Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, August 24, 2009

Agent E-mail Stats

Every Monday morning, as sure as the rooster's cry (I don't actually have a rooster) I can expect to come in to 100+ e-mails from the weekend, mostly queries. I like to think of it as the Monday Deluge, and it means that if I'm going to answer all of them (and oh, I do) plus the regular work for clients and such, it can make for a bit of a hectic day.

It also explains why you may be hearing from me on the weekend: if I put in some Saturday or Sunday e-mail time it makes Monday oh so much easier. But since I was reading manuscripts this past weekend I didn't get to any queries. So: hello 100+ e-mails! Nice to see you this chilly Monday morning.

As I was working through the e-pile, it got me wondering: how many e-mails do I send anyway? Sure seems like a lot.

Well, as of today, according to Outlook I've sent 11,921 e-mails so far this year. That's just for work -- it doesn't count personal correspondence. Most are responses to queries, but it also includes e-mails to clients, colleagues, editors, you name it.

11,921 e-mails as of August 24th translates to about 50 per day, including weekends and vacation time.

To put that in perspective, let's say I worked nine hours every single day, including weekends, and didn't take any vacation or break for lunch. 11,921 e-mails translates to an e-mail every ten minutes. Somewhere in that time I also theoretically have to read manuscripts, have meetings, talk on the phone, and, you know, read the queries I'm responding to, while still maintaining that e-mail every ten minutes pace.

Oh, and in real life I really do take vacation and try to break somewhat on weekends... and thus have to work considerably more than nine hours a day during weekdays.

What does this all mean?

First of all, I'm not complaining. I love my job, even if it means I'm staring at a screen (computer, Kindle or iPhone) for the majority of my waking hours. Please don't ever hesitate to e-mail me.

But here's what it means for writers: the next time you wonder why agents send form letters or why some don't respond to queries altogether... please remember these stats.

It also means that I necessarily have to make snap decisions when I'm reading queries. I don't really have time to sit down, contemplate, and absorb the aura of a query. There are tons more in line and I have to move quickly if I'm going to get through the day. So if a query is needlessly long or doesn't include key details (published authors, once again: PUBLICATION DATE AND PUBLISHER DON'T MAKE ME GO TO AMAZON ARGH) hopefully this puts into perspective why literary agents turn into lunatics about certain pet peeves that end up costing precious time.

So there you have it. I would write more... but I need to go write some e-mails.






137 comments:

Kiersten said...

I solemnly swear I will never email you again : )

Thank heavens I don't need to...

Bane of Anubis said...

My immediate thought after reading: why not hire an assistant to help wade through the slush?

Three immediate answers pop to mind:

1.) CB doesn't want to pay an extra grunt (at least not for a junior agent)
2.) An unpaid intern wouldn't have enough experience to know what works and/or know your preferences.
3.) b/c you're a masochist ;)

Since you added the '1st 5 pages' clause to your query instructions, have you noticed a great shift in your time requirements?

Vegas Linda Lou said...

The "snap decision" nature of agent responses also explains why good projects can easily fall through the cracks. So much of the query game is a crap shoot--all the more reason why writers shouldn't read too much into the rejections they recieve.

Anonymous said...

That's why agents are so detailed about how they want things sent to them. They have a million items on thier to do list and rather not waste time deciphering sloppy queries.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Yikes--I spelled "receive" wrong! That's the kind of thing that can ruin my day!

TC Laverdure said...

Hey Nathan we all respect and admire you so much for all you do. The blog is great and you are obviously a great person. One of these days I will send you a query and I am fully prepared to see it as business and not personal. You have prepared me well for all possible outcomes...so cheers to Nathan Bransford...may you live long and prosper.

Nathan Bransford said...

bofa-

Yeah, an assistant isn't in the cards.

VLL-

Things definitely fall through the cracks, which is frustrating considering how much time I spend caulking!

Natalie said...

I had a mini panic attack just reading that. I really don't know how you do it.

Sarah Erber said...

Hmm... So would you prefer to be e-queried during the weekdays?

(I'm starting the querying process next week) *Wink*

Susanna said...

Phew! And I thought I sent a lot of email at work. (maybe only 15-20 a day on a busy day).

Marsha Sigman said...

So does this mean I shouldn't forward you random funny emails?

Ok I don't.....but I want to.

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

If this is the not complaining post I don't want to see the other variety.

Meredith Turits said...

Thank god for this blog, and for helping a young, first-time author get a bit of perspective on what the scene is like on the other side. As someone who is just on the verge of beginning to query, you have no idea how insanely helpful it is to come home to an itemized list of things that make agents want to lose their lunches.

Nathan Bransford said...

Thanks for that, Elaine.

Rick Daley said...

I was going to comment, but then I realized that it would probably get emailed to you so I decided against it.

Dawn VanderMeer said...

Thank you for taking the time to blog. We really appreciate it. :)

Lisa said...

