Presidents’ Day Query Stats

by | Feb 17, 2009 | Literary Agents | 79 comments

As many blogging agents have noted, there has been quite the uptick in queries this year, and I have the stats to prove it. I received 105 queries over the past three days, which is certainly a record for a holiday weekend. Also of note: the Stephenie Meyer effect is strong. I didn’t separate out “YA Fantasy” in the YA category, but the bulk of the YA queries I received were YA Fantasy, plus 13 adult fantasy queries.

On to the stats:

Young adult: 19
Literary fiction: 14
Fantasy: 13
Mystery/Suspense/Thriller: 13
Women’s fiction: 8
Male ennui: 5
Self-help: 4
Religion: 4
Historical fiction: 4
Memoir: 4
Science Fiction 3
Short Story collection: 2
Picture book: 2
Biography: 2
Romance: 1
Western: 1
No freaking clue: 4

Of those 105 queries, 35 were personalized (33%) and I requested two partials (2%)

Some more fun categories:

People who “didn’t take no for an answer” and sent me their partial after I had already passed (please note: this doesn’t work): 2
Queries sent as nothing but an attachment (which I deleted): 2
Queries that misspelled the word “query” or “blog”: 3
Addressed “Dear Literary Agent” or other impersonal opener: 8
And, of course, queries beginning with a rhetorical question: 4


  1. Merry Monteleone

    You know, I wonder if the uptick in queries has anything to do with rising unemployment… so many people have been downsized and are looking into new careers – I wonder how many of them decided to use the non-working time to finally write their great American novel.

    On the brighter side, I hope the partials rock.

  2. Marilyn Peake

    I love the new genre you’ve discovered: “No Freaking Clue”. The possibilities are endless. 🙂

  3. 7-iron

    yes! I love query stats.

  4. Dara

    That’s very interesting–especially the genre of “no freaking clue.”

    I’m also betting that a rise in fantasy novels isn’t only due to the Stephanie Meyer effect–I think with times being as hard as they are now, people are looking for an escape into a completely different world. Then again, that could be said about most fiction, so who knows 😛

    I know fantasy is the thing to write in Dayton–everyone in my critique group but me is writing it (ranging from urban fantasy to high fantasy with dragons).

    It’s also nice to see I won’t be the only historical fiction writer out there submitting to agents 🙂

  5. Neil

    Hi Nathan…I wondered, just out of idle interest, what’s the shortest query you’ve ever received that made you request a partial or a full? Does someone hold the record at 30 words or something?

    And now…back to the masterwork.

  6. Scott


    I know it would be labor intensive on your part, but it would be really cool if you chronicled what happens with those two partials you requested. I’m interested to learn more about the process and following these two along the path might be helpful.

    From the queries that you request partials on, what percentage would you say end up making it all the way to book deal and publication?


  7. Nathan Bransford


    I honestly don’t know the shortest query that has resulted in a partial, but I’d say at least 150 words.


    I don’t really keep track of partial stats, but I’d say of the partials I request I probably request fulls for 2-5% and end up taking on a handful a year.

  8. Scott

    Wow! Thanks, Nathan. It almost seems a little like American Idol…

  9. Justus M. Bowman

    Interesting statistics.

    By the way, I hope you’ll accept my full manuscript despite refusing my 85th quarry letter. Thanks, and I read your bolge.

  10. SideKick

    Just curious…

    How do you misspell ‘blog’?

  11. Jenna Bo Benna

    How on earth do you misspell “blog”?

  12. Jenna Bo Benna

    Hey SideKick, you read my mind. Freaky!

  13. Rick Daley


    Can you tell us the genres for the two partials you requested?

  14. pjd

    Someone misspelled BLOG?!?

  15. Ugly Deaf Muslim Punk Gurl!

    I can’t believe you still get those “DEAR AGENT” queries. With your blog being so popular and you being well-known on the Internet, people would have known your name.

    *shaking my head*

  16. Nixy Valentine

    Ooh, thanks for sharing! I’m a tart for stats.

