Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Year end stats

I've been looking over my submissions list this week to see what I did (or didn't do!) in 2015.

Here's a rundown:

My general sense is I get about 100 queries a week.
That's 5200 queries a year.

In 2014 I requested 75 projects (both fiction and non-fiction)
In 2015 I requested 63 projects (both fiction and non-fiction)
I've still got six pending, so those will carry over into 2016, although they'll retain their 2015 number so I know to read them before starting on 2016-01.

From 2013-2015 I still have four people working on requested revisions.

In 2014 5 projects were withdrawn before I'd read them.
In 2015 3 projects were withdrawn before I'd read them.

In 2015 I signed four new clients:
2 were for fiction projects
2 were for non-fiction projects

3 came to me from incoming queries.
1 came from a referral from a friend of mine and fellow writer of his.

One of those four was familiar because he'd won one of the writing contests on the blog. Yes, I keep track of those writers.

I sold about 25 projects in 2015, although looking at Publisher's Marketplace you would not know that. A lot of the deals won't be announced until closer to publication date.  And I sold one book three times so only one deal actually got announced.

And that doesn't count the deals we were offered and turned down. For a while this year I was laughing that I'd turned down more deals than I'd taken, but that stopped being funny right about March!


So what does this mean for you: This is a numbers game. Don't query one agent at a time, no matter what.  Don't take rejection as anything other than your cue to send out another query to a new agent. You have NO idea why I didn't take on your project. Don't try to parse it out; don't think it's cause you're not a good writer.

Notice that one of the two fiction projects was from a writing contest winner? Yea, me too. And the other was a referral from a friend who knew the writer.  Yes, it helps if I know you. Or at least it did this year.

I've signed and sold people from my query inbox that didn't have the advantage of a referral or a contest win. It's still the most common way all agents find new clients. BUT it doesn't hurt to have a leg up. So if you're nervous about entering a contest, think of it as a good way to get ahead of the other query writers.  It sure can't hurt.

Any questions?


47 comments:

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

When do you sleep?
How did you find the time to paint?
Do you shower?
Who cuts your hair?
Do you believe kale is evil?

Lucie Witt said...

I love these year end posts. Anyone else who finds the numbers interesting, Sarah LaPolla posted a similar roundup yesterday.

"From 2013-2015 I still have four people working on requested revisions."

So this means at least one person is still working on revisions going back to 2013? This potentially makes me feel better about the R&R I've been working on since September.

Enjoyed the note about the former contest winner. As a reader, I remember those winners, too! It definitely puts them on my radar in a different way.

Just Jan said...

How (or why) do you sell one book three times? Do publishers back out? And do they have to pay a penalty if they do?

Lisa Bodenheim said...

"Sold one book three time" does that mean it was an auction?

And I'm curious as to why people withdraw when you've requested. Do they say why? Is it because all of a sudden, after a conference or reading a craft book, they felt their writing was not up to par?

An excellent reminder of what a long, glacial process this is. And how very dedicated an agent can be.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...


Congratulations on selling 25 projects. That's fantastic.

I want to thank you for the inspiration your blog brings... "don't think it's cause you're not a good writer." It reminds me of a quote from Oscar Wilde "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."

Like Lucie, I feel better about the seemingly endless revisions. If an agent likes what I've written I'm aware more revisions will be necessary.

BJ Muntain said...

Very cool. Thanks for this insight into what an agent does, Janet!

Out of 5200 queries, 63 of them requests (with 6 more pending), you signed 4.

I know that getting published doesn't entail only writing a masterpiece. You have to get it on the right desk (or in the right inbox) at the right time. And to do that, you have to query, query, query.

One of my goals for this week is to send out a bunch more queries. This just gave me a push to make that goal.

Thanks!

Kitty said...

Any questions?

Yes: "I sold one book three times" ??? AND, will we learn the name of the client who won the flash fiction contest?

BJ Muntain said...

