Writer Survey!

by | Aug 26, 2009 | The Writing Life | 258 comments

In the comments section of last week’s Genre Poll, some people wanted to know more about who exactly is reading this blog anyway. What’s the ratio of published to unpublished, male to female, age, etc.?

So here’s a quick series of polls that will hopefully demystify the demographics. Please click through from e-mail or your blog reader to see the polls.

(the second option in this poll should have read: “Started, haven’t finished”):

Let’s see who’s really out there.


  1. Robert McGuire

    After 2 1/2 years I think I'm finally in the gray transition area between "done" and "sending it to agents who will probably tell me I'm not done."

  2. Ryan Potter

    That was fun. I wish everything in this business was that easy.

  3. Ieva

    I clicked "unagented" but technically, I've been published on what can't be considered a professional market (1000 ex if I remember correctly).
    I got paid for that, too. ๐Ÿ˜›

  4. JohnO

    I'm no legal expert, but that last item might be a leading question.

  5. Genella deGrey

    That was fun and informative – thanks!
    (And the part about the rhetorical question made me giggle.)

  6. DebraLSchubert

    Rhetorical Question: Is it just me, or did I detect a bias on that last question?

    Nathan – I LOVE these polls! It's so interesting to see where people are at. Next time maybe you could go door to door?;-)

  7. Reesha

    Wow. There are a lot of females reading this blog so far. Huh.
    It must be Nathan's hair…

  8. Bane of Anubis

    What's wrong with rhetorical questions?

    Thanks for the great polls — wow, gents, we need to pick up the pace.

  9. Anonymous

    Hey! Stories get published too. I'm (thus far) unpublished in novels but nicely published as far as stories. ๐Ÿ™‚

    [posting anon, since it won't take my LJ handle for some reason…]

  10. Dawn

    I got a publishing contract by going directly to the publisher, but I'm hoping to get an agent with my WIP which I'm currently revising. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Christina Gullickson

    Nathan is so popular with the ladies!
    Also, where's the 100% complete and started on next WIP option?

  12. Angela

    I keep getting "nudges" from people to get on with the revising and agenting process. I guess this is another nudge. (sigh) It's so scary, though!

  13. Anthony

    I am floored by the gender question responses.

    Intellectually, I understood the blog-sphere was owned by women. It is quite another to see it validated.

    Nathan, do your queries have the same male-female ratio?

  14. Anonymous

    So agented with an MS before publishers but also having several ebook published and upcoming falls where in this survey?

  15. Nathan Bransford


    No, it's much more of an even male/female mix. Although I will say, not to stereotype by gender or anything, but a lot more of the really "out there" queries tend to come from men, who I'm guessing aren't reading agent blogs in the same numbers as women.

    Maybe it's the same gene where you don't want to stop and ask for directions.

  16. Anonymous

    That was informative and fun. Thanks Nathan.

  17. Nathan Bransford

    anon (and others)-

    There's no way to poll for every eventuality. Just pick the one that you think fits you best.

  18. jill

    so hard to answer! 3 complete novels, but 3 (or 4) more in various stages of progress. Incomplete ones are 25%, 50%, and 75% complete (and barely started). Completed ones are in assorted stages of revision (crit group, beta readers).
    word verification: untme – untime or untie me?

  19. Anonymous

    Two more questions you could have asked(so we know who writes books):

    1.What's your work background, before published?

    A.Business/no writing
    B.Business with writing
    E.None of above &/or no paid work


    2.What's your educational background?

    A.Less than undergrad
    B.Undergraduate degree
    C.Masters Degree
    E.More than 1 advanced degree

  20. Pepper Smith

    It would have been nice if your option for epublished hadn't been linked with self-published, because there are a lot of legitimate epublishers out there who are nothing to do with self-publishing.

  21. Jen C

    I'm on what I predict to be my penultimate editing pass. Joy!

  22. Kristan

    LOL to Ryan Potter.

    I clicked Unagented because that's my career goal (get agent, get published, get LOTS of readers) but I've been e-publishing an online chick lit series just for fun.

    And yeah, haha, I skipped the rhetorical question poll. Oh, Nathan…

  23. Nathan Bransford


    I knew people were going to say that. I know they're different, but I feel they can be lumped together as "other publishing." If I drilled down into every single eventuality the polls would be too long/cumbersome.

  24. gregfreed

    I'm a publishing professional, only beginning as an author. Editors and other agents weren't well-represented in your polls.

  25. Valerie

    Instead of "Started Never Finished" it would be great if there was a "Currently Working On" because I'm in the process of writing my first novel, but I haven't given up on it yet. Checking started never finished kinda makes me feel like a loser, which I swear, I so totally am not.

  26. Nathan Bransford


    Whoops, that should have read, "Started HAVEN'T finished."

    Unfortunately I can't change the poll though. Sorry about that!

  27. Heather Sunseri

    Interesting results. Wonder why so many women? I have a few theories.

  28. Hilabeans

    Great post. Thanks for asking. Metrics can be fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

    It would be interesting to see how many agent blogs writers follow and if there is any correlation to query letter quality.

    Additionally, how many writers have day jobs? Or degrees outside of English or Journalism?

    Thanks again,

  29. T. Anne

    Well Nathan, I alarmingly fit into the norm of your demographics (so far). But enough with the profiling, aren't we due for another contest? ๐Ÿ˜‰ *she says with utter hope*

  30. Anonymous

    I've been "agented" for exactly one submission. Last year an agent responded to a 100 page partial & synopsis by enthusiastically sending it to an award-winning editor at a great house: agent said we'd probably hear back in a week. I forgot about it for a few months (it never left my mind for more than a few seconds) until I was copied, accidentally, on an email exchange that revealed a series of email mishaps in the handoff of the pdf…editor requesting a resend, agent forgetting to until a MONTH later, by which time the editor was buried in another project– chagrined agent tentative to press after weeks & months go by…the week became a year. I asked, of course, but the agent wouldn't send it to other editors. Agent is a very nice fellow and has a fine (if flaky) reputation, but he's obviously not the one for me. Unagented, I.

  31. Amy D

    Opens up a whole can o' worms, yes? Why are most of your readers women? Are there more women who want to be published than men who do? Or do women just participate in surveys more? etc.

  32. Anonymous

    ooh, what about geography too?

  33. Valerie

    Wow, you work fast! I feel much better now. LOL Thanks!

  34. Hilary Wagner ~ Writer

    It took me 7 months to write my first MS. 13 months to find my agent and 2 months to sell my first MS to its publisher. I heart my agent, so worth the wait! It's funny how the agent part took the longest, but I'm sure that's the case for a lot of people. To everyone out there still querying, keep going! And Nathan, no matter what you say, I do think some of the ladies be having a crush on you!! Ha, ha! Thanks for the great post!

  35. Anonymous

    Thank you.

  36. wonderer

    Fascinating quiz, Nathan.

    A couple of elaborations:

    "How many books have you written?"
    I picked 5-10, but I'll only admit to the existence of three or four of them.

    "For those working on a manuscript, how far are you?"
    I'm in revisions on one, under 25% of the way through a complete rewrite of another, and have one or two more first drafts that I plan on going back to. Any other project-hoppers out there?

  37. Anonymous

    Very interesting that (so far) a quarter of respondants have only written one novel.

    I'm aghast by that.

    I was too overwhelmed to hang out on agent blogs until I had at least finished a few. I knew I had to keep my nose to the grindstone if my mss were ever going to get done. This is me, though, and I'm not necessarily suggesting that others are wrong, but the thought does cross my mind quite a lot in this business that people favor the "romantic" notion of writing much more than they do the hard ass work of finising the damn thing.

  38. Laura Martone

    Haha, Robert McGuire, I'm about to be at that point, too!

    And, amen, Ryan, I wish everything were just that easy.

    I just can't believe how many of us are unagented AND female. What does that say about the Bransfordites?

  39. F. P.

    I'm not a regular reader here for various reasons, but I'm a sucker for polls.

    My answers: 10-20 books, self-/e-published, 50-75% complete on my current novel, age bracket 40-49. I've been writing seriously for 15 years and have written more than what the poll questions (screenplays, essays, and multiple unfinished novels, short stories and screenplays).

    I'm assuming most people responding here read quite regularly, so I'm a bit disturbed that so far only 15% have written five or more books and 25% have only written one. But these numbers aren't unexpected (if they hold).

    A body of work should contain multiple works, not one or two. I think too many writers are simply desiring instant-gratification publication, not to write over the long haul and create a body of work.

    On the other hand, to be fair to my own kind, continuing on with writing is extremely tough, especially in the face of multiple rejections, which writers typically accumulate with increasing time. Some people are better off quitting at an early point or midpoint, or at least downscaling writing's importance in their lives.

    Get back to your manuscripts, people–that's what really counts!

  40. Robin

    Interesting poll results. Especially the large percentage of women readers (of which I am one). How about a question asking if we have succeeded in other writing endeavors outside of novels? I have some produced works in playwriting and film and television. This is my first novel, or at least the first novel that I intend to finish.