    I don’t understand something. You said, “Of those 105 queries, 35 were personalized”.

    You mean you replied personally to 35? With a non-form rejection? Or are you actually saying that only 35 out of 105 knew your name? Or do you mean that 70 out of 105 cc’ed other agents on the query?

    None of those options make sense to me, so please clarify. Pretty please. 😀

  17. Carley

    Oh crap, and my novel is a YA Fantasy…figures! I also enjoy reading your bllogg.

  18. Nathan Bransford


    35 mentioned something about my blog, my clients, or something that showed that they had taken the time to research me.

    And yes, I responded personally to them, unless they said they’d read my blog but strayed so wildly from my query recommendations that it was clear they had seen my blog but hadn’t actually read anything, in which case I sent a form rejection.

  19. Lauren

    Love the query stats! They make me feel like a lone wolf for writing contemporary, real-world YA.

    Your query stats fans might also get a kick out of this article from UK agent Andrew Lownie — he chronicles a week in the life of his agency, e-mail, snail mail, and all. Link

  20. Vegas Linda Lou

    So it looks like close to 20 percent of those who queried had no clue about audience, purpose, or attention to detail.

    I wonder how many have the nerve to call themselves writers…

  21. Jo

    After all this time, I definitely appreciate a personal rejection of my query. So thanks for that!

  22. Anonymous

    For anyone — does YA dystopian count as fantasy?

  23. Mira

    Well, out of loyalty to some of my favorite books, I’d substitute the ‘Meyers effect’ with the ‘J.K. Rowling effect.’

    I appreciate seeing these stats. It helps give me a bigger picture of the field. It also occurs to me that you must work pretty hard, Nathan.

    It’s also very educational. Once I actually write something and then query an agent, I’ll need to do something to stand out from the huge crowd.

    Does anyone know if we have this technology? When an agent opens my query, I’d like fireworks to start shooting off, and the 1812 oveture to start playing. The part with the cannons.

    If anyone knows how to do that, let me know.

  24. Anonymous

    This is curious. My agent said she and an agent friend noticed the same thing. The general consensus in her blog responses was that the economy (layoffs) are giving people more time to write their “Great American Novel”.

    Overall, have you noticed the quality of queries has deteriorated? Or is the quality fairly consistent as before the increase in volume?

  25. reader

    Since the category of “ennui” always makes me laugh.

    Is ennui sort of like watching last night’s episode of The Bachelor? Things should be happening, love should be blossoming, but instead you find yourself on a roadtrip in which “connections” and people being “amazing” have no shape or form or lead to anything significant, like, a plot?

  26. Harris


    I wasn’t expecting a post from you today, out of respect for Jillian’s departure last night.

    Seriously…what is Jason thinking (besides, I just bedded three hot chicks in a week on national TV)?


  27. Amber Lynn Argyle

    I don’t think Meyers started the upsurge in YA Fantasy. It began long before she did. She just had the timing to get in during the peak.

  28. Melissa

    As someone who runs around calling herself a writer, I’ve had a couple of friends of friends contact me recently about writing a book.

    This is of course purely anecdotal, but the people I spoke with were unemployed and approached book writing like a get rich quick scheme. They seemed shocked that actual work and research might be involved.

    Of course, I’m unemployed too, so I shouldn’t really talk, but I’ve been working at this for years now and at least have some idea about how hard it is to get published.

  29. Nathan Bransford


    I’d say a slight deterioration overall with lots more frivolous queries, such as the ones where “query” is misspelled.


    I’m still reeling from the Naomi departure. I thought she was good people.

  30. Ink

    The Rowling-Meyer Effect… sounds like something from a paper on particle physics.

    You’re almost at a thousand followers. Are you gonna throw a party for all of us? I mean, you could offer Kool-Aid, since you’re officially at cult status…

    My best, as always,
    Bryan Russell

  31. Stephanie

    …Going back to check all my queries to make sure they don’t begin with a rhetorical question…

    Every time I read your blog I see something else I’m doing wrong without realizing it!