Lisa: Sometimes a writer will withdraw a manuscript simply because they've signed with another agent.

I don't know how a book gets sold 3 times, though.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I second Caroly(nn)'s awe- when do you sleep, Janet? This is really great information.

And how do you sell a book 3 times? And which contest winner did you sign? Hey Reiders, you can tell us.

And like Lucie, I also feel better about my R&R- working on it since November- and thought I would be so done by now. Silly of me, really. My book is so much better for this extra shot of revisions. Some of that, however, is due to what I have learned here, and yes, from entering those flash fiction contests. I owe you guys. And Janet, I can't thank you enough for all the time you spend on us woodland creatures.

DLM said...

Seems to me selling a book is like selling a house - there is the verbal agreement, and then there is the contract. I've known home contracts that fell through more than once, so I can see how the same could occur with a book sale.

WAY TO GO, y'all who are plugging away and R&R'ing and generally kicking asps and taking names. There's no way to say it without sounding a bit like "Beaches": You inspire me.

Dave Rudden said...

Did you get my package yet?
Have you lived anywhere besides New York?
Do you want to be a paperback writer?
Why is the sky blue?
How do you feel about Brussels Sprouts?

Dena Pawling said...


Congratulations on the four new clients, selling 25 projects, being up-to-date on queries thru 12/16, and only having six pending projects! You've been busy, but we already knew that.

My guess for selling a book three times is you sold English, other languages/countries, audio, film, and/or other rights for the same book. Congrats on that too!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

BJ: Hadn't thought of that. So...not all authors give other agents a week's notice when they receive an offer of representation.

Amanda Capper said...

I feel like such a slouch. When do you read just to read?

I'm going to have to give up Dateline.

S.P. Bowers said...

I had assumed selling one book three times was selling it to a publisher, then selling other rights such as foreign or film. After reading earlier comments now I'm not so sure.

I always love the roundup posts. I like seeing how it works for agents.

Susan Bonifant said...

Yes, I have a question. Where is the graphic that goes with

"Any questions?"

Panda in Chief said...

I was going to suggest selling a book 3 times had to do with foreign sales and other rights as well, but someone beat me to it.
I love the year end statistics. I can't decide if it gives me hope or sends me into a tailspin of dispair.

Actually, it always makes me think of what they said to us just before we aspiring painters graduated with our shiney new BFA's: maybe one percent of you will go on to graduate school, and of those, one percent will still be painting 10 years from now. Of those, less than 10% will ever make a living from your artwork. This January marks the 28th year I have been supporting myself soley with my painting. Even soul sucking odds can'r get in the way of sheer stubborn determination.

Keep querying.

Panda in Chief said...

That was "can't" damn keyboard!

And yes, Kale is evil.

Susan said...

I love seeing year-end roundups--congratulations on all your successes this year, Janet!

I think being an agent would drive me batty. I like clean slates, and those lingering submissions that carry over into the new year (never mind the four outstanding projects you have) would feel like a cloud looming over me that I feel compelled to finish.

When I was working in finance, one of my roles was sales administration for our international services team. This included keeping track of their pipelines, doing market research and write-ups for them, and following-up to make sure they had all their numbers and paperwork in. In order for the income to count towards their sales goals, everything had to be tracked and compiled by the end of the year, which meant keeping after them on a quarterly basis to make sure they were submitting everything. They were brilliant at sales, but loathed paperwork, so I was pretty much a sales wrangler, without the chaps.

For my own sanity, I started doing monthly summaries:

"Hi Sales Guy, Hope you had a good 4th of July! Below is a list of paperwork that's still outstanding. Please get everything to me by the end of the month so we can count them towards your goal."

That turned into weekly follow-ups:

"Sales Guy, Happy Thanksgiving. We need the following paperwork by the end of the week if you want it to count for this year."

Which turned into daily threats:

"SG: SEND IN YOUR PAPERWORK NOW OR YOU GET NO MONEY.