  41. Mira

    This was fun. And interesting!

    Well, it was fun, until I got stuck in a paradoxical alternate dimensional loop, while I frantically tried to answer a rhetorical question about rhetorical questions.

    I'm still here actually. It's quiet here, in rhetorical question land. All the questions are already answered. So peaceful. I may never leave….

  42. Thermocline

    Damn you Writer Survey for reminding me I have to cross over into a new age category on my next birthday!

  43. F. P.

    "…that people favor the "romantic" notion of writing much more than they do the hard ass work of finis[h]ing the damn thing."

    –Too true.

  44. Laura Martone

    Anon 11:54 – Just because I've only finished one novel doesn't mean I'm not SERIOUS about the craft of writing. I'm quite serious about it as a long-term goal – which is why I'm working so hard to revise my book. I don't consider it a "practice" novel – this is the first one that I wrote AND the first one that I want to publish.

    Sometimes, I get so tired of the notion that a writer has to write three or four novels before trying to get published. What's wrong with trying to make the first one the best it can be?

  45. F. P.

    Damn–72% have finished only 3 or fewer books!

    A transposition mistake above: I should have written, "I'm assuming most people responding read here quite regularly…"

  46. LaShawn M. Wanak

    Nice poll. Interesting to see the results. it'll be good to have the question "How long have you been 'revising' your work?" I'm doing my second edit of my book, and I'd be curious to see how long it takes others to revise & edit.

  47. Anne Lyle

    I have a box-full of half-completed novels under my bed – but for this poll I only included the two I've drafted to novel length (over 50k), one of which I'm revising/redrafting at the moment. It's hard work but satisfying! One day soon it'll be finished and I can send it out into the wide world…

    And for the record, I have a life sciences degree and a day-job, and yes, I used to work in (non-fiction) publishing – before I discovered that IT pays better ๐Ÿ™‚

  48. Rose

    "Maybe it's the same gene where you don't want to stop and ask for directions."

    Still laughing.

    Is there a gene for "who knew they even had directions on how to do this stuff?"

  49. Anonymous

    Laura Montone —

    Ahem, that is why I quantified my statement by saying, and I quote:

    "…This is me, though, and I'm not necessarily suggesting that others are wrong…"

    Read the whole post if you are going to call me out, please. If you can write only one book and get that sucker published, then more power to you. Most don't. I wasn't trying to be discouraging.

  50. L. V. Gaudet


    Now now, let's not go there on the sex thing and it being about men not asking for directions.

    It's more about their need to build things without looking at the instructions.

    I generalized my answers on my two wip's that are currently getting all of my attention. The rest of the rabble can continue to collect dust in the drawer for now. And I assumed that published meant something more meaty than short stories and flash fiction online.

  51. Anonymous

    I can't help but notice
    there's no option for 0-1 year-olds. What about all the writers who got their start scribbling on their placenta walls? ๐Ÿ™‚

  52. F. P.

    Laura, would you apply the same standard to poetry?

    Imagine if something like that happened in the poetry world, and writing only one best-it-could-be whole poem became the requirement for being called a poet, especially a good or a great poet.

    I think that would be ridiculous. And I think it's equally ridiculous for novels, screenplays, short stories and so on.

    In my opinion, a writer must have multiple experiences writing to The End in a format in order to "perfect" writing in that format and be considered a serious writer in that format. And by perfect I only mean when the writer becomes the best at that format she'll ever personally become. And becoming the best requires repetition in executing whole works, not one or parts–wholes.

    Good (and especially great) writing requires a repeat phenomenon–it's the way it is. I don't consider a writer a novelist unless the person's written at least three novels. I think every person could probably write one novel. A slightly bigger percentage have two novels in them, but most people wouldn't make it past Number 2. Novel Number 3 is the critical number to strive toward.

    But every writer must start somewhere. Nothing wrong with you or anyone else being at Number 1–just avoid stopping there if you want to become really good at novelwriting and earn the Novelist title, at least in my eyes lol.

  53. jscolley

    How about "none of your business" for "How old are you?"

  54. Erastes

    Regarding the "working on a mss option" – that's hard to answer – I wrote "revising" because I am with the latest, just finished, but by the revising stage, i'm always started on a new one too.

  55. Mira


    The following people only wrote one book. They'll be sorry to hear they aren't really authors:

    โ€ข Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird.
    โ€ข Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind.
    โ€ข Emily Brontรซ, Wuthering Heights.
    โ€ข J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye.
    โ€ข Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray.
    โ€ข John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces.
    โ€ข Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar.
    โ€ข Anna Sewell, Black Beauty.
    โ€ข Boris Pasternak, Dr. Zhivago.
    โ€ข Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things.

  56. Mira

    Wait. I just copied that..how did Oscar Wilde get on that list? Maybe he only wrote plays.

    I'm sort of grumpy today. Maybe it's the dimensional loop.

    Anyway, I think I made my point, accuracy aside.

  57. Michele Lee

    Hey, where's the option for "Published but unagented"? ๐Ÿ™‚

  58. Nathan Bransford

    If I may, this debate seems a bit more fraught than it needs to be. I know plenty of writers who sold the first novel they'd ever written in their life. I also know plenty of writers who wrote ten or more unpublished works before they found publication. Neither way is better or worse than the other. It just takes what it takes.

    Writers need to write as many novels as they need to write to get there. That may be one it may be fifty. Some make it on the first try and never write as well again. Some keep getting better and better and find publication on the tenth or twentieth.

    Every single writer has a different path. There's no better or worse path, they're just different.

  59. Anonymous

    I wonder if the male-female ratio is another sign towards how fiction is more enjoyed by women than men…

  60. Laura Martone

    Anon 11:54/12:17 – I did, in fact, read the whole post. I always do before commenting. And although I indeed noticed your caveat that "This is me, though, and I'm not necessarily suggesting that others are wrong," it was quickly followed by the "thought" that a lot of "people favor the 'romantic' notion of writing much more than they do the hard ass work of finising the damn thing."

    It was that that offended me… but perhaps I'm just sensitive to this same old refrain. My rebuttal was certainly not meant to "attack" you – I'm just sick of hearing people suggest that concentrating on one book makes a writer somehow less "serious" about his/her craft. I don't just want to be a writer – I want to tell THIS story. That's why I wrote it.

    But I appreciate the fact you weren't trying to be discouraging – perhaps it was your tone that belied your intentions. That certainly can happen in the faceless blogosphere.

    –Laura Martone

  61. F. P.

    Here come the ad hominem attacks…nice.

    In my opinion, "Anonymous" didn't criticize or judge anyone. Anonymous expressed a general opinion, which this specific poll sparked and could support.

    I wish people would use nickname tags rather than leave up Anonymous, or else readers can't tell who's who among the Anonymous posters.

    Mira, thanks for the strawperson.

    I never used the "author"* word in my post. I used NOVELIST. A writer of a single novel could write a good novel. A writer's first novel could be good, but while I consider that writer a writer (as long as she writes regularly), I do NOT consider that writer a novelist. A creator of only one whole poem who also dabbles in writing poem parts regularly would be a writer, but would NOT be a poet to me.

    If all those writers you listed only ever wrote one novel, I don't consider them novelists, sorry. And I think had they written even more, they probably would have written even better ones.

    *I can't stand the author word. I think it implies that at some point a writer has ARRIVED and is now on some higher plane. I am and only ever will be a WRITER. Being a writer is about WRITING, not "authoring." Being a writer is about the work, not the potential prize at the end of the work.

  62. Mira

    Nathan, that was beautifully written.

    I'm sorry I lost my head. F.P., let's agree to disagree.

  63. Laura Martone

    Thank you, Nathan, for voicing your opinion re: a writer's path and how every one of them is different. I couldn't agree with you more – generalizations irk me so.

    And that's all I'm going to say on that. (whistling, petting the kitty, moving on…)

  64. Nathan Bransford

    I've deleted all those comments anyway. You guys are arguing to the wind.

  65. Kristi

    I didn't take the poll since I have three WIP's going on in different stages – and if I counted my PB's I would have many more completed books than my one MG, but I did love reading the poll results. At least it was validating to see I'm not older than the average responder:)

  66. Thermocline

    I know exactly what you mean by "I want to tell THIS story. That's why I wrote it." I didn't set out to become a Writer. My brain just would not let go of this story(or maybe it was the other way around and the story wouldn't let go of my brain.)

    BTW, I'm amazed at how much you've got posted Ruby Hollow, especially the genealogies, before publication. That's really cool!

  67. Sissy

    I love how most of your readers are female! This is interesting.

  68. Chrystal's Corner

    This survey may give you a slight idea, but it really doesn't tell you who's reading the blog, it tells you who took the survey.

    I usually don't take surveys but decided to do this one because I'm following you on Twitter.

  69. Anonymous

    this is hilarious .. I know you didn't mean to be so. basically, I'm a gay guy in his 30's with one unpublished / one sold novel in competition with people who are VERY against queries that begin rhetorically?

