Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Vacation Query Stats

While I was away on vacation last week I received 327 queries, all of which I have now answered. There are 165 more that arrived so far this week alone, which I haven't yet gotten to. The queries are massing at the gate! Man the ramparts!

I kept stats on those 327, and here they are in all their glory:

By Genre:

I lumped these into broad categories:

Young Adult (of all kinds): 73
Mystery/Suspense/Thriller: 53
Fantasy (includes paranormal and urban fantasy): 28
Historical Fiction: 26
Literary Fiction: 25
Science Fiction: 18
Memoir: 18
Spiritual Novels: 12
Women's Fiction: 12
Mangst: 11
Middle Grade: 8
How-to/Self-Help: 7
Misc. Nonfiction: 7
Short Story Collection: 6
Religious Manifestos: 5
Biography: 5
Romance: 3
No freaking clue: 6

Word Count:

Out of the 327 queries, 214 listed the word count of their work:

less than 25,000: 5
25,000-50,000: 16
50,000-75,000: 65
75,000-100,000: 72
100,000-125,000: 31
125,000-150,000: 7
150,000-175,000: 9
175,000-200,000: 7
200,000+: 2

Miscellaneous factoids:

Here are some more random counts. Please note that I don't automatically reject anything, even if it's addressed to the wrong agent, and especially if my name is misspelled. I know mistakes happen.

Queries beginning with a rhetorical question: 14
Queries that misspelled the word "query": 2
Sent query as just an attachment or link: 3
Addressed to another literary agent: 2
Addressed "Dear Literary Agent" or "Sir": 10
Queries that were personalized: 108 (33%, same as the last time I compiled stats)

And out of those 327 queries I requested 4 (a little over 1%)


Surly Jason said...

What's the genre/word count/etc of those you requested?

Karma & Adam said...

Wow. Someone misspelled "query"? So my question is of those 300+ letters, how many were well written and made you take a second glance? I'm assuming it's more than the 1% your requested.

Krista G. said...

Thanks for these stats, Nathan. They're always enlightening.

And same question as Surly Jason, the genre part.

Cory Clubb said...

Fascinating stats, Nathan.

Everybody knows you spell “QUERY” with a “K”, duh. Kan't they get it right?

"K"idding of course.

Ben said...

Wow. 4%.

So I'm feeling better about the fact that you requested a partial from me, even though you passed in the end. It's a bigger deal than I thought it was.

Erin Edwards said...

Those stats are both encouraging and intimidating at the same time!

There's an article over at the Wallstreet Journal about Apple's negotiations with publishers: Apple Portends Rewrite for Publishers.

They want the price of ebooks to be higher, but publishers and most importantly *authors* will still get less per book than traditional books. Why? How do they justify that? Or I guess in business you don't have to justify it, you just do it if you can.

Another reason agents are becoming more important; they are the only ones looking out of authors in a business that is becoming increasingly complex.

John M. UpChurch said...

Looks like you're losing the battle with those rhetorical questions. The percentage was up this time. Isn't that odd?

Thanks for the numbers. I'm curious to know how many of the "no freakin' clue" ones were also the ones with word counts over 200K.

Nathan Bransford said...

It was a smattering of genres. I actually don't want to reveal the exact breakdown because I don't want people to think I request more of some genres than others. It's all driven by whatever individual projects strike me. The genre is kind of beside the point.

Nathan Bransford said...

Oops! That didn't come out right. What I mean about the genre being beside the point is that it is for me - I don't really have a quota and am not looking for certain genres over others. Though of course I can understand why people would be curious. Sorry.

Amanda said...

I'm a stats nerd. I love these kinds of posts! Can't really tell you why, but it's just a fact of my weirdness. ;-)

Steven Till said...

I'm curious about the category "No freaking clue." What percentage of those queries did you request to see more from the authors?

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Those higher-end word counts are astounding (to me). Wow. I struggle to get up to 100,000 words, not revise back down toward 100,000. How do you all do it, I want to know?

Nathan Bransford said...



Nathan Bransford said...


The ones where it's not clear what they are don't usually list their word count.

JustineDell said...

I have often wondered the same thing Wanda. Creative prowess flows better through them, maybe? Or their novels are full of mudane chapters? Either way, if I ever had a novel above 100k, I'd probably find it much easier to cut back than to add. But I digress...

Thanks for the info Nathan!!

Andi said...

I didn't notice Horror on the list of genres. Do you include it in with one of the others (and, if so, which one), or did you not receive any queries for horror mss?

Interesting to see these stats!

Sam said...