Two of our sales guys were well over 6ft tall. I'm...very much not. Clearly, my threats didn't work, but I think it amused them enough to listen. I miss them.

I can only imagine how I would be if there were outstanding books I wanted to read:

"Dear Writer: SEND ME YOUR WORDS NOW OR YOU GET NO REPPY!

Which would defeat the purpose of everything and be horrible for all.

Which is why I'll stick to writing.

Donnaeve said...

I think selling three times means what Dena said.

I love stats. WordPress compiles stats at the end of the year for blogs which are always interesting, but also makes me aware of the drop in the bucket syndrome.

I'm also keen to know who the contest winner was that you signed! I looked at your current client list - and didn't necessarily remember seeing any of them as an FF winter - so, I'm wondering if that list is all inclusive - or- do you only list the clients whose work you've sold?

Donnaeve said...

E.M. and others working on R&R's...I have a writer friend who received an R&R from one of the BIG FIVE YA editors - almost three years ago. She's still working on it far as I know. I'd almost be afraid the longer I took the more they'd think I couldn't 1)follow critique suggestions, 2)received representation elsewhere or 3)simply blew the chance b/c really - how long should an R&R take?

On the other hand, maybe they'd view it like the writer didn't rush it.

I wonder (I do wonder a lot don't I?) if there is a sort of timeline to it. A Goldilocks method - not too fast, not too slow, but getting it back to the agent/editor in just the right time.

CynthiaMc said...

Congratulations, Janet. That's quite a year.

My son's old Tai Chi instructor posted something called 12 Daily Requirements. I'm adopting #11 as my theme "You only fail if you quit."

Beth said...

4 new clients out of 5200 queries. Woof. This is a powerful reminder to keep querying.

Thank you for this reminder:

"Don't take rejection as anything other than your cue to send out another query to a new agent. You have NO idea why I didn't take on your project. Don't try to parse it out; don't think it's cause you're not a good writer."

These words mean more to me today than you could know.

I'll join the others in asking how you sold one project three times. I'm very curious about this!

DLM said...

See, y'all make me want to power through and get this "published author" thing done - if only so you'll feel like "Well, I kind of know her, so I have to buy her book." I will do it for you, of course! With great enthusiasm.

Gossamer the Editor Cat will thank you all for the kibble, if you do buy my work. But he won't necessarily lurk over you to make sure you actually *read* it ...

Just sayin'.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Panda, paint me impressed. And yes, kale is evil and one of the top causes of reeking noxious gases in the galaxy. Corpses stink less than kale fueled flatuence. I have been stuck on Carkoon for too long now.

And Donna, I have daily panic about how long my R&R should take. I have considered simply withdrawing my work for the time being so the agent isn't stuck waiting for me. On the other hand, looking at Janet's list, I doubt there is any waiting going on. Just some kind of tick mark next to my name that an R&R was requested. The things we fret about...

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Thanks for this.

Re the people who withdrew:

They got notes on a R&R and wanted to finish revising before any other agents read the old version.--Been there done that.

They got an offer.--Been there done that.

They said screw it and stopped writing, withdrawing all their work.--Been there done that. In my case, it was to the two agents who actually did rep me, though.

The agent was taking forever and further research showed this and non-communication were very bad habits the agent had slipped into.--Been there done that.

The agent said something on social media that let me know this wasn't a person I wanted to work with. IE the remark about trailer park trash and the agent who demanded anyone who belonged to a certain political party stop following them and never contact them. Me being trailer park trash, I saved said agent my presence.

Some agents, according to their own words, get up to 500 queries a week. 50-100 seems to be what most agents say. That should drill home why it's so important to have the best query possible and follow all the instructions.

One agent maintains a very low profile and sales announcements are almost non-existent although I know they've been made. You really need a road map to find the agent.

"One of those four was familiar because he'd won one of the writing contests on the blog. Yes, I keep track of those writers."

Now I just need to win a contest so Janet will recognize me when I query her!