Nathan -

Question. With all of this on your desk, how long does it usually take you to read a client's manuscript?

Anonymous said...

Well, it's obvious your "query me first" strategy helps contribute to the deluge -- I noticed on QueryTracker that you're the number one queried agent in the US>

Nathan Bransford said...

lisa-

It usually takes about three to six hours for me to read a manuscript, depending on the length.

josiah said...

Hey Nathan remember Master of Demon Valley said working against long odds is one of the seven skills of personal success and leadership.

And don't worry about sleep. You get enough rest when you're dead.

Steph Damore said...

Anon, really?
Wow, the #1 queried agent in the U.S. - that's crazy! Go Nathan.

You know Nathan, you could technically take a break from queries. I know that's not your style, but if you ever get overwhelmed...

Margaret Yang said...

You'll never hear me complaining about a form letter. I love the form! It's a great way to get the exact information the writer needs: the agent read the query, the agent is passing. Nothing else is needed so why say anything else?

mkcbunny said...

Nathan, I am repeatedly amazed that you have any time to keep up this blog.

On the manuscript-reading note: I recently speed-read through mine and found the experience helpful. Agents seem to have perfected the art.

Do you think that good manuscripts work regardless of the reading speed? I wonder about dense novels being hard to digest that way, for example. Do the relative differences between types of work condense equally for you, or do you find some styles don't lend themselves to fast assessment?

Even six hours seems speedy to me!

Amber Argyle-Smith said...

Kind of daunting for those of us sending out queries.

It's also why I recommend meeting agents at conferences.

Sherry G. said...

I know you you'll never say it, because you really don't, but let me say it for you, I hate my job, I hate my job, I hate my job...you're welcome.

Ryan Potter said...

All the more reason to sculpt a query letter to perfection.

Hi Nathan,

I'm new to your blog, so forgive me if the answer to this can be found in another post, but for every 100 queries, how many get your "yes" vote to see the partial or full manuscript?

Just wondering.

Ryan Potter

:)Ash said...

Yep, and that's exactly why I have no problem with form letters!

Hang in there! Tuesday will be here before you know it.

Traven said...

Ryan, you can see the answer at QueryTracker (at least, as reported by those who upload their responses) under "Agent Statistics".

Ryan Potter said...

Traven,

Ah! Thanks!

Ryan

Robert McGuire said...

It's a miracle you blog this much.

Dara said...

I completely understand why agents need to send form letters and can't respond to each query personally after seeing that!

I'm amazed you're also able to write all these wonderful blog posts too, on top of reading manuscripts and working with your clients. Absolutely amazing! I think I'd be huddled in a corner somewhere. :P

Flavio Q Crunk said...

Dude. Get a job in IT. I send that many emails A MONTH. PLUS I have to do my job. You're a lightweight, Bransford.

Mira said...

Okay, first of all, I don't have enough room in this little box to say everything on my mind, so I'll e-mail it to you.

Ha, ha. Little joke there.

Secondly, you have an amazing work ethic. Damn, you work hard. I hope your boss(s) know how lucky they are to have you.

Thirdly, I do want to remind you that not only have I offered to BE your assistant, but I believe I offered to pay you for the priviledge of it. Just in case you forgot.

Fourthly, and please don't kill me for saying this, Nathan, but have you thought about slowing down on queries alittle? Snap decisions are good; I've noticed that you have really good judgement, but still. But what's the point of the whole thing if you let a good one fall through the cracks?

Okay, I know. That was outrageous in it's lack of understanding of your situation, because it would ADD work, instead of taking it away.

Sorry (note: see paragraph above about assistant hiring.)

Traven said...

I had nothing better to do so I looked up the stats. According to QueryTracker, of queries sent to NB, 8% get a request for a partial, 1% for a full MS.

Mira said...

Um, how does Query Tracker know that? Does Nathan report every query to them? Every time he requests a full or partial?

If that's true, I think he should stop doing that and save some time.

I'm alittle suspicious of that data, I'll admit it.

Patrick said...

I was actually thinking about emailing you this morning with a question not in your FAQ. But since you get so many emails maybe I can just pose my question here instead.

I started querying last week and I got a request for a partial from an assistant to a literary agent this morning. When formatting my response to the assistant should I still have my salutation to the agent or should it be to the assistant.

I am sure I am just nitpicking but I would still like to be proper and correct to an assistant or an agent who has taken time to ask for and to read a partial of my work.

Unfortunately I have already responded to the assistant and sent the requested partial so this would be for future reference. I was so excited to send out my first request for a partial that the question of who to address the letter to didn't occur to me until afterwords.

Bane of Anubis said...

Mira, I'm gonna answer you assuming you're not being sarcastic...
querytracker stats are created by the users... e.g., I could report that I queried Agents A,B,D,E, & F and that A,B,D,F rejected me, but E asked for a partial...

Of course, people could lie, but b/c it's done anon, that's not gonna happen too much, IMO and 8% sounds pretty close to NB's PR rate.

