Some “Agency” Math

Following  Kathleen Ortiz’s blog today (fantastic!), as well yet another turned down query (that the author refused to accept afterwards), I feel it’s time for some “agency” math.  I will be using hypothetical #s, in an effort to keep this as simple as possible.

Imagine you are ONE literary agent.  Imagine that you prefer to have 10-15 projects (to be brought to publishers) per YEAR.

Imagine it’s January or September, and you estimate you’ll only want to add FIVE additional projects to your current agency list.  Let me repeat, 5 projects.

Imagine receiving approximately between 150-250 queries (unsolicited) a week.  In an effort to keep the math simple, we’ll use the number 150.  150 queries received (on average) in a week.

Being there are 52 weeks in a year, that means you’ll be receiving approx. 7800 (unsolicited) queries/year. 

Let’s go back to the 1st number = you, the literary agent, only wants to add FIVE clients/book projects to the current agency list.  FIVE. 

In addition, there is the other  process of you, the literary agent seeking out writers–folks who maybe wouldn’t go the route of mailing queries to literary agents.



7800 queries received in a year.

Literary Agent only needs 5 projects.

Obviously there is more than one agent in the publishing world, that’s the silver lining here.  🙂 


My point is this:

-Fine tune your art (of writing)

-Promote yourself (and your writing)- i.e. platform

-Interact with other writers in the publishing community (try to get critqued!)

-Please understand that if you do receive a rejection, it’s nothing personal.  Each agent needs to focus on his/her current authors, while at the same time pursuing future projects.  We do our best to respond in a timely manner, and share the same love of books (as YOU, the writer).  

My perspective?  An author’s query is the time to shine!  So, make sure you’ve got all the figurative bases covered before seeking an agent.  It’ll make the query process hopefully a little smoother, which is my goal with this hypothethical “agency” math today. 

As usual, please drop me a note, or comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.



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  1. uberVU - social comments on March 10, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by RedSofaLiterary: Some “Agency” Math for the Query Process:

  2. Pauline on March 10, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Wow. Talk about perspective! I haven’t gotten to the query stage yet, but trust me. After reading this, I’ll breathe a little easier when the rejections start rolling in.
    I’m confident, mind you…but I’m also (now) well aware of the odds.
    Thanks for the great post!

  3. James Killick on March 11, 2010 at 3:33 am

    Common sense really, but it’s good to get this perspective and be reminded. As a writer, there’s a temptation to start the ball rolling too early, before letting the work sit and working the synopsis and query till it scintillates. I’m addressing your first three bullet points at the moment, but am concerned I could spend forever doing it – at some point, I have to start getting those rejections.

  4. Twitted by fbarrows on March 11, 2010 at 4:52 am

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  5. Jeanie on March 11, 2010 at 5:31 am

    Sadly, the people that don’t understand this simple equation will take it personally. They will still embarass themselves and frustrate more agents with their ridiculous replies.

    You are being listened to though. Thank you.


    A querier that follows the rules and appreciates the honesty.

  6. Phil Dwyer on March 11, 2010 at 5:37 am

    Aside from the obvious (match genre to Agent’s client list and genre preferences, have a great hook and a well polished query letter etc.) what advice do you have for us on how to become one of the 5 projects? What is it that really gets you attention in a project? How does a great query stand out from the herd? Do you have any examples of really good query letters you could share with us?

    Also, given that workload, how do you manage to run a blog…

  7. Debra Schubert on March 11, 2010 at 5:38 am

    I always tell people to query widely. I never would’ve found my agent if I hadn’t. Also, keep writing. Get better and better at your craft – you never know which novel will be the one to grab the interest of an agent. And be confident, be yourself, and trust yourself.

    Never forget – agents are people, too! They can only read so many queries, partials, and fulls while keeping up with their client’s best interests before the men in the white coats come to carry them away (haha!). Help keep agents sane: Don’t query until your ms and query are the very best they can be.

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  9. redsofaliterary on March 11, 2010 at 5:45 am


    I personally love if the author has worked hard on promoting and marketing him/herself. Seeing a great book idea (with good hook), partnered with a good platform and good writing voice = me requesting to see more material. If a person can make it through the 1st round of querying, that means they’re already making good progress.

    And then there’s the needed excitement, i.e. passion, for the project. If I’m totally excited to read and represent the book, I know that there will be editors who probably feel the same way & hopefully take the book.

    In regard to query letters…there was a blog recently (from another agent) that covered this…I will try to hunt it down. It hit the figurative nail on the head.

    I have to say the only way I survive the numerous queries is my awesome intern, we share in the reply process. She already knows what I like and what I’m looking for, which makes answering the queries much easier.

    As for this blog? I post something every 2 to 4 days, it’s not hard to manage at all. 🙂

  10. Meg on March 11, 2010 at 6:07 am

    Definitely sounds like some solid math to me. Thanks for the information!

  11. Stacy S. Jensen on March 11, 2010 at 6:18 am

    Great points!I think most writers need to remember the “don’t take it personally.” Sometimes, despite our best research, we query the wrong agent or query at the wrong time.

    We just need to keep researching, working and writing.

  12. A.M. Kuska on March 11, 2010 at 6:29 am

    I don’t sweat rejections anymore. I know I’ve put the work into my manuscripts. I’ve had both those and my query letters ripped apart by every critique circle I can dig my way into. If I get rejected, I came by it honestly.

  13. Carrie C. on March 12, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    I second the comments from Jeanie and others – your honesty is most appreciated. And after all, the rejection process serves two very useful functions: it weeds out the bad stuff (and I have no doubt there is much of that – I can only hope I don’t contribute to it!) and it makes the successes that much sweeter.

    Whether one is getting rejected or accepted, I hope the long process allows the writer to avoid getting dragged into the details and to remember to both live life and enjoy writing. Otherwise, what’s the point?