Look at the numbers of requests. That works out to 1.21153% requested. She signed .07692% of the people who queried her. If that doesn't say query widely, I don't know what does.

I thought I had a healthy number of queries out in the wild blue until I checked my spreadsheet last night and realized many were past the expiration date. (Probably declined via the no response means no interest policy.)

Time to query again. Yay!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Excuse me, Julie M. Weathers...so Janet will recognize you when you submit a query? As if she (or any of us Reiders) wouldn't recognize your voice. Ha!

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Congratulations on your sales, and your new clients! And I feel kind of sad when people talk about how intimidated they are about entering the contests here (And elsewhere, I assume). I wish they'd just go for it! The community here is great, and it's fairly low risk. I mean, as much "low risk" as putting any of your writing is. Sometimes it's like opening a vein, I guess. But nobody's going to write a snooty diatribe about how the other entries weren't worth the webspace, you just don't find that here (thankfully).

(Julie, I'm pretty sure Janet'd recognize you, flash win or not!)

Though the 2 part statistics class was the bane of my Psychology degree seeking self, I do like looking at/hearing about stats like these. It's another piece of this sprawling publishing puzzle that some of us are into, or getting into. I might have this corner figured out, and a single middle piece.

I'll do a blog post on this topic, as it's interesting and relevant, ish. I'm not at my laptop, so I don't recall precisely how many queries I sent out. Not many, 18 or 20? 2 full requests. 2 personal rejections. 1 full I'm still waiting on, many queries still pending.

And...damn, the Submission Grinder doesn't let me sort by year. If I just counted right, I sent out 73 short story submissions (many repeats, I don't have 73 "good enough" complete short stories). Of those, I've had 20 personal rejections, 6 stories still pending, 1 of which is in the "final round of considerations", as the editor-in-chief of the magazine informed me at the beginning of the month.

No acceptances yet this year, but there's two days left, right?

Lucie Witt said...

Donnaeve - timelines for R&Rs have to be so wildly different. Mine, for example, is basically rewriting 2/3 + of the book because at 20k mark my MC took one road and should have taken another (worth noting I only went ahead with RR because I completely agreed with said editor and it was a major light bulb moment). Mine is going to take significant time because soooooooo much new writing. I imagine many RR are way less intense and take less time.

LynnRodz said...

Great year, Janet, but you did know when you wrote this post that everyone was going to wonder who you signed from the FF contest. We are a curious bunch.

I agree, you can sell a book a number of times besides to a publisher: foreign rights, film rights, TV rights, audio rights, etc.

Cynthia, I like your son's T'ai Chi instructor's #11. I made a similar comment awhile back, the difference between published and unpublished writers is, the published ones didn't quit. It all comes back to not giving up.

Lisa, I can think of a reasons why a project was withdrawn before a notice was given to other agents. Perhaps a writer received an offer from his/her dream agent and didn't hesitate to sign or give the others a heads up.

Steve Forti said...

@Jennifer - just click on "My Dashboard" and it will show you your stats by year.

B. Cameron said...

Thank you for this, it gives a great perspective on just how the queries thing works. I, like others, am amazed at how much you read through, a huge amount of time I'm sure.

I was curious about the deals you turned down. What kinds of things are deal breakers? And did that book get a better deal? How do you decide? I'd be chewing my fingernails past the quick.:)

Joseph Snoe said...

Three new clients out of 5200 queries. And only one novelist. That's truly disheartening to fledgling novelists. At least it is to one.

Christina Seine said...

This was great information. It really reinforces the idea that yes, your manuscript has to be in tip-top, spit-shined, perfectly polished shape, but also, PERSEVERE. If your book is good, the right agent is out there; you may just need to do a little work to find them. To me, that's just damn inspirational.

Kitty said...

CynthiaMc, my husband and children took karate (Washin-Ryu), and my husband wore a t-shirt with the Japanese proverb: fall seven times, stand up eight.

CynthiaMc said...

