Two things I really wanted to be true in 2018 are what I had hoped for at the end of 2017 – to blog more and to not let the bastards get me down. And, well, I think I let them get me. I remain optimistic for 2019, but I’m going in cautiously and knowing how to use my time better, even if it means saying no more (something I forgot how to do in 2018).
I’m ending 2018 the way I like ending every year (well, at least since 2011) – letting writers take a peak behind the query curtain. My “Year in Queries” posts are always met with dread and fascination, but my hope is always to de-mystify the process while offering encouragement. So, let’s get to it!
As always, my annual reminder:
- I read and respond to every query I receive *except* these:
- Pre-queries (emails writers sent to ask if they can query).
- Not addressed to me. (This includes “Dear Sir/Madam” as well as addressed to completely different agents.)
- Sent as an attachment.
- Mass queries.
- Non-Queries. Sometimes I get emails about published books (small press & self-pub) and I don’t know if it’s a query or a press release. Specify why you want an agent if your book is already published. Nine times out of ten, you probably need a publicist, not an agent, with these “queries.”
In those 5 categories, I received 364 queries.
This year I decided to take a brief query break in August. While closed, I received 80 queries (which were deleted unread).
Finally, in addition to those 444 queries that did not follow the rules, I received 174 queries in genres/markets I do not represent. I still answer these, so they’re included in the total stats. I’m also not the *most* strict about these (sub-genres are tricky, after all). For “do not rep” I only use what I specifically list as “no” in my bio. These include:
- Nonfiction (including memoir)
- Picture Books/Chapter Books
- Inspirational/spiritual novels
- Category romance and/or erotica
OK – now for the fun stuff! Let’s talk about the thousands (yes, thousands) of you who followed the rules and queried me with awesome manuscripts in genres I absolutely represent!
Keep in mind, this post refers to queries only – aka, “the slush pile,” aka, “unsolicited submissions.” This does *not* include queries I received as referrals, requests from conferences or online contests, or previous R&Rs (Revise & Resubmit).
January: Total: 824; Requests: 6
*This figure is almost double of what I received in January 2017. I ended up receiving significantly more queries in February and March than last year too. I’m not sure why, but whoa did this set the tone for my shiny new, and longer, response time in 2018! Thank you for your patience, writers!
February: Total: 635; Requests: 6
March: Total: 476; Requests: 2
April: Total: 419; Requests: 2
May: Total: 397; Requests: 6
June: Total: 282; Requests: 2
July: Total: 322; Requests: 1
August: CLOSED (deleted 80 queries)
September: Total: 476; Requests: 6
October: Total: 337; Requests: 3
November: Total: 319; Requests: 4
December: Total: 224; Requests: 6
Total Queries in 2018: 4,791
Total Requests from Queries: 44
Total R&Rs Requested in 2018: 16
Most Requested Genres:
- Horror (Adult, YA, & MG). My taste in horror is on the literary, character-driven side, meaning more atmospheric/creepy than high-octane slashers (though I’d be open to those too). I love a good haunted house, forbidden parts of town, unique mythologies/local legends that turn out to be true, and an ensemble cast!
- Contemporary/Realistic (Adult & YA). More often than not, I requested stories that focused on women and girls finding their voice/purpose in a bad situation. While I wasn’t exclusive to female characters, I should also mention that of these requests, these characters were not always white or straight (and usually neither). I hope to find even more intersectionality in my 2019 queries.
What I Wish I Saw More:
- Upper MG (think ages 11-13) in all genres. Like with my Adult & YA taste, I lean toward character-driven stories, but I need a page-turning plot no matter what.
- Humor! Especially in YA, but I want humor EVERYWHERE. Even if you’re writing the most depressing grimdark dystopian nightmare imaginable, surely one of your characters will crack a joke to relieve tension, right? Don’t forget that characters are people. People are funny. People try to be funny. People find absurdity in unexpected places. Put that on the page.
- More rom-coms like Set It Up and Crazy Rich Asians. (YA or Adult.) I don’t do capital-r Romance, so if your book gets too hot & heavy, you should probably query my fearless leader & Romance expert, Laura Bradford instead. But I still love a good Austen-esque enemies to lovers relationship with complex protagonists who are intellectual equals and have goals outside of the romance itself. Massive bonus points for diverse casts and/or LGBTQ protagonists.
Total New Clients Signed in 2018: 4 – Sierra Godfrey (WF); Sarah Janian (MG sci-fi); Rimma Ojougboh (YA literary); Natalya Lobanova (Adult/Illustrated)
Now, let’s put those stats into perspective!
In 2018 (minus December), I received 4,791 queries. But keep in mind, of those queries, 618 of them did not follow the rules. A more realistic figure of how many queries I received is, therefore, 4,173.
It cannot be overstated how grateful I am to the 4,000+ of you (!) who put in the time, effort, and professionalism necessary to query. It’s often impossible to personally respond to each query (hence, form rejections), let alone take on more than a few new clients per year. But you are seen and appreciated.
It also can’t be overstated that agents want you to succeed! Rejections aren’t personal. You’ve probably seen this often enough in form rejections, and maybe it sounds trite at this point, but another agent really will have a different perspective on your query. What’s true for me might not be true for someone else, and the workload I can or can’t handle in a given month might be just what another agent has been hoping to add to their own list. Don’t give up, no matter what our stats tell you.
And with that… Goodbye, 2018! Here’s to what’s next.
4 thoughts on “2018: A Year in Queries”
Although the stats are depressing, the overall numbers also make me feel better about my many rejections. I am not alone!
As a writer who is also a high school math teacher, I LOVE this numerical breakdown. (It’s also both informative and slightly depressing for those of us hoping to get published one day!)
I LOVE this post each year. Having run a literary charity for going on five years now, I definitely see where those limited request percentages come in. We see hate mail from writers rejected for not following submissions guidelines and it blows my mind how some seem to believe they’re “above” respecting a recipient by tailoring their submission. Thank you so much for putting this post together and for your response to every query. It helps put things in perspective for some and provides proof of the importance of paying attention for others.