Friday, January 07, 2011

The Numbers

I had a thought on what to blog about a while back, but never got around to it. I will, sooner or later. It'll just be something fun and goofy. But for now, I'm going to blog on something else that just popped in there (...anyone else hear the stomping of a large marshmallow man?).

The numbers. Oh, the numbers.

By numbers, I'm referring to the sheer numbers of queries that agents read. The number of queries, the number of requests, and the number of clients signed.

It's enough to make you faint and for your butler (if you have one) to go running and fetch the smelling salts.

I was visiting Jennifer Jackson's blog where she frequently delivers her numbers to those of us who might be reading. Those numbers are kind of terrifying. In many cases, I don't like to look at them. Now, don't go running off to tell Ms. Jackson that I hate her blog or something equally ridiculous. That's not what I'm saying. In fact, quite the opposite. I like that she posts those numbers. It's very interesting to see just how many queries an agent can get in a week or a month or, in this post's case, a year.

For example, this year alone Ms. Jackson responded to 7,835 queries. Yeah. Almost eight thousand queries throughout the course of a year. That's a freaking lot. And how many authors did she sign? One.

Easily enough to give all us hopeful writers a heart attack. Your query might have been one of those. Mine wasn't simply because I've yet to flesh out a query letter that really kicks butt. But back to the point. We all know that there are a trunkload of other writers out there busting ass to try and get published. We just never really know how many. Agents like Ms. Jackson put it out there for us to see. It's a good thing. And it sucks. It really is cool to see the number of queries she's looking at, which is a testament to how hard she works (in my humble opinion), and I'm sure there are other agents out there as well with similar numbers. Some of them probably even have larger numbers.

And yet it's also freak-out-worthy. Because out of those thousands and thousands of letters, only one author made it through, signed, and with a deal (and by the sound of it, a three-book one). Eek! But should that dampen our spirits? No. That's why I still visit her blog and am willing to look at said numbers. Because the numbers don't matter, in a weird sort of way. Because next time that single author might be you. Or heck, me (if I'm lucky - wouldn't that rock?).

The numbers are why I don't get on airplanes. As everyone says, "What?" let me explain. People claim flying is the safest way to travel. That you're more likely to be in a car crash than in an airplane crash. While this may be true, I counter with a few things, based on the numbers. Yes, I am more likely to crash my car (and I've done it, by the way) but I'm also more likely to survive that crash (which I evidenced by this post). If the airplane I'm in is the one out of the thousands of planes that ends up going down, chances are I'm not going to make it. So I refuse to ride airplanes.

Ok, so that's a really roundabout and really morbid way of making my point, which I'm sure you understood well before all of that. But the fact remains - don't despair because that single digit might be you someday. And that's why you need to keep chugging. And that's why you need to ignore the downside of the numbers. Sure, you'll have your random dip into blubbering and depression (which, if you rewind a few posts, you'll see mine), but it'll pass and also indicates why you should avoid reading agent blogs late at night because that's when you'll have way too much time to think (oh...wait....).

So chug away, my writing friends and future published authors. Chug away! And maybe make one your favorite number. Mine is and always was.

"Never tell me the odds!"

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