Patrick, address it to the person who requested it (unless he/she explicitly stated something like 'I'm requesting this for [agent you originally queried]'... and good luck.

Mira said...

Bane - no I wasn't being sarcastic, and I still honestly doubt the results.

In order to have an accurate reading, that would mean all queriers would have to report to querytracker. Otherwise you're getting a skewed sample of those who know about QueryTracker in the first place.

I didn't even know about it, and I'm on the blogs alot. So, I would guess that a high percentage of queriers don't report their responses from Nathan.

That said, 8% seems high, from what I've heard in the industry, so that's cool.

Nathan Bransford said...

Please don't ever hesitate to e-mail me. Like I said, I'm not complaining, it's my job! Unfortunately I'm not able to respond to all questions (and hopefully this will shed some light onto why that is), but no one should ever feel hesitant about e-mailing me.

Nathan Bransford said...

Patrick-

Unless the assistant specified that they're the ones now considering send it to the agent's attention. But you really can't go wrong either way, they just want to see the partial.

Nathan Bransford said...

Also, for my query stats click on the "query stats" label under the post. The Query Tracker people have a higher request rate. My guess is that it's a self-selecting group - if you're on Query Tracker you're probably more plugged into the publishing internetosphere and thus probably more likely to be writing a better query.

Bane of Anubis said...

Mira, if the sampling size is large enough, it's probably a halfway decent estimate.

WV: sproggle -- boggle for sprogs... what is a sprog, you ask... you don't want to know, trust me.

Patrick said...

Thanks Bane its been an interesting learning curve week that's for sure. The first couple of queries I sent out I didn't notice that gmail changed my formatting for them and I agonized over that for hours. I have since clicked that remove all formatting option every single time now that I send a response. My query letter was written in Word and while the formatting was just slightly different it still drove me crazy and you almost wish you could have those first couple of queries back.

Then of course reading these posts I wasn't aware that Nathan had started asking for the first five pages to be included with queries and that has bummed me out too. I actually wrote and formatted my query letter for Nathan months ago when he wasn't asking for the first five pages as he was the agent I wanted to work with. I got a rejection from him (my very first rejection and if I ever get published I am framing it) but you just have to wonder in the back of your mind if you had included the first five pages would he have been more inclined to ask to see more. Now it's too late to go back and do that as it would be rude and downright annoying to resend the query with the five pages and the agent you wanted to work with the most if off your lists.

I should have waited to query Nathan until I had the kinks worked out and the learning curve was over to better my chances even if the result might have been the same. You always want to give yourself the best chance at succeeding.

Bane of Anubis said...

Or a decent trend at least -- using Nathan's reasoning, it may be a bit high, but if you compare it to other agents, you can at least get a sense of where that agent stands (there's one agent on there who requested 1 out of a 132, I believe -- as Joey Lawrence used to opine, "Whoa!")

Mira said...

Bane - Nathan agrees with me.

Ha! I win.

But I don't want to rub it in. Bane, let me just say I've noticed that you're an intelligent person with many fine qualities. Truly. You can't help it if I'm right and you're wrong. Really. You have much to offer the world, don't let this depress you too much.

The Writing Muse said...

You're amazingly sane for the amount of reading and responding you do.

Very impressive.

Mimm said...

I'm exhausted reading that - and feel vaguely sloth-like.

Bane of Anubis said...

Patrick,

Yeah, I think we've all been in those hole-riddled dingies before (i.e., the email fackocked our formatting boat and we thought our query was polished, but now we hate it or realize it wasn't up to par boat)...

Try not to worry over it too much (easier said than done). As Nathan and many others have pointed out before, the query doesn't have to be perfect (though close ;).

Also, regarding Nathan, I'm sure he'd be a great agent to work with, but I think a lot of us on here have a bit of idol fever b/c of his generosity and thus assume he'd be the best agent for us even though his preferences may not be in line w/ our writing as much as we'd like.

Of course, if you queried him awhile ago and did some polishing and didn't include pages and you really think you're right up his alley, maybe you can try him again. I know he doesn't encourage it, but w/ ~12000 emails, his memory's bound to be clouded some ;)... and what's one more query to the mountain?

Bane of Anubis said...

Mira, I have been wrong many many times before (or so my wife keeps telling me).

Sun Up said...

Nathan, can I have your iPhone?
kthanxbai!

Mira said...

Aw, well, Bane, I'm sure you've also been right many, many times before. For example, as I'm sure your wife would point out, when you married her. :)

Anonymous said...

For real dude, if you're really spending that much time sitting in front of a computer, I hope you're also doing some back strengthening exercises.

Sciatica is no joke, believe you me!!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sciatica

Patrick said...

I wrote my query letter after I finished writing my novel. And the first query letter I wrote was for Nathan. I have since spent several months polishing and editing my novel and just last Monday I began the querying process. I believe I finished the novel in April or May so that would have been ween the query was written and I waited tell I was done editing before querying.

