While I was away on vacation last week I received 327 queries, all of which I have now answered. There are 165 more that arrived so far this week alone, which I haven’t yet gotten to. The queries are massing at the gate! Man the ramparts!
I kept stats on those 327, and here they are in all their glory:
I lumped these into broad categories:
Young Adult (of all kinds): 73
Fantasy (includes paranormal and urban fantasy): 28
Historical Fiction: 26
Literary Fiction: 25
Science Fiction: 18
Spiritual Novels: 12
Women’s Fiction: 12
Middle Grade: 8
Misc. Nonfiction: 7
Short Story Collection: 6
Religious Manifestos: 5
No freaking clue: 6
Out of the 327 queries, 214 listed the word count of their work:
less than 25,000: 5
Here are some more random counts. Please note that I don’t automatically reject anything, even if it’s addressed to the wrong agent, and especially if my name is misspelled. I know mistakes happen.
Queries beginning with a rhetorical question: 14
Queries that misspelled the word “query”: 2
Sent query as just an attachment or link: 3
Addressed to another literary agent: 2
Addressed “Dear Literary Agent” or “Sir”: 10
Queries that were personalized: 108 (33%, same as the last time I compiled stats)
And out of those 327 queries I requested 4 (a little over 1%)
Adam Heine says
I thought it'd be fun to compare this post's percentages with last year's… and it was!
Points of interest:
* A significant decrease in literary fiction queries (5%).
* A significant decrease in impersonal openers (5%).
* As you already noted, percentage personalized is the same.
* Percentage that open with rhetorical questions is also the same.
Here are all the percentages. Not because you'd be interested in them, but because I'd hate for someone else to redo the work:
GENRE: 2010, 2009
YA: 22%, 18%
Mystery/Thriller: 16%, 12%
Fantasy: 9%, 12%
Historical Fiction: 8%, 4%
Literary Fiction: 8%, 13%
Science Fiction: 6%, 3%
Memoir: 6%, 4%
Spiritual: 4%, 4%
Women's Fiction: 4%, 8%
Mangst: 3%, 5%
Self-Help: 2%, 4%
Short Story: 2%, 2%
Biography: 2%, 2%
Romance: 1%, 1%
No freaking clue: 2%, 4%
Personalized: 33%, 33%
Requested: 1%, 2%
Sent as attachments: 1%, 2%
Misspelled "query": 1%, 3%
Impersonal opener: 3%, 8%
Rhetorical question: 4%, 4%
Nathan Bransford says
Wow, thanks Adam!
Lindsay Culbert says
This is awesome. I have been asking questions and searching for answers on the net then I found your blog!
I'm a new writer, not even out of college yet. I've been trying to be a good girl and play by the rules, but the rulebook is really illusive. The answers I typically get go something like: "Uh… um. well… It's like… Did that answer your question?"
So THANK YOU for the 'nuts and bolts' publishing tips. The statistics also help a lot.
Kelly Bryson says
So my romantic religious manifesto (250,000 passionate, pious words) words will be something that no one one else has done (that's what you said you wanted) and therefore earn a second glance? Maybe just a longer glance?
I would like to know how many letters you read twice. How long does it take you to decide to request pages? Do you sleep on it? Or are you intrigued and think what the heck, I read 10,000 pages a week. What's 50 more?
that is a lot of querys, how can you hold up with that
The concept of writing a religious manifesto intrigues me. Do you sit down intending to write a one or does it just evolve, sorry not evolve, I mean manifest into one.
It must be hard to get one published. I've never seen a manifesto imprint or a manifesto category in the Guide to Literary Agents.
Wow someone misspelled query?
Well I think its pretty amazinf how you get to go through all of these queries. Good Job and thanks for taking your ime looking at everyone elses queries.
Jack Roberts, Annabelle's scribe says
Gahh. I didn't query this time but I have a 85,000 YA. Sigh. Guess I'd better hook gooood.
Is there any way you would venture a statement on what is the most difficult genre to break into? Or are you leaving us to our own stab-in-the-dark devices? Maybe that takes us back to simply writing what we know. 🙂 n
Myrna Foster says
Thanks for posting your query stats, Nathan. And, Adam, thanks for posting his stats from last year.
I found the comment section of this post even more enlightening than the actual post. Thank you for being willing to answer our questions.
"Wow someone misspelled query?"
Let me count the ways, oh Juliette:
queiry, queary, queery, querie, (don't think we are done yet…) which seem somehow equivalent to:
Nathan Brandsferd – Literairy Aegent.
Am I anywhere close, Nathan? Sorry… couldn't resist. 🙂 n
This blog has been an amazing eye-opener, thank you.
Regarding trends in literature for young readers (and having two daughters in this bracket that I buy for), I have found that they and their friends want books in a series. They love having sweeping adventures that go on and on, that they can make role play games out of online, and that they can have 'midnight book release' parties with other kids just as devoted as they are. They don't care if it's about cats, vampires, wizards, dragon riders, lost boys in Foo, or demi-gods as long as they keep getting more stories about characters they love.
This is a curse and a blessing, I suppose. My girls are reading, but they aren't reading what I read at that age, books that shaped what I am. "Where the Red Fern Grows" and "Watership Down" were favorites of mine as a kid, but I can't get kids interested in them because 'they are old.'
Okay, rant done. Again, great work on the blog. I'm so glad I found it.
So sorry to double-post like this, but I am confused about the word count of 80,000 that people are mentioning.
I was laboring under the impression I've received in many places that a novel is around 100,000 and should exceed that in expectation of an editor saying "Meh, scrap that part," or "Cut this and this for pacing" so you don't hand in a manuscript of 100,000 that becomes 80,000. Is there a word count limit that you don't accept?
