Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Batch Querying Theory

As anyone who has ever written one knows: writing a query is difficult. Really really difficult. Like, figuring out what in the heck is happening on Lost difficult.

And like everything that's really really difficult, you might not get it right the first time. You might need a couple of rounds of practice or a critique in a forum (shameless plug ZOMG I have just the forum for you act now!).


As I'm sure you've heard, one of the more mystifying ways some aspiring authors go about the query process is to blast an e-mail to every single agent in the publishing industry listed in the To box and a "To My Future Literary Agent" salutation.

What makes me slap my head isn't just that it's poor e-mail etiquette and I know 1,000 of my closest colleagues are also considering at exactly the same time, but rather because I don't think it's very good strategy on the part of the author.

If you didn't get it quite right the first time and you've sent it to everyone in publishing, you just lost your chance at tweaking it a bit and trying again. If you rush the submission process you lose the ability to evaluate and adjust as you go.

I personally think it's much better to send out the query in batches of five to seven at a time. Take your time. See what the response is like. If you're not getting any requests, you might take another hard look at your query and opening and think about possibly making a change - since time will have gone by you might notice something you could do better. If, on the other hand, you're getting requests and just not a firm bite, you will know you're on the right track but maybe just haven't found the right fit. Going at a steady pace can be frustrating and tedious, but it gives you time to research agents and personalize, to keep working on new material, and to give yourself time to look at your query and opening with fresh eyes.

Patience in the submission process goes a long way. If you try to send your query to 1,000 agents all at once you won't have a chance to adjust your strategy as you go.






96 comments:

Francis said...

If only we could all write as well as the Lost writers.

Flash sideways are for the win!

Anonymous said...

This strategy worked for me!

Surly Jason said...

Of course, it's not that easy to adjust the strategy. For the most part we cannot tell what failed, therefore we don't know what to fix. Is blind adjustment of strategy better than blind queries? (BTW, I wouldn't shotgun query.)

Susana Mai said...

Besides, if you emailed too many agents, how could you personalize your queries?

Heather said...

I knew you shouldn't blast 1,000 agents, but I was wondering what the "right" number was. Five-seven seems like a good amount. If you get all rejections from the first batch, should you immediately assume it's your query/sample, or should you try another batch or two before you start tweaking? And does it make a difference if they're auto-rejects vs. more personal, "this isn't for me" ones? (I would imagine it might, but I thought I would ask.)

Also, I love that you said ZOMG. So much.

E McD said...

Is anyone else thinking that the baptism for Sayid is exactly how they saved young Ben?

Definitely parallel universes or flash sideways thingamabobs. ???

p.s. Love the new addition to the forums!

Annarkie said...

You are right on with this one. It WORKS! Also, it helps to have your query critiqued by as many fellow writers as possible before sending it out. I learned this the hard way with my last project and am now getting more interest with my current project.
I also have every revision, even if it is just one sentence, critiqued before I send any more out...but be sure to double check after the critiques. I had 2 typos in one batch, but an agent requested material anyway...after chastizing me.
Good luck to all my fellows in the slush pile!

Kat Sheridan said...

So, do you query your top-tier, I-really-want-that-agent first, risking rejection on what may be a bad query? Or practice on well-it-wouldn't-suck-frog-toes-to-have-this-agent before going for the one you really, really, REALLY want?

Alan Orloff said...

It's a tried and true strategy. I tried it and it truly worked. Listen to Mr. Bransford and you shall not go wrong.

Linnea said...

Absolutely right on, Nathan. I sent out a few, waited for responses, tweaked both the novel and the query and kept on going until the novel sold.

Stephanie McGee said...

Very good strategy, in my opinion. (Not that I'll be querying any time soon.)

A related note. How helpful do you think it is to write a query after finishing the first draft? Not send it out, just write it. I've done it for my WiP I just finished but I'm not sure how helpful it will prove to be.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Queries are evil. As such, they should be handled in small doses.

However, batch querying can be a bit of a problem if you happen to hit a whole group of "no answer means no" agents. You have no way of knowing if your query is in Spam, the inbox, or a "no" for at least 3 months when it's safe to assume it's a "no".

Having people crit a query can help, and I do this on another forum (I've done it here, too), but the person who writes the original query has to walk a fine line. If it's broad spectrum things that need to be fixed, then others' input can be an invaluable resource. Outside eyes can help you avoid confusion on the reader's part.

But, you want to make sure that you maintain your voice and don't turn the query into a homogenized clone that follows some set formula.

Christy Gail said...