Thanks a lot for the stats, interesting to see where the competition leans. This is one of the reasons I read Jennifer Jackson's blog regularly; she does a weekly stats update (although generally only listing how many queries she went through & how many manuscripts she requested).

You probably can't answer this specifically, but what was the breakdown like on the YA? A lot of fantasy? Literary? SF?

Thanks again, Nathan.

Joseph L. Selby said...

Thank you for listing fantasy and science fiction separately. So few people do.

Nathan Bransford said...


I believe I only received one or two and they was in the urban fantasy area, so they got lumped into fantasy.

Nathan Bransford said...


It was a little bit of everything, though I actually think paranormal YA may have crested in query popularity after quite a remarkable run.

Sam said...

Sounds good, thanks. I'm curious because my novel is YA-SF, so, again--studying the competition.

Yes, I can attest to the popularity of YA paranormal--my 14 year old cousin gobbles up any book with a teenage ghost on the cover. Perhaps my novel went in the wrong direction...

Mira said...

Cool stats. I always enjoy the 'no freaking clue' category. I'd love to see an example of that sometime.

Oh wait. Maybe I'm in that category. That's highly likely now that I think about it.

So, no humor books. Awesome. My competition is still limited to one person, Rick Daley, my arch-nemesis.

And religious manifestos. See? The problem with things like this is that they affect me so personally. I now have a deep and profound need to send you a religious manifesto, Nathan. I've been staring at that little contact box on your blog, trying not to send you things. Now, I have to stare at that little contact box on your blog and try not to send you religious manifestos.

That is abit complicated by the fact that I have no idea what a religious manifesto is, but I want to send you one anyway.

Ben said...


It didn't go in the wrong direction if the paranormal YA trend has crested. Maybe your direction will be the next big thing?

Anonymous said...

I have a sensitive question, but I'm not sensitive, so don't worry about hurting my feelings. I know this is a subjective biz:

You write, "I don't feel that I am the most appropriate agent for your work."

Since you used the broad term "your work" instead of the specific "this work," does that mean you don't want to see anything of mine again?

Honestly, that's fine (really!), and that's how I took it. Just thought I'd mention it.

Nathan Bransford said...


This post will hopefully shed some light.

Rick Daley said...

Interesting stats, thanks for taking the initiative to compile and share them.

I followed the link for Mangst to the Rejectionst's site, which included a link on mangst that led back to your blog. I know know what mangst is, and I have it ;-)

Congrats to those authors who get to submit partials!!

Sam said...

Ben--good point. And yes, I have a strong hope that YA/F and YA-paranormal have watermarked, opening the door for YA-SF. Time will tell....

Nick said...

Quick question:

On 1.22% (yeah, I just punched it into the calculator), how much did you request? Partials each? Full on one and partial on the others? etc.

And oi vey 1.22%. I think when I'm done with my first draft I might just delay editing it long enough to polish a query to the best form I can get in. Slight j/k.

J said...

Nathan, how much of it (any genre) was multicultural? Just roughly?

Nathan Bransford said...

I (almost) always ask for the first 30 pages.


There were quite a few that were multicultural, though I didn't track numbers on that.

Anonymous said...

anon again.

Of course I've read that. I've been around long enough to know that one should never post a question before checking the faqs.

It didn't answer my question then, but I guess it kinda does now, if that's your answer. Which is fine. I have only appreciation and good wishes for you and your blog.

Nathan Bransford said...


I guess I don't know what it doesn't answer. It's just a vague rejection, it's fine to query me in the future.

Rebecca said...

Great info! For a writer I sure am a stats whore.

Mira said...

Hey! It's Rick Daley, my arch-nemisis. Hi Rick.

So, I looked up religious manifesto on Wikipedia, but
Wikipedia doesn't have an entry for religious manifesto!!

This is terrible. How am I supposed to know something if Wikipedia doesn't tell me? I'm filing a complaint.

Holly Bodger said...

Wow. I'd heard the No-freaking-clue genre was taking off, but I didn't know it was moving with such velocity (she says as she runs to computer to write true story about a Smurf who falls in love with a vampire-slash-priest during WWII)...

Kristi said...

I was surprised there were word counts under 25,000 and over 200,000, but couldn't believe you had 14 beginning with rhetorical questions. I'm guessing those weren't personalized because they would have known better!

D. G. Hudson said...

Thanks for the stats on what you received. It gives us a look at the slushpile averages.

Mine wasn't in that pile, but one day it will be and I hope it will be considered for a partial, at least. I'm surprised that the senders don't pay more attention to your guidelines, but they probably think those rules are for everyone else.