I've tried to find mention of it throughout your blog, and I cannot locate where this is addressed.
Hopefully Nathan will answer, but on the chance that he doesn't I'll offer my two cents here, based on what I've learned over the years. Please, someone else chime in if needed.
The word count can vary quite a bit, depending on genre.
For adult mystery, thriller, romance, horror, sci-fi, a completed novel of 80,000 to 90,000 words is about right, or 300-350 pp.
I have discovered that for fantasy 100,000 to 130,000 words is about right.
Short stories are another matter, which means the word count would be much less than 80,000.
Cutting down an ms from 100,000 words is not such a bad thing. Running off at the mouth with excessive wordiness and neglecting to paint a clear scene, or failure to draw the reader to a plot point will cause your reader to yawn and say "Meh, next novel." Key word here: tighten.
Exceptions to these loose word guidelines do exist. There have been those one-in-a-million authors whose novels become overnight zingers borne of the mysterious cosmos of big-house publishing; those five- and six-hundred page blockbusters all readers worldwide can't wait to curl up and sleep with for a week. General rule of thumb here is: If it's long, especially for YA, it had better be reeeeally, eyeballs-glued-to-it good with very unique voice, subject matter, and story; the one book that all the houses are suffering slings and arrows to bid on.
It seems that traditional houses do shy away from new authors peddling tomes of 500 pages or more. Too risky. Unless, of course, they stumble upon another J. K. Rowling, JRR Tolkien, or a modern-day Hemingway. However, given our gnat-like attention spans these days I'm not sure that even he would stand a chance in today's 10-second info-blurb world.
Generally speaking, the skill level of a new author is often judged by how succinctly he or she can tell a unique and compelling short story. I'm thinking Amy Tan, among others, who was picked up by an agent after reading her short stories. Chances are really good that if an author can draw a crowd with a short story, a blockbuster novel may be soon lighting up the crystal ball of success. There are exceptions to this guideline as well, however.
Long is not always a bad thing, though it is a one-in-a-million gamble.
Just reread your post. Paying for a content editor can be costly, so it might behoove you to have your ms as tight as you can possibly get it on your own, unless you have very deep pockets. If you have content issues, too long or too short, joining a critique group is a great way to get help wrestling an unruly ms. 🙂 n
80K is the safest target these days. Editors don't want major reconstructions when the book comes to them (which is not to say they'd always be unwilling if it were needed). Some variation… YA would usually be shorter, while there would be slight leeway for epic fantasy (Think 100K… and, as Nathan once told me, you start paying a penalty at 120K).
Hope that helps.
Thank you very much Nancy and Ink. I appreciate your feedback a great deal. I guess I need to start slashing again, but it's hard as an author when you don't want to cheat your characters out of experiences (as ridiculously sentimental as that sounds)
His Lobster says
In regards to something Anon. and Marilyn said earlier…
I can sympathize with Anon. about wanting some clarification about the blanket rejection as I was passed on by Nathan (amongst others) as well this week. After having partials requested and then being rejected with the "it's not right for me" kind of statement can be…well, frustrating. However, I control my impulse with an iron fist each time one shows up in my inbox, to reply back and ask if it's just this specific story or is it because my writing stinks like last week's broccoli. I really, really want to, but I keep hearing Aretha chanting R-E-S-P-E-C-T. So, to all of those that politely passed on my work, you may thank Ms. A. Franklin for not receiving my "please critique me e-mail".
Marilyn Mentioned that according to Nathan's stats that somewhere along the lines of 30% have a shot if they put in the requisite work…my question is this: How in the name of all that is holy are we (the dearly rejected) to know if we fall into that percentile without pestering beloved, albeit monkey infatuated, agents like Nathan? I certainly don't want to waste my time and I know agents like he have even less time to spare than I do. (Honestly, does it make anyone else's head spin like being on a tilt-a-whirl on seeing how much this guy gets done?)
Honest to goodness "industry insight" seems pretty hard to come by…at least to me.
Heidi Thornock says
To His Lobster:
My suggestion would be to join a critique group and keep your eyes open for workshops/conferences that would be of benefit. I attended a conference where an author spoke for a full day about his revision process. Insightful for me because it was the "nuts-and-bolts" of it rather than the usual "revise, revise, revise." I will be attending a 3-day WS working specifically with my and 20 other MS to revise them in-depth. A good critique group will always let you know if there are problems that need to be fixed. Don't be afraid to shop around until you find the right group.
I am always amazed by your blog in conjuntion with yourself. I find it difficult to write, keep up regularly with the 6 or 7 blogs I follow, and post consistenly on my own blog. And you can post daily, follow the publishing news, respond to 300+ queries a week, write/revise/edit your own work, etc., etc.
I would be thoroughly interested in a time break-down of your day/week. How much do you spend doing what and how do you get everything accomplished?
Mangst was a new idea to me and tragi-comic as all get out.
Do you get womangst too? There's a spectacular dating service in there someplace.
Pure Fiction says
Hi Nathan, Am I too late to ask just one more question about this post?
I just wondered out of the 4 partials you requested, how many full manuscripts did you ask to see, or how many new clients did you take on?
Nathan Bransford said…
I actually think paranormal YA may have crested in query popularity after quite a remarkable run.
Nathan, if Query Letter Hell over at AW is any indication, you've got another wave coming. 🙂
The squirrels are busy these days.
Lee Ee Leen says
thank you for posting. Now I know what sort of workload you and other agents have to handle. It isn't easy at all….
'No freaking clue'! Lord help them if some writers are going to *that* nebulous during the initial submission stages