I think this advice is spot on. I sent out an initial batch of 12 queries over the course of a few weeks, and got 1 request for a partial and the rest were no's. The time away has given me some new ideas for my manuscript that I think will make it even better, and I'll revise my query to hopefully hook that future agent's interest.

lystrawrote said...

Batching is the way to go. I have been sending mine out in batches and the feedback has been really useful. The only drawback is, after you get some good feedback, that you can't go back and send your new and improved query out to the people you sent your old sucky one to.

Pamala Knight said...

Excellent advice, Nathan.

Terry said...

Sounds like a sane plan. Blitzing agents probably isn't a good idea.

S. Mozer said...

I'm so glad you addressed this because I have spent the last three years explaining to my husband that sending my queries out in groups of five doesn't mean I'm not trying my best to get an agent. He definitely would vote for the send-them-out-to-everyone-at-the-same-time method. I can't wait to show him your post. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Nathan,

It doesn't surprise me that so many just say "agent" and cut/paste their query. That's what happens in the tech industry. Oftentimes you can tell they didn't read job description before applying with a resume and covers that make no sense. *laugh*

Having said that I sent you a query, that was well tailored to the (non-stalker-esque) research I had done about you. But... OOPS. I forgot the first 5 pages.

*laugh* What a doof. You, of course, rejected me more politely than I had deserved after I saw the error.

Whoopsie.

~John Reason(able)

Amy Bonaccorso said...

Thanks for the post :) I have the same question as Kat. Would you recommend starting with the agents you really have a good feeling about and would most love to work with? My instinct is "yes" - because if one of them says yes, you're done and happy. I would also hope that they would be flattered if writers present a case in the query about why they specifically seek their representation...more than others in the business.

Piedmont Writer said...

I did mine in batches of nine. Stats: 18 out
2 rejections (so far)
2 partial requests
I only have to wait for 14 more by the end of February and then I can start my last batch of e-queries. After they've been gone through, snail mail.

Awesome post Nathan.

J said...

Nathan, great post. I'm thinking it makes sense for short stories to lit journals as well.

Margaret Yang said...

I second (third) the commenters who said, "It worked for me." Batch one=nobody. Batch two=three agents fighting over me.

Kaitlyne said...

I love the Lost comment. ;) That made me smile.

Also everything else you said. I started with about ten or so. I've got quite a few more than that out now, but that's mostly because I also have quite a few that are no responders and I've assumed they're gonna say no. I won't say it's worked for me and I'm not really expecting it to (this time), but I knew that when I started. Even getting a few requests has made me happy. :)

Nicole said...

I like the batch idea. I'm sending them out individually, one a day four days a week. So far this week 4 out, 2 denied, 2 pending. How many denials before you know it's your query? Do agents ever say, "It's your query?" Does "it's not a right fit," mean you may have a good query but it's not what their looking for?
-New to Querying and Confused

Marilyn Peake said...

This post makes me happy because I realize how much I learned in the past couple of years. I now know that’s the best way to proceed. After recently completing a science fiction novel, I queried a bit, revised the query about seven or eight times with the help of a fantastic writers’ group (many of the writers are published by the big publishing houses and at least one is a New York Times best-selling author), joined Publishers Marketplace to find agents, then decided on my own to contact an Editor. I’m now working with Alan Rinzler, and contacting him was the best decision I could have possibly made! The core of my novel remains the same, but I’m making huge changes in specific characters, setting the story farther into the future and expanding the futuristic science fiction technology. I’m very excited about this novel rather than filled with despair about its prospects, as I might have been had I queried a long list of agents and received rejections at the outset.

Tracy Hahn-Burkett said...

Wise, common sense advice.

And OMG, a feedback forum. How very, very cool.

Except now I'll have one more distraction from WRITING!

And yeah, EMcD, that's totally how they saved young Ben (except I don't think he was "infected"). But maybe the members of Danielle's team were.

r louis scott said...

Nice picture you have for today's blog entry, Nathan. I was a helicopter crewman in the Navy for many years and that carrier hangar deck looks like the Christmas rush is well under way.

Thanks for the advice, too. I don't see how anyone with a life and a job could keep track of more than ten outstanding queries at a time. My plan is to get a response, send another out.

Michael said...

That's some of the best querying advice I've ever run across. As anxious authors, we try to decrease the time until publication at every turn. But sending out our "polished" query to every agent on our list in one massive blast is like shooting oneself in the foot. Or both feet.

Thanks for the great advice!

Anonymous said...

