off, translation: "It's too short."
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    LOL :D I didn't mean to imply that you were implying that. If I came off that way, my apologies. :) What I meant is that the form of the story shouldn't prove to be an obstacle for you, not something you have to sell as "I know this is weird, but bear with me..." And again, remember, you are coming into the world of writing at a time of flux. Paradigms are shifting. That which was certain is now tenuous. I've purchased numerous e-books that are novellas. There is something satisfying about a story that is lengthy enough to be thick and rich and short enough for a modern world where time is precious and we have things to do IRL. Don't be put off at all, please. :cool:
     
  8. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    20K is very short for a traditional publisher. It will be an extremely tough sell. You could self-pub. Or you could try some of the paying short story markets. Although 20K is on the (very) long end for a SS story, I've occasionally seen some SS magazines accept pieces that long. The bad news here is that your length is a tough one for most of the paying markets -- SS anthologies/magazines/ezines (where it's on the long end), and traditional publishers for novels (where it is just too short, by quite a bit). Novellas just aren't in that high demand.
     
  9. Lord Baw
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    Lord Baw New Member

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    Apology not necc at all, Wreybies, thanks for the insight...though I was thinking to myself, "Man, I just got here and I am not making friends at all!" Lol.

    But I think this is an obstacle (short length) via the traditional route, which I want to be sure is not viable before I look into ebook option. In other words, I do have to try to promote this with "This IS weird, please bear with me..." and "Oh and it's really short."

    Thanks Chicagoliz and Mammamaia, you are confirming what I suspected.
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    E-publishing opens up a whole new paradigm for shorter and non-traditional pieces. But you may be jumping the gun. Have you looked into a professional editor and/or a beta reader yet? And do you have cover art or an artist in mind?

    Before submitting to a publisher or self-publishing, get some professional feedback on your work. You can put short sections up here in the writer's workshop to get some feedback.* See the rules, you need a few more posts and a couple critiques of others' work before you can post in the workshop, but it's not much.

    (* Don't post the whole thing anywhere online except as a published e-book. One, because people aren't as likely to review 20K words, but also so none of the internet "scrapers" copies your work. So far we haven't had any problems in the forum, but the online sites where people post entire works have had problems.)

    And, don't worry, you aren't making any enemies here. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2013
  11. Lord Baw
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    Lord Baw New Member

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    I hadn't thought about having it looked at, and I suppose some good feedback would be helpful. Thanks for the info about posting part of it here, and I definitely wouldn't post the whole thing anywhere. I don't think it would be useful to anyone for me to be critiquing their stuff, unless it's obviously awful.
     
  12. Roxie
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    Roxie Active Member

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    At 20K you definitely have a novella on your hands. Your new best friend will be research. Resarch e-zines, print mags, presses publishing your genre and targetting the correct audience. Search for any all call for submission or writing competitons that fit the bill for your material.

    Ginger is right
    Feedback will be your next best friend. Beta readers/content editors/WF community members can provide the critiques you need and you may grow to hate feedback as it will make you edit and re-edit and re-edit again, but in the end it should pay off.
     
  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    That's a common feeling, but readers come in all skill levels. You can start out by just giving your overall reaction to a piece. See what others have to say. Decide if the critique comments sound useful or not. Sometimes what someone posts about another's work will apply to yours. Sometimes you'll read a critique that isn't skilled and you learn what doesn't work as well.
     
  14. Lord Baw
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    Lord Baw New Member

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    I might give it a try...humor is so subjective though.

    There may be a sticky for this for "frequently asked questions" but: "beta readers" "content editors." How is this arranged? Any good ones do it for free?
     
  15. Roxie
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    Roxie Active Member

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    I would suggest that you start by critiquing a few pieces here and then posting excerpts of your work in the workshops. See what type of feeback you get from your WF peers.

    If you wish to have your entire manuscript read then you can start a thread here asking if anyone would be interested to beta read and content edit for you and arrange the details re: payment (if one is requested) directly with the members thay reply. Simillar threads can also be posted on Goodreads or Book Blogs.

    FYI: If anyone requests payment for content editing it can range from anywhere from a penny to five cents a word ---this is what I've recently seen as the going market rates.
     
  16. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    If you know an avid reader who likes your genre and is willing to be honest, that's a good place to start for a beta reader. A local writer's critique group can be useful if you find the right group. Are you in the US? If so try "Meetup" to find a group. Go to more than one if you don't like the first group you find. And of course, post a selection here.

    After you get an idea where your work stands as far as quality, you may feel better about paying for a professional editor, or waiting until you've re-written your work a few times.
     
  17. Roxie
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    Roxie Active Member

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    Well put Ginger that's a brilliant idea that I overlooked because it is so simple that it didn't even cross my mind. If you are in Canada many local Indigo Chapters store have pen and paper groups.
     
  18. Lord Baw
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    Lord Baw New Member

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    Thanks to everyone for sharing their wisdom on this. In 24 hours I think I just went through the new writer's equivalent of "stages of grief."
    My writing is awesome now where do I sell it
    Oh wait there may not be a market for this at all
    Uh oh no one's even seen it it may not be that good
    Damn it sucks
    No wait it's probably not as bad as you think...

    So in conclusion I think I'll seek some feedback and then look into the Epublishing route.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    please, please, PLEASE folks, do not toss out advice like this without clearly presenting the major down side of hiring an editor to look over mss before they're submitted...

    FYI, i am a professional editor, have been one for the past 3 decades and then some, but i don't take on clients without first making sure that what they pay me for the service is money they can afford to toss down the drain...

    they must understand that they have virtually no chance of recouping much or any of it from the sale of their work... if it's a short story or article, even if they sell it to a paying venue, the editing fee will be many times over what any magazine will pay... and if it's a book, and by some miracle they actually get a paying publisher to take it on, what they will realize from sales will most likely still be only a small fraction of what they paid for the edit...

    i also point out the 'awfulest' truth of all, that even with the best edit possible, their ms' chances of snagging an agent and paying publisher are still nearly nil to none...

    and i won't take them on unless they can justify the huge expense as being for a lesson in how to edit their work on their own, in the future... that's the only reason new writers should be advised to 'look into' or consider 'paying for a professional editor' to fix up their work before submitting it...

    yup!... though keep in mind that the lower the fee, the less 'professional' the provider and the quality of the work is liable to be... and that only a small fraction of those who advertise their services are actually good enough at it to do a good enough job...

    so please, whenever you recommend hiring an editor, don't leave off the down side...

    love and hugs, maia
     

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