Robin Mizell Ltd: 2012 agency statistics

It’s time to get busy. But first, a little reflection.

In the middle of 2012, I relocated to South Carolina. Although the move wasn’t very disruptive, my business didn’t grow last year. I’m persistent and methodical, so I wasn’t among the agents who called it quits in 2012. My work always is enjoyable and my clients are the best. I have more than enough reasons for optimism.

All but one of my clients had books published in 2012, so there was plenty to celebrate. I didn’t spend much time looking for new clients. My agency was open to queries for only one month.

Statistically in 2012

  • 312 writers allowed me to consider their work
  • 21 (6.73%) were invited to send me their full manuscripts
  • 16 (5.13%) followed through by sending manuscripts
  • 0 were offered representation

The numbers for 2012 are almost identical to the previous year. In both years my agency was open to queries for a single month. This year, I’ll accept queries in January and July to improve my odds of finding one or two new clients, which I would like to do.

As you can see from the data, a significant percentage of writers didn’t send their manuscripts after I offered to read them. One took a direct offer from a small ebook publisher instead. One wasn’t able to complete a work in progress. Three offered no explanations. This tells me that writers now recognize a variety of practical options for the publication of their work, but they don’t always choose a method without first obtaining feedback and advice from one or several literary agents. I’m scrupulous about explaining that publishing contract advice needn’t come only from a literary agent.

I remain in contact with two writers whose work intrigued me last year. We may yet find ways to collaborate in 2013.

It should be impossible for excellent writers to remain undiscovered these days. Agents and publishers recognize the manuscripts with the most potential. Failing that, readers discover the most commercially viable self-published books. Either way, people recommend books to each other just as they’ve always done, and then a few titles become wildly popular and profitable each year.

Two big concerns about the recent transformations in trade book publishing persist into 2013:

  1. Bestselling authors can opt to leave their publishers if the authors calculate that they can earn more by self-publishing.
  2. Authors who self-publish books that sell poorly will take themselves out of the business, because, as the prolific Alexandre Dumas once noted, nothing succeeds like success.

For-profit publishers can’t complain about #2, because it has become much easier to analyze book sales data, and the information decreases publishers’ reliance on intuitive speculation and reduces their financial risks. It’s clear which sort of authors have an advantage now. Writers creatively vying for attention, more so than publishers’ selectivity, are what intensifies the competition.

This year, all of us will be trying to learn new ways of being the best at what we do.

2 Replies to “Robin Mizell Ltd: 2012 agency statistics”

  1. I have traditionally published, small press published and self-published, seven historical novels currently in print. I would love to have an agent but have had two very negative experiences. I’d love to elaborate, but only if you want to hear. Would you like to look at one of my in-print novels and see if you would like to represent me for the eighth historical novel? Your site was referred to me by Janice Williams who was the small-press I worked with, very happily, but is no longer in business.
    Diane Mechem Kinser (Titles”I Owe My Soul: The Black Diamond Covenant” et al.)

  2. Hi, Diane. Thanks for asking. It was nice of Janice to share this post with you. I should have included a link to my agency’s website, RobinMizell.com, where you’ll find a checklist of the information I’d need from you in a query email.

    With your first seven novels, you’ve established a record of sales that the biggest publishers would use to determine whether to invest in your eighth novel. They like to see that you’ve been able to sell at least 10,000 copies of your most recently published novel. Small publishers don’t have the same expectations, nor, as you’ve learned, do you need an agent to submit your manuscript to them for consideration.

    Knowing exactly how an agent gets paid for his or her work and how much time the work takes helps alleviate certain misunderstandings, I think. I’m sorry things haven’t gone well in your experience.

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