letters from the query wars 8.12.2011

# of queries week ending 7.29.11: 183
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 2
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: mystery (1), YA (1)

# of queries week ending 8.5.11: 197
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

# of queries this week: 222
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

Someone responded recently to say they wished I would take submissions of 20 pages with a query instead of 5. They were otherwise just expressing an appreciation for the time I spent, and I can certainly understand the desire or hope to have an agent read more. But here’s just a little math:

So far this year, I have responded to 5,222 queries.

Presupposing everyone sent the first five pages as per the submission guidelines (which as I’ve mentioned before some percentage do not), that would mean reading 26,110 pages. If an average manuscript is 400 pages/100K long, that’s just over 65 books worth of pages.

If, as this person suggested, the amount was raised to 20 pages, the total would be 104,440 pages or 261 books worth.

I sure do love to read, but wow, that’s some escalation of scale.

9 responses to “letters from the query wars 8.12.2011

  1. You made me tired just looking at your statistics. And I complain about reading tweets. Maybe there should be an “agent medal of endurance”? I’m sure you’re not alone.

  2. If the book can’t tweak your interest in five pages, then an author’s gotta consider whether it’d tweak a buyer’s interest in the sample download, too. (Or flipping pages in the store.) With all the free and cheap independent competition added to the already fairly plentiful stuff from traditional publishers… Those first pages gotta have *hooks* in ’em, that drag the reader’s eye across the page.

  3. I don’t read 20 pages in the store, but I don’t read the first few either. If a book appeals to me, I’ll split it in the middle and read a page or three to get a feel for the author’s voice. I’ll buy it or not based on premise and a random sample.

    There’s no easy answer. As a writer, I was grateful you let me send five, and assumed that you declined because it needs more polish. Keep up the good work.

  4. The way I imagine most agents working (who ask for five pages) is that they read until they know they don’t want to represent it. I suspect most do not get to five pages. With two partial requests in three weeks, twenty pages isn’t actually going to change your reading level that much.

    I haven’t started querying yet, but I kind of like it when agents just ask for query letters. If they ask for the letter and pages and they reject, I won’t know what to fix.

  5. I agree with A.Beth. If 5 pages don’t hook an agent, those same 5 pages probably aren’t going to convince readers to buy the book. It’s just a simple fact of life.

    Thank you for posting these numbers. I was just blogging about my “great agent hunt” this year and trying to explain the incredible flood of queries/submissions that agents need to sort through. Wow. I knew it was crazy. I didn’t know it was this insane. Thank you so much for continuing to fight the good fight and searching for new talent.

  6. Pingback: The Great Literary Agent Hunt – 2011 | Slay the Writer

  7. 104,440 pages. Lets assume 1 minute a page. That’s 1740 hours. If we further assume that you somehow manage to read constantly for 8 hours a day (no weekends off), we’re looking at 217 days.

    Escalation of scale indeed.

  8. Do you always read all five of the pages though? Not that I’m advocating you read 20 pages, because I don’t think that’s reasonable. How much of those 5 pages do you read, on average?

    -Cat

  9. Wow. I have nothing particularly constructive to add, but I’m in awe of your ability to get stuff done. Also, I’m a huge fan of a couple of your authors, so you obviously do a good job picking things out. Just wow.

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