Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Category: statistics

A Year In Statistics–2010

STATUS: Uh, ask me tomorrow morning. Still working to try and wrap stuff up.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SLEIGH RIDE by Babyface

This week has just been crazy with no time to blog. Nobody wants to go into the holiday season with a bunch of stuff still outstanding and cluttering the desks. I know authors who have submissions with us wouldn’t mind an answer either. So, our goal is to finish everything up by today.

With that in mind, I’ve been hitting the office at 8 in the morning and pretty much every night this week, I didn’t leave until after 8 p.m. (and some evenings not until after 9).

Well, I’m going to have to come in tomorrow as not everything is done but hey, I came close. Blogging just wasn’t an option with everything that needed to wrap up—including 3 deals that I literally was negotiating this week.

Still, I can’t end the season without one more post. The year 2010 would not be complete without my annual Year In Statistics entry so voila! Here it is. Enjoy!

28
books sold (up from 15 last year and mostly thanks to Sara! Also interesting to note, of the sales I did, all but 3 were deals well into the six-figure range and two were 7+. Sweet!)

64
foreign rights deals done (up from 53 last year. That’s a big increase. Foreign rights went gangbuster.)

9
number of new clients (Kristin & Sara combined)

36,000
estimated number of queries read and responded to (this is actually down a bit from last year. Last year we averaged around 150/day. This year it was more around 120/day)

98
full manuscripts requested and read (way up from 55 last year.)

839
number of sample pages requested and read (down from 1053 of last year)

6
number of projects currently on submission

5
tv and major motion picture deals

1.5 million
number of copies in print for my bestselling series this year

668,000
number of copies in print for my bestselling title this year

144,000
number of copies in print for my bestselling debut this year

9
conferences attended (also includes BEA and Bologna Children’s Book Fair)

5
number of New York Times Bestsellers this year

10
number of career New York Times Bestselling titles

1
Number of books named to Publisher’s Weekly list of top books of the year

82
number of physical holiday cards sent

398
Number of electronic holiday cards sent

10+
number of Starbucks eggnog chai consumed in the last week (sort of embarrassed to admit it!)

Lots
number of late nights reading on the couch with Chutney

All
number of great days loving my job

Have a safe and happy New Year. I’m out! See you back here on Jan. 3, 2011.


White Noise

STATUS: Last week was just tough. Battling being sick so just didn’t know when I’d be in the office or not. So not pleasant….

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE by Mat Kearney

When I was at the Rocky Mountain Writers Conference, I gave a couple of workshops. In my classes, I always give the daunting statistics on how many queries we get, how many sample pages we read, and how many authors we actually take on from what we read.

Yep, the icky stuff.

Then I tell them to cover their ears and say, “la, la, la I’m not listening” because what it boils down to is that these stats should be white noise to you aspiring writers. You can hear it, but it’s in the background. Know the stats so you have a keen understanding of the reality behind the business of publishing but then don’t let it stop you. .

If you love writing, if you are passionate about it as your dream, then you are going to write no matter what. Publication is one possible end result but whether that happens are not should not be the only determiner of why you write. You write because you have to. It’s like breathing. Absolutely necessary.

Besides, you never know when toughness and persistence will finally pay off so don’t lose sight of that!


Talk About the Money

STATUS: If I read my latest Publishers Weekly magazine at the same time as getting a pedicure, does that qualify as working? Hey, it’s summer time.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? I AND LOVE AND YOU by Avett Brothers

Last weekend I spoke at my local Lighthouse Writers Litfest. They wrapped up two weeks of celebrating literature and authors with an agent panel at the Tattered Cover in Lodo (which stands for Lower Downtown)—and to be honest, agents doesn’t sound overly celebratory to me but hey, they thought that was the way to do it. Didn’t you know that most of us are full of hot air?

One of the questions asked at the panel was how much of an advance can a writer expect for a debut novel.

Admit it. All of you just perked up your ears. Always, always, writers want to know about the dollars involved. The problem is that this question is really hard to answer. Depending on the novel, it literally could go for any amount of money.

When pressed, which happened of course, the audience wanted to know what was “typical.”

Once again, no such thing but if you hold a gun to my head, I’ll say this:

1. Most debut novels will have advances of under 25k per book. I’d say that’s typical.

2. What a debut novel will get for an advance will depend on genre.
a. Romance novels—5-15k per book
b. YA or MG—10-30k
c. Mysteries & thrillers—Uh, no idea. Don’t rep them. Janet Reid, my friend, can you chime in here? I think you are the Queen of repping this genre.
d. Literary fiction—10-30k
e. Women’s fic—10-30k (are you noticing a pattern here?)
f. SF&F—5-25k

Okay, fine. I told you the money—as long as you realize this list is meaningless, we’re fine.

Have I sold a debut romance author for six figures? Yes. Debut literary author for six figures? Yes. SF&F debut author for 6? Not yet (but I’ve gotten really close…).

Etc. It all depends on how many editors want your particularly debut novel. For my part, I often feel the most satisfaction for selling a debut that took forever to place (and the author was on the verge of giving up hope) and the novel I sold for peanuts that then exploded and just sold and sold.

Now that’s the kind of money I like to talk about.


No Freewheelin’ With The Blurb Endorsements

STATUS: It was quiet for one day. I can’t even believe I said it was quiet yesterday. Plenty to do between now and Thursday. Won’t be in the office on Friday and of course, no blogging.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DEMOLITION MAN by The police

I’m not really going to tally the results this time. Yesterday’s “poll” was more about creating a discussion around blurbs. For an author who is receiving the blurb endorsement, it’s an incredible feeling. That someone way more established than you (or famous) thought your novel worthy of praise. It’s big validation for a debut author in a world where there aren’t many validating moments outside of sales performance. And I always think of it as incredibly generous for an established author to do. When done right, it takes a lot of time to read a novel and it takes even more time to think of a short, pithy blurb that really captures the author’s emotion about it.

Try writing one for a favorite book of yours just as practice. It’s not easy.

For readers, it seems a mixed bag. I do know that booksellers and publishers absolutely do believe that blurb endorsements help to sell books.

Here’s what I’ve gleaned:

1. The author name has to be pretty big—as in immediately recognizable—for it to make an impact.

2. Readers do feel it’s part of the advertising.

3. Authors should not be too carefree about what they blurb as that can shape reader perception—of the blurbed books and for the books that author writes. Blurb only books where the endorsement is really meant.

4. Many readers find it helpful. That maybe they’ll try a new author they might not otherwise if a favorite author has blurbed the book.

5. The text of the blurb is just as important as the blurb itself. Faked enthusiasm is recognizable.


A Second Totally Unscientific PubRants Blog Reader Poll

STATUS: It’s a bit quiet leading up to the long weekend so I’m actually getting some things done. And yes, I’m still working on my query inbox…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? UNKNOWN LEGEND by Neil Young

When we did our completely unscientific first ever Pubrants Blog Reader poll, I realized that I left out one important question (or maybe series of questions).

We talked about covers and back cover copy influencing book buying decisions but we didn’t talk about author blurbs.

Often times before a book is to be published, the agent, editor, and author will put our heads together and discuss who would be a great blurb candidate for the project. Obviously blurbs are going to come for established authors with solid reputations and a large following, otherwise the blurb probably wouldn’t have much weight. The name has to be recognizable and appropriate for the genre, type of book, etc.

For example, this week has been very exciting at the agency as we just received word that Lisa See (author of Snow Flower And The Secret Fan), who we asked to read an ARC of HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET by Jamie Ford, loved the book and is thrilled to give us a blurb to use.

Needless to say, Jamie and I were giddy. Now I realize that the book isn’t out yet and therefore anyone who reads this blog can’t buy it yet, but would that influence you?

So that’s my poll for today:

Do you notice and read author blurbs on books you are potentially interested in buying?

If so, have you ever bought a book because an author you loved and trusted endorsed the book?

If you can remember, what established authors created the swing vote for you and you did indeed buy the book with their author blurb on it?

Have you ever bought a book based on an author endorsement and then were dissatisfied with the book bought? If so, did that impact a future buy for a book for which that same author has endorsed?

I imagine this random poll will spark some interesting discussions this week!