While I've had gracious rejections to my carefully personalized queries, I've also had many of the following:

- Not a freaking word, ever.
- A form letter suggesting some other agent will love me.
- A form letter that misstates my genre, despite me mentioning it in Para. 1.
- A form letter that says nothing, so I have no idea what I might improve.

Well, I could go on.

The ones I hate worst are those that ignore my stated genre and claim they do not represent "Not My Genre" when I sent "Yes, It Is Your Genre."

Please, agents. At least read the second sentence before hitting the form reject button. However, you still have one more brownie point than the non-responders.

Amanda B. said...

I never send the exact same query to two agents. For one thing, the information they ask for is often different. For another thing, I'm always touching up the query and the manuscript. And last of all, each agent is different and I want to target them as an individual.

Amy Sue Nathan said...

This post is perfectly timed as I've just decided to hold off sending more queries for a while until I get more feedback. I have a stack of form rejections on queries, as well as a total of 13 manuscript requests -- of which 4 are now no's. So with 9 manuscripts out I have to sit on my hands to see if anyone offers helpful feedback (one agent did) and if I can tweak and then hit the agent list again.

I found querying to be exhausting. I'm glad for a break.

Tina Lynn said...

I feel you. You're a fan of monogamy. This should be flattering to us aspiring authors. You want the chance to snatch us up without stressing over the "competition". :)

T. Anne said...

Are there 1000 agents? You mean there's one out there I haven't queried???

I jest.
Mostly.

Christi Goddard said...

Yeah, I made a mistake right off in sending a boring query letter to seven agents I wanted most, then fixed my query and now lost my shot. *sigh* Oh, well.

On a different note, I was amused at an agent's site today that said, "Please understand, I can get as many as 20 queries a day. I don't have time to respond to you all." I giggled and thought, Well, you're no Nathan.

D. G. Hudson said...

Another one of those things that need to be said.

Was this post due to the earlier bombardment of queries?

SB said...

MAN -- it's always the slow and steady thing...something i need to work on! great piece...an example query would certainly help guide...

Joseph said...

I agree that it's good to send out queries in smaller numbers because you inevitably will find things you want to tweak later. But, given the response time to queries (which can be three months or more), waiting for feedback seems a waste of time. Form rejections are a standard and unless there is a critique group or forum helping with your query, the only person that's going to give you feedback is yourself. If you think you've done the best you can, waiting for a form rejection letter won't change anything.

Anonymous said...

To Anon-4:19

I couldn't agree more that some agents aren't professional either. Here's a story for you:

At a writer's conference I talked to one agent I liked. She was quite interested and SHE asked ME to send her, not a query! but the first 50 and 8 page synopsis.

After 3 months her assistant (who didn't seem to even read it herself) said, "I'm sure someone else has picked it up. Sorry for the delay."

Wow. Unprofessional. Good or bad submission is irrelevant. Agents should read what they say they will.

Shelley Sly said...

Very wise advice here. I made the mistake of sending out too many queries for my first novel before going back and editing my QL. My revised version got me two partials. Darn, if only I hadn't wasted those first 5 batches.

Kristi said...

Great post and if I ever start the query process -- yeah, revisions are taking me FOREVER -- then I plan on doing the 5 at a time thing. Glad to hear that method has been successful for some!

Sheri Larsen said...

Taking a step back is wise advice. Time, even a snippet of time, has a way of flushing the eyes and clearing the view. It's amazing what we end up seeing. Shotgun queries? Not for me. I'm asking this person to support my work and make a personal investment in me. I need to know something about him or her.

amylmaris said...

Nathan, I feel like I'm stealing, or at best getting something for nothing when I read your posts. Thanks for all the valuable, compassionate advice! And whoever asked for a sample query letter you had a great one out there at the end of last year.

abc said...

AS I look ahead to (hopefully soon) sending out queries, I'm thinking my biggest difficulty will be figuring out who to query once I get rejected in the first round (oh pessimistic me). I have a short list of agents I want. The agents of those special writers I most identify with (plus Nathan, of course, but I fear a rejection for Nathan enough to consider not sending him a query at all! It's like not being invited to the prom all over again!).

Does anyone else have this concern? Not just the inevitable rejection, but rejection by the agents you've been counting on? So and so's agent?

Gah! am I making any dang sense?

Adam Heine said...

I absolutely agree. I did batches of 10 my first time around and even that was too much. Five to seven is good.

Even if you took the time to make every one of those 1,000 queries unique and suited to the agents' guidelines (which is NUTS), sending them in small batches is still better for lots of reasons.

mkcbunny said...

