Ask Daphne! About Manuscript Length

January 12th, 2008 • Kate

My very first official question. Keep them coming! Paralysis by Analysis asks:

As a wannabe writer, I live in interesting times. Not only have writer’s resources on agents moved beyond the Absolute Write discussion board, but now there are detailed free resource sites like where wannabe authors can exchange detailed information about agents, including average response times, whether or not the Agent tends to personalize rejections, and their propensity to ask for partials.
There’s one particular (coveted) agent who just hung out her shingle.
I can run a detailed report on Coveted Agent based on data submitted from many other wannabes and see she has requested a lot of partials (as one would expect from an agent building her catalog.)
I can ALSO see that she’s never asked for a partial for any query where the ms length is longer than 80,000 words.
This sets the stage for one of the following possibilities:
1. It’s an incredible coincidence that Coveted Agent has never asked any QueryTracker authors for a partial on a MS over 80K.
2. Her slush pile is screened by an assistant who has been instructed not to bother with any submissions longer than 80K.
3. Agent has no interest in manuscripts longer than 80K.
A quick perusal of Coveted Agent’s Web site doesn’t mention ms length in the submission guidelines.
So my question is this: Am I a dufus to read something into this newfound plethora of agent statistics? Or is the handwriting on the wall?

Dear Paralysis by Analysis –
The web is a great and wonderful thing, isn’t it? So much seemingly helpful information out there, just ready to be to read and analyzed!
Except… how can you be sure that what you’re reading is a full and complete report? Has every author who’s ever submitted to Coveted Agent dashed off their book’s stats to the sites you mention?
At best, you’re attempting to draw conclusions based on incomplete data.
If Coveted Agent’s swank new website, on which she or he no doubt labored long and hard, makes no mention of manuscript length cut-offs, then I think you should assume that it is, in fact, a strange coincidence that said agent never requested partials on any manuscript over your arbitrary cut-off length of 80,000 words.
Good luck!
Daphne Unfeasible

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