You asked for it! And so you shall receive. We've pooled data from Reading Editor Stephanie Sauvinet and myself (Eileen Wiedbrauk) and complied the following numbers and statistics from queries sent during our June 2014 open period. If you're interested in February's numbers, they're here.
There were other ways we could have crunched data -- female protagonists vs male protagonists vs animal protagonists (yes, we get animal queries, no, we're not quite sure what to do with them) or agent vs unagented submissions -- but that felt occasionally invasive and universally like too much work.
I think the biggest draw for those who requested on Twitter that we run stats again, is curiosity. While those submitting to the next go-round can certainly learn from the mistakes of #QueryFail or QueryOops! there is no magic formula for success to be found in these numbers. If only it were that simple. (And if there is a reason you love to look at these numbers that I've not thought of, feel free to leave it in the comments. Unless it's mean. In which case, take your mother's advice on silence. And failing that, take my mother's advice on silence.)
Queries received in total: 88
Length of query period: 30 days
Received before/after period: 2
Received as a result of an #SFFpit request: 17
Note: Not all of these number sets add up to 88. This is because sometimes a manuscript fits in multiple categories, or because it didn't provide info for a particular data set, or because we screwed up the tally somewhere along the way. Please don't get too nit-picky about the numbers; we're word people, not statisticians. Although we did love watching Numb3rs on TV.
Gender of writers submitting queries (as best we could tell by their names and occasionally by the pictures associated with their email addresses).
Sub-genre of Speculative Fiction
Other Elements (as described by authors in the query letters).
Heavyweights and Lightweights. The sweet spot for a first novel is 70,000-90,000 words, generally speaking. Speculative fiction often opens that range up to 70,000-110,000 words. At World Weaver Press we also accept novella submissions. According to SFWA, a novella ends at 40,000 words, at which point it becomes a novel. But that area of 40,000-65,000 words is still a gray area in terms of how the story reads. Is it a fully satisfying novel, or is it a lengthy short? The feel becomes very important in these lightweight situations. I was amused this month to see works just a smidge over 40,000 words assert their noveldom while works of 50,000 words asserted they were really novellas. On the far end of the spectrum, anything over 110,000 words really tips the scales for us. We start wondering how we can modify our usual print format to accommodate the heavyweight novel without pushing the paperback price-point beyond a reasonable place.
Storytelling choices. This time around I didn't collect data on POV and verb tense. This resulted from two factors. (1) It took me a lot longer than I care to admit to compile the data already on this page. (2) Of the first 15 manuscripts I collected POV/verb tense data on, 13 were third person past tense (bless your hearts!) and 2 were first person past tense.
Audience/Target Market. Anything without a teenager protagonist we dubbed "general adult" for purposes of this data.
Responses. Personal responses from the editors range from a single sentence to multiple paragraphs depending on what our editors could succinctly say as to what intrigued and/or troubled them about a query and sample pages.
A note on how to read a personalized response:
I spend a lot of thought trying to decide if I can articulate why I'm declining a novel succinctly and kindly. If I can't do it briefly, then I can't do it in a passing email, so I won't. Also consider that we do not request pages for one single reason; we do not decline a query for one single reason. If we list one reason in a reply, that's because it seems the most pertinent and hopefully the most useful to the writer. No reply is necessary. Any reply beyond a thank you for response, I'll be taking it into consideration as I continue to query accomplishes nothing more than making me grumpy as I read the next query (which the rest of the slush pile certainly doesn't appreciate).
All responses I send are meant kindly, and should be taken as such. But every time I receive a pissy email in reply to a personalized rejection, I am less inclined to bother putting forth the effort on the next rejection. When you don't agree with why an editor has declined your work because the reason she gives isn't "what your story is about," you need to stop and ask why did this person, this trained reader who loves fiction and has chosen to spend her whole day and her weekends and the odd hours of her night reading queries and manuscripts not seen in my work what I expected her to see? Why is there discord? I'll give you the short answer: because the author's intent was not clearly communicated on the page. This is a great hint, a clue, as to where to start revising (the manuscript and/or the query letter). This is not a hint to write me an email explaining the choices you've made because I'm done, I'm already on to the next thing. Brutal? Perhaps. But in February 26.6% of queries received personalized responses from me; in June, it was only 15.9%. The negative onions are wearing me down and making me wary.
Response time (initial response to query letter)
Stats on Requested Manuscripts.
Query Fail. I didn't compile stats on query letters gone wrong, just a laundry list this time around. While #QueryFail isn't certain death for a submission should we see something we absolutely must pursue, it does make it a whole lot harder to find that spark to light our fire. And the whole point of querying is come on baby light my fire -- not any other song by The Doors. We hold to the notion that a query letter should contain a "pitch" of the story (much like the paragraphs on the back cover of a paperback), and the pitch should be integrated into the letter itself; some information about the story's market (YA, NA, Adult, what sub-genre of speculative fiction, word count); and maybe one or two lines about the author. This, as per our guidelines should be followed by a 5,000-word writing sample (i.e. the opening of the manuscript) that's not an attachment (that's an us-thing as other people may be happy to spend their day downloading attachments, we are not). We lay everything out on our submissions page, and for the most part, everyone sends us what we ask and avoids stuff that we don't ask for.
I did see some rather clever work-arounds to the "Dear Editor" or "Dear Madam" fail, including "Dear World Weaver" and my favorite, "Dear World Weavers." Although, our names are on the submission page, if your copy and paste commands (clt+c and clt+v) work, there should be no excuse to spell an editor's name wrong.
When thinking about what went wrong and what went right, Stephanie Sauvinet, Reading Editor adds:
I'm probably repeating myself from Twitter but the usual crucial
Our next open submission periods are September 2014 and February 2015. We also have several anthologies that will be accepting submissions in 2014, Corvidae and Scarecrow. And as always, check back for new releases -- the best way to get to know what a publisher is producing is to read the works they publish. And oh look, here's a visual list of the books we publish with links to where you can buy them.
World Weaver Press Editor-in-Chief Eileen Wiedbrauk is an editor, writer, coffee addict, cat herder, MFA graduate, fantasist-turned-fabalist-turned-urban-fantasy-junkie, Odyssey Workshop alumna, photographer, designer, tech geek, entrepreneur, avid reader, and a somewhat decent cook. She wears many hats, as the saying goes. Which is an odd saying in this case, as she rarely looks good in hats. eileenwiedbrauk.com (She also runs the @WorldWeaver_wwp Twitter account.)
World Weaver Press
Publishing fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction.