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!

1 comment:

  1. Well, your numbers are pretty accurate. Very small agencies might pick up two client per year. The powerhouse agencies can run six to eight. Now the medium size agents who have a few employees typically take on about four a year. So that's pretty on.