crunching the numbers

I’ve gotten back into the swing of submitting recently, and my experiences now have felt a little different than back when I tried for a year of 100 rejections. So I decided to look at the numbers to see – are things different?

(For those of you on your own journey of querying and accumulating rejections, my friend Kalee over on The Page Half Full has a cool rejection tracker you can print out!)

For reference, I have recorded 301 submissions. I have 14 listed “acceptance,” 11 listed as “n/a” (email bouncebacks, mostly), and 129 rejections. The rest are no response. I’ll list the rate of actual rejections rather than counting the no response as a 100% rejection rate (that’s too depressing!!)

Bethany Caleb

I began querying Bethany Caleb in 2002. I didn’t get very far with it, probably because I knew already that it was too short.

  • queries sent: 5
  • rejections: 3

Rejection rate: 60%

The Horizontal Ladder

I began querying The Horizontal Ladder in 2003. This was the first book that I seriously tried to get published. I got almost everything about the process wrong (submitting directly to publishers, submitting to publishers who only look at agented submissions, not following guidelines, etc.) so these numbers are no surprise:

  • queries sent: 20
  • rejections: 13
  • n/a: 4

Rejection rate 65% (adjusted for n/a: 85%)

The Art Kids

I submitted mostly short stories after my complete failure with The Horizontal Ladder. I started querying The Art Kids in 2006, took a break, then tried querying it again in 2012. I will note that the full request was in 2012.

  • queries sent: 32
  • requests for full: 1
  • rejections: 18

Rejection rate: 56% – Interest rate: 3%

Seven Minutes to Midnight

I queried Seven Minutes in 2009-2010, simultaneously with The Abandoned.

  • queries sent: 26
  • requests for partial: 1
  • rejections: 9
  • n/a: 1

Rejection rate: 34% (adjusted for n/a: 38%) – Interest rate: 3.8%

The Abandoned

I queried The Abandoned from 2009-2012 – second only to Hitchhikers in the number of queries I sent out. Here’s where I started get a little more interest, which was VERY exciting.

  • queries sent: 50
  • requests for full: 3
  • rejections: 27
  • n/a: 1

Rejection rate: 54% (adjusted for n/a: 56%) – Interest rate: 6%

Hitchhikers

Hitchhikers was my biggie. I believed in Hitchhikers SO MUCH. I queried it from 2010-2012.

  • queries sent: 54
  • requests for partial: 2
  • requests for full: 3
  • rejections: 27
  • n/a: 2

Rejection rate: 50% (adjusted for n/a: 53%) – Interest rate: 9%

The Victim’s Ball

Now, after a huge break from querying and a stint in self-publishing, I’m back at it. I have a little more experience, and a critique group that has helped me perfect my query letters and my writing. Has it made a difference?

  • queries sent: 10
  • requests for partial: 3
  • requests for full: 2 (1 after a partial)
  • rejections: 5

Rejection rate: 50% – Interest rate: 40%

Waiting Room

Or, maybe it’s just the manuscript.

  • queries sent: 11
  • requests for partial: 1
  • rejections: 6

Rejection rate: 54% – Interest rate: 9%

Crunching the Numbers

These numbers tell me that, if I look at the rate at which I receive actual rejections, it’s roughly the same across the board. However, the interest level has risen since my first few terrible attempts at querying – and that, rather than the number of rejections, tells me that I’m getting something right.

Back when I was doing everything wrong, I had a rejection rate of 56-85%, and very little interest. When I began doing things right, I started seeing that interest rate rise. Even if one of my current manuscripts is still only getting a 9% interest rate, it’s still better than 0% or 3%.

What does this mean for you? You can expect a roughly 50% rate of receiving actual rejections versus no response at all. If you hate not hearing back, check with Querytracker before submitting – most agents will say up front if they do not respond unless interested or give a time frame, but Querytracker will tell you how reliable that is, based on actual queries.

All my number crunching was made easier by the Excel spreadsheet I use to track my submissions. How do you track your submissions and rejections?

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