Oh well, only 165 more to go.

Nick said...

"So, I looked up religious manifesto on Wikipedia, but
Wikipedia doesn't have an entry for religious manifesto!!"

Nathan had a post mentioning it somewhere (may have even been the Mangst post) but I imagine it's basically like:

Which is an epicly awesome read btw, even if I am a philosophical theist (in plain english: a free-thinker who doesn't reject the concept of god).

Suzannah said...

Thanks for this, Nathan. It's sad to see some people query without taking the time to really read and follow the advice you give on your website.

Just curious whether YA paranormal was as popular a genre before 'Twilight' came out, or has that success had a major influence on what people are writing now?

I think I'm the last person on earth who hasn't read it yet!

Moira Young said...

Wow, that's an eye-opener.

I wonder how many of those people submitting queries actually read your "what to read before submitting" rules.

Layne said...

Nathan: only one or two of the queries were horror. Are agents accepting horror manuscripts these days or has this genre melted into the fantasy/paranormal category?

Nathan Bransford said...


I don't really represent horror, so I think that's why it's so few. said...

Great stats, Nathan. Thank you.

An aside: I hope this isn't too offensive for General Audience, but iPad sounds like a sanitary napkin brand to me.

Bane of Anubis said...

Loving the stats, and that's a nice, daunting rejection rate. Thanks for sharing.

Mira said...

Nick - thanks I'll check it out.

I can't keep joking around while anon, and maybe 323 others, are having a hard time.

I think it's so easy to get your heart set on Nathan because he's accessible and personable.

Maybe that's partly why I joke.

Because Nathan is such a long shot. It's easy to confuse Nathan's accessibility with his availablity. Nathan is queried more than any other agent on the web, and I think he took on, what? 6 clients? 7 clients? Out of 15,000 queries in 2010.

I try to enjoy Nathan for his blog, as another artist, as a person I respect and appreciate, as someone to debate with and wrestle truth and the future of publishing with, and I'll query him, but when/if he turns me down, I'll know I'm in the company of thousands, and that it doesn't mean I won't have a fantastic writing career, or find a dynamite agent, or self-publish and make millions.

Millions and zillions.

And zillions. Most likely on my religious manifesto. Once I find out what that is, and write it, it's going to be awesome.

T. Anne said...

Really enjoyed this. Thanx Nathan.

Tamara said...

Nathan, I appreciate your blog and am very impressed by the time you take to answer everyone's questions! :) Some agents can be...well...snooty, but you don't seem that way and I say, "Hooray for you!"... :D

Nic said...

i was going to ask the same as Surly Jason. How many were you close to requesting and how many did you just reject straight away?

Nathan Bransford said...


I don't really waver: when in doubt I request.

I know that sounds crazy considering I only requested 4, but after answering tens of thousands of queries I am used to making snap decisions.

That's not to say that the queries I passed on were poorly written or that the projects won't go on to success, I just know what I'm looking for when I see it.

Rachel said...

That's a huge range on word count, and quite surprising. I had some strange notion everything is best if it starts out around 80,000.

Is that the general count you like, or are you not picky in your original queries, knowing a lot of changes go on down the road?

Valerie said...

Wow! 56 over 100,000 words! Can I ask if you requested any over 100,000?

Susan Quinn said...

Thanks for the awesome stats!

I'm guessing your MG numbers were low because you state in your FAQ that you are unlikely to rep MG. But I've also noticed other places (contests, other agents blogs) that the number of MG manuscripts seems lower than other genres (esp YA). I'm curious if other agents in your office are seeing less MG queries come through (if that's what they rep)?

Josin L. McQuein said...

5 people pitched books less than 25K words? I seriously hope those were children's books.

And almost 60 books over 100K? Yipes!

What's the difference between a "spiritual" book and a "religious manifesto"?

I'm kind of curious about the "no freakin' clue" category. Were they at least in English?

Rachel said...

What a super duper interesting post. Can it be possible that you are this jovial/polite of a person in real life? :)

Josin L. McQuein said...


The ones where it's not clear what they are don't usually list their word count.

Nathan, I think you've turned psychic on us. You answered my question before I even asked.


Nathan Bransford said...

Haha... John M., Josin L., I guess you two are linked in my fried brain synapses.

Dara said...

Wow. I guess I didn't think historical fiction would rank that high on the list but it makes me happy that it does :)

Karen Schwabach said...