  32. Lady Glamis

    Thanks for the stats! This is interesting to see. I’m wondering what your average day is like. Do you read fulls in the office, or do you take them home to read on the couch or something? Sorry, just curious. And don’t answer if you think I’m being dumb. 🙂

  33. Nathan Bransford

    lady glamis-

    I read anywhere and everywhere I have time. Every time I try and make this into a typical 8-6 type of job it never seems to work.

  34. Camels & Chocolate

    Intriguing, Bransford. I’ll keep this in mind when I querry (querie? queary?) you in the future… 😉

  35. DebraLSchubert

    I have a love/hate relationship to these stats. On the one hand, I find them fascinating (and LOVE the “No Freaking Clue” category – that made my day!). On the other hand, how depressing for us writers!!! It reminds me of the stats that Kristin Nelson posted for 2008 – she received 3,500 queries and took on two new clients. Makes finding a needle in a haystack seem like a breeze…

  36. Harris

    Naomi’s family was wacked – they focused on her spacey mom , but it was her dad who scared the crap out of me.

  37. Martin Willoughby


    I hive a queenie abort your borg. Does you spull chuck anyfing.


  38. Walter

    That 2% partials figure isn’t the most comforting. Although the misspellings and lack of personalization do make it less difficult to take.

  39. Melissa

    This actually made me feel better. I am working hard at learning the craft of writing and the rules of querying. The fact that you get a lot of crap skews the statistics towards ‘real’ writers. That’s good, right?

    Oh yeah, Ink, as much as I love the KoolAid suggestion, I think I’ll say ‘No’, we all know what happened to the last cult of KoolAid drinkers.

  40. Amanda


    I notice 8 women’s fiction queries. Have you seen a counterpart to male ennui among those, or do their plots tend to vary more?

  41. Kristy Colley

    I’m now going back to check and see if I was given a form rejection by you or not…

    On the other hand, lately I have been approached by several people who have written or are writing their “big one” who pretend to know the ins and outs of the entire publishing world but then ask, “Have you ever heard of a query? I heard I have to write one.” To which, I will now assume they mean queary, queery, kweery, etc.
    *blank stare* What do I even say to that?

  42. Rick Daley


    Awesome idea. We could even do it like Fark parties (anyone read

    What would we call ourselves? Here are some suggestions:

    – Nathanites
    – Branheads
    – Freenathans (then Dan Brown could write his next book about US! Wait, we’re writers. We could write our own book)

  43. Madison

    Hope you like those partials and find another NYT Bestseller in them, Mr. Bransford! Continued success!

  44. Tochi

    Hey Nathan,

    Great post. Can you please clarify what the ‘religion’ category is? Are those theology/no theology books like “The God Delusion” or just fiction that involves religion (e.g. Da Vinci Code)?


  45. Heather

    Sad that you would automatically think that YA (urban) fantasy has anything to do with Ms. Meyers. No offense to her, but she is hardly the inventor of the genre, nor is she even close the greats that the genre has to offer.

    It kind of disturbs me to think that my manuscript would be automatically written off as part of some ploy to cash in on SM’s popularity.


  46. Nathan Bransford


    I’m not saying everyone who writes YA fantasy is trying to cash in on the Meyer bandwagon, but lots are, trust me. There’s a query trend every time there’s a successful book.

  47. Abby


    I’m your 1000th follower. Do I get a prize?

    I’ve been blog stalking you for a while now and have to say that I love your blog. Although it terrifies me at times (only 2%, really?), it’s been very informative.

  48. lotusgirl

    That kind of SM query trend makes sense though. When a book is successful there are people looking to read more of that kind of book and so maybe there need to be more of them. Just a thought.

    Mine is YA supernatural does that mean that I’m a SM wannabe? Well, heck, I’d love her success.

  49. Anonymous

    Mr. Bransford,

    Did any of those queries who did not personalize it to you get a partial request?

    Love the blog, by the way.