    (although I do have representation, the sold/but unpublished field assumes one has an agent; does everyone?)

    I'd be curious to see what genre the 78% of novelist aspirants are working on AND (or, vs.) what they're writing AND, in a fantasy book store world, if you book could be stocked in three sections, what would they be (if it's not easily cateorizeable)?

  70. Lynne Connolly

    Why is epublished and self published together? I make my living from epublishing. Also have an agent who hasn't placed the ms yet. Also published in non fiction under another name. I put "published," since I am, and I've never paid a penny for the privelege.
    no worries, interesting results!

  71. Brigita

    I lo ve surveys. This was a fun one. ๐Ÿ™‚

  72. Laura Martone

    Hi, Thermocline. Glad to hear that I'm not the only one obsessed with telling a particular story – mine wouldn't let go of my brain either.

    As for the Ruby Hollow website, I appreciate the favorable responses I've received… but I'm beginning to think that I have TOO MUCH on the site. It was intended for agents and editors, pre-publication – which is why it's so thorough. Once it's being published, I'd probably make it more appropriate for a reading audience. But who knows? It's gotten people interested in reading the story – and I guess that's what matters, right?

  73. Lady Glamis

    This was a great idea, Nathan. Thank you!

  74. Anonymous

    i'm anon 1:03 … "so last week?" LOL, okay, yes, I know, I read your blog everyday so it was more, so interblogtextual … not to mention a funny phrase to use in an industry where (I'm quoting, who/what I don't recall) six weeks is considered lunch. these metrics are interesting though.

    I'm curious what you meant, in describing queries from men as being "more out there" … crazy? progressive? it's a tantalizing statement / observation. esp. w/the advent of the Good Men project

  75. Lynne Connolly

    Maybe if I learned to spell "Privilege" that might read better! (Or maybe not). The main difference between epublishing and self publishing is that epublishing companies pay you, but you pay self-publishers, if you see what I mean.
    I'm just digging a deeper hole, aren't I? Better stop now and go and see how Arsenal did.

  76. Laura Martone

    Incidentally, I should've said this earlier… but, thanks, Nathan, for hosting the illuminating survey. I'm only sorry it sparked such an ugly debate. Ah, well. Writers can be temperamental – or so I've heard. Darn it, there I go generalizing again. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  77. Lisa Schroeder

    Nathan – this is so true:

    "Every single writer has a different path. There's no better or worse path, they're just different."

    And we must remind ourselves of this again and again, no matter where we are at in the process, before AND after publication.

  78. Novice Writer Anonymous

    I voted.

    But on WiPs, well, I'm crazy and have several. All of which are at different stages and in different genres or media.

    Some are 100% done, one on submission the other in revisions.

    One of those is a poetry book.

    The other is a genre romance.

    I have four other poetry collections, each in various percentages of completedness.

    My novel is the one I voted with and it's 27% done.

    That's my explanation of my percentages.

  79. Thermocline


    Getting people interested that early out is great. Plus it shows how passionate you are about your story. I'm sure that shows up on your pages.

  80. F. P.

    Gotta say…this poll has depressed me, not that that's difficult to do. But I don't wanna look at the results anymore.

    It may be too self-selecting/biased anyway, as maybe most writers hanging at this blog (and agent blogs in general) are newer writers and hang here because they're newer. The smaller percentage of writers having completed multiple works–maybe that wouldn't be the case for polls done elsewhere, where a higher percentage of more experienced writers may hang out.

    I don't know. I do, however, get the feeling the poll is pretty accurate compared to the larger population of writers (same for your last poll about genres); my personal observations have yielded around the same percentages. Hence, my feeling depressed–though not just for that reason.

  81. Diamond

    Interesting – particularly the age-grouping. I'm younger than I thought in terms of productivity,but older in terms of this blog and what I fondly imagined was a peer group.

  82. Marsha Sigman

    I just come here to stare at your hair.

  83. hannah

    10-20 novels, Published (as of yesterday! Woo!), Revising, Female, 1-19, Amen!

    I'm striking a good balance between bizarre and shockingly typical, looks like. (Yeah females revising!)

    (word verification: pediste. "you asked?")

  84. Ink

    That's a lot of girls.

    Not that I'm complaining. ๐Ÿ™‚

    As for the surveys, I did wonder about the formerly agented… oh the gnashing of teeth in the outer dark. And I figured by published you meant published "book", so I answered accordingly.

    And I'm all for the idea of writers taking different paths. Mine has been odder than I once expected it would be. Ah, the innocence of youth.

    And I can't really get down with any arbitrary calculation to determine who is a novelist and who isn't. One book? Two? Five? Seven? Seems rather random, and rather pointless in the end, as it's arguing about the label rather than the reality. And the label is rather meaningless. Unless you're trying to pick up women (or men, particularly since ZOUNDS and OH MY GOD there's a lot of women here. Yes, my suspicions are being confirmed. Women are secretly killing off men, starting with the intelligent and creative ones. It explains so much. Like politics.)

  85. Karla Doyle

    "How old are you?"
    …not a very friendly question for someone at the extreme outer limits of "30-39"!

    Great poll!

  86. JJ

    I've actually written several novels, but I chose "1" because it's the only one I feel is viable (and that I am currently in the process of revising—rewriting, more like. 90% done! It's like pulling teeth!) as all the others were written when I was a teenager. They are either terribly derivative of whatever I was obsessed with at the time or else thinly-veiled autobiography I intended to be the Next Great American Novel.

    Ah, youth.

    I am currently steeling myself for the query stage in the publishing process.

    (Nathan, so popular with the ladies!)

  87. Patrice

    You crack me up.
    Hey, I've been wanting to ask: If a novel is inspired from actual events (i.e., a memoir), is that relevant information at the query stage? 350 is so few words.
    Thanks for the survey. It was fun.

  88. Bane of Anubis

    Hannah, congrats! — 10 – 20 already? Wow… mad props to you for that (even if some of them are trunkers, that's still impressive).

  89. Author Guy

    I have 2 novels fantasy published by a small press, without an agent, and a third unpublished. I have a number of short stories as well, some published, some under contract, etc., but I didn't include them on the list.

    "the really "out there" queries tend to come from men, who I'm guessing aren't reading agent blogs in the same numbers as women." I read the blogs and the advice, but I don't know why I bother. The words make no sense to me but do succeed in giving me a stress headache. Anything beyond 'would you like to read my book?' is beyond me. Fortunately my current publisher was happy with that, way back when.

  90. Author Guy

    "novels fantasy"

    Take that. Reverse it. Thank you.

  91. Ink


    I'm not sure which is more impressive… published at 18 or 10-20 novels by 18? You've certainly worked for your success.

    I must admit, when I was 18 I'd completed, oh, three or four short stories. And half of them were in grade school. But, you know, they were great. Absolute classics. I even illustrated them myself. Top shelf, if I may say so. And not just me! My mother was also very supportive.

  92. Novice Writer Anonymous



    Maybe that's why so many men seem to turn into deer in the headlights around me when they learn I have a master's degree! It would certainly explain a lot.

  93. Laura Martone

    Wow, congrats, Hannah, for being published! That's so exciting!

  94. AM

    This is fun, fun, fun – and very informative.

    However, I suspect the polling about queries that begin with rhetorical questions might be bias – just a little.

    I appreciate the insight this provides.

  95. Kristin Laughtin

    You really do need a "started, haven't finished" question, because even though I've finished one, I have plenty more that I scratched or reworked into shorter pieces, and I'm sure I'm not alone.

    Interesting to see the demographics here.

  96. BJW

    You aren't the worst looking guy in the world, which may have a minor affect with the guy/girl ratio.

    This could be cleared up pretty quick with the: How many of you want to have my baby? question.

    I'm a no, but probably in the minority here. That said, still think you're the bee's knees. cheers

  97. mardott

    As usual, I fall between the cracks. I clicked four books, but the complete answer is that I've finished two, and have three more in various stages – say 25% – 50% complete.

    I'm a Gemini. I don't DO one thing at a time.

  98. Lydia Sharp

    I assumed you meant "novels" when asking if published, or agented, or whatnot.

    No novels published yet, since I'm still revising my first one (almost there!), but I do have short fiction published. And yes, recently.

  99. onefinemess

    I think what Robert McGuire said sums me up almost perfectly as well:

    "After 2 1/2 years I think I'm finally in the gray transition area between "done" and "sending it to agents who will probably tell me I'm not done."

  100. Ink

    Novice Writer Anonymous!

    Though only a lowly male, I have a Masters Degree too. Except it's not worth the paper it's printed on. I know because I tried to sell it. At the pawn shop. No go. They said an MBA, maybe, or a Law Degree… but an MA? No chance. Wouldn't even give me a discount on the old Milli Vanilli record. Now that MA is like a big target around my neck. I fear next week this poll would show even less males, now that we've exposed ourselves. In the immortal words of Dame Agatha, and then there were…

  101. Kat Harris

    Can you please distinguish the difference between unquestionably, definitely, yes, amen and affirmative?