And your right Bane with 12,000 emails this year so far I may just seem vaguely familiar. Wait haven't I read this query before, I could have sworn I read this query before but wait look five pages I haven't read well darn it I should ask for more. Or who does this egotistical writer think he is how dare he query me again I am calling every agent I know and we are blacklisting this writer.

I was expecting rejection so I haven't taken it too hard, yet. I am buoying myself with thoughts that the author of the Time Traveler's Wife was rejected more than two dozen times and the book has sold more than three million copies.

caboozie said...

This is clearly why people should not get freaked out by how long it takes to get a response to their queries. I'm a procrastinator by nature, so I'm in awe of the how agents get back to people in any way that is reasonable. I'd be going bonkers. Kudos to you Nathan and your fellow brethren

Anonymous said...

You've got ten minutes between emails, Nathan: MAKE the time to "absorb the aura of the query." Is it that difficult to print out a hard copy on handmade papyrus, set it on fire, then stare at the flame for the telltale emanations of marketable prose? HINT: No, it's not. Somebody's cutting corners.

Abby said...

I love that you calculated it down to email/minutes. That's great! I would do the same thing :)

scott neumyer said...

I implore to spend a few days tackling my work inbox, sir. LOL I'd be THRILLED to only get an email every 10 minutes. hehe

Steph Damore said...

Bane - I guess there is a bit of an idolish following. What was that word that's been floating around the Internet? Bransfordites? Was that it? Rick D. - help me out.

Nathan, you have groupies with a label. Bransfordites - it sounds so Elizabethan (or perhaps Jane Austen'ish) - anyways, how cool are you? It would explain the emails.

Amanda said...

In addition to your e-query followup, meetings, manuscript readings and so forth you STILL found time to blog. Impressive :)

Dan said...

Nathan,

When I saw STATS in the post title I became excited at the prospect of some query data - but I suppose the email data is interesting as well.

I guess it's sort of like hoping your team drafts the player you want instead of some French born player you've never heard of... meanwhile, the real steal of the draft just floats on by. Oh NBA GM's, why do you torture me so?

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

so very fascinating. sounds like fun. where do I sign up? :)

Anita Saxena said...

I felt tingles of carpal tunnel after reading that

Nathan Bransford said...

dan-

Sorry to serve up Alexis Anjica instead of Courtney Lee. Hope the next post is at least a Mario Chalmers.

Nathan Bransford said...

Whoops, meant Ajinca. Sorry Alexis!

Mira said...

Nathan, I do have another comment here, and I'm serious about this one.

One of my pet peeves is the query itself. I think it's a hugely inefficient way for an agent to get the information they need.

Although I've posted about this before, no agent has ever agreed with me about this, and I'm confused.

It seems clear to me that a form-filler would work better and save the agent, not to mention the writer, a ton of time. It would be so much easier to read and interpret. The sorting capabilities alone would be awesome.

All the other information - can the author write a summary, would they be easy to work with, etc. can be ascertained later. Why bother getting that information for authors the agent will never work with?

The benefit of this system, too, is it takes the focus off the query and puts it back on the writing, where I believe it belongs. It would significantly reduce tension betweeen agents/writers as well.

Maybe there is something about the query that I don't understand.....But I have to admit to being confused.

Thermocline said...

Nathan,

Thank you for making the time to respond to queries. I appreciated hearing back from you about mine.

The whole "No response means no" option other agents employ is driving me crazy.

iamfrightenedtoo said...

i hate only one thing other than a rejection it self.

agents say "make sure to personalize your query do not send us a form query."

the same agents send form rejections. i understand the time issue i really do. but please at the very least give out what you ask for.

Anonymous said...

@Steph Damore,

I believe the word you're looking for is "BranFans."

Marilyn Peake said...

Nathan, your post might explain why some agents seem to be snapping angrily or sarcastically on a daily basis about queries and writers in general. I like your tone: informative and humorous, along with a mention that you love your job. Probably one of the main reasons that so many writers seem to snap angrily or sarcastically on a daily basis about literary agents is that their workload is equal to or greater than the one that you described. Writers who work full-time jobs as busy as yours have it really tough trying to write and submit manuscripts before or after work. I once worked 60-hour weeks, often sleeping four hours per night. When working on book promotions, I’ve sent and received so many emails, the sheer number of emails crashed my computer twice and my computer guru husband had to work some kind of computer magic to straighten it all out. I love writing, though, so I don’t mind the long hours and I deeply appreciate all the hard work that agents do. Every day, though, I find myself wading through angry Twitter messages and blog posts within the writing community, mostly agents and editors complaining about writers and writers complaining about agents. I think that perhaps the Internet, email, and computers have made life much more stressful within the publishing community. When I was in Alaska, life was extremely relaxed. Native residents talked about how many things just can’t get done quickly there, and so daily life includes great patience and appreciation of the beauty of nature that is all around. I took over 2,000 photographs and my husband took over 1,000 photographs in Alaska. I plan to look at them often to avoid stress. :)

Nathan Bransford said...

marilyn-

Yeah, I think you make good points all around. First of all, I know a lot of people reading this blog are writing novels while also holding down full time jobs. We're all busy!

