Pub Rants

Double Trouble

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STATUS: Is it possible to have an eye before the storm for a cold? I was feeling fairly good yesterday and today was just blah. I did drag myself into the office. Man I’m hoping for better things tomorrow.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FEELING GOOD by Michael Bublé
(Okay, the irony of what is playing on my iPod has not escaped me as this is exactly how I’m not feeling at the moment.)

I find this fact very interesting. I was talking to Sara this morning because I’ve been reading on various blogs about a huge increase in the number of queries that other agents are currently receiving.

Since I don’t read the first wave, so to speak, I’m not on the front lines of what we are receiving on a daily basis so today I asked Sara and Julie.

I was a little stunned to hear the answer. Our email queries, which in the past have numbered about 100 day, have doubled in recent weeks.

Now part of this might be because of NLA’s announcement of Sara’s promotion to associate agent and that she’s now acquiring but I don’t think that can totally account for the huge jump. Other agents are obviously experiencing the same and they may not have had an announcement of a new promotion to generate it.

So what’s up do you think? I have to say that I’m at a loss.

We are, however, reading every single query received and responding to it. All by email, of course, since we don’t accept any paper queries.

But I’ll tell you right now that even though we are replying to every query, the senders aren’t necessarily receiving them. We get a lot of bounced messages. We will try one more time to resend but if it bounces again, we leave it and that poor writer will think we are one of those agencies who say NO by not saying anything at all.

We also don’t respond to emails requesting that we accept the invitation to bypass the spam folder by following XYZ step. We haven’t the time for it.

So make sure you can be reached easily.

And for those who never got a response, we heartily apologize. We did send one.

47 Responses

  1. Mary Anne said:

    Surrounded by so much negativity, I think the creative souls are reaching out again for their dream.

    So, Kristin and Sara, I guess that makes you dream weavers!

  2. Carl said:

    To quote James Carville, “It’s the economy, stupid!” More unemployed = more aspiring novelists.

    I know if I lost my job I’d finally find the motivation to finish that novel. Might not make it any better, but at least I’d finish it!

  3. Anonymous said:

    Does Julie read queries? In her guest blogs last year, she never mentioned it.

  4. Anonymous said:

    I wonder if the economy has anything to do with it.

    Let me crunch some numbers, hypothetical numbers of course.

    In the last 12 months over 4.1 million individuals have become unemployed. These people probably have aspirations to do things with their lives, and not only write books.

    So, let’s say 1% of those people have finished a book and are actively submitting. That’s 41,000 queries that would otherwise not be in the “mix.”

    That may be a high number, but the economy is definitely making people decide to do things they feel may lead them toward betterment of themselves or their world. (Eg. Applications for the Peace Corps has increased by 16% this year.)

    Writing a book is one of those things and may be a major “bucket list” item for many.

  5. Anonymous said:

    Of course, Kristin could answer my above question (Anonymous). In the bio section of submitted queries, are you seeing a larger number of unemployed individuals?

  6. Mike Harris-Stone said:

    I hate to say this, but is it a coincidence that National Novel Writing Month was November and the following January saw a surge in queries hitting agents.

    Could the increasing number of the unemployed have combined in sinister fashion with NaNoWriMo to produce this or is it a sign of an impending alien invasion? 😉

  7. Madison said:

    Maybe some people think that writing a book is a way to make a quick buck in this troubling economy. Those of us who really study this industry know that this is far from the truth.

    But here’s an interesting question: since your query letter amount, has your requesting partials and/or fulls? Or are the stories just not there yet?

    Sorry to hear you still have that cold. Hope you feel better soon!

  8. Tyler said:

    New Year’s resolutions + unemployed people with time on their hands + people wanting to make a quick, easy million (it’s a guarantee, right?) – cost of postage for queries (email is free) = lots and lots of queries.

    I’m sure many of the queries are Nanowrimo participants, but Nanowrimo’s been around for 10 years and the increase is just now happening. I’m thinking the biggest factor is the economy.

  9. Melissa said:

    Please feel better, Kristin!

    Yes, I think it’s definitely the economy. I’m unemployed and have been using that time to write. Of course, I’ve been writing for a very long time, now I just have more, much much more, time to do it. It beats staring at the phone, waiting for a call from a prospective employer, right?

    Being a somewhat experienced writer, I’ve also noticed an increase in friends of a friend contacting me, wanting to know how to get published. Not how to write a book, just how to get published. When I discuss with them the work that will be involved and how to go about shopping for an agent once the book is polished and complete, they seem shocked and move on to some other way to make money.

    BTW-My word verification is, “Prevela.” That sounds like a cold medication!

  10. Dave Kuzminski said:

    Well, P&E has added over 60 names of agents we didn’t have before in just the last few weeks. That ought to spread the load around a little.

