Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How Many Queries Does It Take To Get An Agent?

It's a trick question, because the answer is that it's different for everyone.

This afternoon (1/22/14) on Twitter, I asked authors how many queries it took to sign with their agent. Here are the results for the curious. I'll be adding to this post -- feel free to comment, if you're interested in sharing!

Thank you to everyone who replied--I think these results will be interesting for anyone currently querying. In no particular order:

#1 - 9 queries before shelving, 50+ before shelving, 5 to sign with 1st agent, 20+ for 2nd agent
#2 - 2 queries before shelving, 44 before shelving, 8 queries w/ 6 offers
#3 - 15-20 queries to sign
#4 - 70 to sign with 1st agent (2 MSs), 10 for 2nd
#5 - 4 books over 3+ years, over 300 queries in total
#6 -  82 queries to sign with 1st agent, 30 for 2nd.
#7 - 67 queries to sign with 1st agent, 17 for 2nd, and 40+ for 3rd.
#8 - 10 queries to sign
#9 - 40 queries to sign with 1st agent, 30 for 2nd, and 6 for 3rd.
#10 - 50-60 before shelving, 36 before shelving, 16 queries to sign.
#11 - 160 for 3 different projects
#12 - 85 before shelving, 12 queries to sign
#13 - 400+ for three different projects.


#14 - 90+ queries to sign
#15 - 42 queries before shelving, 20 queries for 1st agent, 1 query for 2nd

Now this is a very informal, nonscientific poll. But these results came in about 15 minutes of my initial post on twitter. And it tells me a couple of things:

You MUST have a thick skin because if you're like most, you're going to live with a significant amount of rejection. If you want an agent, you MUST persevere through this.

Only two out of thirteen signed with less than 20 queries in one process. Three had two query processes—for two different agents—with over 70+ queries for the first round, and significantly fewer for round two. Seven queried three or more times, either for different projects or for multiple agents.

Second processes took fewer queries, because we learn from it! (I know this from experience, my own process is #7, and for me this doesn't count the 50+ queries I sent for picture book projects before switching over to write YA and MG).

If you're querying, you've got to take the personal out of it. This is a business and you must realize that there are lots of different reasons why an agent would decline your work, and it's not always because the work wasn't good.

Note: all of these authors who went through this more than once, went back and revised, and tried again.

Perseverance. I think it's my word of 2014.

I also want to note that there are many reasons why authors and agents part ways, it's not something discussed much, but it's something that happens, as is evident from this poll.

FYI, I'm putting together a workshop on Querying that I'm presenting this spring in three different places.

Come back tomorrow for the cover reveal of Lisa Maxwell's SWEET UNREST!


JMD said...

Great post! Thank you for reminding us all that it takes thick skin to get published.

Now I just have to remember this in my submission process, though I don't know if I can find over 20 magazines for which my short story is suitable.

Anna Staniszewski said...

It's crazy how varied the process is for each person, but most of the time it requires A LOT of patience. My story is probably closest to #12. I shudder just thinking about it...

Whirlochre said...

The only problem with developing a thick skin is that your hands transform into cornified husks of pure rhino and you can't pick up a shovel, let alone a pen.

Maybe it's time we started cloning agents.

Robin said...

Great idea for the poll...and to point out that everyone's processes us different, but thick skin and perseverance is the key.

Cara Reinard said...

Thanks for this! This post alarmed me for a whole different reason than the number of queries.
The number of AGENTS is what threw me. So, how common is it for people to ditch agents and move on? Apparently, much more common than I thought!

Kristine Carlson Asselin said...

Cara--I don't think it's so much ditching agents. I know for most it's a huge decision to make--often it's because of a different vision. For me, it was agents leaving the industry.

laustinspace said...

This is cool, Kristine. Thanks for doing this. Very interesting informal poll. said...

Thanks for this interesting post, Kristine. My skin has become so thick that I don't even feel a pin prick when I get a rejection. I just move on. Perseverance is most certainly the road to take in this business.

Marcia said...

Hello from #12. :) Yes, perseverance is SO important. Cannot be overstated. I really admire those who go through it again to find second and third agents. I have to be honest and say how glad I am not to be querying anymore!

Kim Long said...

Thanks for this post. Of course we all know we'll be dealing with rejection, but it still gets disappointing. Always nice to hear about success stories, especially those that took a while.