I also agree that e-mail may be making things difficult. For one, it may just be too easy to send an e-query, so agents get a lot of frivolous ones -- and that's frustrating. I also think people are snippy because the Internet kind of tends to do that and Twitter especially doesn't lend itself to very nuanced discussion.

Michael Pickett said...

I'm almost afraid to ask this because it might increase your workload, but it's something I've been wondering for a long time. How do you find time to write such a great blog with all of the other stuff you have to do?

Literary Cowgirl said...

That's a lot of email. Dealing with those volumes wouldn't even be possible for me. Yup, still on dial-up.

Kristi said...

Nathan - I wish I could write my ms in the time it takes you to read one. :)

Marilyn Peake said...

Nathan, I agree with you that Twitter doesn’t allow for nuanced discussion. Actually, it’s often difficult to find that type of discussion anywhere on the Internet, even within writing communities where you would expect vigorous intellectual discussions to be going on 24/7. I think one of the main reasons your blog is so popular is because you introduce intriguing topics and then allow discussion to go off in all different directions. For discussion to be meaningful, I think it has to be allowed to go off in various directions even only vaguely tangential ones, in order to explore new areas related to the original point. Too many Internet discussions repeat the same points over and over and over again, in order to stay on task.

Ink said...

Wouldn't it be funny if Mr. Ajinca was a devoted NB blog follower? Maybe he's writing From France to the NBA: A Life of Pine...

Nathan Bransford said...

bryan-

He was probably going to query me first too until I misspelled his name. Argh. BLEW IT.

J.J. Bennett said...

Nathan,

Have a great day, sip your drink of choice, and enjoy the weather. It's the little things that help get us through the day. :)

Jen

Nathan Bransford said...

mira-

Some agents have submission forms. I just prefer e-mail.

And I still haven't seen a better submission system than a writer sending a brief description of their work in their own words. If I find one better I'll use it.

Melanie Avila said...

*boggles*

That's a lot.

T. Anne said...

Ok, I won't take my rejections so personally now. :)

Lis Garrett said...

Wow! This does help me to understand why the one literary agent to whom I spoke on the phone talked so quickly I could barely understand her. She was busy!

Ink said...

Nathan,

It's okay about Ajinca. I mean, he plays for the Bobcats... No platform. The publishers will look at those attendance numbers and give you the thumbs down. Maybe if he gets traded to Chicago or New York...

L. T. Host said...

I will never, ever, complain about my job again.

Gosh... are you SURE a gift basket of mini-bar bottles won't be appreciated with my query?

Mira said...

Nathan,

Thanks for your response!

I did mean an e-mail submission form, actually.

I've commented alot already on this thread, and I don't want to take up too more space. So, as briefly as possible.

The advantage of a fill-in form is you don't have to wade through a letter to to find out what you want to know. Just a quick form and the 5 pages.

Sample form:

Name:
Publishing Credits (if any):
Address and Phone number:
Title of work:
Genre:
Word Count:
Description of Plot, Main conflict and Resolution:
(limited to 4-5 sentences. You can force this on a computer form.)

Reason you are querying this agent:
(limited to 2 sentences.)


The beauty of this is the computer can sort based on the subject lines. For example, all screenplays and poetry could be set up for automatic form rejection. All word counts over/under a certain amount, etc.

I'm not an agent, so maybe there's something I'm not seeing. But this seems very simple to me. The hope is not only would this save time, but make it less a good book will fall through the cracks. It let's the writing will shine through more than the query.

Okay, I've posted way too much today. I appreciate your patience and opportunity to present this, Nathan, thank you.

Mira said...

Oh, you could use check-box answers on genre and word count. That could help you sort.

Okay, I'll stop now, sorry.

Patrick said...

I love email queries, the response times are so much faster and a lot cheaper. Too send an query via snail mail and include a SASE you are looking at a dollar a query. Then if you get requests for partials or full manuscripts your out a lot more money. It cost me $20 to print a manuscript and I printed two and bound them for me to hand edit instead of doing all computer editing. I think I could trim it to $15 a manuscript without the binding but then there is postage on that and I am back up to $20.

I am trying to stick with all email queries right now, it's cheaper on me, saves trees and I can still contact agents. I bought a copy of both Writer's Market and Jeff Herman's Guide to Literary Agents and it amazes me how many agents are still requesting only snail mail queries.

Nathan Bransford said...

mira-

I think it's definitely an interesting idea, and I've been meaning to ask agents who have submission forms how they like it.