    Is one more emphatic than the other?

  102. Steph Damore

    Awesome poll Nathan; can't wait to analyze the results.

    Wait. That sounded way too dorky.

  103. Steph Damore

    Ink – Love it! I have an MA too.

  104. :)Ash

    I have just about finished one novel (revising). My second novel, which is 75% completed, has a far more interesting "hook", so I plan to query for it (and then mention the other novel after I'm agented). I hope to begin querying by Christmas.

    Oh, and I'm a 28-year-old female who writes kidlit.

  105. Mark David Gerson

    Here's a category that wasn't included in your tally:

    I had a reputable agent for my first novel. She loved the book and worked very hard to place it. In the end, she couldn't and we parted amicably. Could never get another agent to respond to me, let alone even look at it. (No blame there. I've been an editor; I know how impossible it is to deal with mountains of queries.)

    In the end, I created a small publishing company of my own to produce/publish it. The book has since won several awards and I have a producer interested in my screenplay adaptation of it.

    Given my challenges the first time around, I didn't even bother looking for an agent for my second (unrelated) book. Recently, it won a national award.

    Another piece of the poll I had difficulty responding to: I'm working on two books right now — one is in revision, the other is approx 10% into its first draft.

  106. Novice Writer Anonymous

    LOL Ink. I know what you mean about the degree not being worth the paper it's printed on. Too funny about the pawn shop.

  107. D. G. Hudson

    It's nice to see a breakdown of stats on the readers & voters of this blog. I had guessed that the age demographics were similar to what is showing at 2pm PT.

    I agree with other readers that you don't really give us a choice on the last question, but I'm not fond of rhetorical questions. Too often, those type questions seem like a set-up for the reader. (i.e., look at it this way)but it's a ploy used in consumer marketing quite a lot.

    Interesting post, Nathan.

  108. Stephen Duncan

    I am not a writer or an author.

    I am a Linguistical Narrative Semiotician. For reals.

    Cool survey, btw. I'm actually surprised at the (like me) agented but unpublished percentage. I thought there would be more, given the state of the industry.

  109. Marilyn Peake

    The poll looks great except for, as others have mentioned, lumping "e-published" and "self-published" together. Ouch! It burnssss us! As soon as I stop banging my head on the desk over that question, I will answer the poll. ๐Ÿ™‚

  110. ClothDragon

    Wow. I am so completely average in every aspect for this group. I don't know if that's good or bad.

  111. Marilyn Peake

    Ha! Ha! Ha! Finished answering the Poll, although didnโ€™t answer the last question. There was no way to answer "No" for that one. Thatโ€™s funny.

    I'm in the revising stage of my current WIP. Will most likely complete final revision in September or October and will then begin querying … and taking up a new hobby like biting my fingernails.

  112. Alexis Grant

    Thanks, Nathan — I think I was one of the readers who inquired about this after the last poll, so I was interested to see the results. Much appreciated!

  113. SZ

    Reesha 11:24

    It may be the hair, I dont know. Maybe the smile ?

    I like this post. No need to pick it apart. It is good general information.

    That said, I did not see a "No" answer for that last one for me to pick. heh heh

  114. JoannP

    Loved responding to this poll. And seeing how others responded was a lot of fun. But the poll doesn't account for those of us, like me, who have published in non-fiction genres and are now making a transition to fiction. But I guess that's why comment boxes exist! BTW, I'm about a quarter of the way through my first novel and it's the best adventure I've ever been on.

  115. Mike

    I was looking for Indubitably as an answer to the last question. Since it isn't there I went win Amen.

  116. J.J. Bennett

    Yes! Thank you Nathan…It was me who asked the question on whether you thought more men or women followed your blog.

    So, are you surprised by the polls so far?

  117. Nathan Bransford


    I'm a little surprised by the gender breakdown, but everything else is about what I would have guessed.

  118. Marilyn Peake

    Laura Martone,

    Your website captured my intense interest from the moment I first saw it, and I'm so hoping your book gets published. The story idea is fascinating, as are the visuals on your website.

  119. Dawn

    Hey, wait a sec. I wrote, illustrated, and bound a children's book when I was in grade school, then went and read it to a kindergarten class. LOL I was pretty froggy back then, I guess. ๐Ÿ™‚ I looked through my writing files and I have three WIPs.

  120. Dara

    So, I've technically written one book…but that was at age 12. And it was 177 pages mostly handwritten!

    Over the second half of my life, I've started five others, two which made it past the first three chapters and one which was 75% done. All of the ideas I hope to revisit someday (including the novel written at 12). My current one I'm desperately hoping I'm able to finish.

    How is it I was able to actually finish a novel at 12 and not be able do it at almost 25? ๐Ÿ˜›

  121. SM Blooding

    Looooooved the options under rhetorical question. *snort* That was just funny.

  122. J.J. Bennett


    I'm not surprised in the least. I'll tell you why too. It's all about you Nathan. You're honest, helpful, and pretty good looking too. Women find that appealing… If you didn't go the extra mile, were full of yourself, and looking like a Basset Hound. I'd don't think you'd be as popular. You've gotta know that. You're in sales…

  123. Marilyn Peake

    Congratulations, Hannah! Iโ€™ve been waiting for your novel to be published because it sounded so fascinating. When I saw your announcement here today, I immediately ordered a copy of BREAK. I wish you all the best with it! May you sell many copies!

  124. Laura Martone

    I love you, Marilyn! You're so supportive of everyone here… even buying Hannah's book! It makes me feel warm and fuzzy whenever you comment.

  125. Jade

    Wow Nathan, you're really pulling in the chicks!

  126. Marilyn Peake

    Thank you so much, Laura! You just made my day!

  127. Anonymous

    Obviously Nathan, you are a chick magnet. ๐Ÿ™‚

  128. Beckony

    Yes! one of the three percent under 18! (actually, I can't believe there are that many).

  129. Clarity

    Comprehensive, thank you – makes one think about one's progression. I did smirk at the nit-picking though; writers do get a grip please, it's a poll.

    If in need of a breather, try Bill Hicks:

    around the 5:20 mark provides a polling joke.

  130. Anonymous

    Hey, I'd still adore Nathan if he looked like a Basset Hound – cuz hounds are adorable! With those wubbly droopy ears and cheeks and those soulful eyes …. awwwwww.

    Pardon me while I try to give you belly rubs, Nathan… who's a good boy? Who's a good boy? YOU'RE a good boy!

  131. Etiquette Bitch

    Nathan, thanks for these polls. I always look forward to your posts.

  132. Mike

    Boy Nathan, I think you opened a can of worms on this one. You might need to hire a body guard or change your name.

  133. Remus Shepherd

    Another option you might put up is, "Have any short stories published?" Someone like me might have published shorts, but no agent for our novels yet.

    Then again, maybe your lack of interest disproves the common wisdom that shorts help attract agents and publishers for a novel.

  134. Heidi C. Vlach

    Interesting stuff! I feel so normal now.

    Don't know about anyone else, but I'm glad to see that handful of under-nineteen blog followers. There'd probably be a lot more so-called prodigies if more young writers got helpful guidance.

  135. Douglas Brown

    72 % unagented… If only someone reading this could do something about such a high number. What do you say, Nathan, how does never sleeping again sound?

  136. J.J. Bennett

    anon 3:44

    LOL… Well there are a few out there who are dog lovers!

  137. Marilyn Peake

    Just now finished reading all the comments. Hereโ€™s my story, a somewhat convoluted one …

    Iโ€™ve written seven novels plus lots of short stories, edited several books and had several lines published in Book: The Sequel.

    I wrote four novels, including one through Writerโ€™s Digest Advanced Writing Workshops, before finding any sort of publication. My third and fourth novels were represented for a while by an agent who was later listed as "not recommended" by Writerโ€™s Digest. She seemed nice enough but I chose her before information about agents was so readily available on the Internet as it is today and before Writerโ€™s Digest listed her as "not recommended". She never sold my novels because, as it turned out, she had no relationship with publishing houses. Sigh. Giving up perhaps prematurely on trying to find an agent because I had no idea how to find a good one, I later had my fourth novel and two more novels in its trilogy e-published. From there, I had short stories published in six anthologies, edited and compiled two books of articles about acting and writing, and edited several books by another author. To my complete delight, Iโ€™ve now won quite a few awards and was referred to a top Hollywood agent whoโ€™s available only through referral. I was thrilled when he read most of my work, told me he thoroughly enjoyed it but was looking for a very particular type of project and would love to hear from me about my future projects. In the meantime, Iโ€™ve completed my seventh novel, am in the final revision stage, know much more about how to find a good literary agent, and am really hoping to find a good literary agent to represent it. Iโ€™m crossing my fingers that my seventh novel will be the one that finds an agent and gets into bookstores. ๐Ÿ™‚

  138. Jo Ann

    Dear Chick Magnet,
    Does the gender poll answer reflect your everyday life?????? lol

    I'm with Michele Lee: Published, Unagented, seeking agent Again.

    And if you think searching for an agent the first time feels horrible, try doing it the second time. Yikes!

