Sunday, March 13, 2011

Rejection Rate

Lucky 13th day again! Time to report my stats of query letter rejection. For those of you who are new, every month I report how many query letters I've rejected for that month, and offer a few words of advice/observations for the month.

This month, I rejected 82% of queries, a huge difference my previous 70%. Don't be too discouraged, a good number of these queries were completely the wrong genre for me, not a reflection of query quality. This number is good for showing how many people don't do their agent research or haven't perfected their queries yet.

Perhaps a better number to look at is how many partial manuscripts I've rejected, and how many I've requested. This number shows you how many people's manuscripts aren't ready when they query (for a number of reasons, but that's an entirely separate post--and book). This month, I also saw a huge difference in my numbers. 95% of partials were rejected, which means I only requested additional pages from 5%.

Discouraged? The beauty of this business is that there is always room to learn, and there are always people wanting to teach. As an agent, I get discouraged sometimes too, always wanting to find that ms that I will dream about, can't stop talking about. Remember all the books you probably read in a year; how many of those books will you talk about nonstop weeks after reading? That's what I'm looking for--that ms I'll LOVE.

Don't think the query business will pan out for you? It can, if you keep at it and learn from failure. I signed one author this month who I found just that way--through queries. I signed another this month, and I found her--or she found me--at the San Fransisco conference. So, to up your odds, query and attend conferences. You'll learn a lot both ways.

So now, things I've thought about/ learned/ realized this month:

My eyes sort of glaze over when I see "vampires" in the query. I think it's dried up in the YA world, but I'll consider it for adult Paranormal or Urban Fantasy. Make it original. Make it sparkle (but not in an Edward Cullen's fairy sort of way).

That said, don't start your query telling me how different or awesome or how sick I am of seeing vampire queries. Present your query. It should speak for itself.(This goes for everything else. You don't need to spell out why your book is needed in today's climate. We're agents--it's our jobs to know these things.)

Be clear if the book you are querying is self published already. In which case, the only thing we care about are numbers, no matter how awesome your query is. Because that's all publishers care about. General rule of thumb, if book sales aren't at least 5,000 in the first 6 months, neither agents nor publishers will look at it. And if it's older than 6 months (without spectacular sales), it's old news. (Very general rule of thumb, and it varies depending on who you talk to.)

Sign your name, not just your initials. It's all well and good if you want the name displayed on your book to be your initials (it works, just look at JK Rowling), but when signing your query letter, please use your first name. I like to know who to address it to. I'd feel awkward composing an email as "Dear JK."

I seem to be getting a lot of queries for superhero novels lately. Whatever the reason for the sudden influx, and whatever the age group, I don't represent superhero novels. To me, they belong in movies, comic books, and graphic novels. Leave the novels to the sparkly vampires. (Not saying it won't pan out for you, there are people out there who will like it--love it, sign it, buy it, give you lots of money for it--you'd just really, really, really have to sell me on it.)

I'd like to know a little about you, gentle readers. On this Lucky 13th day, what good things have happened to you this month? This can range from selling a book, getting represented, getting a partial requested, attending a cool workshop, finishing a page, getting inspiration from a walk--anything really.

Happy writing!


Lynn(e) Schmidt said...

good things that have happened:
1) this blog post was very enlightening
2) i started a 20 day project (trying to write a novel in twenty days). i have three days left, and am SOOO close to hitting my mark
3) my sister came back to live with me (and also got a promotion).
4) i may get to attend PWNA!!!!!!!


Becky Wallace said...

You want to know something about me? Really? dog hasn't had an "accident" since yesterday, I ate an obscene amount of Easter candy, and I got a request for a full. I think that qualifies as goodness!

Bkloss said...

Thanks for the helpful blog posts! I always learn a lot from you.

Lucky 13 for me...
Found the perfect critique partner &
Got 2 partial requests this month! Eek!

Here's to a lucky rest of the month :) (fingers crossed)

Laura Howard said...

This month, I've made some huge strides with my writing coach, the fabulous Erin Reel. It's awesome how much a little support boosts your confidence!

Heidi W said...

Thank you for the helpful information! How do you track your stats? Would you ever be willing to post the numbers instead of the percentages?

I am celebrating finishing a rough draft and first rewrite this month. Yay! I love this part of writing a novel.

Kristine Asselin said...

Lucky things for me?

I signed with a lovely agent who pulled my query out of her slush pile. Or maybe it wasn't so much luck, but good timing combined with the right story at the right time. :)

But rubbing that lucky penny every day didn't hurt, right?

Thanks, Vickie!

Wes said...

Lucky things for me:

1) Had a lovely weekend at the beach, opening my aunt's beach house for the season.

2) Started a writer's blog, and won the first round of a very small writing competition with it.

3) My B-day is tomorrow (lucky 31...?) and my wife's is on Thursday. Birthday week is always a good week!

4) Started my next writing project while I work on querying for the first one.

All in all, March has been a great month so far for me. And congrats to Kristine on getting signed! That's awesome!

Christine Danek said...

This post was inspiring. I plan to query later this year.
Good things that are happening. I started my second novel. Things are going well, so far.
I'm still revising the first, but I am happy that the first round of revisions is almost finished.

Unknown said...

My lucky 13? By the end of this month I will finish the complete re-write of my manuscript, which I began last August. Once this is done, I plan to move into another refinement edit, which I'm hoping to keep to a six week timeframe.