It's funny how, after years of writing a novel, now that it comes to querying, I have to try hard not to lose patience. :)

I am really glad that I've taken it slowly, doing research, querying just a couple of agents with each pass. Along the way, I've changed basics in the query letter a couple of times, along with the personalized content. I never would have had the opportunity to make those changes if I had rushed the process.

I just keep telling myself that it's waited this long already, and another week or two is not going to matter. Better that the query is right.

It may be too late in the day for a new question, but here goes, either to Nathan or anyone else:

I keep reading "query widely" as advice to authors, but my work is offbeat and I've only got about 20 agents, at most, on my A/B list. I have another 20 or so that fall into the C/D range (mostly because they don't seem like a really good fit).

How "widely" should one really query? I feel stupid trying to personalize a long shot, and I don't want to waste the agent's time or look like an idiot in querying someone at an agency that just doesn't seem to take on offbeat material.

I'd have a longer list if the agents for books I've used as comps for mine were accepting unsolicited queries. :(

mkcbunny said...

I realized I sorta duplicated abc's post, re: What to do when your short list is exhausted.

I started my post and had to walk away from the computer, and when I finally posted later, the other one was up.

So, yeah, abc, your question makes perfect sense to me.

Eva said...

Queries are quite a beast. This is great advice. After spending so much time on a novel it would be a shame to blow it by sending a bad query to everyone in the industry and missing out on the chance to improve as you go.

Michael A. Emeritz said...

This is good advice, and it brings to mind another question; What can one do to better the chances of receiving critical feedback from a query submission? There has to be a better solution than simply writing, "P.s. If you didn't like my query please tell me why." What strategy would you recommend using that could politely encourage agents to offer their critiques?

The Writing Muse said...

Awesome!

Adam Heine said...

Michael wrote: "What can one do to better the chances of receiving critical feedback from a query submission?"

You won't like this, but: nothing. I haven't seen any agent who gives feedback on query submissions; there's not enough time!

Partial and full requests are different, and vary from agent to agent, but the answer to your question is the same. There's nothing you can do to better the chances.

Meghan Ward said...

I think sending queries out in batches of 5-7 is great advice. I feel mixed about the personalization, though. I think it's professional to say you read an agent's blog or have read his clients' books, but to say, "Go Lakers," "I love Calvin & Hobbes" or "e-books rule" seems a bit contrived to me.

Krista V. (the former Krista G.) said...

So true - especially since a lot (if not most) of those agents won't even represent whatever it is you're hawking.

There's no substitute for research. And more research, and more research.

@Stephanie McGee: I've heard several blogging agents suggest taking a whack at the query before you put ANYTHING down on paper, because, ya know, if you can't write a half-decent query based on your idea, then you're probably not going to be able to write a half-decent book based on that idea, either.

So I think trying a query on for size in the initial revision stages doesn't hurt:)

D.A Ravenberg said...

Brilliant advice. I've been thinking a lot about this over the past few weeks. I took some time away from my query so that I could return and look at it with fresh eyes. After pulling it out and reading it again, it was apparent to me that I could improve it. Let's just hope I haven't run out of agents to send it to!

Mira said...

This is really good advice - I agree! Slow and steady. There's no rush here, take your time to evaluate based on the responses that you are or are not getting.

Linguista said...

After reading Edit Anon's post about agent's ability to recognise disguised manuscripts, I think this is a great idea.

Unless you want to wait 5 years for all the agents to forget you, or for there to be a slew of new agents in the field.

Wanda du Plooy said...

Thank you , I needed that . I am obsessing about querying!!!

ROBERT GREENFIELD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Heine said...

@robert: shhh

Anonymous said...

@Robert: "...empty vessels make the loudest sound..."/ Mr. Bransford's advice is timeless; No matter how advanced our technology may become, we will still have to pitch to be published professionally. There is a difference between a self-published amateur and an established author. Most prefer the latter.

Anonymous said...

Christina
That makes a lot of sense!

ROBERT GREENFIELD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason said...

Totally true Nathan, and for many reasons. One is that it's human nature to notice problems AFTER committing to something. Like buying a house, the day you move in is when you really start to notice problems...

I sent a query to an agent and she requested a partial. Even before she returned a response I started noticing serious problems with my manuscript. It was like my eyes had been opened. Anyway, I've been making revisions ever since, but the good news is, I've only subbed to one agent so I didn't waste any other opportunities.

Patience really is a virtue.

Thermocline said...