Stats And A Few More Thoughts

STATUS: I’ve got an auction happening tomorrow. That just makes the day crazy busy.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? A CHANGE WOULD DO YOU GOOD by Sheryl Crow

Basically last night was nothing but whining—at least I thought so until I started to really think about it. It’s actually extremely important for an agent to read for pleasure (and yes, sometimes reading sample pages is fun but ultimately it’s still working so it’s not quite the same thing as reading a book solely for pleasure). Do you know why? Because that’s when an agent feels the joy of the printed page and the written word. That’s when we remember how much we enjoy just reading like normal people do.

It also keeps us in touch with what’s out there, what’s selling or catching people’s attention. I love to read and when you work too hard, sometimes you forget that passion because all you want is to tick off one more item from your long list of TO DOs. So not only is it imperative (work-wise) to read for pleasure but it’s also wise for our sanity in general.

And finally, I have the stats for you from our poll on Tuesday, June 16, 2008. Some comments came in after the cut off and we’re sorry to not include you if your answer came late but we had to create a cut-off somewhere to compile.

Responses: 195
(not everyone answered every question which is why a few of the totals do not add up to 195)

Do you prefer hard copy or electronic?
Hard Copy: 185Electronic: 10
95% hard copy

When going into a store to buy a book, have you then bought a second title?
Yes: 187
No: 8
96% Yes

Have you bought a book based on the cover alone?
Yes: 63No: 131
68% No

Have you ever bought a book based on the back cover copy?
Yes: 155
No: 39
80% Yes

Kristin comment: If you ever needed proof that it was worthwhile to make your query pitch paragraph mirror back cover copy, here it is I think. Agents are just like readers. We can be swayed by good back cover copy.

How often have you bought a book based on a friend or family member’s recommendation?
Always: 5 = 2%
Almost all the time: 19 = 10%
Frequently (much of the time/ around 50% of the time): 75 = 39%
Rarely: 72 = 37%
Never: 23 = 12%

Have you ever bought a book because I mentioned it on this blog? If so, which book(s).
Yes: 63
No: 128
67% No

Which ones:
Ally Carter (23)
Sherry Thomas (13)
Linnea Sinclair (7)
Lisa Shearin (5)
Shanna Swendson (5)
Hank Phillippi Ryan (3)
Jana DeLeon (2)
Kelly Parra (2)
Marianne Mancusi (2)
Cheryl Hingley (1)
Leslie Langtry (1)
Kim Reid (1)
Jennifer O’Connell (1)

Kristin comment: Most interesting point about this question is that I actually mention quite a few non-client books on my blog and nobody mentioned whether that has swayed him/her to buy some other non-Nelson Agency Client book.

How many books do you buy in a year?
0: 01-10: 29 = 15%
11-50: 82 = 44%
51-100: 42 = 22%
100+: 35 = 19%
With several responses of 300+ and even 500+

Kristin comment: Holy cow you blog readers buy books. I love you!

How many books do you check out of the library per year?
0: 87 = 47%
1-10: 16 = 8%
11-50: 45 = 24%
51-100: 23 = 12%
100+: 16 = 9%
Again with several responses in the hundreds

Kristin comment: We love libraries and librarians so it’s perfectly okay with us if you check out from the library. Libraries often buy lots of copies of each book and that makes us happy!


eBooks For The Young’un’s

STATUS: I had two things I wanted to accomplish before I left the office today. Yeah, didn’t do either. But other great things are going on.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? GOIN’ THROUGH YOUR PURSE by Material Issue

And I need to compile the stats from Tuesday’s poll but that will take a little time. In the meantime, here’s a cool article that fits right in to what we’ve been talking about this week. How interesting.

Survey Confirms Younger Generation Less Interested in Traditional Reading Habits
The Bookseller’s Reading the Future Survey, presented at a conference last week, reports only half of young people aged 18-24 years old think people will still be using bookshops in 20 years’ time. Looking deeper into 18-24 year olds’ reading habits, the survey found that 28% were favourable towards the idea of e-readers, compared to 9% of 65+ year olds, and 40% liked the idea of downloadable chapters of books, compared to 7% of 65+ year olds. Transworld publisher Bill Scott-Kerr said at the conference that the statistics point to where publishers are headed in the future. We all know the book is a great piece of technology – you can’t drop e-books in the bath. But we as an industry are in a lot of trouble; we don’t know where we are going.”