    Why didn't the goggle account identity work?

  139. Christine H

    Hey Laura ~ I am totally with you on "this is my first book AND the first one I want to get published."

    I've been working on it for two and half years now. I'm on the third draft, but have made so many major changes along the way that it's probably more like Version 12.8 or something like that.

    I don't want this to be my practice novel. Practice drafts, yes, but what the heck would I do this for if I expected it to be worthless in the end?

  140. BronzeWord

    I'm curious.

    How many of us read the last questions a couple of times before "getting" it?

    Me: 3

    So I'm dense. sue me.

  141. BronzeWord

    Dear Chick Magnet,
    Does the gender poll answer reflect your everyday life?????? lol

    I'm with Michele Lee: Published, Unagented, seeking agent Again.

    And if you think searching for an agent the first time feels horrible, try doing it the second time. Yikes!

  142. Linda Godfrey

    Marilyn, seven is the magic number!

    Nathan, those who wrote mentioning finding their own publisher reminded me of something I wanted to ask. Say a person succeeds at selling a novel directly to a publisher but still wants an agent to handle the contract. Is it crazy to then re-submit that sold novel to an agent that earlier turned it down, if the author still feels that particular agent is Miss/Mr./Ms./Mrs./Sahib/Doctor Right?

  143. J.J. Bennett

    (hehehe)…Now it's 78% women. (I still can't believe you didn't already know this Nathan. Too funny…

    I still wonder what the genres are for those women. I'd bet if you took a look at the market women writers are on the rise. (That would be interesting to check out as well.) It might give you an edge that other agents don't have…

  144. Marilyn Peake

    Thanks, Linda! Crossing my fingers that's true. ๐Ÿ™‚

  145. J.J. Bennett

    It could be a draw back to all us "women" out here. It might serve us well to query agents who have less of a draw…I don't know?

  146. Jen C

    I prefer to think of myself as pre-agented, because I haven't actually queried yet.

  147. StrugglingToMakeIt

    Great poll. Dawn, I am also in that publishing-contract-but-no-agent-hoping-the-WIP-will-grab-me-one boat.

  148. Karen Schwabach

    We're all working on manuscripts, right?

    I'm another published-but-agentless type. My writing teacher always said it was just as hard to get an agent as a publisher… actually, it's harder.

    The age breakdown is interesting. It seems skewed a little younger than the blogosphere. Or maybe just my perception of the blogosphere is skewed.

  149. Martha W.

    pre-agented? ooohhh… I love that one! That's so my new line…

    Thanks for the survey, Nathan!

  150. Jil

    What about Life Experience background? Seems that would be more valuable than college?

  151. karen wester newton

    I'm actually surprised that it's only 72% unagented, because after all, Nathan, you ARE an agent. I would expect most folks who followed your blog to do so because they're looking for an agent, and you provide a lot of info on how to do that.

    On the other hand, I have an agent, and I follow your blog because it's entertaining and informative about lots of aspect of the book publishing biz. So, I guess I really shouldn't be surprised at all!

  152. Nathan Bransford


    Yeah, I think most agents would feel that was appropriate.

  153. D. Michael Olive

    Have you ever wondered why people begin queries with retorical questions? :o)

  154. M. K. Clarke

    Boo and hiss to those who Bronx salute rhetorical questions! *g*

    I'm a third through one WIP an MG, gotta reasarch more for my YA and am going to LOVE that one's revisions, since I'll have to add more to it than I've got down now, yippee!!! The Angel of Mercy moved in for revisions–in the form of FINALLYgetting access to a law enforcement guy to talk to me!!!

    Neat survey, Nathan, thanks. If you think I've got a thing for hair, when I update my pic, wait until you see mine :).

  155. D. Michael Olive

    So F.P would not call Harper Lee a successful writer since she only wrote one novel. correct?

  156. Empress Awesome

    Wow… a lot of unagented readers, Nathan. Help a sista out!

  157. Niveau

    Wow. There are a lot of females reading this blog so far. Huh. It must be Nathan's hair…

    Oh, it's totally the hair. In fact, if he were to use a picture with the hair blowing in the wind, there'd probably be even more of us. Okay, the friendly and honest advice may help a teeeeensy bit, but it's mainly the hair.

  158. Ink


    I have a semi-serious question: how much is query reading and requesting partials like reading flap copy in a bookstore and deciding on books to read? Having a bookstore myself, I'm endlessly reading jacket copy. Some things look sort of shaky, some things look good but not for me, some things look like something I might read but I realize I probably won't, some things look like things I will read but I don't know when, and some things I'll want to start reading on the spot.

    It's not very analytical. Pretty instinctive, as I guess it is for most people. So it makes me wonder if that's the initial sorting mechanism for editors and agents, too? Does much market analysis come in then, or is that later if you start considering more seriously?

    I'm a pretty eclectic reader, and yet reading so much jacket copy I realize just how selective I really am. And this is among books that have already been published (and thus generally very good books). I think my selectivism would be even stronger amidst queries.

    Just been pondering…

  159. Nathan Bransford


    I think the biggest difference is that the author writes the query but not usually the jacket copy.

  160. Victoria

    I'm surprised by some of the results… not that so many unagented writers are reading this blog, but that so many of them have so few written books.

    I suppose I thought if they were all up to the agent search part, they'd have a couple of 'best-left-under-the-bed's' already notched in their belt.

    I'm also surprised by the high amount of female to male readers.

    Nathan, how do these statistics reflect publishing norms in general? I mean, are more females writing these days?

  161. Victoria

    Whoops. That will teach me for not reading through the comments before I added my own… didn't intend to come in on an existing debate about the point of writing multiple works.


  162. virg_nelson

    Gotta back up the other epublished writers… as recently contracted epublished writer, I clicked "published" cheerfully and did not even notice that you had bunched it up with self-published. As we clear a paycheck for our work and as our work is novel length (90,000+words in my case) I guess when I glanced through the options and I saw the published or self-published, well, I had not paid to be published so I knew which one I was. It was not until I read the comments that I had to shoot to the top in frustration.
    As we have to query, get rejected, edit, write synopsis (no… not in that order)and for all of the above go through the publishing process, how is our work of less substance? How can you one week discuss the wonders of Kindle and the next bash the authors writing that media? We write, we edit, we submit, we get paid. We are not self-published.
    *steps gingerly from soapbox*

  163. Ebony McKenna.

    You've got a huge female Gen X following.

    Ferris Bueller would be proud.

  164. Jack Roberts, Annabelle's scribe

    Wow! I feel like a strange oddball. So many of you are female and I'm male. I mean, it doesn't matter but I never realized the contrast was so big.

    Its great clicking the finished a novel button and the 90% finished WIP button. If I can just wrap up book 2…

    Thanks for this poll, Nathan. It's fun to see these things.

  165. Jack Roberts, Annabelle's scribe

    "No, it's much more of an even male/female mix. Although I will say, not to stereotype by gender or anything, but a lot more of the really "out there" queries tend to come from men, who I'm guessing aren't reading agent blogs in the same numbers as women."

    But thankfully not all of us guys miss these blogs. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  166. Lyra

    Hannah, Congratulations! That's fantastic.
    Marilyn, Seventh time is a charm.
    I think there is a certain logic to the stats. Many women don't have the luxury of time until they get into their late thirties, and then when they carve out that time to write it's very exciting. When you're excited about something you want to share it, so search out the next step in the process. This leads to agents blogs. Victoria, I think stumbling on to something so informative keeps the dream alive even if we haven't a few full manuscripts that are under the bed. It's not necessarily the information though that keeps people returning to this blog, at least not for me. I can get the information, but Nathan is so entertaining and generous in humoring all of the different opinions and commentary and that's why perhaps not ready for an agent, we'd follow it nonetheless. At least that's why I do.
    Oh, and just to avoid any unintentional debate, I understand that some people will make the time under any circumstances. That follows the line of thinking that some people have to write, they can't survive without it. What I am possibly suggesting that there is an entire world out there who really don't have the luxuries we presumably have, even the less fortunate of us.
    And Ink, I think that's a great point. When I am in a bookstore, it takes very, very little time for me to decide if a book is for me. The jacket copy decides it (along with the cover to a minor degree. Certain types of books have certain covers as we all know). When I read that all I could think was if I expect someone to give my query a shot, should I therefore look a little more deeply before I reject a book for purchase? Seems to be the right thing to do, all things being equal. Thanks making me think about that.

  167. Anonymous

    After seeing the survey results, all I can say is the Ladies Love Cool Nathan.

  168. Brad Mohr

    I had no idea, even from reading comments, that the blog readership was so female-dominated.

    Hello ladies ๐Ÿ˜‰

  169. sharonedge

    I'm with LJ (Anonymous). I've often felt that my short work just didn't count. In addition to stories and articles, I've published over a hundred poems. When I was nominated for a Pushcart, there was noone I could tell. And when I told a friend that I was interviewed for Poet's Market, she said, "We all have to start somewhere."

