2013: A Year in Queries

Hi everyone! I hope you all enjoyed your holidays. This will be my last post of 2013, which means it’s time for my annual end-of-year query stats.

I dubbed this year the year of ALL THE CHANGES, and my career was no exception. In April I closed to queries to prepare for a career change. I moved from an assistant-level position with Curtis Brown, Ltd. to a full-time agent role with Bradford Literary Agency. Back in June, I blogged about moving to Bradford and included my query stats from January to April 2013.

I re-opened to queries on June 10, so for the purposes of this blog post, the stats I’m using will be from June 10 – December 22. As a reminder, the stats are from unsolicited queries only – aka “the slush pile.” Any requests made at conferences, through blog/Twitter contests, or via referrals weren’t part of the tally. So, without further ado:

June 10-30:
Total: 272
Requests: 4
Genres Requested: Women’s fiction, Urban Fantasy, Magical Realism, MG fantasy

July:
Total: 391
Requests: 4
Genres Requested: Women’s fiction, Literary Fiction, Urban Fantasy, YA Fantasy

August:
Total: 320
Requests: 3
Genres Requested: Adult Sci-fi, MG Horror, YA Fantasy

September:
Total: 303
Requests: 8
Genres Requested: Literary Fiction (2), Adult Paranormal Thriller, Adult Sci-fi, YA Paranormal, YA Thriller, YA Fantasy, YA Sci-fi 

October:
Total: 297
Requests: 5

Genres Requested: YA Contemporary (2), YA Mystery, YA Fantasy (2), MG Magical Realism (2), MG Contemporary 

November:
Total: 281
Requests: 5
Genres Requested: Adult Sci-fi (2), YA contemporary (2), Adult Magical Realism 

December (1-22):
Total: 150
Requests: 0
Note: I’ve received 22 new queries from 12/23-12/29. Since I haven’t read them yet, they weren’t counted toward December’s total.

Total Queries Received Since June 10: 2,024

Total Manuscript Requests: 29

Most Requested Genres: Literary fiction, Magical Realism, and Sci-fi

Least Requested Genres: Paranormal and Women’s Fiction


Month With Most Requests: September

Most Popular Query Day of the Week: Wednesday

Total Offers of Rep from Queries: 0 – Don’t be alarmed by this number. More often than not, if I’m interested in a manuscript, I ask for a revision (“R&R”) before offering representation. This is even more common if the manuscript comes from an unsolicited query.

Total New Clients since June: 1 – The fabulous Gina Miel Heron, a woman’s fiction author I met at a conference in 2011 and kept in contact with while she finished her manuscript and then, later, the R&R I asked for in 2012. Sometimes it’s a long road to representation!  

Total New Clients in 2013: 2 – Before moving to Bradford, I also signed YA author Stephanie Scott, who I met via a blog contest in 2012 and officially offered rep in February 2013.

Total Queries Received in 2013 (minus hiatus): 3,206

I received about 700 fewer queries this year than I received last year. Given my agency switch, a tighter focus on what genres I represent, a two month hiatus from queries, and attending fewer conferences, this makes sense to me. What I noticed about the queries I did receive this year is that the quality of them was much higher. I can’t request everything I want to sometimes, but what I did request often resulted in revision requests or some very, very tough decisions. 

While these query stats can be a bit hard to process, I should remind you that most agents receive hundreds of queries for genres they don’t represent. Someday, perhaps in 2014, I’ll feel ambitious enough to split my query stats up into Genres I Represent vs. Genres I Don’t Represent. I think a lot of you will feel much better about the request rate that way! 

Also, I’ll repeat last year’s post and remind you that I do respond to every query I receive with the exception of the following:
  • Mass queries (addressed to more than one person – and, yes, we can tell when you BCC us).
  • Pre-queries (emails asking whether they can query).
  • Queries sent as attachments or links, with nothing else in the body of the email.
  • Queries addressed to someone else (even if it’s a copy and paste error, I’ll assume you meant to query that other person instead).
  • Possible query for a self-pubbed book, but possibly just promoting a self-pubbed book. If I can’t tell if what you’re sending is, in fact, a query, I won’t answer it.
Most writers do follow guidelines and research agents and respect that querying is Step One in the process to getting an agent. We love you for that, writers, and we hope you keep doing that in 2014. 

