Every Monday morning, as sure as the rooster’s cry (I don’t actually have a rooster) I can expect to come in to 100+ e-mails from the weekend, mostly queries. I like to think of it as the Monday Deluge, and it means that if I’m going to answer all of them (and oh, I do) plus the regular work for clients and such, it can make for a bit of a hectic day.
It also explains why you may be hearing from me on the weekend: if I put in some Saturday or Sunday e-mail time it makes Monday oh so much easier. But since I was reading manuscripts this past weekend I didn’t get to any queries. So: hello 100+ e-mails! Nice to see you this chilly Monday morning.
As I was working through the e-pile, it got me wondering: how many e-mails do I send anyway? Sure seems like a lot.
Well, as of today, according to Outlook I’ve sent 11,921 e-mails so far this year. That’s just for work — it doesn’t count personal correspondence. Most are responses to queries, but it also includes e-mails to clients, colleagues, editors, you name it.
11,921 e-mails as of August 24th translates to about 50 per day, including weekends and vacation time.
To put that in perspective, let’s say I worked nine hours every single day, including weekends, and didn’t take any vacation or break for lunch. 11,921 e-mails translates to an e-mail every ten minutes. Somewhere in that time I also theoretically have to read manuscripts, have meetings, talk on the phone, and, you know, read the queries I’m responding to, while still maintaining that e-mail every ten minutes pace.
Oh, and in real life I really do take vacation and try to break somewhat on weekends… and thus have to work considerably more than nine hours a day during weekdays.
What does this all mean?
First of all, I’m not complaining. I love my job, even if it means I’m staring at a screen (computer, Kindle or iPhone) for the majority of my waking hours. Please don’t ever hesitate to e-mail me.
But here’s what it means for writers: the next time you wonder why agents send form letters or why some don’t respond to queries altogether… please remember these stats.
It also means that I necessarily have to make snap decisions when I’m reading queries. I don’t really have time to sit down, contemplate, and absorb the aura of a query. There are tons more in line and I have to move quickly if I’m going to get through the day. So if a query is needlessly long or doesn’t include key details (published authors, once again: PUBLICATION DATE AND PUBLISHER DON’T MAKE ME GO TO AMAZON ARGH) hopefully this puts into perspective why literary agents turn into lunatics about certain pet peeves that end up costing precious time.
So there you have it. I would write more… but I need to go write some e-mails.
Well with all the e-mails (and e-mail responses), and manuscript reading, and phone calls, and breathing (you do breath, right?), I thank you for continually keeping those of us in the writing community updated and informed.
(sound of hands clapping)
I'll never understand the crazy fonts that people use for professional communications.
Last year, my company posted a job ad on Craigslist. Some of the e-mails we received employed huge fonts, vibrating colors, and ALL CAPS FOR IMPORTANT TEXT—WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS AND MOVING SMILEYS!!!
All of those went on the "no" pile immediately.
Thanks for all the hard work you do. You didn't even mention in your stats writing and posting stuff on this blog! Whewie!
I shall endeavor to do my best to not waste your time and let me thank you in advance for giving any kind of response to me when I actually do query you. (It'll be awhile though because my book's not read.)
Soldier on with your wonderful but challenging job! The publishing industry would be a little darker to people like me without you.
WV: psers = people who write "ps" after a letter, and then write "pss" after that thinking they're so clever when what they're really saying is "post script script". It really should be "pps": post post script.
That you read and respond to all those emails is pretty amazing. That you write this blog and read every comment is simply awesome. You may just be the nicest agent in cyberspace! You can bet I won't be querying you (or anyone else) until I am absolutely ready to. Rock on!
No one is doubting your mad skills. You're most definitely a type A. But I guess most agents must be.
Do you ever have a moment where you don't need to be doing ANYTHING but you feel that urge to check your cell or Kindle because you're not used to NOT checking it?? lol.
I'm right there with you.
Wow . . . in the time it took me to flip through the comments, 2 more emails lands in Nathan's inbox. . . .
Remember the old movie where every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings? Actually, it's anytime a bell rings, anywhere, it's another email landing in his inbox.