    All this doesn't make me want an agent and a contract any less.

  170. Literary Cowgirl

    Laura Martone,
    I am completely with you. I started my novel when I was 17,after meeting my major crush,Daniel Richler (I'm over it now, as far as my husband is concerned). Anyway,I decided I'd write a novel, and started contemplating ideas. A few days later I heard voices in my head. It was a conversation and I wrote it down. That part still exists in my ms, so does the very general framework, but as I grew up, I wrote and rewrote. I'm still rewriting, but now I am 32 which is slightly older than my 27 year-old protag, and with a lot of life experience to add. My practice has been in rewrite after rewrite, and all the other things that I have worked at on the side. I am beyond sentimentally attached. Do I have have other ideas and things I am working on? Yes. My first published book won't even be that one, because, (you guessed it), I'm still working on it, though I am actually nearing completion right now. And, if it gets rejected all over the place, I'll pull my red pen back out. Keep going Laura.

  171. Jay

    As others have said, I'm extremely surprised by the men to women ratio. WOW! I've actually never even MET a woman who's written or writing a book (other than at workshops, writer's groups, etc), but I've met plenty of men. Hmmm….

  172. britmandelo

    This makes me feel like a cheater. Because technically, yes, I've written 7 novels and 4 of them are published–but those 4 novels were all contracted romance work under a pen name. That I started hating on book #2.

    So I pretend those don't exist when it comes to my career. I'm a fantasy author, and in that field, I've written 3. Two were terrible, but this one isn't.

  173. Ink

    Thanks, Nathan.

    Part of the reason I asked is because I've been wondering a bit about overthinking queries lately. The writers who are interested in finding information go around, tracking all the blogs, picking up all the tips, cross the t's and dot the i's, check off each element that's needed. And yet maybe forgetting to tell a story…

    So I got back to thinking about jacket copy, that very immediate sort of reaction I get when picking up a book. Yes, I want to read it. No, I don't want to read it. Trying to create that sense of intrigue… and so a query is just sort of like a story in miniature. Beginning (hook), middle (complications and rising action) and end (conclusion, or at least a hint of such).

    But, if agents are thinking market analysis first, how it fits, etc., then maybe it won't be as big a deal. But I was thinking maybe it's not so different than what I do – a quick and subjective filter looking for that quick yes feeling.

    Okay, it's late and I'm blabbering.

  174. Laurel

    Go, Laura!

    I absolutely agree that your first novel can be "the one". In fact, this particular phenomenon is closely related to the one-hit-wonder. Sometimes it is the story that captures a writer's heart, not the craft. Dedication to the story keeps the author chiseling away, sometimes for years and years, at the same story because they know the story is good but the craftsmanship could be better. Tolkein much?

    Some of the books I've most enjoyed have been first works. A Time To Kill is my favorite Grisham novel and it was his first, although it was the third to be published.

    And how many times have you read a body of work and come back to the first as the one you love the most? I bet it was the one the author enjoyed writing the most, as well.

    The pay-your-dues, blood-sweat-and-tears school of thought has its place but it doesn't recognize the distinction between writers and storytellers. Some of the very best writers can't tell a story that resonates. Some kind of bad writers can. And sometimes, the right story makes a storyteller into a writer.

  175. Bane of Anubis

    Jay, I think the difference is that men frequently talk of writing books, whereas women actually write them ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Laura, Cowgirl, I envy your passion for your pieces. I never have (and imagine I never will) come close to that level of dedication for a piece of writing. Sure, I've become attached, but I can part ways easily enough (and, no, it's not b/c of my wandering Y chromosome :)… In some ways, I know it's good that I can get up and move on, but I admire your perseveration and wish you (and everyone else equally impassioned) all the best.

  176. Ink

    I also just read Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, so I've been thinking a lot about first impressions. So I was wondering what agents key on first. The genre facts, the bio, or is that all skipped and it's straight to the story to see if it resonates?

    In agent for a day I found myself skipping over the intro paragraph if there was one… if I liked the story bit I'd look at it again more closely. I suppose the connection I'm trying to make is between the first impression (and central interest) of the agent and how I might reflect that in the structure of a query.

    Okay, jabbering again. Sorry. (Should recommend Blink to everybody while I'm at it. Very good stuff_

  177. Bane of Anubis

    Bryan, great point (and I'll second the recommend on the book) — perhaps that's why we should begin w/ the story (if we don't have a personal connection) and hope it instantly grabs the agent (instead of the 'I'm seeking rep…' sort of thing) — that whole hook thingamabob…

    But I'm tired of queries. I say, naff off you little plonkers, you're driving me mad as a box of frogs.

  178. Catherine Hughes

    This reminds me that I did have a textbook for Law students published – first in CD Rom format (writing teh search index was a pian) and then as a paperback. But I was contracted to write it so I've never really felt that it counted.

    I'm stunned that my age group (30-39) is currently the most represented amongst the blog readership. I thought I would be one of the oldies!

  179. Other Lisa

    Hannah, many congratulations! And…10-20 novels? And you aren't even 20?!

    I want to know how to do that. I mean, it's too late for me to do it by the age of 20, but…

  180. hannah

    Wow, thanks everyone! And yep, I just finished the first draft of book number 13 a few days ago. Four or five of them are okay, the rest are total and complete crap. But we plow on!

    I finished the first just after I turned fourteen. It is pretty damn awful.

  181. Mira

    Bryan, I have a comment about the query. This is what I think: trust your gut instincts as a writer. Write the query that you'd want to receive.

    The other thing: write it once, get feedback, re-write and then let it go. So many people re-work the query until their voice is lost.

    Btw, I thought you were hilarious in your comment about men/women above. You're so funny sometimes. If people haven't gone to Ink's blog and read his piece on Walmart, I hope they do. It's the funniest thing I've read in awhile.

    Re. the gender imbalance, who could argue that Nathan has good hair? Nonetheless, I've noticed he relates as well with men on the blog as he does with women, so I really think the hair issue is just an added bonus.

    I've also noticed the same basic gender breakdown on other agent's blogs, and although some of them have very nice hair, they are not….um, good looking men. Well, they are not men at all. So, Nathan's idea that more women come to blogs, because more women are willing to ask for 'directions', is…well, I agree.

    And congrats to both Hannah on her book, and Marilyn on finishing her next one! Good luck to both of you.

  182. Literary Cowgirl

    Bane, thank you so much. It isn't like I really have a choice with the story. It won't shut up. Believe me, I've tried ignoring it. It is learning to behave better for me, though.

    And Hannah, congrats! Also, thanks for reminding me, I worte a gawd awful chapter book in grade four about a family lost at sea. I guess tat sounded really exotic to a young girl from the prairies. My favourite writer was published very young, and he went on to be a Canadian literary icon. With your determination, I imagine you will see huge success in your life. Way to go!

  183. Mira

    Let's try that again.

    Absolutely, Marilyn. You work so hard; you really deserve it. I'm definitely crossing my fingers for you.

    Nathan, I just made a joke about how I'd still want you for my agent even if you lost all your hair, but I realized I wasn't sure how you'd take that….I guess my point is that it's nice that Nathan is good looking, but it really does sort of…..Well, it looks flattering on the surface, and I realize that people are mostly joking….or maybe they just want to talk about his good looks….but honestly, I just don't think it's the big draw. I see many good looking people on blogs who do not draw a readership of over a thousand. I think his charm, competence, work ethic and clear moral center are what draws people, both men and women. The outside is just a bonus.

    That's what I think, anyway.

  184. Literary Cowgirl

    Mira, I just thought he must be a farm boy. They seem to have that sort of appeal.

    And, maybe we best not speculate any further on the attraction of the blog, as Nathan is a married man and we wouldn't want his wife to limit his blog time.

    Actually, I believe that studies have shown that women are better at interactive communication than men, and this blog has a very strong community of people who comment, which may be part of it. I think Nathan has done a great job to promote that community, too. But, I suspect there are more male lurkers than female ones.

  185. Mira

    Literary Cowgirl – good points all around.

  186. Fay

    Nice survey (: The distribution didn't really suprise me except the ages section.

    I thought there was more young people hanging around than that.

    Now I feel like a kid.

  187. Masonian

    I thought, "Hey, a survey! I can learn a little about the people who read this blog from it."
    Turns out the comments were just as, if not more informative! Fun!
    Now for my rhetorical question query: … psyche!
    (one manuscript done, two more WIP at 50% and shrinking every day, and one more at *shrug*.)

  188. Ann Victor

    Ha ha! Briefly delurking to say these polls are FUN!

  189. Courtney

    from the looks of it you are going to get a whole load of queries from books written by women in their thirties…any time now.

  190. marye.ulrich

    One of the reasons I keep coming back to your blog is you make me laugh–even with a poll! Didn't know that was possible.

    ie. Every choice about rhetorical questions reflected your viewpoint. Not very scientific, but if you keep pounding it in our heads maybe we'll get it.(Another effective teaching technique.)