It may be counterintuitive, but I actually think giving people the freedom to formulate their own query helps. It's extremely easy to weed out the frivolous ones because they're much more likely to be crazily formatted and have wacky fonts and such. It's a visual clue that I don't need to spend much time thinking about that particular query.

In some sense, helping the writer figure out what's what might make it more difficult to sift through the ones I'm not really interested in, rather than easier.

Patrick Rodgers said...

Oh so Nathan you are saying I should requery you now that I have worked out my learning curve on querying ;)

I didn't have any crazy fonts or what not but gmail did mess up my formatting making some paragraphs a different font and I missed the change to including five pages since I wrote the query months ago and only emailed it last Monday. Plus I removed a paragraph that I thought sounded too egotistical.

Maybe I will wait another week tell you forget me a little more and read a couple hundred more emails.

J.J. Bennett said...

It amazes me daily how many of you write post after post to this poor man (Nathan). He posts today how busy he is and yet you all still post over and over and over again. He is too kind...really.

Nathan Bransford said...

patrick-

I don't mean fonts mismatching, I mean really really badly formatted. I can't obviously share these, but everyone should just let their imagination run wild about how they'd write a bad query and then multiply that by two or three.

I don't mean to pick on these types of queriers because, as they'd say in the South, bless their hearts they just don't know any better. But these comprise anywhere from 10-25% of all queries and they all have to be responded to as well.

Rick Daley said...

Mira,

"Um, how does Query Tracker know that?"

The same magic that tells a thermos to keep the hot stuff hot and the cold stuff cold.

Patrick Rodgers said...

I know I was mostly joking Nathan, I was more bummed I didn't notice the change to including the first five pages because I wrote the query months ago and I was a little too over enthusiastic to finally begin the querying process. I honestly don't think having one paragraph in ariel while all the others were in times new roman would make as big of difference as not including the first five pages of the novel.

I think you should post a few of these crazily formatted queries removing names and information of course (heck you could even change the content and just leave the formatting) to give us a better idea of what you have to sift through.

Rick Daley said...

I think a query letter is a better showcase of a writer's style and voice than a submission form.

And I'm not just saying that because I started a query critique blog. I've opened it up to sample pages and synopses, I could just as easily allow submission form responses into the mix. No bias here. Move along, folks.

Mira said...

Nathan,

I think I'm hearing your concerns....You need to know if the writer is 'workable.' I think that's what you mean, and that's legitimate. My question, though, is do you need to know that about people you'll never work with?

So, I'm suggesting: to save time, reverse the order. Weed out the writing first, then find out which of those people you want to work with.

Whether the writer is easy to work with you can get that at any point in the exchange, and decide not to offer representation.

And who cares how easy a writer is to work with if you don't like their writing?

And just think of the time saved!

Anyway, thank you Nathan. I really appreciate that you're not tossing the idea out and for the chance to discuss this with you.

Jil said...

I agree with Mira about the form query. It seems a shame we spend days writing the "perfect" query, send it through the e-mail which I 'swear has a blender in there somewhere and maybe even turns the words a different color, only to have the agent give it one glance and flip off a rejection.

I'm just glad some agents didn't decide to become doctors!

Gina said...

I must admit my heart sinks when I see a submission form on an agency´s website. It just seems kinda counter-creative. With a query the challenge is similar to that of writing a novel: do something original within a tight format. Submission forms on the other hand just seem too... formulaic for an industry whose bread and butter is creativity.
Also, it often seems to me that a submission form goes hand in hand with a policy of ´no reply unless interested´. Which leads me to wonder if the forms really do get read.

~Aimee States said...

It literally took you six minutes to reject my query, which still cracks me up a little. But you have a great reputation, and deservedly so. I'm a fan and I think the world of your efficiency and tact. You have a great attitude.

Chuck H. said...

11,921 e-mails?! Mr. Bransford, I heartily apologize for the two I sent you. You obviously don't need that kind of aggravation. Sorry.

Word Ver: bleat - kind of what I'm doing now.

Lydia Sharp said...

Content to be an author. Never want to be an agent. Thanks for reaffirming that for me.

iamfrightenedtoo said...

yeah it took Nathan about ten minutes to reject me. i hadn't even opened a new window before my email box showed me a new message.

but he lets down easily. and doesn't apologize which i like a lot.

Robin said...

Well with all the e-mails (and e-mail responses), and manuscript reading, and phone calls, and breathing (you do breath, right?), I thank you for continually keeping those of us in the writing community updated and informed.

(sound of hands clapping)

mkcbunny said...

I'll never understand the crazy fonts that people use for professional communications.

Last year, my company posted a job ad on Craigslist. Some of the e-mails we received employed huge fonts, vibrating colors, and ALL CAPS FOR IMPORTANT TEXT—WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS AND MOVING SMILEYS!!!

All of those went on the "no" pile immediately.

Reesha said...

Thanks for all the hard work you do. You didn't even mention in your stats writing and posting stuff on this blog! Whewie!