  50. Eva Ulian

    I think mine comes under “No Freaking Clue”- But look as I might I’ve not seen any other agent dealing in that category, so does it mean you are the only one handling that niche- Gosh I don’t have much choice then do I? I love the way you take all this cheek!

  51. Scotty

    Not. One. Horror. I’m an idiot. But I can’t help it.

    I’m beginning to think the figure of 2% is some universal number, like pi. In direct mail advertising, 2% is considered a good return. Hey, in this economy, it’s just nice to be in the black.

    Thanks for the stats, Nathan.

  52. Aaron Stephens

    I also believe that 2% is the acceptable number for the defective rate of electronics.

  53. Mira

    Oh wait.

    I don’t need to add fireworks and the 1812 overture to my query. What was I thinking?

    I’ll just write a really good book.

    Although it wouldn’t hurt if the moment someone opened my query a love potion perfume engulfed them. Then not only would they represent me, but they’d fall in love with me and do my every bidding.

    This is a really good plan. Anyone know the technology for a love potion perfume?

    Who said the fantasy genre was dead?

  54. Lisa

    I’m not sure whether I should be pleased or depressed that none of those were for diet humor (what I am currently writing).

    Seems I have a corner on the diet humor market, but I think I’m beginning to look like an overweight hooker standing out under this corner streetlight all by myself.

  55. Anonymous

    Love the “no freaking clue” category! I think I’ll takle that one next! :p

  56. TheFan

    Nathan, when you turn people down do you give them all the same response?

  57. Kourtnie McKenzie

    So, if you’re a [high] fantasy writer that’s been working on a novel for two years and it happens to be on the lieu of the Stephenie Meyer’s wave that you decide your manuscript is ready and begin querying, does it reflect on your manuscript poorly? I swear this genre and I had a relationship before the vampire thing became big.

  58. Nic

    I wonder if the fantasy has anything to the increase in sci-fi/fantasy tv shows like Life On Mars, Dr Who, Torchwood, Merlin and probably a million others in the US.

  59. Karen

    Thank goodness I decided NOT to write that book about a teenage vampire and his dragon friend who uncover a deep and historical conspiracy involving religious cult members and global warming. Whew!

    Glad to know it’s a good thing to mention following a blog or website. I have actually stayed away from that in the past thinking it seemed corny and brown-nosy.

  60. Jo

    So looks like a switch to Western might be a good idea for me since I write YA and middle-grade fantasy.

  61. Jen

    105 queries in three days.

    The mind boggles. I laughed at your breakdown stats, too. I suppose it’s a bit weird, but I don’t find those stats (and the query stats other agents have posted lately) to be so terrible…at least from my perspective. It just goes to show how important it is to follow guidelines. I’m a bit surprised that so many fail to do so.

  62. Anonymous

    I was going to query you about a picture book that’s sort of a cross between a Western, no freaking clue, and male ennui. Looks like it might be a tough sell though in this market.

  63. Kim Kasch

    Dear Ms. Literary Agent. I read your Blogg all the thyme.

    I wanted to send you a quiry but had no freaking clue what to right.


  64. Jenn

    Wow, if you request 2 partials every 3 days then you’re reading 243 partials a year. If you request fulls for 2-5% of these then you’re reading 5-12 manuscripts a year. That’s up to 3x the amount of books that the average American reads in a year.

    On the other hand, if you get 105 queries every three days, you get a total of 12,775 queries a year of which 12,532 will get a flat out rejection letter.

    So . . . were the last three days representative?

    I vote for bloug and quiry.

  65. Dawn

    Despite the excellent advice you give on your blog, these query stats have managed to terrify me. Is that a good thing?

  66. Newbee

    I don’t know about anyone else but this is some of the best and honest information I have read on this process. It gives me an honest look at what we are all up against…including myself.