I'm surprised there are so many fewer middle grades than YAs. Is that par for the course? Looking at the reviews in Publisher's Weekly, it looks like just as many MGs are published. Maybe more.

mkcbunny said...

Here's another vote for seeing what "no freakin' clue" looks like.

Nathan, are the NFCs just so poorly written that you can't follow them, or the concept defies categorization? Or some of both?

Sam, I'm with you on YA/SF. Hoping the wave doesn't come and go before I can write my next (and second, yay!) novel.

Nathan Bransford said...


Yeah, a bit of both. Either that or they just don't describe the project and say "I've written a book please publish it" but the grammar/spelling is so poor it's clear it's not something I'd be interested in checking out.

Other Lisa said...

For GhostFolk...

Okay, this is terribly wrong and silly...

the iPad!

Broadway Mouth Blog said...

Thanks for the stats. It's very insightful. It's good to know that I am part of the 33%!

I received a rejection from a different agent at your agency earlier this week, and I really appreciated getting the response. Many agents don't respond, even with an SASE.

Marilyn Peake said...

Nathan –

I’ve been following your wonderful Blog for some time now. I’ve noticed over time that a few people who went on to get agents, publishing deals from big publishing houses, and at least one author whose book is on its second printing, have mentioned receiving a rejection from you for those same books. The natural inclination for many new writers upon receiving a rejection is to conclude that their book, their writing, and/or their query letter is nothing more than a pile of steaming dog poo and that, really, they should give up writing forever. So, just wondered if you could give some ballpark estimates about how many of those recent queries you received were: 1.) well-written queries, but books that just weren’t for you, 2.) books that sounded really good, but weren’t for you, and even 3.) books that you thought were publishable, but weren’t for you. Thanks so much, if you can offer any insight into those categories.

Samantha said...

Funny, there's a bubble around the NaNoWriMo winner zone. Seems that quite a few people spent December and January editing.

Anonymous said...

GhostFolk and Other Lisa - ROFLOL. Wonder if Apple regrets the name it chose. Another company already using the name iTablet had challenged them with a lawsuit, so maybe iPad was a last-minute decision. iTampon was a trending Twitter topic yesterday, and iPad jokes were running rampant on the web. Every time I hear iPad now, I think about the jokes.

Anonymous said...

Re: word counts:

Now that e books are coming into vogue, do you believe that longer word counts will come back as acceptable with many agents or publishers again?

I love long novels. Harry Potter and Twilight and others take you away. I realize that in a tough economy, that the cost of publishing actual books has come into consideration in this trend, but I have always felt that a story needs as many words as it takes to tell it well.

The trend for shorter word counts has left me unsatisfied in many cases. It has also affected writers, like one in my writing group who just slashed 20,000 words to stay in the 80,000 word range, a consideration he made about being publishable and not about the story.

Nathan Bransford said...


For a long time I've thought about doing query stats along the lines of what you're saying: good but not for me, not good but properly written, nowhere clse etc. etc.

But I've never done it, simply because it's just impossible to break things down that cleanly. What's the cutoff for "good?" Where's the cutoff for a well-written query? It takes a huge amount of time and energy just to decide whether to request or not, let alone nail down precisely why I'm passing and where the shortcoming is.

I've definitely passed on books that have gone on to be published, some quite successfully. But that doesn't mean that I was wrong to pass on them - if I don't see the greatness in a book I'm not going to be the best advocate for it.

Basically, the only cutoff that is comprehensible to me is the partial request. I think it's good, I think it's right for me, I can't say no.

If I had to hazard a guess I'd say that less than 1% are publishable, 10% are really good but not quite there, 20% are a good effort but not there, 20% are so-so, and 50% would probably be best off writing for themselves rather than publication.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon re: word counts-

Good question, I'm not sure. I actually wonder if the reverse might come to pass: as attention spans shorten, will readers want swifter pacing and shorter reads? I'm not sure that the trend toward shorter books have been driven as much by physical publishing constraints as by reader taste.

Amanda said...

Hi Nathan,

I've just recently found your site and I'm so glad that I did! I'm personally interested, just for curiosity's sake what the rhetorical questions were. "Here's your sign" responses just keep going through my brain.

Thanks for the stats post!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for responding to my question about word counts.

It seems that the 90 minute movie standard has been pushed and that now longer (and longer) movies are now standing shoulder to shoulder.

When Harry Potter first came out, people thought it was amazing the kids read these thick books. But this generation of kids LOVES big thick reads. They even feel proud of it. They are self-proclaimed "real readers."

My husband and I rarely watch 30 minute television shows -just too short to get our attention. Our daughter has no interest in short stories or short reads.