Batching is definitely the way to go. My first round included 12 agents and I wish I'd sent out fewer queries. Five to seven sounds like a good range for my next round.

ROBERT GREENFIELD said...

THANKS FOR ALL THE SOUND ADVICE IN YOUR BLOGS...

Stricklen said...

The whole query process is awful. The proof is in the pudding and agents need to get back to actually looking at the manuscript.

Why not get volunteers to read manuscripts and pass on the good ones? If they read half of the first chapter and glanced at the outline they would get the idea.

It doesn’t take rocket science to spot a good story. The average reader is not a rocket scientist.

Ashley A. said...

I queried you first, Nathan; unfortunately, I also queried you worst. But your blog was the encouraging kick in the pants I needed to send out a query at all. It was pretty bad, though.

After reading this post, I realize I'm taking a slap-your-head-slow approach to this process. I like the idea of your forum, but I'm so afraid of being branded a drive-by-er that when I first saw your No Drop-ins post I thought you were referring to those of us who only have a teensy bit of time to spend here!

JR said...

nice picture lol.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Great post, Nathan! This is something we can all stand to hear more than once, I think.

I'm very curious about your answer to Kat's question, as it is a question that I have pondered as well: if your first query letter is probably not going to be as good as your second and third, do you query your "plan B" agents first, or do you go ahead and give it a shot with the agents you really, really, REALLY want? Or should you only query your "A-list", on the basis that if you don't REALLY want a certain agent to represent you, you shouldn't query them in the first place?

Francis said...

@Ishta Mercurio

I thought about the same thing, and I would query B agents first (or leave your top 5 agents for last).

If an agent rejects a project, you often cannot query him again, at least, not before long. Therefore in the off-chance your query really is good and you get offered representation, you could always query your top 5 and mention "Agency X or Y have offered representation already, but I wanted to submit to your agency nevertheless since I've been a fan of your work for months/years/millennia..."

Besides, if the agency that offered rep is known even just a little bit, chances are this will motivate your top 5 agents to at least request a partial if they see another agent is already interested.

That'll be my strategy!

Anonymous said...

Long Live Miss Smark (see blogroll, newbies)

Sarah said...

Whew. Querying stresses me out. Mostly because I have no patience, but I know that the things you have to work for end up having the most value, blah blah blah. It just feels like there is so much pressure on this one page document!

I, like others who have commented, now don't know who to query first- my top 5? Or maybe my #'s 10-15 first and then my 6-10, and then 1-5 so I can perfect it if needed and save the best for last? Hmmmm; I'm hoping to send out the first batch in the next weekish, so here we go!

Kimber An said...

I definitely believe in personalizing a query letter.

However, this time I'm sending out all queries to both agents and editors at once, before sending requested material.

Why?

Well, because dealing with queries, rejection letters, requested material for fifty or so agents and/or editors is a drag. After a while, I get sick of it and stop querying, whether I've sent it all out or not.

I just start polishing up the next novel.

Actually creating a novel is much more fun than sending it out. I haaate Queryland and if I ever do publish the sqqqqqueeee! you hear shattering the polar icecap will be from me knowing I don't have to query anymore, and not because I'll finally have a published novel.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mystery Girl said...

I only keep ten queries out at any one time. My query letter has changed beyond all recognition and now it's got to the point where it is getting me requests for extra pages and even a full ms but the query letter is constantly evolving and you need to tweak it a little each time.

Heather Bernard said...

This post is coming at the perfect time. Does anyone have any advice as to when you should send your query to your top agents? I might be overthinking this but I can't decide whether I should wait until the third or fourth batch or should I just query one of my top agents with every batch.

L. T. Host said...

This tends to be my go-to strategy, but I have a question. What if the opening lines of your MS would make killer opening query lines? Is an agent going to throw a fit if they're the same?

For example, my first two lines got an honorable mention in your contest. But they're so short and punchy I had to make my query longer and more wordy. It would probably be a great boon to my query (and my request rate) if I could just use the lines from my MS. What do you think?

Nathan Bransford said...

l.t. host-

This post might shed some light.

Marsha Sigman said...

I have thought this very thing! I know that the general advice to query widely but I am sure it is not meant to be done all at once! If you take your time, you can fix mistakes and try again, instead of burning all your bridges.

Mallory said...

It's wonderful to see this being addressed. I'm thankful that the five agents I have sent queries to so far have been quick to respond (four rejections and one request for a partial that ended in rejection). Now I can make some adjustments and try again. I never thought this was going to be easy and it hasn't disappointed :)

Scott said...