All-in-all, I'm just excited to be nearing the point at which I can begin to conceive the notion of calling the epic world of my "Dark Spiritual Fantasy" complete.

Thanks for asking. Thanks for posting.

Holly Hill said...

It has been a lucky month for me writing-wise. I've gotten 4 full requests and 1 partial request on my MS. And I've started a new project that I'm very excited about.

Here's hoping for a lucky end to the month as well. :)

Katie Kelly said...

February was a good month for me. I started querying one of my YA projects and have both a partial and full out. And, I started a new romance/ chick lit project that I'm super excited about.

Hopefully the luck of the the irish will be with me this month!

Lori M. Lee said...

Good news? Hm.. just started querying (again, queried too soon last time). So far, three partials and three fulls have been requested. I'm afraid to hope too much lol

J. Koyanagi said...

Many wonderful things have happened in my life this month, but I think the best one was hearing that one of my dearest friends (*cough*Carol*cough*) signed with an agent! ;) Congrats to both of you.

HowLynnTime said...

Thanks for your great blog and honest opinion. It is so nice to have your input on this fun crazy path!
I have a vampire - He's not the main but he's vital to the overall story. (nothing like a shot up foot - self inflicted)

Good things this month...

Going to my first writer's conference and I am so excited.

Got to chat with a couple agents who have gone out of their way to be helpful and kind.

One is taking a look - despite the vampy character. Good or bad will get some direct feedback.

I started 3 other books (no-vamps) and each is near the half done- ugly truck stage. Won't have time to put chicken lights on it before the conference but who knows who I will meet there - that may take a peak later.

Book 4 of my big mess is clicking - I have had to re-route it twice now but - it's finally moving again.(learned alot about not giving my darlings easy outs - the lazy little things will step right up and out think me - doing nothing if I let them)

Got some help with my pooch-smooching query - 30-40 more re-writes and it will still have a vampire - and be unloved - LOL

Got a few rejections - that is a positive thing because it means I found more of the stuff that isn't going to be my road (narrows the eventual yes to closer than it was) And frankly - gives me a list of people I would query again vs. those who seem too busy or plain overwhelmed.

Had some fun with my blog and doubled my folowers(# not a biggie - but I am not talking to myself, which is positive - grin) - met a ton of people I enjoy talking with who also like to explore this silly business.

Two friends Sold something - one found agent, and two more are out on submission ---- I get to share their news and be excited that it can happen. It is a fun little boost to know for a fact that the process to publication actually works for real people. Each has a unique journey - but it isn't a myth at the end of an unmarked trail.

Thats my good stuff for the month - Happy Trails!

Creepy Query Girl said...

Just got a new idea for a book after a two month writing slump and I'm feeling excited!

Heather said...

Congratulations on signing with your new clients! Yay! I agree that conferences are well worth a writer's time. I've learned so much by attending them. As for great things happening to me this month, I get to celebrate my friend signing with a fabulous agent. ;)

Jonathon Arntson said...

This month has been lucky for those around me. I love watching my friends succeed, especially after watching them struggle.

I have had a slight epiphany: I need to start focusing on myself a little more each day, and I too can have my lucky month.

Thanks for the excellent post.

Anonymous said...

Well, I found my long lost necklace from the Santa Fe Indian Market--in my freezer.

The daffies are pushing up and the snow has melted.

And there is lots of positive energy in the air with the successes I'm reading about in this blog. Yay writers and agents!

Sarah said...

Aw, what a sad little Stormie! I think he needs a cupcake.

Hmmmm... good things.... I've made some progress on my Mysterious Other Novel and cleaned up a morbid little novelette I'm thinking of self-publishing. Plus, I've seen my blog readership go up and I got my office space organized! I wish I had something more exciting to share, like, "I created a vaccine for hiccups," but one thing at a time.

Unknown said...

Your stormtrooper is hysterical! This blog makes me happy.

I've been fighting the query wars with my friend and critique partner, E.M. Lord - and her YA project was just selected as a top 15 finalist in a contest! We've both felt pretty encouraged lately. It's a lot more fun, going in to battle together.

The best thing that happened to me this month - I've fallen head-over-heels in love with my current project to the point that, when I got a query rejection yesterday (for a different project), I didn't care at all - just pushed it aside so I wouldn't lose my rhythm. It took me a couple of hours to realize it was pretty cool feeling.

Trisha said...

Hi, I am a new follower - found you via the Sharp Pen/Dull Sword blog :) I'm definitely going to check back through your other rejection rates posts to familiarise myself.

Anyway, to answer your question - I am revisions (will be my third draft when I'm done) and my aim has been to chop MANY words, and I'm succeeding, and also rewriting scenes so that I'm much happier with them. So I'm pretty excited/satisfied with that. I'm also participating in a short story-writing project called the Chrysalis Experiment that runs all year, and so I'm writing something new every week. It's been great so far!

Alexis Bass said...

Very informative! I'm excited today because I just signed up for PNWA - look forward to seeing you there!

Julie said...

First off, THANK YOU for your blog! I stumbled across it whilst in the middle of yet another dreary search for an agent to represent... it was a pleasant surprise! This post, in particular, was engaging, witty and enlightening! Some of the agents I have dealt with in the past (and by "dealt with" I mean, of course, "rejected by") simply leave you wandering aimlessly after submission, wondering quietly what in the world you did wrong. And while a generic blog post is--admittedly--a far cry from a personalized response, I appreciated it all the same. I should also add that you might possibly have made a blog stalker out of me!

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