And I understand that profitability has been a factor in book publishing lengths. But,anyway, it will be interesting to watch. If you see trends in this area changing, either towards novellas or accepting more lengthy works, in the future, it would be interesting to hear your comments here.


J.J. Bennett said...

Nathan did you give the word counts on the ones requested? Also, once you made a comment about "keeping track" of who people were. I don't know...but were ones you requested...people you were aware of from your blog?

Lisa Desrochers said...

I find it a little surprising how few people seem to do their research when agent shopping. I spent weeks compiling my list and was darn sure that each agent I queried was "interested" in my genre. I'm convinced that's why my request rate was over 50%. It's a waste of everyone's time to "spray" queries. O_o

Marilyn Peake said...

Nathan -

Thank you so much for such a detailed and thoughtful answer. That’s actually good news. If I’m interpreting your estimates correctly, "...less than 1% are publishable, 10% are really good but not quite there, 20% are a good effort but not there...", that means that a whopping 31% of rejected queries are for books that IF a writer knew how to fix them, might go on to succeed. I’m guessing that sheer determination, a willingness to find out how to fix a book and then do all the necessary hard work to fix it could potentially lead to success. Most likely, many writers give up on a particular project, self-publish or give up writing altogether because they have no idea what should be fixed or whether or not they even have any writing talent whatsoever. Some become angry and frustrated because they sense they have something worthwhile, but can’t find anyone to point out what that might be. Maybe an important key to not giving up is recognizing that there’s a hell of a lot of competition out there, which by its very nature leads to more rejections than acceptances and no possible way that agents and contest judges could ever supply detailed critiques of rejected manuscripts. 31% of queries for books that have some potential is actually very cool.

Mira said...


Thanks for pointing out the 31%. I was starting to think - 1%? Jeez. That's pretty intense.

And for the record, Nathan, and completely stomping all over what I said before, any agent who passes on my non-existent book which isn't written yet, in fact, I don't even know what it's about yet, is bonkers. The agent is bonkers, I mean, not my unwritten book. When I query with that yet to be written book that I have no idea what it's about, it will be so publishable, it will practically be published before I write it. And any agent who doesn't recognize that is bonkers, bonkers, bonkers.

Bonkers. Don't give me this, if I don't recognize it, I'm not the right agent for it. If an agent doesn't recognize the incredible brillancy of my non-existent book, they are point blank bonkers.

Just for the record.

Mira said...

I'm in a "I believe in myself" mood.

Hope that wasn't disrespectful. I don't actually think you're bonkers, Nathan.

Of course you haven't turned down my yet-to-be-written book yet.

I'm thinking I've posted on this thread enough.

Josin L. McQuein said...

But Mira...

If your book is so publishable, it's practically published before it's written, then how will you deal with agents who don't want pre-published material sent to them.

You've made a book so successful it's destined to fail for its success.

Owww. Paradox makes my brain hurt.


Sam said...

mkcbunny--Congrats on finishing one! Fortunately, I think YA-SF hasn't really picked up yet. From what I can tell, anyhow.

Those stats are rather encouraging. 1 in 100 are ready to go, and you can help yourself be that 1 in 100 if you simply write a good query.

In fact, if you can write a good query, you've probably vaunted out of the 50% who should just write for themselves.

Marilyn Peake said...

Mira –

There’s a time travel theory of alternate universes proposed by some physicists that suggests an alternate universe exists for every possibility we imagine. So, you are already published, Mira. Congratulations! Now, you just need to figure out a way to travel to that alternate universe. Of course, you could write your book in this universe, but you're already published somewhere else, with adoring fans waiting for your signature. :)

Ryan said...

Looks like we should stay away from submitting YA and go for the No Freaking Clue genre in order to give ourselves a fighting chance.

Laura B said...

I got one of those No Thank You's this isn't right for me, but you also personalized it too. You are amazing.

Mira said...

Josin - I'm a free spirit. Don't cage me in with publishing requirements. I must fly.

Marilyn - OMG. That explains EVERYTHING. I knew it. Well, my adoring fans are going to have to figure out how to get to this dimension. I wrote the book. I did my share.

And I'm sure Nathan's finger is hovering over the delete button, so with that, I'm off. :)

Falen said...

Nathon -
reading those stats make me feel a lot better about my own chances.

Samantha Clark said...

Thanks, Nathan. I love reading agent stats about query letters. I'm always linking to them from my blog, and will link to this one too. I think they're a great example to writers how important it is to really work hard on query letters. Plus, it's like a challenge. If an agent usually gives a request from less than 1% of queries received, it's a challenge to be in that 1%.