I shall endeavor to do my best to not waste your time and let me thank you in advance for giving any kind of response to me when I actually do query you. (It'll be awhile though because my book's not read.)

Soldier on with your wonderful but challenging job! The publishing industry would be a little darker to people like me without you.

WV: psers = people who write "ps" after a letter, and then write "pss" after that thinking they're so clever when what they're really saying is "post script script". It really should be "pps": post post script.

JenD said...

That you read and respond to all those emails is pretty amazing. That you write this blog and read every comment is simply awesome. You may just be the nicest agent in cyberspace! You can bet I won't be querying you (or anyone else) until I am absolutely ready to. Rock on!

PurpleClover said...

No one is doubting your mad skills. You're most definitely a type A. But I guess most agents must be.

Do you ever have a moment where you don't need to be doing ANYTHING but you feel that urge to check your cell or Kindle because you're not used to NOT checking it?? lol.

I'm right there with you.

Terri said...

Wow . . . in the time it took me to flip through the comments, 2 more emails lands in Nathan's inbox. . . .

Remember the old movie where every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings? Actually, it's anytime a bell rings, anywhere, it's another email landing in his inbox.

DING!

PS: I agree on the query letter over the query form. The query is an artform in its own right and can give a lot of info on content and style in a very short bite of time.

DING!

word verify 'fackrop'that is so cool that words escape me . . .

Andrew Ross said...

way to be transparent! hustling and authenticity is key. hustle=win

J.J. Bennett said...

Nathan,

Have you polled sexs before? What percentage of followers are men or women? Or maybe sex and genre before? Just wondering...

Jen

J.J. Bennett said...

Since I've been blogging (Not long at all...) I've made friends with mostly women here blogging. I wondered what the real percentages were...and if women in general wrote more of one genre than another. I wondered if you felt that may be the reason for so much of one genre.

Neil said...

One day Nathan you'll be some kind of corporate agenting Kingpin with a team of scurrying, eager-to-please assistants and a raft of professional readers and sorters to do all the hard graft for you! You'll just concentrate on repping the massive names and will spend most of your day planning where next to go on vacation and how best to spend the pots of cash you have made. You'll lounge in highly exclusive gentleman's clubs, strike million-dollar deals with just a handshake and a sly wink, and will probably never have to do anything more strenuous than ask, "may I see the wine list?". And when those days roll around, which they will, and you sit in the back of your sleek limo puffing away on fat cigars (and checking profit reports on the latest Apple gadget)... part of you will miss these times, the good ol' days, when you were just starting out and barely had time to run a blog, answer queries AND take care of your clients all at once. Then of course TIME magazine will call you for an interview and you'll snap out of your nostalgia!

Gina said...

Neil can you please look in your crystal ball again and see if I´m one of the ´massive names´? ;-)

Neil said...

Oh Gina, you're totally on the list. That book you write, about that thing? Huge.

Hat Man said...

I have to say a couple of things. First of all, I cherish every email I get, and I get 50-100 every day. They are one of my lifelines to the wider world. I wish I would hear from more people.

Secondly, my impression is that agents want manuscripts. Yet too many agents complain about all the manuscripts they get. But THEY WANT MANUSCRIPTS. This used irritate me about agents when I tried to get them. I got two, but to no avail. Call me jaundiced, but I stopped trying to get an agent, and I feel a lot better. :-)

Gina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gina said...

Thank you so much, Neil. I used to rely on word verifications to get messages from the future, but this is MUCH better.

Oscar said...

I was wondering where all that spam was coming from, hahahahaha! I enjoy your blog!

Mira said...

Neil, that's a horrible life. I think Nathan has much better things in store for his future than THAT. Ugh.

I don't know Nathan, but I care about him, and I believe he has a much more fulfillng life in store; one where he takes pride in the positive impact he has had on the world, both through bringing books to an audience, and through his own writing.

Success and greed are not equivalent. Success and power can be transformative, when held in the right hands.

Neil said...

Aw Mira, I think you may have missed my tongue - it was firmly in my cheek, I promise. I too hope (and fully expect) many more great things from Nathan, and super-greed certainly isn't one of them. But I think my point remains: life moves incredibly fast, and this is an exciting time for Nathan and us, his loyal readers and would-be client list. Never before has there been an agent so open and transparent about his process, and Mr Bransford enjoys a frank and unique dialogue with a great number of net-users. These are times to be enjoyed on both sides!

Mira said...

Oh I see. Your point was to enjoy this time with Nathan now, because once he becomes more successful, he may become less accessible? These wonderful dialogues will stop?

Hmmm. Maybe. Honestly, I think it will be the opposite. I think Nathan has....goals. Maybe that's the wrong way to put it. I think he's drawn to leadership and building groups. I also think he's very good at it.

I could be wrong, of course. I don't know and wouldn't presume to know Nathan's personal goals. But you're right. This is a time to be enjoyed! :)

Falen said...

i have to say - i just recently found this blog and it's awesome.
I'll never understand people who query without doing research into what constitutes a good query...

