Literary agent query response rates – what are they and what can you expect? For example, if you send out twenty query letters to literary agencies (well-written, of course), how many positive requests for additional material should you receive?

Obviously, if you send out twenty queries and don’t get any requests to see more material (or you only get rejection letters), that’s not good.

But what IS good?

And what would be a best case scenario?

Before I answer those questions, let me tell you why this is so important. If you don’t have the right expectations about what a normal literary agent query response rate is, it can be fatal. If you have the wrong number in your head, you might get a good literary agent query response and not know it. You might even get a good literary agent query response and think you’re doing bad.

If that happens, you might get dejected or depressed. You might stop submitting your literary agent query to anyone. You might even stop writing altogether.

I’ve seen it happen…

That’s why I’m writing this article.

Another reason I’m writing this article is because
one of my coaching clients recently sent me this letter.

* * *

Literary Agent Query – Frustrated Client

* * *

Hi Mark,

When literary agents publish things like this on their website it really makes me riffed:

“If you’re really on the right track with your manuscript and you’re targeting the correct agents and writing professional queries, then, as novelist Marcus Sakey recently claimed, you’ll get a 75% positive response to your query. That means three out of four agents who receive your query will ask to see more of your manuscript. Of those three, one or two are then likely to offer representation. Agents know a good thing when they see it.”

Sheesh!

Tim

* * *

My client knew that statement was ridiculous, based on his own personal experience. And he knows because I tell all of my coaching clients the following before they send their literary agent query letters out into cyberspace…

A 40-50% positive literary agent query response rate is almost always the absolute best that anyone is ever going to do.

Ever.

Even if you have your own radio or TV show, have 100,000 people or more on your mailing list, or slept with the president.

How do I know that’s true?

Because I help my coaching clients write some of the best query letters that New York has ever seen (I’ve had literary agents say that to my clients). And because those are the numbers that I see, day in and day out, for authors of all genres: fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books.

And that’s best case scenario.

What’s a “good” literary agent query response rate for a well-written query?

10-20%.

Why is it so low?

Lots of reasons, many of which you would never fathom. Rightfully so, because you’ve presumably never sat in the agent’s chair.

So, here’s a short list of reasons why the percentages are so low. That way you can understand what you’re up against, adjust your expectations, and start sending out more literary agent query letters.

* * *

Literary Agent Query Response Rate Considerations

  • Even if you use the best literary agent directory on the planet (by visiting the free Directory Literary Agents area on our website) it’s still really hard to find agents that are a perfect fit. You might be pitching historical fiction and an agent might say that she’s interested in that genre in her bio. But she might omit the fact that she’s really only interested in historical fiction set in 1800s England.
  • Some agents will reject a publishable book because they already represent a “similar” author and feel it would be a conflict of interest.
  • Some agents don’t update their websites or agent directories often, so the information there is outdated and/or inaccurate. For example, the genres they interested in and/or whether they’re open to submissions.
  • Sometimes agents will reject your work simply because they’re having a bad day. For example, they’re having problems at home, feeling overworked, feeling overtired, or feeling over… everything.
  • Some agents will reject your work because they tried to sell something “similar” to your book recently and weren’t successful.
  • Literary agent query response rates vary by genre.

75% positive literary agent query response rate?

Yeah, right.

Don’t believe the hype.

literary agent query letter

Don’t believe authors that don’t have any experience, except their own.

Don’t believe literary agents, either. They have no way of knowing what the average literary agent query response rate is. Think about it. All book agents know is the percentage of literary agent query letters that their literary agency accepts or rejects (not all literary agencies, just theirs).

That’s a very different statistic.

Only someone in my position, helping authors send their queries out every week… can say what the typical literary agent query response rate is. It’s no more than 5-50%.

And that’s with a well-written query, that I helped create.

Before that, many of my authors
got zero response.

literary agent query rejection

So don’t beat yourself up if you’re not getting a 75% positive response rate on your literary agent query. Nobody is getting that kind of response rate.

Not even me.

The good news???

You don’t need a 75% literary agent query response rate. You only need one solitary book agent (out of the 1,000+ in my Directory of Literary Agents) to say yes.

Now, if you liked this article… please leave a comment below AND click this link to learn about literary agent turnaround times or click here to discover how to interpret literary agent feedback. Both of those articles are part of my free 15-part Guide to Finding a Literary Agent.

Want help writing or revising your literary agent query? Click here to learn about 3 different ways that you can get 1-on-1 help from me (free to fee) as your Book Marketing Coach. You can ask me questions on my blog, schedule an introductory consulting call with me, or join one of my longer-term coaching programs.

– Mark

Mark Malatesta
Your “Undercover” Agent
How do I get published comments

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