    Note to self:

    1. Don’t send on a holiday weekend. Try mid-week on some random week when nothing is going on.

    2. Use spell check! Smart people do!

    3. Show how unique I really am…;) (not a problem for the most part)

  67. Laura D

    I’m not sure what genre my WIP fits into.
    It’s about a flawed psychiatrist treating a traumatized child, who is the only link to a sick pedophile and possible child killer on the loose. Under pressure from the hospital, police, the media and the whole community, the psychiatrist’s very reputation is at stake, while at the same time the case is opening the wounds of her own abusive childhood. Her memories resurface, clouding her judgement regarding her patient. She seems the unlikeliest person to be able to break through to this child, who refuses to speak.
    The only way is to face her own past, her own fears, dead on. Her dedication to her profession and her sheer will, compell her to try to heal herself, so she can heal this child and hopefully help catch a killer.

    In a nutshell, that’s its’ bare bones.
    I would maybe call it psychological thriller.
    Any suggestions?

  68. Nathan Bransford


    Yeah, that sounds about right, actually, plus my clients’ manuscripts. Lots of reading in this job!

  69. Diana

    Amber Lynn Argyle, I agree with your comment about the YA Fantasy thing going on for a while. I work at a public library, and there seem to be a ton of books that fit in to this category. They’re as varied as the “regular fiction” books. I have noticed that most of the YA fantasy that we carry are of the series variety.

    Scotty – also at our library, we regularly have people ask us for the “horror” section. So I know people want to read it….

    Nathan, thanks for the stats!

  70. Ksawarrior

    Hello, Nathan. I was one of the people you met at the agent speed dating at the SF writer’s conference. You asked me to email you after you heard my pitch.
    I’m just trying to find out how many sample pages I should send, because I see nothing on the blog to let me know.
    Please, I really want to know so I can follow up on my pitch.

  71. Ita

    Hi Nathan, as a crime writer I’d love to see some kind of breakdown of the 13 Mystery/Suspense/Thriller queries. Not that I expect you to go back, analyse them, and provide an exhaustive list of sub-genres, but I was wondering if there are themes that recur?

    Like are they mostly irate-loner-tackles-bad-guys-after-family-murdered? Or do they tend towards the lady-huntley’s-body-found-in-aristocratic-library? Or naieve-divorcee-moves-to-town-with-big-nasty-secret?

    I’d love if you posted a whole bunch of queries, they sound like great fun to read. Do you ever find yourself rolling round the floor laughing?

  72. Anonymous

    “I was going to query you about a picture book that’s sort of a cross between a Western, no freaking clue, and male ennui. Looks like it might be a tough sell though in this market.”

    Thanks for that Anonymous! I just about peed my pants! LOL

  73. M. L. Kiner

    “The Hong Kong Connection” is a legal thriller about a gutsy female attorney who takes on high ranking International officials. It’s a taut, rollercoaster of a ride from New York to Palm Beach to Washington D.C. to Hong Kong. The plot is expertly woven, the characters persuasive, and the dialogue snappy and spot on.

  74. Anonymous

    You failed to mention one genre.

    My 200,000 word novel is about a sorority of vampires and their use of blood orange martinis to terrorize and ultimately bend to their control the entire student body. I deemed it straight horror, but my readers tell me it is in fact horrorble. Here’s hoping that category isn’t overstocked:)
    Deb S

  75. Anonymous

    What amazes me about this post is that only about 15 percent of your queries during this period, if I read the categories correctly, consists of nonfiction. What, I wonder, is the general ratio of fiction to nonfiction in your queries, Nathan? And what (for another post perhaps) is the ratio of fiction to nonfiction queries that lead to your request for more material?

  76. Ad Astra Per Aspera

    Okay, here is my two-part theory as to why you have received so many queries, including mine.

    1) There are still many unemployed people who have the time now to write the novel or polish the novel that has been within them for years, maybe more, as they dealt with the daily grind.

    2) If I remember correctly, the bottom dropped out of publishing around Dec. 2008 when several publishers and more than a few agents announced that they were not taking any more new clients (authors). That literary fatwa has begun to loosen up some, and so the manuscripts are showing up again. You can only stricture writers for so long.


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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

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