Sam said...

Marilyn--I heard a quantum physicist explain it as such: "Anything that can happen, does."

He then stipulated that does not mean everything does happen. So. I'm not wholly clear on what he meant.

Kia said...


nicbeast said...

I think you should hook up a cam so we can get video of you when reading some of the queries. Just sayin'.

Scott said...

Interesting reading, Nathan. Thanks.

Hey Sam, die-hard Gooner here. :)

Josin L. McQuein said...

Sam -

It depends on what version of quantum physics you go in for. String theory, M-theory, infinite universes.

It's Schrodinger's cat.

A cat is put into an opaque lead box with a cyanide pellet. You can't see the cat, so until you open the box the cat is both demonstrably dead and alive at the same time. You can infer that the kid did or did not break open the pellet; you can infer that the cat did or did not suffocate; you can infer that the cat did or did die of an unrelated and unspecified cause.

Yes, that's a very simplified version of it, but it's the basic idea why everything does and doesn't happen at the same time.

Sam said...

Josin- Yes, the speaker referenced that example as well. I guess, I mean, I understand theoretically where they're coming from. I still... I don't know. I need some sleep.

Scott- You know what's great? We get in position to take control of first place and we draw with Villa. What's that about. I'm so excited/nervous about the two upcoming games.

Angie Muresan said...

Haha... There is a No freaking clue category?

Scott said...

Sam - I hear you. Kinda saw it coming, but you have to remember Villa took maximum points from Pool, United and Chelsea this season. That's what's keeping them in it.

We could also use a striker, but if the boss can't find one, we have to hope we keep getting goal production from midfield. Song returning will help immensely.

And let's just be thankful Vermaelen didn't break his fibula. I'll even take 7 points from the next three.

Peter Cooper said...

Not one steampunk? or was that swallowed up in the general YA category?

Tambra said...

Nathan, I think after going through so many queries you develop an instinct on immediately being able to judge what works for you and what doesn't.

I understand the "I know it when I see it" phrase.

Thanks for taking the time to share the stats.


Genella deGrey said...

I hope "No freaking clue" aren't the next vampires. LOL

Elaine Wilhelm said...

Hi Nathan, I'm curious - why so few middle grade queries? I get that the market would be relatively small in terms of fewer kids, but I didn't think it would be THAT much smaller. Don't kids still love reading at this age? Or is the MG market extra-extra hard to break into?

Veronica Barton-Dean said...


Sounds like the YA genre took over your query pile:)

Seriously though this was an interesting group of stats.

holly said...

wow, lots of queries, and i understand how few you choose, which is ok, but i feel sorta bad for the others.

Lyla said...

Thanks for the stats! I really enjoy them and your comments.

Andrea Wenger said...

I've seen at least one agent recommend rhetorical questions as a fine way to open a query letter. So I'm not surprised that some people are using that device. All agents are unique (they're human beings, after all), and that's why you must research each agent before you query.

Janny said...


4 out of 327 that you even requested?
Wowsers. Now I don't feel so bad that I (sniff) got the rejection letter.

No. Really. I'm FINE.

JK, of course. Thanks so much for the very prompt response. I'm amazed you could get back to us so quickly!


Adam Heine said...

I thought it'd be fun to compare this post's percentages with last year's... and it was!

Points of interest:
* A significant decrease in literary fiction queries (5%).
* A significant decrease in impersonal openers (5%).
* As you already noted, percentage personalized is the same.
* Percentage that open with rhetorical questions is also the same.

Here are all the percentages. Not because you'd be interested in them, but because I'd hate for someone else to redo the work:

GENRE: 2010, 2009

YA: 22%, 18%
Mystery/Thriller: 16%, 12%
Fantasy: 9%, 12%
Historical Fiction: 8%, 4%
Literary Fiction: 8%, 13%
Science Fiction: 6%, 3%
Memoir: 6%, 4%
Spiritual: 4%, 4%
Women's Fiction: 4%, 8%
Mangst: 3%, 5%
Self-Help: 2%, 4%
Short Story: 2%, 2%
Biography: 2%, 2%
Romance: 1%, 1%
No freaking clue: 2%, 4%

Personalized: 33%, 33%
Requested: 1%, 2%
Sent as attachments: 1%, 2%
Misspelled "query": 1%, 3%
Impersonal opener: 3%, 8%
Rhetorical question: 4%, 4%

Nathan Bransford said...

Wow, thanks Adam!