Good advice, Nathan. What really sucks about the querying process is the "one and done" rule. I researched very carefully and hit all the agents I wanted with my last query. Now, I know I could do better, but it's too late--just as it's probably too late if those agents become more ready to accept an MS like mine.

So it's website, Facebook and Twitter until my fingers fall off trying to create a buzz that might find its way to one of those agents I burned. In a way, social networking and Internetting might function as a place for "lost queries" to go. There or a place like Inktip, where previously contacted agents might stumble upon my idea again.

Always looking for new ones, too, though.

Paul Greci said...

This is sound advice. It worked for me. I sent mine out in batches of eight to ten. Once I started getting requests, I increased the frequency of the batches because I knew my letter was working.

Fawn Neun said...

How did you know I was getting ready to query? ;)

Anonymous said...

Scott--

I plan to re-query agents with my new novel. Enough time has elapsed since I last queried them and I don't see why not--esp those agents that offered to read partials and fulls the first time around. I don't know why you think you've burned your bridges just because you queried them once and they rejected your ms (unless it's the same novel, and then yes, you shouldn't requery, but there are so many agents, new ones all the time, so you can query new agents with your improved ms).

Nancy said...

Nathan,

Sorry, my funny bone is behaving badly this afternoon. Is that an actual photo of the slush pile at Curtis Brown? I feel sorry for those authors who cross their fingers and throw their ms into the mail box, without ever guessing that there might be something more to the process. :) n

Kia Abdullah said...

Nathan, on the subject of queries... would you be brave enough to post your query letter for Jacob Wonderbar? It would be interesting to see one from a real pro.

Anonymous said...

QUESTION, I know that the answer is possibly in this blog however, I am tired and I just got the kids to sleep. Not sure what that has to do with it but here I go. Say I query you and your amazed, shocked even at the delicious query-ness I have sent you but you weren't super stoked about the manu, you suggest what changes I should make because then the book would be great blah blah blah would I requery you once the changes are made or is that no no?

Travis Lambert said...

Another enjoyable and concise post. I much prefer reading your blog to those lengthy publishing and agent-finding manuals.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I've done the query thing a few times. Signed with new agent recently. The query blast worked for me. I tried batch strategy, and personalizing. There was literally no difference in response rate-- I just wasted more time personalizing for agents who glanced at premise, decided, "Not for me", and hit reject. My new agent, an amazing agent who has all the qualities I was looking for, did not receive a personalized query at all. We're doing great.

Mark said...

Personalize each one. I question anyone who says a group e-blast landed them an agent, especially one of merit. Of course even a broken clock is right twice a day, so it could happen. I wouldn't count on it.

Anonymous said...

So my question is:

What is considered a "good" response rate? I know it's subjective, but I'm wondering, how many requests (partial/full) would it take from one batch for you to consider the query good enough to send out to your top agents?

Is 1 or 2 out of a batch of 10 (10-20% success rate) good?

4 out of 10?

8?

What do you think?

Adam Heine said...

@Anon 1:11. 8 out of 10 is AMAZING. I think a "good" response rate is like 2-5 out of 10, depending on genre. But insert HUGE disclaimer here, cuz it also depends on the story, the agent, the agent's mood, and possibly whether or not a butterfly flapped its wings in Uganda.

Because really, all it takes is one.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Adam. My success rate seems to range from 2 to 10%. Guess the queries need a little touching up.

Alexis Grant said...

Thanks for this, Nathan. I'm trying it right now for my first-ever round of queries. It's so hard to be patient!! I came back to this post and read through the comments to remind myself that it's worthwhile to be patient.

Cliff said...

Good advice, very sensible.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan. I love your blog BTW.

I am currently trying to get my first novel picked up and I sent out 13 queries. So far, I've gotten three requests and five rejections. Still waiting on the other five though. However, the three that requested the manuscript aren't exactly the big-name-huge-market "Curtis Brown Ltd." type agents that I'm trying to hook. Nor were the ones that rejected my manuscript. I queried agents based on who their clients are--if the work they represent is close in style and genre to mine (YA fantasy)--but I'm still waiting on the really reputable agents' responses.

How long should I wait before I respond to the ones that requested the manuscript?

And just one more question:

Will my age make a difference in the agents' verdicts (I'm 15 and winner of international contests which I know you take "with a grain of salt")?

Nathan Bransford said...

Anon-

Question 1: send it! Fit and enthusiasm are the most important things, not pre-conceived ideas going in. Send it and see what they say.

Question two is in the FAQs

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