I’m getting to this post a little later than I usually do, and part of that is because I am very behind on queries. It’s sort of easy to be all “ugh, 2016” about it, but that is kind of what happened. [Update 1/17: I am caught up on all 2016 queries and stats have been adjusted accordingly!]
The number of queries I get in a year vs. how many I request vs. how many authors I actually sign are always overwhelming to writers (so I’m told). Last year I decided to keep better track of what type of queries I receive so you can see what you’re really up against. Maybe it’ll be make you feel better; maybe it won’t. But, here’s one more layer to an agent’s inbox for you to consider:
In 2016, I received 756 queries in genres I do not represent. When I say “do not represent” I’m referring to the following categories only:
- Nonfiction of any kind (including memoir)
- Picture Books/Chapter Books for readers younger than 8
- Inspirational/spiritual novels
- Category romance and/or erotica
- High/epic commercial fantasy
I wasn’t super strict about it, so I kept to what I’ve specifically listed online under “do not send.” Anything else, including sub-genres of fantasy or just “not my usual thing,” were still considered as regular queries and went toward the following tally. But, more on this later. For now, let’s get to the stats!
(As always, remember these are from unsolicited queries – aka “the slush pile” – only. Requests from conferences, contests, referrals, or previous R&Rs were not counted.)
January: Total: 394; Requests: 9
February: Total: 403; Requests: 4
March: Total: 336; Requests: 4
April: Total: 324; Requests: 1 (Note: Most of the requests I made in April were from the DVpit Twitter contest and not from queries.)
May: Total: 340; Requests: 6
June: Total: 335; Requests: 6
July: Total: 484; Requests: 8
August: Total: 379; Requests: 2
September: Total: 300; Requests: 6
October: Total: 460; Requests: 7
November: Total: 307; Requests: 2
December: Total: 265; Requests: 5
Total Queries in 2016: 4,327
Total Requests from Queries: 60
Most Requested Genres: Adult upmarket/literary (usually tackling women’s issues in some way); YA contemporary (most often with a focus on marginalized voices and/or fun, high-concept character-driven stories); MG magical realism (the hardest genre to get right on multiple levels, but I’m a sucker for it).
What I Wish I Saw More: Literary MG (magical or contemporary/realistic); YA or Adult Sci-fi (not space opera or post-apocalyptic); Adult upmarket (see above; I want even more!)
Total New Clients Signed in 2016: 3 – RaeChell Garrett (YA contemporary, query); Andrew Munz (YA western, conference and R&R); Katie Henry (YA contemporary, query)
I answer most of the queries I receive, including those 756 that were in genres I didn’t represent. What I delete without answering are the following, even though they end up in my final tally before I open them:
- Pre-queries – 32
- Remember the query itself is what asks an agent for representation. Asking if you can ask is redundant and considered spam.
- Not addressed to me – 226
- When I get another agent’s name, I assume you meant to query them instead (sorry!). When no name is written at all, I still answer, but it’s kind of a red flag. Your query is like a job application. Don’t “To Whom It May Concern” the very agent it concerns. Author/agent relationships are a partnership. If you expect an agent to work for you, you need to put in effort to work with them too.
- Mass queries – 123
- When I’m obviously BCC’d on an email or I can see other agents CC’d on your query, I don’t think you’re serious about working with me and I delete your query.
- Book already published – 137
With all that in mind:
Total queries I didn’t even answer/answered begrudgingly: 518
Added to the 756 queries in genres I don’t rep: 1,274
Now, the more realistic number of queries I received and answered and considered in 2016: 3,053
I know this is still a large number, but I hope it keeps things in perspective! Some other things to keep in mind:
- I ask for R&Rs (Revise & Resubmit) a lot. Meaning, I’m not signing folks at the fastest rate, but I am actively working with authors with the intention of representing them in the future. If they end up signing with someone else in the meantime, that’s on me. My hope is that 2016 R&Rs come back to me in 2017 and become new clients!
- Agents can’t take on everything. Of those 3,053 queries that did everything right, I still had to be super selective. I can’t sign 3,000 new clients every year. Realistically, I can handle about 5-10 new clients per year on top of my current client list. This means I end up passing on very good projects all the time! I’ve seen them go on to sell – and do well – and it’s always bittersweet, but that’s business.
- Do not take rejections personally! It’s always a business decision based on our time and expertise and skill set. Very rarely, if ever, is it because your book is “bad.” Agents are rooting for you even if we’re not the ones to help you find success.
There it is! Another year in queries. If there are any stats I didn’t include that were query-related, and you want to see them included in 2017, please comment below!
Finally, because I can usually only send form rejections, let me just say here: THANK YOU! It would be kind of awkward if I added a “PS” to rejections just to say “but you did everything right, yay!!!” So, consider this my token of appreciation.
See you in 2017, friends!