2012: A Year in Queries

This will be my last post of 2012, so let me take the opportunity to say THANK YOU. Seriously. Thank you all for reading and helping this blog continue for another year! I’ll be back in 2013 with more of your brilliant stories to share and more posts about writing, pop culture, and pictures of corgis.

Last year, I decided to choose three months at random to do an average of the queries I received in 2011. This year I did inventory of every month, cutting December off on the 21st because that’s when the office closed for the holidays. (Though, as of today I have 20 queries in my inbox, including two that were sent on Christmas Day. I’ll answer those in January.)

So, because writers love stats (right?), I present… my year in queries!

Note: These stats were compiled from ONLY emailed, unsolicited queries. Or, as the kids call it, the slush pile. Requests I had made at conferences, from blog/Twitter contests, and referrals were not counted among the following totals. Requested revisions for manuscripts I had read in 2011 were also not counted since they fall under solicited submissions. I receive maybe ten queries a year via regular mail, so I didn’t count those either. (Thank you, writers who follow directions and send their queries via email!)

Second Note: I answer every query I receive with the exception of the following (which were also not counted in the totals):

– If the query was addressed to more than one person.
Mass queries only show that a writer has put no thought into who they want representing their work or, in a best-case scenario, is trying to take an easy way out. If you want writing to be your career, take the time to care about it.

– Pre-queries (emails from writers who ask if they can query me.)
I don’t answer these because they are pointless and unprofessional. The query itself determines whether I’ll be interested in reading your book. Asking me if you can ask me to read your book is redundant, so I don’t bother answering. Just query me.

– Query sent as an attachment with nothing in the body of the email.
Do you open unsolicited attachments from complete strangers? Neither do agents.

– Queries not addressed to me.
These could often be an innocent mistake, but if you address me by a different agent’s name, I’m going to assume you meant to query them, not me.

– Unsure whether a self-pubbed author was querying their novel, or if they were just promoting their self-pubbed book.

OK, on to the stats!

Queries Received: 430
Manuscripts Requested: 12
Genres Requested: Contemporary YA (4); YA Mystery (1); YA Fantasy (1); Adult Literary Supernatural/Dark Fairytale (2); Adult Literary Fiction (2); Adult Sci-Fi (1)

Queries Received: 388
Manuscripts Requested: 14
Genres Requested: YA Fantasy (3); Adult Fantasy (1); YA Mystery (1); YA Sci-fi (1); Adult Magican Realism (1); YA Magical Realism (1); YA gothic (1); MG magical realism (1); Adult Dark Mystery (1)

Queries Received: 373
Manuscripts Requested: 4
Genres Requested: YA steampunk (1); YA magical realism; YA paranormal (1); Adult literary fiction (1)

Queries Received: 346
Manuscripts Requested: 5
Genres Requested: YA dark fantasy (1); YA contemporary (2); Adult literary fiction (1); Adult commercial fiction (1)

Queries Received: 344
Manuscripts Requested: 6
Genres Requested: Adult literary fiction (1); YA fantasy (2); YA contemp. (2); Adult sci-fi mystery (1)

Queries Received: 339
Manuscripts Requested: 4
Genres Requested: Adult Dark Fantasy (1); Adult Memoir (1); YA sci-fi (1); Adult horror (1)

Queries Received: 366
Manuscripts Requested: 6
Genres Requested: YA contemporary (3); YA fairytale (1); YA horror (1); YA sci-fi (1)

Queries Received: 330
Manuscripts Requested: 5
Genres Requested: Adult Mystery (2); YA Mystery (2); YA Horror (1)

Queries Received: 298
Manuscripts Requested: 5
Genres Requested: Adult Urban Fantasy (1); Adult Sci-Fi (1); Adult Literary Mystery (2); YA Contemp. (1)

Queries Received: 300
Manuscripts Requested: 1
Genres Requested: Contemporary YA (1)

Queries Received: 248
Manuscripts Requested: 7
Genres Requested: YA thriller (1); YA fantasy (1); YA contemp. (1); Adult Literary Fiction (3); Adult Magical Realism (1)

December (1-21)
Queries Received: 152
Manuscripts Requested: 2
Genres Requested: Women’s Fiction (1); Adult Suspense (1)

Total queries received in 2012: 3,914

Total manuscripts requested from those queries: 71

Most requested genres: YA Contemporary and Adult Literary Fiction

Second most requested genres: Adult Literary Mystery/Suspense and YA Horror

Least requested genres: MG and Adult Memoir

Total clients signed from the 2012 slush pile: 2

Total clients signed in 2012: 7
(1 from Cupid’s Blind Speed Dating Contest contest; 1 from the Midwest Writer’s Conference; 1 referral; and 4 from queries, two of which were R&Rs that had carried over from 2011, but officially signed in early 2012.)

These stats can be a bit daunting for writers whose queries are currently sitting in inboxes or who haven’t yet started querying. Keep in mind that agents receive queries for genres they don’t represent, trends they can’t sell (yep, I still got my fair share of vampire and werewolf romances in 2012!), and books from writers who put no thought into whom they were querying. There are hundreds and hundreds of writers out there who have brilliant books in search for an agent, but when you see numbers that reach almost 4,000 total queries received, remember your competition may not be as fierce as it appears.

But I’ll repeat – there are hundreds and hundreds of excellent writers out there, but agents can’t have a client list that accommodates all of them. We have to reject good writers and good books all the time and trust that there are other agents with more room on their lists to give them proper attention.

To any writers getting ready to query, or re-query, this year – good luck and don’t be scared! Writers tend to ask about how to “avoid the slush pile,” but really the slush pile is just what agents call queries. It’s where we find talent. The slush pile is a crowded place, but it’s not a bad place to be. New agents depend on it to grow their own lists and established agents continue to use it to find new clients. Hope to see you there at some point in 2013… if you think I’m a good fit for you, of course.

Happy New Year, everyone!

12 thoughts on “2012: A Year in Queries

  1. Re: the lower number of queries in December – it didn’t yield a higher number of manuscripts requested. If anything, the number of manuscripts requested in Jan/Feb seems to suggest someone starting off a new year with renewed energy and enthusiasm for tackling the slush!


  2. This is extremely insightful. Knowing the ratio of requested manuscripts to queries received puts things into perspective. My query letter needs to kick the agent in the teeth to get noticed from the rest of the slush pile.


  3. Thank you so much for sharing! And after seeing the number of queries you received, reading your assurances about how many people don't do their research really helps. It's good to know how much you improve your chances by working hard.

    You don't represent my genre, but you've been a tremendous help to me this year as I've begun learning about this industry! Thanks for your great web presence and your helpful posts/Tweets!


  4. …wow.

    I didn't see last year's post (I think I just started following you early 2012) so I wasn't really expecting over 300+ queries in a month for you.

    Wow @_@ (I had to say it again)

    Happy New Years and yay for the stats post! 😀


  5. I find it interesting how the number of queries tails off in the last three months of the year (obviously realizing that December is a short month, and that January is a long month due to spillover). I wonder if this is experienced by most agents. It will also be interesting to do month-by-month comparisons over several years. Easy for me to say, of course, as I'm not the one compiling the stats. Happy New Year!


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