PS: I agree on the query letter over the query form. The query is an artform in its own right and can give a lot of info on content and style in a very short bite of time.
word verify 'fackrop'that is so cool that words escape me . . .
Andrew Ross says
way to be transparent! hustling and authenticity is key. hustle=win
J.J. Bennett says
Have you polled sexs before? What percentage of followers are men or women? Or maybe sex and genre before? Just wondering…
J.J. Bennett says
Since I've been blogging (Not long at all…) I've made friends with mostly women here blogging. I wondered what the real percentages were…and if women in general wrote more of one genre than another. I wondered if you felt that may be the reason for so much of one genre.
One day Nathan you'll be some kind of corporate agenting Kingpin with a team of scurrying, eager-to-please assistants and a raft of professional readers and sorters to do all the hard graft for you! You'll just concentrate on repping the massive names and will spend most of your day planning where next to go on vacation and how best to spend the pots of cash you have made. You'll lounge in highly exclusive gentleman's clubs, strike million-dollar deals with just a handshake and a sly wink, and will probably never have to do anything more strenuous than ask, "may I see the wine list?". And when those days roll around, which they will, and you sit in the back of your sleek limo puffing away on fat cigars (and checking profit reports on the latest Apple gadget)… part of you will miss these times, the good ol' days, when you were just starting out and barely had time to run a blog, answer queries AND take care of your clients all at once. Then of course TIME magazine will call you for an interview and you'll snap out of your nostalgia!
Neil can you please look in your crystal ball again and see if I´m one of the ´massive names´? 😉
Oh Gina, you're totally on the list. That book you write, about that thing? Huge.
Hat Man says
I have to say a couple of things. First of all, I cherish every email I get, and I get 50-100 every day. They are one of my lifelines to the wider world. I wish I would hear from more people.
Secondly, my impression is that agents want manuscripts. Yet too many agents complain about all the manuscripts they get. But THEY WANT MANUSCRIPTS. This used irritate me about agents when I tried to get them. I got two, but to no avail. Call me jaundiced, but I stopped trying to get an agent, and I feel a lot better. 🙂
Thank you so much, Neil. I used to rely on word verifications to get messages from the future, but this is MUCH better.
I was wondering where all that spam was coming from, hahahahaha! I enjoy your blog!
Neil, that's a horrible life. I think Nathan has much better things in store for his future than THAT. Ugh.
I don't know Nathan, but I care about him, and I believe he has a much more fulfillng life in store; one where he takes pride in the positive impact he has had on the world, both through bringing books to an audience, and through his own writing.
Success and greed are not equivalent. Success and power can be transformative, when held in the right hands.
Aw Mira, I think you may have missed my tongue – it was firmly in my cheek, I promise. I too hope (and fully expect) many more great things from Nathan, and super-greed certainly isn't one of them. But I think my point remains: life moves incredibly fast, and this is an exciting time for Nathan and us, his loyal readers and would-be client list. Never before has there been an agent so open and transparent about his process, and Mr Bransford enjoys a frank and unique dialogue with a great number of net-users. These are times to be enjoyed on both sides!
Oh I see. Your point was to enjoy this time with Nathan now, because once he becomes more successful, he may become less accessible? These wonderful dialogues will stop?
Hmmm. Maybe. Honestly, I think it will be the opposite. I think Nathan has….goals. Maybe that's the wrong way to put it. I think he's drawn to leadership and building groups. I also think he's very good at it.
I could be wrong, of course. I don't know and wouldn't presume to know Nathan's personal goals. But you're right. This is a time to be enjoyed! 🙂
i have to say – i just recently found this blog and it's awesome.
I'll never understand people who query without doing research into what constitutes a good query…
I greatly appreciate your blog and I know you're one busy agent, but examples of poorly-formatted queries would be instructive. Surely, a few stand out.
Chuck H. says
Just re-read this post and have a quibble. Roosters don't cry, at least none of the ones I've known (hello, country boy here) have ever cried. I guess if life just got too difficult for them they might squeeze out a tear or two, but not on my watch. Just sayin'.
Word Ver: essess – phonetic spelling for that most despicable branch of the Nazi military – Sturm Soldaten.
