Janet, based on your New Leaf page, it looks like my debut novel isn't for you; but I wondered if you might nonetheless consider my query question. It concerns #4 on your query checklist
I've been at work on my novel for 15 years. I've rewritten it from the ground up three times. The fourth draft alone has been in progress for nearly nine years, has benefited from the editorial feedback of numerous (many luminous) literary friends, and while I certainly expect to make more cuts and continue refining it between now and galleys, the novel is narratively swift and boiled down. It is cooked.
It is also 198,000 words.
I realize that's, just barely, within your parameters. But it has been drummed into me that the publishing industry will not consider a debut novel of more than 80,000 words. So in crafting my queries, I'm torn between a belief in transparency and in following directions, and the fear that agents will make a bee-line from my word count to the trash can icon in their email application. If I leave it out, and my query is otherwise compelling and complete, I might snag a follow-up from an agent who will agree with me that the work's merits compensate for its unorthodox length.
What would you do in my shoes?
yeesh. That's one helluva book.
I'd leave out the word count and include the most tightly written first 3-5 pages in the history of publishing.
Length is a production problem of course. It costs more to print a book of that length; a book that size takes up more shelf space than a novel half its size. That means it has to be priced higher than other books, and you don't need to be an econ major to remember that lower prices increase demand.
If you need 198K, that's what you need.
I'm always willing to take a look (other agents aren't however, so be prepared for auto-rejects) if a book intrigues me.
Where big-ass books get the boot is most often when I read flabby first pages. If I read something that's 198K and I can see a way to take out 100 words in the first three pages, I'm going to conclude your word count is due to flab, not plot.
How can you make sure you've got plot bulk, not flab? A good editor with a fist full of red pens is a good start.
A consultation at a writing conference might be in order. If you met me at a pitch session, brought your pages and told me it was 198K and did I think this ms was trim enough, I'd take a look and show you what I thought could be chopped.
A taut well-told 198K book can find an audience. It's got a much higher hurdle to overcome than a book that's half that size, but it can be done.