The Grass Is Always Greener over the Septic Tank

A Snarkling finds something new to worry about now that she's GOT the agent:

"I recognize that submission success to publishers varies from agent to agent. If you have Esther Newberg, you probably have a 100 percent chance of getting a deal, although I'm sure there's a selection factor here--she gets to pick winners. And I've read that some agents take on many clients throw it all against the wall of an editor's office and see what sticks.

Do you happen to know any statistics about the percentage of agented submissions that actually get deals?"

Someone emailed me or it was in the comments line, I forget, and said they'd seen the ratio was as low as 5%. Yikes! Hard to make money that way.

I have no idea what anyone else's numbers are. Bar chat leads me to think it's a LOT higher. I know mine is. We run about 70% right now. Some of those authors have second books coming or new projects percolating, but they've had sales, and they aren't first time authors.

Five percent is just too horrid to contemplate.

I'm not sure there's any independently verifiable way to actually find out.


E. Dashwood said...

I'm surprised no-one has ever polled agents on this. Of course it would have to be done skillfully. Agents are probably as likely to lie about low success rates as just plain folks surveyed about their racial prejudices.

There's a job for you, Miss Snark.

Demented M said...

The last conference I went to, one of the agents (relatively new to the industry) said they sold 75% of their nonfiction and 25% of their fiction.

I assume the numbers improve with time and experience???

Your devoted but unworthy snarkling,

Inka Binka said...

Yeah, 5 percent just doesn't seem very worthwhile for agented submissions.

Miss Snark said...

Even it it was five percent, I assure you most authors would be POSITIVE their project would be in that number.

C.E. Petit said...

I've seen that "5% success rate" in discovery during several nasty disputes--I'm a hired gun called in AFTER the execrement has hit the rotary air-moving device--and every time further inquiry revealed that the percentage rate was per _submission event_, not _per manuscript_. Both numbers are helpful to know, but neither stands by itself. Let's take an agented submission that, for whatever reason, garners nineteen rejections from nineteen different publishers and gets an offer from the twentieth. Its literal success rate is 5% (one out of twenty). But, leaving aside the amount of time that passed, its actual success rate is 100%, because one only needs one offer to get published.

Miss Snark said...

I never even thought that someone might tabulate how many submissions it takes to get a sale. I don't know anyone who sells on the first try. Even if you have an enormously hot project, you'd try to take it to auction rather than sell it on the first submission.

I know those events exist but they're rare. Most of us send more than once and less than a hundred on any given manuscript that isn't a part of multiple book deal.

Thanks for the perspective on this CEP!