  191. Anonymous

    Hmmm… Is it me or are writers just a bit over sensative? If I'm not mistaken, this was supposed to be a "fun" poll meant to give a small insight as to what's happening in the publishing world. It's not a scientific poll, people! If your "category" wasn't listed, get over it and move on.

    Thank you Nathan for taking time out of your busy schedule to create this poll. I, for one, enjoyed being part of it (not that it really matters in the scheme of things).

  192. moonduster

    I have to admit, of my two novels in progress, neither are even close to finished. I have finished many children's stories though. I seem to have a knack for them, which is either because they are shorter and thus don't take as long to write or because I am a mom of seven kids who give me inspiration.

    But the novels are the stories I am more passionate about and need to get down to the work of writing them.

  193. Rick Daley

    These polls were a great idea Nathan.

  194. Christine H

    I would think that the reason Nathan doesn't get as many actual queries from women is that he doesn't represent the types of fiction that most women write.

    I also think that he probably gets more "out there" queries because he's made himself very accessible.

  195. Becky Mushko

    Some of the questions can have more than one answer.

    For example, "Where are you in the publishing process?" I'm unagented, I've self-published a couple of niche-market books, and I have a book under contract with a small publisher for publication in 2010.

    "For those working on a manuscript, how far are you?" I have one complete and one WIP that's 25% done.

  196. Christine H

    Not to stir up the old debate here, but I have an observation about the whole "writing lots of books before looking for agenting advice" thing. Perhaps this will explain to certain posters why people like me are doing what we are doing – i.e. looking for lots of advice while working on our first (or nearly first) manuscript.

    I am almost 39. I have been writing stories since I was a kid, and attempted a couple of novels before this one. My English teachers always told me I was very talented.

    But, I also have technical skills and stopped writing in order to pursue an M.S., get a job in a technical field (clinical research), get married, stay married, and have child with medical issues. My life has been hectic, to say the least.

    But now I am teaching part-time and finding that the lid on Pandora's box won't stay shut any more. I have to pursue my dream or die.

    But I am writing in isolation. I know no one else who writes, I am not hanging around literary types, I teach math and statistics all day, and I married a guy who doesn't even like to read. So the Internet is my only connection with other writers and with the publishing world.

    As well, EVERY SINGLE article, speaker or author about writing says that you have to write what agents want. The very first person I ever heard talk about writing was from some tapes my mom brought back from a writer's conference she attended, and he said that you shouldn't write ANYTHING at all until you've sold the proposal. Otherwise, it's a waste of your time. "Don't write for free," he said.

    I found out since then that although this may be true for non-fiction, it is not true for fiction. But, taking his advice, I did craft a proposal for a novel and submit it to a publisher. It was rejected, but she took enough time to send me a letter explaining her reasons and asking for more things from me in the future. That encouraged me to try to find out more and to keep writing.

    So here I am… and that's why.

  197. Christine H

    to sum up:
    1. I need advice
    2. I'm not as young as I used to be
    3. The Internet is my only connection to the writing world.

  198. Kia

    The male-female ratio is really interesting. I thought there was roughly an even split.

    > Nathan
    I love that you describe the discussion as 'fraught'. I frequent Guardian's Comment is Free and the commenters there usually rip each other (and the writers) to pieces so this place is wonderful in comparison. (Though having said that, I don't know what the deleted comments said.)

    > Ink
    You're the Ink/Bryan that commented on my blog and tried to make me feel better about my book cover, right? Hi! (Sorry, I don't know why I felt such a rush of affectionate recognition – I blame the virtual age).


  199. Christine H

    Oh, and, like Laura, I really love THIS book and THESE characters, and want them to have a fair chance at getting published.

    (As well as justifying all the time I've spent on this to my spouse.)

  200. kyred

    Interesting poll. Also interesting comments. I notice that a lot of people are surprised that so many have so few completed manuscripts, so I just thought I'd add my two cents worth. I myself checked the "started, haven't finished." I have written at least three other manuscripts which were trashed upon completion, so I don't count those. Also I have had poetry published, but never my own anthology, and I really have no desire now to pursue that, so I don't count it either. There are undoubtedly others like me.

    Additionally, I would guess that a lot of "new" writers will not stick with the process, since there apparently is no immediate gratification in this business.

    Besides there is a ton of great information on this blog, so I would imagine that people with any level of experience would find it interesting.

  201. Ink

    Lol, Kia, yes, 'tis I. Maybe I should be like the Santa Claus of Blogland, diving down virtual chimneys to offer presents of good cheer…

    Of course, I'd probably be struck down by anti-viral software or something.

  202. Ink

    Christine H,

    Nicely put.

  203. Christine H

    Thanks, Ink!

    Regarding "sticking with the process," my past attempts at novels were so bad that I realized they weren't worth the effort of completing. It was a question of how to use my limited creative time effectively.

    This one is actually good enough to "stick with", and I've had professional feedback to support that conclusion.

  204. sex scenes at starbucks

    I wrote my first book the summer I turned 13. It's Outsidersesque and it's probably about 30,000 words (hand written on notebook paper). But it was mine and it was FINISHED. So I proved to myself I could finish early. I looked back at it a couple of years ago and while most of it, of course, is utter crap, there are inklings of the writer-that-would-be. Every now and then I thought, that really isn't awful.

    I think it's important we love and respect all of our work, even our crappy starts and stops. I learned to look for the "moments," the bits of genius in each piece of art when I was painting. Now it's tough for me to read someone's work without finding that golden bit that shines.

  205. Christine

    Wow. Lots of women following you! =)

  206. Anonymous

    Published, yes.
    Published again? No.
    Agented? No.
    Frustrated? Yes.

    The questions weren't quite complete.

    Thanks, Nathan.

  207. Abigail Rieley

    My first (non fiction) book was published at the end of last year. Since then I've got an agent to handle my first novel which I'm currently editing furiously – so I'm kind of in two seperate categories here.
    Fascinating to see the statistics. I've been reading this blog long before I had a publisher and the advice has been so helpful at every stage.

  208. Diana

    Um, Nathan, I'm a small press publisher. While I am also a writer, I read your blog to see what the big boys are up to. *smile*

    And I write short stories, I haven't tried writing a novel … yet. *smile*

  209. Victor M. Powell

    I'm new to this blog, having stumbled upon it by another site, but I found this poll interesting much like others have commented. First, within the gender gap, I wonder how this breaks down in the genres. Secondly, I agree with Anon, having seen the low number of actually completed ms, I am pressed to get mine done.

    It was fun and interesting to see where people are, nonetheless. Thanks Nathan, I have enjoyed everything that you've shared.


  210. Anonymous

    Wow. An agent asks me for something, and I complete the assigned task in 3 minutes! Not bad.


  211. Mira

    Sex Scenes at Starbucks – that was really nicely said.

  212. Christine H

    I agree with Mira. Now, let's all get back to our manuscripts!

  213. Literary Cowgirl

    Christine H.,
    I may be completely wrong here, but I think that the whole write-what-agents-want is horse crap. Most writers write what they would like to read. We are all exposed to many of the same media images, movies, and cultural influences. So, why would it be inconceivable that someone else would like to read the same things we do? See where I'm going? If the story interests you enough to write it, chances are, once crafted in a skilled manner, it will be interesting enough for someone else to want to read it.

    I completely get the isolation thing. I'm livig in North Eastern, BC on a farm. My spouse hasn't read a book since I don't have a clue, and everyone here is about practical things like plowing fields, and making money in the oil patch. The internet (even if it is dial-up) saved my life.

    Two years ago I knew nothing about the book biz. I owe a lot of credit for my few accomplishments to internet communities just like this one. I even got a book deal because of a blog. Navigating it all seems daunting, but perserverance will get you everywhere.

    BTW, if you click on Reesha's picture (on the first page) it will take you to her blog and she just posted that she wants to start a critique group.

    Best of luck! And, prop the lid open. Heck, tear the lid right off!

  214. superwench83

    Crap. I didn't see the "revision" option on the one poll until after I'd already clicked on some other choice.

  215. Donna Hole

    I am unagented, and have written three novels. But I think I would still be working on only the first, except the story I'm telling is a series. So the first is completed and being queried, but the other two are in revision, and will remain so until the first actually publishes.

    So hard for me to consider anything complete until it publishes though, so maybe all three are still in revision.

    For me, this survey helps because I see how many others out there are in the same boat as I am, no matter how many completed works they have. I think it's great so many people can work on several WIP's at once and still get out there and query. I have a lot of respect for people that write one thing, and keep at it until they feel the story is told. And sold.

    I think no matter what point in our writing we are at we all take a different path to get there.

    I really liked the rhetorical question Nathan. A cool ending to the poll.
    word verif: eatheda. Eat Heda? A female member of a cannibal tribe who wrote an embarrassing query?

  216. Anonymous

    Over the years, I've seen more than a few excited blog fans read and comment and discuss their work on blogs just like this one. And then one day they drop off and disappear forever, and a new group slowly forms and the cycle repeats. Sometimes the names are ordinary, and sometimes they are unusual. And they all seem so eager and ready to get published.

