Monday, February 14, 2011

Rejection Rate: Take 3

It's that time of month again: lucky 13th has come and gone (today's the 14th, you very smart readers, I know, but better late than never). And here are my rejection stats and advice for the month.

This month has been a little more productive than last month. While I didn't request many more partials based on the query alone (okay, actually I requested 1% more this month than last month), I did request more partials based on the first 20 or 50 pages. I read 3 full manuscripts (2 more than last month), but signed only one client.

So, of approximately 600 queries since December, I've signed one author. To put that into perspective, you have a 29% chance of getting pages requested based on your query. A 12% chance of getting more pages requested based on the initial sample. And a .167% chance of being signed.

Things that will significantly increase your chances? Based mostly on bios of people I request and reject, those who have worked with editors, participate in critique groups, and attend conferences, are much more likely to have more pages requested. Why is this? Because they've worked on their craft longer. If not longer, than they have been using the right tools.

Put it this way: two people are building a house. One man is building it based on the other houses on the street, from what's he's observed. The other man took classes, bought the right tools. Which house is going to be sturdier? Last longer? Be more visually pleasing? The man who took classes, right? Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. There might be one man in a million that can build that house with no prior experience and you can't tell the difference between him and the professional. For your sake however, don't consider yourself the exception. More often than not, you are the rule.

This month, I've noticed a change in how I read things. Maybe I'm becoming a "real agent"? Haha, let's hope so. Last month, I think I was looking at a good five pages of a partial before giving it the boot. Giving it a real chance. I don't have the time anymore. More often than not, I don't get past two paragraphs. Sometimes, I actually stop at the first line. When people tell you how important that first line is, they aren't joking. First line, first five pages, first fifty, first one hundred, the whole book. Open your ms, what's happened in the first page? What's happened by the first fifty?

That's my advice this month. It's short, it's bitter-sweet, but maybe it will help. Have a writer/editor friend read your manuscript and give you constructive criticism (or pay for it; this route is invaluable if you find a good editor because they are an unbiased party). Examine your ms at specific points- first sentence, first paragraph, first page, first five pages, first twenty, first fifty. What's happening at each of these points? If nothing has happened by page five, you might have too much back story. You might be starting in the wrong place. If nothing has happened by page fifty (has the main character's life been altered by this point?) then the beginning is too slow.

Happy writing!


Matthew MacNish said...

I think that makes plenty of sense. The analogy and the reality.

Reina M. Williams said...

Thanks for this post. As an unpublished writer, I don't spend more than a couple sentences on bio in my queries...certainly I don't mention crit groups, classes, etc. If I write I am an active member in RWA, would you assume some level of training?
Also, good reminder to have something happening. I just judged 2 contests and noticed a lot of info dumping instead of story. Of course, it's much easier to see this in other people's work. ;)

Bkloss said...

Very helpful insight! My feet have now sufficiently turned from cold to freezing. ;)

Question for you: at what point to you request a writer's bio? Or should I state i attend workshops/conferences in the Query?

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Thanks for sharing your numbers with us, Vickie. I always appreciate it when agents blog or tweet about where they're at and what they've seen.

Anxiously awaiting your response to my first 125 pages... :)

Shallee said...

I love getting an agent's perspective on things to pay attention to when querying and writing. Thanks for sharing why those first pages are so important. It's familiar advice, but it's nice to see the numbers and reasons that back it up.

Stina said...

I have a question based on something you wrote here, Vickie.

In my old query, I mentioned that I have attended the annual SCBWI conferences for the past four years. I thought that showed how serious I am about the craft. Someone (not an agent) told me to delete it. Is this important information to include?

Thanks. :)

ChristaCarol Jones said...

Great analogy! And these stats are always valuable, thanks for taking the time to post them. Happy day-late Valentine's!