2014: A Year in Queries

Hello, everyone!

It’s that special time of year again where I look back on my year in queries and share the terrifying results with you. Last year I had to give you my stats in two sections because of my mid-year hiatus in between agencies: here and here. 2014 was my first full year at Bradford Literary Agency (woo!), and here’s what it looked like from the query side of things.*

*As always, the following stats are from unsolicited queries only, meaning the ones that came through my regular query inbox (“the slush pile”). Any requests from conferences, contests, or referrals from people I know were not part of the tally.

January
Total: 323
Requests: 4
Genres Requested: Adult literary; Adult urban fantasy; YA contemporary (2)

February
Total: 256
Requests: 3
Genres Requested: Adult literary; Adult magical realism; YA contemporary

March
Total: 245
Requests: 3
Genres Requested: Adult literary; Adult urban fantasy; YA contemporary

April
Total:263
Requests: 5
Genres Requested: Adult literary; YA contemporary (2); YA mystery; YA sci-fi

May
Total: 271
Requests: 3
Genres Requested: Adult mystery; YA contemporary; YA thriller

June
Total: 263
Requests: 3
Genres Requested: Adult magical realism; YA sci-fi (2)

July

Total: 284
Requests: 10
Genres Requested: Adult sci-fi (2); Adult mystery; Adult short story collection; YA contemporary; YA sci-fi (2); MG fantasy; YA urban fantasy; YA magical realism
August
Total: 241
Requests: 4
Genres Requested: Adult literary (2); Adult sci-fi; YA urban fantasy
September
Total: 247
Requests: 4
Genres Requested: Adult literary; (2); YA contemporary (2)
October
Total: 324
Requests: 7
Genres Requested: Adult  magical realism; Adult sci-fi; YA contemporary (2); YA urban fantasy; YA sci-fi (2)
November
Total: 283
Requests: 3
Genres Requested: MG fantasy; YA horror; YA contemporary
December
Total: 289
Requests: 3
Genres Requested: Adult women’s fiction; MG fantasy; YA contemporary

Total Queries Received in 2014: 3,289

Total Manuscript Requests from Queries: 52

Request Rate from Queries: 1.6% (approx.)  


Most Requested Genres: YA contemporary, Adult literary, Sci-fi (both adult & YA)

Least Requested Genres (of those I rep): MG (but when requested, usually involved fantasy elements), YA mystery/thriller

Total Offers of Rep from Queries: Two


Total Offers of Rep Overall: Five
Total New Clients in 2014: Three
1) Anthony Jones, adult sci-fi/noir: R&R from 2013 query, received revision and offered rep in 2014
2) Marissa Marangoni, YA literary/contemporary, from 2014 query
3) Kelly Calabrese, YA thriller/horror, met at a 2014 conference
While these stats may seem daunting to new writers currently querying or thinking about querying agents, keep in mind the following things:
  • I receive a LOT of queries for genres I do not represent. If I had to guess, I’d say at least 40% of my slush pile consists of queries from people who don’t actually care what I represent, as long as I represent them. This is not a good way to go about finding an agent. You want an agent who is excited about your book, but who also has the right editorial eye for your genre and experience selling it.
  • More often than not, I ask for an R&R (revise & resubmit) when I’m interested in something. Good writing can’t exist without revision, yet revising is a separate skill not every writer can master. Since I’m an editorial agent, I need to know my future-clients can take notes, make them their own, and revise. There were about a dozen times this year when an author whose manuscript I requested received an offer of representation. In some cases, that manuscript just wasn’t for me. Other times, though, I saw the potential in the manuscript, but it needed too much work for me to make a counter-offer. In other circumstances, I’d ask for an R&R, but if they have an offer on the table already, then I have to pass. 
  • I read and respond to every query I receive, with the exception of the following:
    • Mass queries – queries addressed to more than 1 agent (it’s also very obvious when we’re all BCC’d)
    • Pre-queries – emails that ask whether they can query, which is a waste of time for everyone involved. The answer is always yes, just query. 
    • Queries sent as attachment. 
    • Queries addressed to someone else 
    • The Maybe-Query. (If you self-published the book you’re querying, make sure the agent knows you’re seeking representation and not just spamming them with a promotional email.)
The above-mentioned list are only fraction of the queries I receive, but they do contribute to just how many queries I end up with by the end of the year. The majority of writers who query me are informed and professional. I can’t request everything, even if they query is well-written, but I always appreciate the writers getting it right. I know a form rejection doesn’t convey that, and I wish I had time to personalize each response – or at least give a secret high-five to the writers whose queries were awesome, but just not my thing. So I’ll just say here, “thanks, writers!”
One of my 2015 goals is to double my client list (!). So I hope you’re all ready to send me more great queries – or send me those R&Rs I requested in 2014 – and help me reach that goal. 
See you in the new year, writers! 
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3 thoughts on “2014: A Year in Queries

  1. Author Giora makes an excellent point, and thanks, Sarah, for all the really insightful data. Initially when I was shopping my first manuscript, “Quixote in Ramadi”, around to different agents, the most common detailed replies I've received were that it was not suitable for the military genre. I actually wanted it to be considered general fiction – or even a psychological thriller – but the fact that it was about growing up with racism, facing it in times of combat, and coming from an indigenous female combat veteran got me nowhere. All the while, military writers look awfully homogeneous – young, Anglo Saxon with light features. It has made me think that many agents are not considering the diversity angle as many other veterans who've received assistance from an agent also had the help of ghost writers and decent PR footwork. It helps that I know some of these people personally. All the while, I hear, “Oh, you'll get there eventually” with regard to getting an agent to work with me, but they offer no olive branch either.

    In any case, I am glad you've disclosed this list as it helps me conceptualize what an agent goes through, but it also reminds me that I have a few more queries to write – even in spite of over 200+ rejections 🙂

    Like

  2. Most authors following busy literary agents know that they accept about one client per one thousand queries, so no surprise here. I wonder with all the talk about Diversity, and your wish to represent diversity novels and diversity authors, if a new category for Diversity YA fiction should be established. Best wishes to double your clients these years. They will be happy.

    Like

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