    Unless it’s the unemployment as was suggested.

  11. KJ said:

    I am just impressed that you guys respond to every one. I have read lately about so many agents that have stopped because of the volume. That is great to hear, and I am sure they are appreciated!

  12. Anonymous said:

    First of all, I have no idea how you read through 200 queries a day and answer every one – that’s simply impressive. Secondly, I have a two-part question for Julie and Sara: 1) With the nearly doubling of incoming queries, are you passing more queries along to Kristin and, 2) are the partial and full requests from your office increasing or remaining relatively the same? Since Kristin asked you both about the query numbers, I’m assuming there hasn’t been a large jump. But we all know what they say about people who “assume” things…

  13. Anonymous said:

    If the increase in queries is not an increase in QUALITY queries/manuscripts, then nothing really changes in regard to the rejection rate. In fact, it probably increases the odds for a writer who’s serious and has been working of their craft for years. Just my opinion, of course. But I don’t hear Kristin saying she taking on more clients, etc. I don’t hear her saying we’re receiving double the queries and now our rejection rate is 85%.

  14. j h woodyatt said:

    “All by email, of course, since we don’t accept any paper queries. […] We also don’t respond to emails requesting that we accept the invitation to bypass the spam folder by following XYZ step. We haven’t the time for it.”

    This is why you will not be receiving a query from me.

    I routinely receive 5000+ email messages per week at my mail server. Over 70% are spam. Of the remaining 1500 messages, about 90% are reflector traffic for a variety of lists to which I must subscribe for my day job, and these are sorted by the same software that tags the spam. The remaining load is quite manageable, but only because the spam filter makes it so.

    Do you send your email from the same address at which you receive it?

    I’ll bet you don’t. If that’s the case, and you won’t do one of the two or three different simple things that will bypass my spam filter, then I simply won’t see your response.

    Maybe you could post some kind of information on your website that prospective clients can use to configure their spam filters so they will identify your replies as messages they should be expecting to receive. I’ll bet you don’t have time for that either.

    If you don’t have the time to follow a ten-word instruction for bypassing my spam filter, i.e. “use my full name in the email address you use,” then you certainly aren’t what I want in an agent. I want somebody who takes their business communications with me as seriously as I take my communications with them.

  15. Enna said:


    ANYway, I believe I read on a few other blogs that the quality of queries has not increased. In fact, someone (can’t remember who) said the sloppy queries and manuscripts are actually getting sloppier. So I think Madison was right- people think they can make a “quick buck” by selling a book.

    Feel better, Kristin!

  16. Anonymous said:

    J. H. Woodyatt, I just laughed out loud at your comment. Seriously, dude. Take 5 minutes and make yourself a new email account where you can send queries out from. Gmail works beautifully in terms of spam-filtering. Not rocket science. It seems to me that you are certainly not what an agent would want in a client, either.

  17. Jen said:

    Anon @ 12:05, I was just going to say the same thing! I have a stack of different email addresses that I use for different purposes. Most Internet providers will give you up to 5 addresses free with your home Internet account. Then there are FREE webmail services, all 20 billion of them.

    As far as the queries go, I wonder how many queries are for books that are actually finished, and how many are from people trying to jump on the metaphorical bandwagon.. without having written anything first!

  18. Katharina Gerlach said:

    @j h woodyatt:
    I am very annoyed by your post. It shows little consideration for someone else’s work and makes you look as if you think the sun is shining out your bootlaces.

    I think you are rather unfair on someone who is just as swamped with emails as you are and you phrease it in a very harsh way. I am sure that all appropriate steps are taken to ensure you get their mails IF you have been taken on as a client. But up to then YOU want something from THEM and that means it’s up to you to make sure that you get their response; especially since it is so easy to create a new, free email-account only for querying agents and check it once in a while.

    I get nearly as many emails as you do but I have 3 different mail accounts that I use for Private, Work related and Writing. I also have another mail-account that I use if I have to give a mail address to some organization that I don’t want to be contacted by but need access to their information. So if they Spam me afterwards I don’t care because I never look at that mail-box anyway.


  19. Maria said:

    I wonder if the quality of the queries (and projects) is better than normal, too, about the same, or even worse.

    And yeah, I agree that the economic downturn probably has more people interested in pursuing their dream. Some will surely make it, and that’s inspiring 😉

  20. Alina said:

    I wonder if the increase might not also have something to do with all the doom and gloom in the book industry. Layoffs. Closings. The buzz that bound books have no future. That publishing companies may even become obsolete because ANYONE will then be able to publish a book digitally and who needs gate-keepers (ugh–slush pile for all)?

    I wonder if perhaps many working writers are just feeling like this may be their last chance to publish a “real” book.