Lindsay Culbert said...

This is awesome. I have been asking questions and searching for answers on the net then I found your blog!

I'm a new writer, not even out of college yet. I've been trying to be a good girl and play by the rules, but the rulebook is really illusive. The answers I typically get go something like: "Uh... um. well... It's like... Did that answer your question?"

So THANK YOU for the 'nuts and bolts' publishing tips. The statistics also help a lot.

Kelly Bryson said...

So my romantic religious manifesto (250,000 passionate, pious words) words will be something that no one one else has done (that's what you said you wanted) and therefore earn a second glance? Maybe just a longer glance?

I would like to know how many letters you read twice. How long does it take you to decide to request pages? Do you sleep on it? Or are you intrigued and think what the heck, I read 10,000 pages a week. What's 50 more?

JOHAN said...

that is a lot of querys, how can you hold up with that

Thermocline said...

The concept of writing a religious manifesto intrigues me. Do you sit down intending to write a one or does it just evolve, sorry not evolve, I mean manifest into one.

It must be hard to get one published. I've never seen a manifesto imprint or a manifesto category in the Guide to Literary Agents.

Anonymous said...

Wow someone misspelled query?
Well I think its pretty amazinf how you get to go through all of these queries. Good Job and thanks for taking your ime looking at everyone elses queries.

Jack Roberts, Annabelle's scribe said...

Gahh. I didn't query this time but I have a 85,000 YA. Sigh. Guess I'd better hook gooood.

Nancy said...


Is there any way you would venture a statement on what is the most difficult genre to break into? Or are you leaving us to our own stab-in-the-dark devices? Maybe that takes us back to simply writing what we know. :) n

Myrna Foster said...

Thanks for posting your query stats, Nathan. And, Adam, thanks for posting his stats from last year.

I found the comment section of this post even more enlightening than the actual post. Thank you for being willing to answer our questions.

Nancy said...


"Wow someone misspelled query?"

Let me count the ways, oh Juliette:

queiry, queary, queery, querie, (don't think we are done yet...) which seem somehow equivalent to:
Nathan Brandsferd - Literairy Aegent.

Am I anywhere close, Nathan? Sorry... couldn't resist. :) n

Christi said...

This blog has been an amazing eye-opener, thank you.

Regarding trends in literature for young readers (and having two daughters in this bracket that I buy for), I have found that they and their friends want books in a series. They love having sweeping adventures that go on and on, that they can make role play games out of online, and that they can have 'midnight book release' parties with other kids just as devoted as they are. They don't care if it's about cats, vampires, wizards, dragon riders, lost boys in Foo, or demi-gods as long as they keep getting more stories about characters they love.

This is a curse and a blessing, I suppose. My girls are reading, but they aren't reading what I read at that age, books that shaped what I am. "Where the Red Fern Grows" and "Watership Down" were favorites of mine as a kid, but I can't get kids interested in them because 'they are old.'

Okay, rant done. Again, great work on the blog. I'm so glad I found it.

Christi said...

So sorry to double-post like this, but I am confused about the word count of 80,000 that people are mentioning.

I was laboring under the impression I've received in many places that a novel is around 100,000 and should exceed that in expectation of an editor saying "Meh, scrap that part," or "Cut this and this for pacing" so you don't hand in a manuscript of 100,000 that becomes 80,000. Is there a word count limit that you don't accept?

I've tried to find mention of it throughout your blog, and I cannot locate where this is addressed.

Nancy said...


Hopefully Nathan will answer, but on the chance that he doesn't I'll offer my two cents here, based on what I've learned over the years. Please, someone else chime in if needed.

The word count can vary quite a bit, depending on genre.

For adult mystery, thriller, romance, horror, sci-fi, a completed novel of 80,000 to 90,000 words is about right, or 300-350 pp.

I have discovered that for fantasy 100,000 to 130,000 words is about right.

Short stories are another matter, which means the word count would be much less than 80,000.

Cutting down an ms from 100,000 words is not such a bad thing. Running off at the mouth with excessive wordiness and neglecting to paint a clear scene, or failure to draw the reader to a plot point will cause your reader to yawn and say "Meh, next novel." Key word here: tighten.

Exceptions to these loose word guidelines do exist. There have been those one-in-a-million authors whose novels become overnight zingers borne of the mysterious cosmos of big-house publishing; those five- and six-hundred page blockbusters all readers worldwide can't wait to curl up and sleep with for a week. General rule of thumb here is: If it's long, especially for YA, it had better be reeeeally, eyeballs-glued-to-it good with very unique voice, subject matter, and story; the one book that all the houses are suffering slings and arrows to bid on.