Backbone said...

Nathan --

I greatly appreciate your blog and I know you're one busy agent, but examples of poorly-formatted queries would be instructive. Surely, a few stand out.

Thanks again.

Chuck H. said...

Just re-read this post and have a quibble. Roosters don't cry, at least none of the ones I've known (hello, country boy here) have ever cried. I guess if life just got too difficult for them they might squeeze out a tear or two, but not on my watch. Just sayin'.

Word Ver: essess - phonetic spelling for that most despicable branch of the Nazi military - Sturm Soldaten.

Anonymous said...

Dear Nathan

You have to learn to pace yourself.

I have 10,231 unread messages on this fairly new box. What me worry?

Any day now....aannnnnyyyy day now.

Mariana said...

This is fantastic Nathan! You have one of the most popular blogs I've seen, and not only among those of the publishing industry.

The discussions here are really interesting, and of course, the content is educating and sort of fun at the same time.

So, to make all that happen, and deal with clients, and read both the clients and the incoming mss, of course you'll have to work like hell. The good thing is that you love what you do, so that's ok, right?

Right, I wasn't even going to comment on this one, but I couldn't resist. Just keep the good work! =)

Nathan Bransford said...

chuck h-

I know my roosters and have loathed them ever since Sunrise the Rooster pecked me on my hand when I was three years old, drawing copious amounts of blood. After that I wouldn't go near chickens unless my dad had a shovel, which he used to scare Sunrise into the corner so I could feed the hens.

I don't know if Sunrise cried per se when he was squawking in the corner, but I'm pretty sure I saw some tears tears.

I still hate chickens. Way to go, Sunrise.

Laura Martone said...

Gee whiz, Nathan. You're one busy dude. How DO you juggle it all - and still manage to maintain such a personable persona?

You're a Man of Mystery, that's for sure.

Bane of Anubis said...

Nathan, guessin' that you hated 'Chicken Run' -- Rocky probably epitomizes Sunshine (seriously, though, did you name that fella, cuz maybe he pecked you for giving him such an effete name)

Laura Martone said...

No doubt, Bane. What self-respecting rooster wants to be called SUNSHINE?!?

No wonder he cried in the corner.

Okay, I can't resist... what a chicken!

Nathan Bransford said...

The foul beast's name was Sunrise. And no, I didn't name him.

Laura Martone said...

Oops. That's what I get for listening to you, Bane... argh.

I meant SUNRISE! What self-respecting rooster wants to be called SUNRISE?!?

Sorry, Nathan. For the memory - and the misspelling.

Bane of Anubis said...

Sunrise, Sunshine -- whatever the case, evidently he wasn't fond of the name... or that wee tyke Bransford.

And FTR - Sunrise ain't a whole heck of a lot better name there, Sunshine ;)

You gotta do what I did -- when I was about 3, I went a bit a dog that I thought was getting too aggressive w/ me (though my parents say it just wanted to lick me) -- gotta show the little buggers who's the boss.

Lydia Sharp said...

So I checked back here to see if Nathan put up a new post and...no new post, but one heck of an awesome rooster story! I'm shedding tears now, too, from laughing so hard.

And I can relate to the term "foul beast." My mother has a farm in NC. Love the fresh eggs. Hate the damn rooster and chickens. 'Nuff said.

Mira said...

Awwww.

I'm sorry that happened to you. That would be pretty scary for a 3 year old.

And not taking away from that, I do feel sorry for the rooster. Maybe that was his way of saying: I want to be friends. Or possibly: you look edible, I'm going to eat you.

All I know is forever after, he was chased into the corner with a shovel, where he cried. Alone. Mocked for his name. While you, Nathan, had your own lifelong trauma, and now hate all chickens......

This is so sad.

Well, if you had couples counseling with The Hills, would it be too far off to have it with a rooster? Just wondering. If not, I think he actually is edible. I'm just saying.

Diana said...

Just think what it would be like, if all those were short story submissions instead of queries. *wink*

Jeanne Tomlin said...

As a "querytracker" I thought I'd fill in a little information. There is no doubt a certain amount of skewing of the statistices since there are people who don't bother to enter results. But there are also a lot of people who use it giving it a large sample and many who are religious about keeping track to increase the knowedge base. It has the advantage of tracking personal results which many of us watch. Querytrackers also have been known to help each other with critiquing queries. And the database is kept as free as possible from the bad guys out there. (Nope, I don't own stock lol)

Rogue Mutt said...

I guess this is why it's better to go to conferences and such. Get the more personal touch.

Alicia R. said...

Nathan,
I have read through your blog many many times, and maybe I missed this, but I just have a quick question. How do you feel about receiving a query and manuscript that has also been submitted to a publisher, not another agent, but a publisher? Is this something to be avoided?

-Thanks
Alicia

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