    For book lovers and writers (and, I’m sure, for agents) this time of change is pretty scary.

    And I’m sorry you’re sick! I’ve completely lost my voice to a cold at the moment, so I can relate.

  21. Jean said:

    Talk about bad timing on my part! After spending a year working on my craft, guess when I decide it’s time to do the query rounds. Ack!


  22. Anonymous said:

    I hope j h woodyatt doesn’t feel piled on, but…

    This was your quote:
    “…I want somebody who takes their business communications with me as seriously as I take my communications with them…”

    If you take your communications with them seriously, you’ll query them in the manner they prefer to be queried.

    The balance tips in favor of writers catering to the needs of agents because there are far more writers that need agents than there are agents needing writers.

    The only time an agent is going to jump to cater to your specifications is when you are their “best-selling” client. You’re never going to be that best-selling client if you think agents exist to serve you. For the most part, even when you find an agent that is excited about your ms and signs you, you still have to put up with all kinds of crap — unanswered emails because they are busy, new work not getting read quickly because they are busy, books not selling at all. And that’s just the agents. Forget about editors keeping you waiting for 8 months (so they can get “another read” because they “love it”) only to turn down your ms, editors requesting revisions (hard-ass revisions that take you three months to complete) and then not buying the book, the entire publishing industry taking off August and what seems like November thu January for vacation, while you, the meek writer haven’t had a vacation for ten years…

    If you are looking for an industry you can control, this isn’t it. 🙂

  23. Kelly said:

    Well, as someone who just got laid off, I think it’s simple. People have more time to pursue their writing.

    I think also some people are laboring under the assumption that if you sell a book, all your money problems will be solved. (ha)

    Here’s hoping that at least the increase in queries is coming with an increase in quality as people have more time to put into their craft (though I fear it’s probably not)

  24. Kelly said:

    And I just have to say that responding to 100 emails a day… WOW. Kudos to Sarah and Julie for tackling such an avalanche of emails!

  25. AC said:

    I just interviewed local business leaders for a story on entrepreneurship and nearly every one of them said they see a jump in people trying to start new businesses during a tough economy. I guess trying to be a published writer is kind of like starting a new ‘business’ so maybe that accounts for the jump in queries.

    I’m curious– (and I haven’t read all the comments so I apologize if someone has already asked) With so many extra queries, has the quality remained the same, or gone up or down?

  26. Margaret Welman Paez said:

    I’m with you Jean. Ah, my timing. Why didn’t I finish the novel early last year instead of late last year?

    I do think it is the economy that is pushing up the number of queries. I’ll bet there are a whole lot of screenplays being pulled out of the moth balls.

  27. Craven said:

    I think Carl nailed it. A lot of people are home after lay-offs with time on their hands. The old dream of writing a novel gets dusted off and new authors start dreaming of six figure advances and never having to return to the corporate world.

  28. Patti said:

    I think the increase is that more agents are accepting email queries, which are lot easier and cheaper than putting a package in the mail.

  29. Anonymous said:

    Alright this is hilarious! I’m sure there are multiple factors playing. I’m also in the same vote as Jane! We have such perfect timing!! 🙂

    I am wondering though if the queries are getting sloppier? Also if your agency is getting pickier?

    Anyways- hope all is well! Get better Kristin!!

  30. Anonymous said:

    I think it’s a combination of things, the main one being the higher unemployment rate. I’m one of those people, I must admit. I didn’t get laid off completely, but my hours were cut dramatically. So, while I’ve been tinkering with my novel for six months, I completed the bulk of it in the last two months, while I’ve had the time to do so. Now, I’m editing. In a few more months, I’ll be querying.

    I also think it has something to do with e-querying. It’s simple and fast, so people who once were more comfortable with snail mail are now e-querying. I supsect the agents who don’t accept e-queries aren’t having quite the same surge in queries that you are.

  31. J. Mayhew said:

    the email bounces are too bad, especially when you’re trying to let an author know so he/she can move on with the search… i think it’s great you respond to each query though, very considerate of the authors!

  32. A. Meyer said:


    Sign up for a new email account. If you really take querying seriously, you’ll have a separate account specifically designated for that purpose. If the only emails you receive there are related to querying, it won’t take much effort to also check your spam folder. As a writer seeking an agent, it’s your job to make it as easy for the agent as possible. There are thousands of other wannabe published writers waiting in line behind you; there’s no incentive for the agent to cater to any of us.

  33. Jessica Milne said:

    JH: I’d suggest getting a separate email address for your writing life, then. I have one where I recieve blog updates apart from my main email.

    Then again, I also have no spam filter. And recieve heaps of emails from colleges everyday. Ah, well, you try, eh?