It seems that traditional houses do shy away from new authors peddling tomes of 500 pages or more. Too risky. Unless, of course, they stumble upon another J. K. Rowling, JRR Tolkien, or a modern-day Hemingway. However, given our gnat-like attention spans these days I'm not sure that even he would stand a chance in today's 10-second info-blurb world.

Generally speaking, the skill level of a new author is often judged by how succinctly he or she can tell a unique and compelling short story. I'm thinking Amy Tan, among others, who was picked up by an agent after reading her short stories. Chances are really good that if an author can draw a crowd with a short story, a blockbuster novel may be soon lighting up the crystal ball of success. There are exceptions to this guideline as well, however.

Long is not always a bad thing, though it is a one-in-a-million gamble.

Just reread your post. Paying for a content editor can be costly, so it might behoove you to have your ms as tight as you can possibly get it on your own, unless you have very deep pockets. If you have content issues, too long or too short, joining a critique group is a great way to get help wrestling an unruly ms. :) n

Ink said...


80K is the safest target these days. Editors don't want major reconstructions when the book comes to them (which is not to say they'd always be unwilling if it were needed). Some variation... YA would usually be shorter, while there would be slight leeway for epic fantasy (Think 100K... and, as Nathan once told me, you start paying a penalty at 120K).

Hope that helps.

Christi said...

Thank you very much Nancy and Ink. I appreciate your feedback a great deal. I guess I need to start slashing again, but it's hard as an author when you don't want to cheat your characters out of experiences (as ridiculously sentimental as that sounds)

His Lobster said...

In regards to something Anon. and Marilyn said earlier...

I can sympathize with Anon. about wanting some clarification about the blanket rejection as I was passed on by Nathan (amongst others) as well this week. After having partials requested and then being rejected with the "it's not right for me" kind of statement can be...well, frustrating. However, I control my impulse with an iron fist each time one shows up in my inbox, to reply back and ask if it's just this specific story or is it because my writing stinks like last week's broccoli. I really, really want to, but I keep hearing Aretha chanting R-E-S-P-E-C-T. So, to all of those that politely passed on my work, you may thank Ms. A. Franklin for not receiving my "please critique me e-mail".

Marilyn Mentioned that according to Nathan's stats that somewhere along the lines of 30% have a shot if they put in the requisite question is this: How in the name of all that is holy are we (the dearly rejected) to know if we fall into that percentile without pestering beloved, albeit monkey infatuated, agents like Nathan? I certainly don't want to waste my time and I know agents like he have even less time to spare than I do. (Honestly, does it make anyone else's head spin like being on a tilt-a-whirl on seeing how much this guy gets done?)

Honest to goodness "industry insight" seems pretty hard to come least to me.

Heidi Thornock said...

To His Lobster:

My suggestion would be to join a critique group and keep your eyes open for workshops/conferences that would be of benefit. I attended a conference where an author spoke for a full day about his revision process. Insightful for me because it was the "nuts-and-bolts" of it rather than the usual "revise, revise, revise." I will be attending a 3-day WS working specifically with my and 20 other MS to revise them in-depth. A good critique group will always let you know if there are problems that need to be fixed. Don't be afraid to shop around until you find the right group.

To Nathan:
I am always amazed by your blog in conjuntion with yourself. I find it difficult to write, keep up regularly with the 6 or 7 blogs I follow, and post consistenly on my own blog. And you can post daily, follow the publishing news, respond to 300+ queries a week, write/revise/edit your own work, etc., etc.

I would be thoroughly interested in a time break-down of your day/week. How much do you spend doing what and how do you get everything accomplished?

Anonymous said...

Mangst was a new idea to me and tragi-comic as all get out.

Do you get womangst too? There's a spectacular dating service in there someplace.

Pure Fiction said...

Hi Nathan, Am I too late to ask just one more question about this post?

I just wondered out of the 4 partials you requested, how many full manuscripts did you ask to see, or how many new clients did you take on?

Lucy said...

Nathan Bransford said...

I actually think paranormal YA may have crested in query popularity after quite a remarkable run.


Nathan, if Query Letter Hell over at AW is any indication, you've got another wave coming. :-)

The squirrels are busy these days.

Shmologna said...


Thank you.

Lee Ee Leen said...

thank you for posting. Now I know what sort of workload you and other agents have to handle. It isn't easy at all....

'No freaking clue'! Lord help them if some writers are going to *that* nebulous during the initial submission stages

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