You have to learn to pace yourself.
I have 10,231 unread messages on this fairly new box. What me worry?
Any day now….aannnnnyyyy day now.
This is fantastic Nathan! You have one of the most popular blogs I've seen, and not only among those of the publishing industry.
The discussions here are really interesting, and of course, the content is educating and sort of fun at the same time.
So, to make all that happen, and deal with clients, and read both the clients and the incoming mss, of course you'll have to work like hell. The good thing is that you love what you do, so that's ok, right?
Right, I wasn't even going to comment on this one, but I couldn't resist. Just keep the good work! =)
Nathan Bransford says
I know my roosters and have loathed them ever since Sunrise the Rooster pecked me on my hand when I was three years old, drawing copious amounts of blood. After that I wouldn't go near chickens unless my dad had a shovel, which he used to scare Sunrise into the corner so I could feed the hens.
I don't know if Sunrise cried per se when he was squawking in the corner, but I'm pretty sure I saw some tears tears.
I still hate chickens. Way to go, Sunrise.
Laura Martone says
Gee whiz, Nathan. You're one busy dude. How DO you juggle it all – and still manage to maintain such a personable persona?
You're a Man of Mystery, that's for sure.
Bane of Anubis says
Nathan, guessin' that you hated 'Chicken Run' — Rocky probably epitomizes Sunshine (seriously, though, did you name that fella, cuz maybe he pecked you for giving him such an effete name)
Laura Martone says
No doubt, Bane. What self-respecting rooster wants to be called SUNSHINE?!?
No wonder he cried in the corner.
Okay, I can't resist… what a chicken!
Nathan Bransford says
The foul beast's name was Sunrise. And no, I didn't name him.
Laura Martone says
Oops. That's what I get for listening to you, Bane… argh.
I meant SUNRISE! What self-respecting rooster wants to be called SUNRISE?!?
Sorry, Nathan. For the memory – and the misspelling.
Bane of Anubis says
Sunrise, Sunshine — whatever the case, evidently he wasn't fond of the name… or that wee tyke Bransford.
And FTR – Sunrise ain't a whole heck of a lot better name there, Sunshine 😉
You gotta do what I did — when I was about 3, I went a bit a dog that I thought was getting too aggressive w/ me (though my parents say it just wanted to lick me) — gotta show the little buggers who's the boss.
Lydia Sharp says
So I checked back here to see if Nathan put up a new post and…no new post, but one heck of an awesome rooster story! I'm shedding tears now, too, from laughing so hard.
And I can relate to the term "foul beast." My mother has a farm in NC. Love the fresh eggs. Hate the damn rooster and chickens. 'Nuff said.
I'm sorry that happened to you. That would be pretty scary for a 3 year old.
And not taking away from that, I do feel sorry for the rooster. Maybe that was his way of saying: I want to be friends. Or possibly: you look edible, I'm going to eat you.
All I know is forever after, he was chased into the corner with a shovel, where he cried. Alone. Mocked for his name. While you, Nathan, had your own lifelong trauma, and now hate all chickens……
This is so sad.
Well, if you had couples counseling with The Hills, would it be too far off to have it with a rooster? Just wondering. If not, I think he actually is edible. I'm just saying.
Just think what it would be like, if all those were short story submissions instead of queries. *wink*
Jeanne Tomlin says
As a "querytracker" I thought I'd fill in a little information. There is no doubt a certain amount of skewing of the statistices since there are people who don't bother to enter results. But there are also a lot of people who use it giving it a large sample and many who are religious about keeping track to increase the knowedge base. It has the advantage of tracking personal results which many of us watch. Querytrackers also have been known to help each other with critiquing queries. And the database is kept as free as possible from the bad guys out there. (Nope, I don't own stock lol)
Rogue Mutt says
I guess this is why it's better to go to conferences and such. Get the more personal touch.
Alicia R. says
I have read through your blog many many times, and maybe I missed this, but I just have a quick question. How do you feel about receiving a query and manuscript that has also been submitted to a publisher, not another agent, but a publisher? Is this something to be avoided?