    Kristin, I hope that you recover from the plague! <3 (That's what we're calling it over here. As a warning, people are getting it more than once. =/ Lots of water!)

    As for the queries, I haven’t been watching the publishing world long enough to acredit it to anything. The NaNo suggestion was interesting, but I don’t know how it relates. I did NaNo for the first time this past November and I’m still working on my novel.
    I’m slow. =P

  34. Elissa M said:

    Patti said…

    I think the increase is that more agents are accepting email queries, which are lot easier and cheaper than putting a package in the mail.

    This, combined with the economy and NaNoWriMo, is my theory about the increase in queries. I wonder if agents who accept only snail mail queries have seen a similar increase, a little bump, or no difference at all.

    Good for you Kristin, to make the attempt at responding to every query. Hopefully writers like Woodyat will learn how easy it is to prevent the bounces.

  35. Rebecca Chastain said:

    “A writing Renaissance…cool! I hope the reading Renaissance will follow. :)”

    I’m with Anonymous on this. Plus, a reading Renaissance just sounds cool!

  36. Beth said:

    jh woodyatt–

    Why not get an e-mail address that’s purely for queries? If you don’t use it for anything else, it won’t get spam and nobody has to do anything special to reply to you.

  37. Beth said:

    I rather doubt the newly laid-off are responsible for the jump in queries, unless these people are writing novels at warp speed, or querying for novels they haven’t yet written. Most writers take several months to a couple of years to write a novel (some longer). So if they’re querying now, it’s likely for something they’ve been working on for far longer than the rise in unemployment can account for.

  38. Anonymous said:

    JH – Are you serious? I don’t even reply to *friends* who force me to fill out their stupid spam filter forms, let alone total strangers who send me unsolicited emails that have a .001% chance of containing anything I would be remotely interested in.

  39. Evangeline said:

    I think it’s because the grapevine has been whispering that it’ll be easier to get published with an agent rather than the usual ways of becoming published (contests, networking at conferences, etc) since agents immediately know what editors are looking for. Or, like others said, it could be unemployment+dream=query.

    I myself am taking a rather relaxed approach to it all. The e-book field is growing, and I’ve focused on steadily building my platform since I write romance set in a presently “unmarketable” setting. *g*

  40. Wendie O said:

    Actually, with so many publishers closing their doors to submissions, going out of business, being bought and sold, writers NEED an agent working to help them with the new rules of publishing. (If anyone can figure out the new rules of publishing.)

    e-mail submissions are easier? Hardly. With paper, you know what the agent wants and can send them exactly what they want. E-mail and online forms are confusing and awkward to use. Even when you think you’ve done it right, something usually goes wrong.

  41. Anonymous said:

    I agree with KJ … as for agents that don’t even bother to respond to authors’ queries, (a simple form email takes how long?) how efficient or engergetic will they be submitting to editors?

    Or put another way, an agency, like this one, that responds to every query can make their represented authors confident they’re in good hands.

  42. Susan Hare said:

    Or, Madison, it’s not about making a quick buck, but a slow buck. How many of the queries today were written a year ago and never sent because the manuscript wasn’t good enough, the writer wasn’t brave enough, or the timing didn’t feel right? Not having a day job makes the timing feel very right.

  43. Belynda said:

    The economy is definitely it, and Nano doesn’t help. I think maybe part of the uptick in Nano submissions has to do with people getting published from their Nano works (Sara Gruen comes to mind, as she wrote “Water for Elephants” in part as a Nano project. People never stop to check that she already had a book out at the time!) For the writer, it’s a lottery ticket. For the agent? A lot more letters to read!

    I sort of cringe to think that Nano has become synonymous with crap writing, mostly because the manuscript I am finishing now was born in the wild and word-count driven days of Nano, kind of like a Woodstock baby, but that was in 2007! I’ve been working on the MS ever since, completed two separate read-throughs for editing, and educated myself on the process. I’m feeling confident that it will soon be ready to go out into the world to find an agent. I love Nano, and I’m actually running my local Script Frenzy chapter this year with a friend. That being said, I feel a little like Kelly Clarkson distancing herself from “Idol”, as I’m very reluctant to mention that the novel was born out of a Nano project, because of the stigma I’m seeing online surrounding it.

  44. Ebony McKenna. said:

    I’m still boggling at the numbers.
    200 equeries per day
    Even if you spent only one minute quickly skimming each email and responding, that’s 3 hours 20 minutes of your day spent purely on email.

    Which earns an agent nothing because they have editor pitches and deals to negotiate with their existing clients.

    If it takes you even 20 seconds longer to answer each email – having to do something extra to bypass spam filters or whatever – it’s going to cause a huge blow-out in time management.

    So while one person sending an equery thinks ‘it’s only one extra step’, for the receiver it really is a waste of time.