I love that.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Ha, and I had my Ns taken away and up pop's a WIR regarding numbers and stuff. I'm taking my Ns back. Sticking tongue out, raspberries.

John Frain said...

I'm rubbing my hands in delight at these numbers. Such fun. I'm going to limit myself to one question, and I'm thankful others have asked so many already.

How many clients do you represent that you have not sold (yet)?

Also, I'm curious about the withdrawn manuscripts, and wondering how many of them eventually came back. But notice I'm not putting that in the form of a question, so I'm not breaking my self-imposed rule.

Congratulations on what looks to my eyes like an outstanding year. Clearly, it's incredibly hard work and you put in the hours for it, but it sure sounds exhilarating at the same time. Looking forward to more fun with numbers since there's another day before the end of the year!

Kate Larkindale said...

Those numbers are fascinating. I am in awe of the work you do... How do you find time to keep up with this blog? Or are you super-human and don't require sleep like us mortals?

Anyway, congratulations on a stellar year! More of the same for 2016!

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...


Panda, I love your illustrations... I remember that talk. In ten years only one of you will continue sculpting or whatever creative field you've chosen to waste your student loans on. Janet's stats are similar to what those professors said. How many people plan to write professionally, to make it their career? This explains also why an agent might not sign someone over forty. From forty to fifty is when most people are at their creative climax. Then there are those market trends we fret over. At least manuscripts don't take much shelf space, unless you print everything.

Timothy Lowe said...

This business is fascinating. I'm in love. It's nice to have something you're in love with, to complement all the people you've been lucky to love. Here's to 2016 and to everyone bettering all their stats, whatever that means to each involved.

kdjames.com said...

Whoa, this is daunting as hell. Both in terms of the amount of work/reading you do and the statistical improbability of getting an offer of representation from you (or any agent, I guess). Good info to know, though.

In the category of Things I Am NOT Obsessing Over (and might never need to know) But Just Find Interesting: I'm curious about what sorts of things cause you to turn down an offer. I mean, I can guess that it's money and terms or some combination of the two, but it would be interesting to hear any details you might be willing/able to share.

And I'm looking at the sidebar of client names and can't quite narrow it down to four who are the new ones. I keep coming up with five, or maybe six, with unfamiliar names. It'd be interesting to know which four and what genres they write. HUGE congratulations to whoever they are.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

@Steve: thanks! I was doing the "hover and pick from the drop down", and so couldn't find it.

I was close. Subbed 74, not 73.


And yeah, the numbers are daunting. But.....anything that anybody achieves is pretty much a confluence of "what are the odds" style events, n'est-ce pas? Even being in the right place at the right time is just as unlikely as persevering until you claw your way to success. And if you don't try, and don't keep trying, you can't succeed. Not "don't". Can't.

xnye said...

Ah, but when do you know your ready for a contest? Some folks are really bad sore losers.
Is there a maximum number of clients that are manageable? Do you limit yourself?

Megan V said...

Yikes! The numbers burn my eyes!

What a busy year. Amazed at the work you(and other agents do).

As others have said, those numbers are daunting. And now please excuse me while I vanish into a writing cave filled with consolation chocolates. All fellow writers welcome.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

I've been going through my query spreadsheet and checking agents against comments in QueryTracker. Queried 3/14, full requested 6/14, Closed no reply 6/15 is just depressing. I closed one partial request after seven months and a nudge with still no reply.

That being said, something very perverse in me makes me want to send off a query today so I can say in a couple of days an agent has had my query a year. For those not familiar with Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds, all registered horses become a year older on January 1. If a foal is born on December 30, they are a yearling two days later. I don't think queries work quite the same way.

Eve Messenger said...

I'm launching boldly into 2016 armed with this advice. Thank you, Janet Reid.

"Don't take rejection as anything other than your cue to send out another query to a new agent. You have NO idea why I didn't take on your project. Don't try to parse it out; don't think it's cause you're not a good writer."