As for me, I envision 2014 to be a much more sane year than 2013 has been. I promise no more agency moves or, barring any emergencies, breaks from queries. I may even get back to blogging at a semi-regular pace! In the meantime, I thank you for reading my little blog for another year. Have a very happy new year, dear readers. See you in 2014! 

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On Being a Real Writer

I’ve been thinking about labels lately. How one gets one and whether they deserve to have it. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the label of Writer and whether it applies to me.

Most readers of this blog know that I write, though it’s not something I’m pursuing professionally for now. For now. Maybe someday. It’s the “maybe” that makes me hide from the label Writer.

Aren’t Real Writers supposed to seek publication?

I have an MFA in creative nonfiction, and this tends to come up a lot when I’m at conferences or do interviews for blogs. I’m an agent and I have an MFA and “do you still write?” is the question I always get. My answer is usually self-deprecating, or when I’m feeling confident, I say something like, “Yeah, kind of.”

My nonfiction of late has been this blog and few stray pieces I’ve never submitted. I’ve instead completed a draft of a YA novel, and have two more YA projects that aren’t even half-finished. Writing is important to me. I care about the characters I create and I know I created them for a reason. Sometimes I need to write. I think about writing more than I talk about it, and I talk about it more than I do it. All of my projects remain unfinished.

Aren’t Real Writers supposed to finish at least one thing even if it kills them?

There’s always something to blame.

I’m an agent and my clients come first. Then requested material and queries come first. Then going to conferences and networking events and being so exhausted all the time comes first. Then reading for pleasure comes first because it’s rare I get the opportunity to do so. Then Twitter comes first and “keeping up with industry news” that quickly turns into who else watched Supernatural last night. Then having a social life and maintaining friendships comes first. Then eating and sleeping and just being quiet comes first.

Writing isn’t something I’ve made a priority. Part of that is because I know I’m not on a deadline. I’m not a Real Writer. I’m not published, nor am I really trying to be yet. My career is my focus, and writing will be second to that.

Aren’t Real Writers supposed to put writing ahead of everything else?

My professional and personal life is surrounded by Real Writers. I’ve sat listening to them talk about their process and how torturous it all is. I’ve read tweet upon tweet, countless blog posts, on how hard writing is. Beautiful, poetic posts that make me believe that whoever could talk about writing in such a way must be a Real Writer. Not someone like me. Certainly never someone like me, who wouldn’t be able to wax poetic about anything with a straight face, let alone the writerly mindset. If only I were a damaged soul who needed a creative outlet because my own mind simply cannot contain the multitudes of my depth.

But no. A Real Writer is someone else. Not someone like me who has never viewed writing as something set on destroying my very essence. For me, writing is just a thing I do.

I write or I don’t write. When I do, it is hard and I push myself when it gets harder. Then I stop. Sometimes I don’t pick up my pen again (yes, a pen) for weeks. When I reach a point of transcribing to my laptop, I usually get struck by a fresh wave of inspiration and type for hours. Then I stop.

Aren’t Real Writers more prolific than that?

I’ve joined writer’s groups, rented houses for self-imposed writing retreats, studied my craft, and found my voice. I did all the things Real Writers do. I read all the things Real Writers read. I appreciate the same words that Real Writers connect with. Yet all I feel is distance between myself and Them.

I’m a writer because I write, but I don’t know if I’ll ever consider myself as a Real Writer. As I think more about labels, I’m beginning to think it doesn’t matter. I never took myself seriously as a writer because I thought being a Real Writer was more serious than it is. But if I’m always the one to mock my own creativity, why should I expect anyone else to take me seriously?

My goal is to embrace that writing is a part of me too, even if it’s a part I buried for a while. 2013 was supposed to be the year I “got back into writing,” a promise I’d been breaking since I received my MFA in 2008. The difference this year was that I did finish that novel; I did start writing again and treat it as more than just “something I used to do.”

Maybe 2014 will be the year I stop caring whether I measure up to Real Writers’ standards – or at least what I imagine their standards for Real Writing are. Maybe only then will I let myself believe I, too, am one of Them.

Tell me, fellow writers – was there a moment where you realized you’re a Real Writer? Or do you also run from the label?