Friday, September 21, 2012

Querying: May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor

On Absolute Write, I posted the following rant about the odds of getting an agent and getting published. FYI: they’re not very good. 0.2% is an optimistic estimation of getting picked up out of the slushpile by a given agent, and 2% is an optimistic estimation of your full or partial request turning into an offer of representation.


I've been the lucky recipient of several partial and two full requests. Looking at querytracker, one of the agents requests fulls and partials from 5% of queries. I read one agency's website that said they receive 6000 queries per year--but they do picture books, so that's probably higher than a YA only agent who said she receives 160-200 queries per month. So using shoddy math, say an agent gets 2000 queries a year. Of those, s/he requests 5%, or 100 partials/fulls. So she is reading around 8 manuscripts a month. Oh, plus the ones requested at conferences-let's call it 15/month.

So aside from all the other important agent things she has to do, the agent reads these and signs... what 4 clients a year? Completely guessing here; it's a number I've seen and could be much less or greater depending on client list, genres repped, etc.

4 clients out of 2000 queries... that's a .2 percent chance of getting picked from the slush pile (odds obviously greatly varying depending on writing quality/crazy factor of query). 4 clients out of 180 MS requests... ooh, a little over 2%, now you're looking at a slightly better chance of representation (odds GREATLY varying depending on things like originality, genre, market, quality of writing (!), web presence/marketing)

I guess I've been doing a lot of thinking about how I and others get the idea that a certain agent is "the one." Odds are, she isn't. She requested your partial/full? Still a pretty good chance she isn't the one. It's not worth getting hung up on one request-keep querying, writing, and revising.

And I don't even want to know the percent of clients who are actually published. (Odds greatly varying, etc.)

The polite response is the true one: keep writing, keep editing, keep submitting and your odds improve. They’re not odds really; these numbers vary so much from agent to agent. And, the whole subjective factor of concept and craft and what makes your spine tingle doesn’t even enter into the mix. So my misuse of the calculator may not be very accurate, but it’s strangely encouraging. At least—not to view one rejection from one agent as the end all.

The numbers also made me think of Hunger Games. There are all these great manuscripts, battling to the death to catch the agent’s attention. Only one will survive (okay, maybe two).

Alright, time to hide the calculator and get some writing done.

Query on… and may the odds be ever in your favor!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Querying

In the words of Garfield, look on the bright side -- Mondays only happen once a week. Really, I shouldn't complain. Overall it's been a good Monday. I sent out a full that was requested over a year ago. March 2011, way before my manuscript was ready. I apologized for the delay, explained that I had trunked it and done quite a bit of editing. Kind agent replied immediately not to worry about the wait, and she was looking forward to reading it. This reiterates what I heard many agents say at the conference I went to recently; THE 'YES' DOESN'T EXPIRE. Good news for people who query too soon, and important to remember before sending something out that isn't ready.

Now the tortorous waiting begins. The advice I see all the time is: start a new writing project and forget about it. Difficult to do, especially in an age that makes it possible to stalk literary agents via twitter. I've got vacation coming in 3 days and I can't wait--the only place I would be able to ignore my deathly quiet inbox would be somewhere without internet service.

I also sent out four other requests (3 chapters x 3, 10 pages) and have sent material to every agent who requested it at the conference. Oh happy day! They say in this business, which involves so much waiting, it's important to celebrate the small sucesses. So today I'm celebrating five more requests in the hands of agents.

Take that, Monday.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Riding the Query Go-round

So much has happened at lightning speed in my writing career in the months of July and August. In July, I went to the conference put on by Pacific Northwest Writers Association. I felt like, at last, I came out of the closet as a writer. And not only did I make a new tight knit group of writer friends, I also got eight (count them, eight!) requests for Gargoyle Moon.

I have sent out one ten page request (that garnished a very kind "I see potential but not for me, query these two other agents at my house" response) one twenty-five page request, and two fifty page requests. Now I play the waiting game. In the meantime, I'm doing some final editing with a fine-tooth comb, reading, and planning to start my next novel in November. September I am dubbing "Septnoreadmo" (errr something like that) because I plan on doing mass quantities of reading in preperation for starting my new novel. For me, nothing sparks a desire to write like reading good books.

Goals have always been very important to me in achieving most of my successes. And there's nothing so satisfying as achieving something that you set out to do, a long time ago.

1. Send out three more partial requests and one full. Next week, send to two other suggested agents
2. Mass reading in September. New Orson Scott Card, Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty Books, 50 Shades (yeah, yeah), rest of the mortal instruments series
3. New Novel begun in November, first draft complete by February (Oooh, it'll be like a Valentine's Day present for moiself!)

Things I've accomplished lately:

1. Sent out four requests
2. Started using Twitter (@_octoberly)
3. Wrote a synopsis and agent bio
4. Gave life

(I'm resuscitating this blog. If you're a writer, you can say you kill people for a living. Or that you're telling lies for fun and profit, Lawrence Block style. Now I'm giving life to this blog too... :) )