Thursday, May 26, 2011

What Percentage of Agents have you Queried?

My posts on How Many Queries Does it Take both had hundreds of hits, the highest of any of my posts. You know what that tells me? That you like numbers as much as I do.

Good, because I've got some more for you.

Maybe you've sent out a TONS of queries and you feel like you've sent it to everyone. But you haven't sent it to everyone (at least, in most cases you haven't). And here's how I know.

Once again, I went back to Query Tracker. At last count, they have 1244 literary agents on their database. This is not a definitive list, but a pretty good one. I searched on agents representing the different genres and took a tally of how many are listed. (Again, not every genre is listed here. QT has more listed but I took just the more mainstream fiction genres.)

Let's say you send out 68 queries (which is what the average number of queries it takes based on the success stories in my post. Disclaimer: this is not scientific, just an snapshot based on a self-reporting website).  What percentage of agents representing your genre have you reached?

So if you write literary fiction and send out 68 queries, you have queried only 14% of the agents who represent that genre (as per QT). Granted, if you write in areas like horror, action/adventure or inspirational, 68 queries hits them all and then some. But for the other areas? If you sent out 68 Women's Fiction queries, 24% of the agents may say no, but 76% of agents who represent that genre never see your project.
This of course does not mean you blanket every single agent with queries. You still have to do your homework and choose who might be a good fit. But it might give you some comfort when you think your options are exhausted. There are plenty of agents out there who say QUERY WIDELY!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Your Greatest Critic

My latest Woman's Weekly story, "Frozen" -- a four-part serial exploring the implications of embryo donation -- is out on the newsstands this month.  I just received my contributor copies of the first installment, but the others will take a few weeks to get here. It can be hard waiting for them all to arrive, so I rely on comments from my in-laws in the UK to let me know that each new issue has hit the stands.

The Wallaces have always been super-supportive of my writing. Whenever we Skype or chat on the phone, they always ask me how the writing is going or if I'm working on something new. When I have a serial published, they are the first to tell me they are reading and enjoying it. This time, my father-in-law told me that it is "by far" the best story I've written. My mother-in-law said it sparked a lively discussion in her sewing group. Their praise means more to me than they'll ever know. Today, I sat down at the computer raring to write the next serial, because I felt like I must be doing something right.

We need our critics to make us better. We need our critics to make us feel that we are better. It can be hard to share your work, especially if you are new to this. But it is essential. So if you don't have your greatest critic, get one. It will make you a better writer.

Monday, May 16, 2011

How Many Queries Does It Take? -- The Sequel

Once again, I've been looking at Query Tracker's Success Stories.
Within Success Stories, some writers provide an interview, where they reveal how many queries they sent before getting their agent. I went through and tabulated the numbers from the last 34 interviews (where the writer answered that question). So here it is, sorted alphabetically by genre...

The average number of queries sent before getting representation is 68. Even throwing out the top and bottom three, the average is still 65. The fewest queries sent was 9 and the most 361(!!).

I did this last year for the same time frame, so if you want to compare, you can go to the original post here.

So do these stats make you feel better or worse? Give you hope or give you a headache?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A quick look at QT Representation Stats

I went through Query Tracker's Success Stories for the past six months (November 2010 to first week May 2011) and assessed the stats for those indicating an offer of representation.

There were 140 reported offers (where genre was indicated). Here's the percentage by genre:

*Only those specifying a genre were included

And, because I am just that much of a Type-A personality, I went back and compared it to the same period last year.

Here's how they compare, percentage-wise:

*Again, only those indicating a genre were included.
For the 09-10 period, there were 79 offers reported.

Are you surprised by any of these numbers? I'd been feeling like Sci Fi and Fantasy were getting a lot more attention these days and, at least according to this, it seems to be the case. And I'm not sure if the genre was changed from Chick Lit to Women's Fiction in the interim, or if they are different genres.

Obviously, this is only looking at one source. But it is still an interesting snapshot.

If you don't use Query Tracker, go check it out. They have a great blog, a fantastic agent database system, and things like Success Stories to keep you motivated.

Stay tuned for my next May/Type-A extravaganza post: QT's Query Stats!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Visually Mapping Tension in Your Manuscript

I think we've established I'm a bit of a geek. (If you don't believe me, go check out my posts on storyboarding and statistics). I love what programs like Word, Excel and Writer's Cafe can do for me at the click of a few buttons. If you are a visual person, like I am, there are tons of ways you can use these programs to help you with your writing other than just putting words on a page.

I've finally finished the revision on my WIP (phew!). While it is with my beta readers, I'm going through and polishing it up. One of the most critical elements I'm checking is that I have effectively woven my conflict threads (internal, external, and relationship) through the entire book, building tension to the end. Reading through is one thing, but I find it a bit tedious to take written notes as I read. So it got me thinking: what if there was a way to see at a glance how conflict and tension build through my manuscript? There is!

I'm using Text Highlighting to do this. I've assigned each conflict thread a different color:
Internal- yellow
External -red
Relationships (there are three) blue, pink and green.
This WIP contains a story within a story. This storyline will get a separate highlighting treatment, so for the time being I've highlighted it in black so that I know to overlook it this pass through.

So then I've gone through the manuscript and highlighted each scene of conflict in the appropriate color, like this:

Then, I change the zoom level down to 10% so that I can see multiple pages in the window like this:

It gives me an instant visual of where my conflict threads are and how they weave together. I can start at the beginning and scroll down, making sure I continue to build the tension throughout. I can click on a thread in question and zoom back in so I can read it. At a glance, I can see if there are scenes/chapters without some form of conflict, like this:

See the red-circled area? It looks like I might have a lull so I'm marking that down on my list of things to work on after I get my beta feedback. (I'm not making any changes in this particular document -- I've saved this as a separate file).

It only took me about an hour or so to do this and I think it will save me lots of time in the long run.

Do you have any visual tricks you use while editing or writing?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fighting First Sentence Fatigue

That'll do it.

Are you sick of seeing your first sentence every time you open your WIP file? Try your first sentence, go to Text Highlight Color, and choose Black. Tada!

Just don't forget to remove it before you send it out.