    I liked this survey, but I'd be curious to read a survey about the many blog readers who have disappeared. I know that's impossible because they are gone. But it would be interesting to hear what they have to say now.

  217. Janet Ursel

    I never fit in multiple choice questions. There was no option for formerly agented, seeking new representation. I know, I know, I'm unagented, and that's what I clicked on, but lacking more substantial encouragement, I have to cling to the nuances.

  218. Nathan Bransford


    I find that interesting too. I've always wondered about the gradual turnover in commenters.

  219. kyred

    Christine H

    Well said.

  220. Laura Martone

    Oops. I meant to return earlier today. Wow! Look at all the comments. Although I'm itching to respond to everyone… I just want to say thanks to Thermocline, Christine, Marilyn, Literary Girl, Laurel, and Bane for their encouragement… something all of us "new" writers need.

    I realize that, as a first-time novelist, I often sound naive. But I'd much rather remain passionate and, to a certain degree, idealistic than become bitter after years of rejection. I have no doubt that the rejections will come (I've already gotten a few), but I believe in this novel, and I will see it published someday, one way or another. I, too, have other stories in me… it's not like I'm aiming to be a one-hit wonder, but I believe in concentrating on one story at a time, no matter what the nay-sayers say. And hope that all my new writing buddies will do the same!


    P.S. And would you believe? I am the exact mean of Nathan's commenters… unagented (or pre-agented like Jen C.), revising my first novel, female, and in my thirties. Hilarious!

    P.P.S. I have no doubt, Nathan, that while you have a core group of commenters, you'd notice a high turnover, too… and I don't think it's necessarily because writers give up and lose interest. Although writing is not an easy profession and requires blood, sweat, energy, time, dedication, and perseverance, the commenters' disappearance might just indicate that, after learning a lot from these blogs, some of them have decided to get back to writing. At least, I can hope that's what happened, but there I go being naive again. ๐Ÿ™‚

  221. Nathan Bransford

    Ha! Thanks, Sara. I should have included an option for "not a writer."

  222. Laura

    I fit right into the highest categories. Surprised by the large number of women versus men that read. Makes sense most of us reading an agent's blog would be unagented, I think.

    Regarding the last poll:
    What if this weren't a rhetorical question?


  223. Anonymous

    Would it be horribly sexist for me to suggest that the additional 53% of women writing books is due to many of them being supported by husbands?

    The answer is certainly, "yes, you're horribly sexist and should be ashamed of yourself" whilst keeping in mind that I am a woman, albeit a single, working one with children and no time to write…

    Pardon me if I remain anonymous. ๐Ÿ™‚

  224. Christine H

    The trouble with writing what agents want is that they are such tricksy, unpredictable little creatures.

    Now I know Nathan wants Book Club books.

    I heard another agent say that they wanted an African American "Lord of the Rings."

    Unfortunately, I'm not likely to write either.

  225. Dorothy

    Interesting..I'm told by teens who should know that "evil" now means good. I'm sure that was not your point. I ticked "unagented" because in terms of novels I am. On the other hand, I am a published professional in newspapers and local magazines and by one text book publisher.

  226. Genella deGrey

    I'm soooo loving the cracks about Nathan's hair! Too funny.

    When word gets out about the men to women ratio, are you gonna have to rename the bolg, "Nathan Bransford – Dating Agency?"


  227. inespi

    Hey, top 2% for number of books written!

    That's so depressing.

  228. Anonymous

    I think there might also be a few of us working in publishing reading this – I am a rights manager submitting to US editors.

  229. Jen C

    Laura said…
    I realize that, as a first-time novelist, I often sound naive. But I'd much rather remain passionate and, to a certain degree, idealistic than become bitter after years of rejection.

    Laura, I couldn't agree more. Perhaps I'm just an ever-childish Gemini, but I refuse to turn into a bitter old writer. I'd rather remain eternally optimistic and let my passion for my work shine through in a positive light.

    Anon @ 1:45 – Damn, it would be nice to be supported by someone! Alas, I am single and live alone and thus am the sole breadwinner for my family of one.

  230. Anonymous

    Oops! I clicked "50%-75% completed" on the one about how far along I am in my manuscript…THEN I saw the "revising" choice. Too late! I *am* technically revising; I'm just totally rewriting it (for the 3rd time now…), and about 50%-75% along in that seemingly-endless project.

    SF Writer
    To God be the glory

    (Age 18, unagented but hoping to get one, with probably 10 or more books under my belt – most of them no good – and affirming that rhetorical questions are EVIL!!)

  231. Anonymous

    Oops! Sorry about the double comment!

    SF Writer

  232. s.w. vaughn

    Why are only 2 percent of us in the 10 to 20 books written category? And how many besides me are in that range, and yet only got to check the "have a contract, book isn't out yet" option?

    Sigh. I'm pathetic…

  233. Anonymous

    Thinking about Literary Cowgirl and others, the surroundings you describe sound really exotic to a reader here in leafy England! It sounds as though- like many writers here – you are sitting right in the middle of a literary goldmine. Keep on over the next couple of thousand words, the world is waiting.

  234. bryngreenwood

    Is it a little pathetic that I got a cheap thrill being able to click "agented"?

  235. Lauri Shaw

    There should have been another option: "Published but as yet un-agented." Some small presses still accept submissions without requiring they be agented. Very few, I might add, but it happens.

    I clicked "published," by the way, because I have a short story in the anthology Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys, which made the cover of last Sunday's New York Times book review. I'm really proud to be a part of this book.

    However, it's a short story, not a full ms, so I honestly wasn't sure what to click in your poll. ๐Ÿ™‚

  236. Christine H.

    Anonymous, you *are* sexist! But, it's also true.. for me, anyways.

    I didn't start writing in earnest until after I became a SAHM, and now I work part-time.

    Keep the dream alive! Your time will come. I don't know how old your children are, but I know it's gotten easier for me as the years go by.

  237. Awriter

    That was easy, and fun. I'm part of a minority! In the age stuff at least.

    I'm editing book number ten right now. It's the only one good enough to even try and put out there(although it's in close contest with number nine), some of the others are just aweful, stuff that I wrote back when I was like eight-ten,good plots, but the writing his horrible. hmm it might be fore it to rewrite them.

    Anyways that was fun, thanks Nathan.

  238. Broadway Mouth Blog

    It's so funny to read your comments about opening queries with rhetorical questions. When I was teaching, I refused to let my students do it. Many of them had gotten into the habit from other teachers, so I did what I could to stop them.

  239. Anonymous


    The on-line writing sites I belong to are populated by large groups of people who insist that it takes a 100+ rejections on average before a writer snags an agent. This seems high to me (and was not my experience). So, we need a poll and you seem like the man to do it! How many lickโ€™s does it take to get to the center of the tootsie pop?

  240. Literary Cowgirl

    Anon 6:57, thank you. I'd like to think that where I live is very unique and would be of interest to thers (especially as frontier disapear). If Proulx could open Wyommig up like she has, maybe I can bring some attention to the North Peace Country, a place that millions of tourists pass through and admire out their window on the way to Alaska, but few ever stop to discover.

    Lauri, congrats! That's great news. I've been meaning to get caught up on Servicing the Pole. I'll have to take a trip over soon.

    And, the only thing I found sexist about the debated statement is the part about the husbands supporting the wives. I'm a stay-at-home, and I support my husband. I support him by raising his children, washing his clothes, making his lunches for him, doing his banking, driving his elderly mother around. If I didn't do all of these things, he wouldn't be able to do the work he does. And, I gave up rodeo and a fairly exciting life to do it, not that I don't love evrey minute with my kids (who says you have to hate your job?).

  241. Seidel

    This proves what I've suspected from other polls: men don't 'take' polls.


  242. Mira

    I'm so disappointed. On that last question, I was really pulling for Affirmative. But it's been several days, and I think we can call the race. Shoot.

    Darn that Unquestionably. It totally took advantage being the first one. So unfair. I shake my fist at you Unquestionably. I hope someone files a complaint.

    But what really gets me is Yes. How can Yes beat Affirmative? I mean: Yes? Yes?

    Sheesh. Yes?

    Well, that's okay Affirmative. You may be last and misunderstood, but I 'get' you. You're a winner in my book.

  243. D.R. Howell

    it was a fun survey, though the final question was very confusing and ambiguous haha.

    Its good to see I am not completely alone on this from judging on the results.

  244. Anonymous

    I am a minority. I have written three books (working on forth) and I am in my fifties. I am in the majority: female, unagented.

    word verification: wingsabi
    (I wonder does that mean I have a wing and a prayer? or would that be one wing and one great Indian sidekick while I go traipsing through the wild west of the publishing wilderness trying to shepherd in a heroic tale or be a gain a mythic following for my unknown masked men?)

  245. Gypsy K

    I feel so…young now D:


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Hi, Iโ€™m Nathan.ย Iโ€™m the author ofย How to Write a Novelย and theย Jacob Wonderbarย series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and Iโ€™m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams.ย Let me help you with your book!

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