Here’s the full article at the Bookseller.


PubRants First Blog Reader Poll Or Something Equally Unscientific

STATUS: I’m getting my 80s groove thing on to start the week. How can you be upset when listening to nostalgia music like this?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE LOOK OF LOVE by ABC

So this morning I’m breezing through my copy of Publishers Weekly as we had just found out our author Sherry Thomas was getting a new PW review for her August release DELICIOUS (and a fab review at that!). I was pretty sure it was coming in the current issue that hasn’t hit my mailbox yet but to make sure, I scanned the latest copy.

Well, this article caught my eye. Zogby International, in conjunction with Random House, did a survey on current readership. Here’s the link if you want to read it more fully.

And here are just a few eye-popping stats from this poll.

82% of Readers prefer the hard copy of a book over the electronic version (Oy! I’m in the minority. I love reading on my Kindle.)

43% of readers go into bookstores looking for a specific title

77% of those readers make additional purchases when looking for a specific book

52% of book purchasers are swayed by cover art

49% of book purchasers are swayed by reviews

35% of book purchasers have been swayed by a cover quote (now my authors understand why we work so hard to get those cover quotes!)

60% of book purchasers are swayed by recommendations from friends or family members.

Word of mouth is everything!

Alas, I didn’t see any stats on back cover copy and whether that influences a purchase. That could have been relevant concerning all my recent blog posts regarding it.

But let’s do our own, not-so-scientific and spur of the moment sample poll:

Do you prefer hard copy or electronic?

When going into a store to buy a book, have you then bought a second title?

Have you bought a book based on the cover alone?

Have you ever bought a book based on the back cover copy? (what the heck, let’s ask).

How often have you bought a book based on a friend or family member’s recommendation?

Have you ever bought a book because I mentioned it on this blog? If so, which book(s). (oh boy!)

How many books do you buy in a year?

How many books do you check out from the library in a year?

I’ll compile our own totally unscientific stats tomorrow or on Wed.


A Year In Statistics

STATUS: Vacation time!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CHRISTMAS WRAPPING by The Waitresses

Happy Holidays to all you blog readers. The agency officially closes today and won’t reopen until Wednesday, January 2, 2008.

I won’t be blogging again until the new year, but then I’ll be back and in rare ranting form!

Here are the stats for 2007:

22
books sold

29
foreign rights deals done (and that includes one pre-empt and one auction)

8
number of new clients

30,000
estimated number of queries read and responded to (and yes, that is up from last year)

74
full manuscripts requested (I miscounted the other day)

4
number of projects currently on submission

1
major motion picture deal

3
auctions

6
new deals for previously published clients

5
deals for new clients (4 of which were debut authors—as in not previously published)

200,000 +
number of copies in print for my bestselling title this year

7
conferences attended

1
number of New York Times Bestsellers

265
number of holiday cards sent

5
number of Starbucks eggnog chai consumed in the last week

Lots
number of late nights reading on the couch with Chutney

All
number of great days loving my job

Have a safe and happy New Year. I’m out!


A Year in Statistics

STATUS: Sara and I are working like mad to finish everything up today. Tomorrow we close. By the way, I just saw fellow Backspace member Martha O’Connor comment about giving a donation to charity in the agent’s name. LOVE THAT. So add that to your agent gift-giving list.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHITE CHRISTMAS by Bing Crosby

20,800
(Estimated number of queries read and responded to in 2006)

54
(Number of full manuscripts requested and read)

8
(Number of new clients taken on this year)

21
(Number of books sold this year—not counting subsidiary rights stuff)

6
(Number of projects currently under submission)

2
(Number of auctions held)

1
(Number of pre-empts accepted)

16
(Number of months for the longest submission that ended in a great sale)

65,000+
(Number of copies in print for my best-selling title this year)

7
(Number of conferences attended)

54
(Number of editor meetings held)

200
(Number of Holiday Cards sent)

4
(Number of Starbucks eggnog chai beverages consumed in the last week)

Lots
(Number of late nights reading partials etc. on the couch with Chutney)

All
(Number of great days loving my job)


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